Although the difficult decision was made last summer, Valley Manor Elementary School (VMS) Principal Garth Harrison held off announcing his retirement until the end of April so as not to throw too many curveballs to students following the tumultuous years during the COVID pandemic.
Harrison has spent the past 34 years working in education, with the last ten years as Principal at VMS. Through this time, he taught students all the way from Grade 3 to Grade 10, worked as both Principal and Vice Principal and even worked in caretaking and as an Administrative Assistant for half a year.
“I guess I was never afraid to get my hands dirty and just knew this is where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing,” Harrison said.
There was a short period where Harrison thought about becoming a radio broadcaster like his older brother, but since the age of approximately ten years old, teaching was at the top of the list when it came to what his future career would be.
“I knew it was the right choice for me. Through the years, there is nothing better than the feeling of kids coming to school with a smile because they are excited to be there and leaving with a smile because they had a great day. I liked being a part of that.”
Through the years one of Harrison’s favorite things has been keeping in contact with former students and seeing the adults they have become. Some students have went on to have extraordinary careers as athletes, politicians and more. “I enjoyed seeing them grow up. You aren’t the adult you are going to be when you are in elementary school, but it is exciting to see those adults come back and talk to you about the things you meant to them.”
Harrison’s retirement plans consist of spending lots of time with his family, which includes his 87-year-old mother, his wife who is also a teacher, his three children and five grandchildren, as well as plenty of time at the lake catching fish.
With more time on his hands, Harrison also plans to continue his talent of birch bark biting, which he has been doing for the past 30 years. Through this time, some pieces have been sold around the world, but Harrison plans to expand more with that, and also come back to work with students and teach them the art.
The past few years have proven to be challenging due to the pandemic; however, Harrison noted that challenges are a common theme for teachers and thanks to the incredible staff, parents and students at VMS, they were able to work together to create an environment of support for one another during a difficult time.
“Every year brings its own challenges, but the problem with COVID was the unknown, so we focused on the things that we could control when it seemed so much was out of our control. We could control how we acted, and how we treated each other. There is a great team in place at Valley Manor and they really care for each other. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Having lived in Martensville for the past 26 years, Harrison looks forward to continuing to be a part of the community and with two months left before retirement, he plans to enjoy his remaining time at VMS as much as possible.
“I want to continue my life here and will find different ways to add to the community and the positive things going on here.”
ABOVE PHOTO CAPTION: Garth Harrison has been creating works of art through birch bark biting for the past 30 years and plans to continue this passion in his retirement. (Facebook)