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Saying goodbye to Sidney Elementary
“Mrs. Walts?” a tiny voice asks from the door of Sidney Elementary’s office. “I’m hungry.”
With that small request, Leslie Walts, the school’s secretary for the past 13 years jumps into action, getting the young boy an orange to snack on from the school’s staff room.
“Her commitment to the job is amazing,” explained school Principal Tom Vickers while Walts was busy with the young boy.
“She’s just one of those people that goes above and beyond what her job description is. She really keeps everything working here,” he said, motioning around the office.
After so many years as the school’s go-to person for just about everything, Walts has decided to retire from her position to spend more time with her family.
“I have total mixed feelings about retiring,” said Walts, who has plans to travel to Arizona with her husband David in their RV this winter.
“It’s such a rewarding job and I’m definitely going to miss it.”
Over the years, Walts has worked as an education assistant, a computer aide and a secretary at the Children’s Development Centre, Saanichton Elementary, Lochside Elementary and Deep Cove Elementary. She started at Sidney Elementary in June of 1999 and has stayed ever since.
“I really found my niche here,” she explained.
“Not only do I enjoy being at this school level with the younger kids, but the staff here are great and I like the fact that every day is a little bit different.”
Walts’ duties as school secretary include the usual administration and paperwork duties but she explained that it’s all the other things that make her job so enjoyable.
“There’s always something happening, and it’s usually never something you expect,” she laughed.
“As school secretary I get that contact with the kids and I’m here for whatever they need. I am the go-to for children who are ill or hurt or just need someone to talk to.
“I think in some ways you’re a mum when you’re the secretary. You’re there helping the kids get through what they’re going through in the moment and you often become the go-to for parents who have questions or concerns — you really do a little bit of everything.”
Walts has been a Peninsula resident for two decades and raised her family here as well.
Her two sons went through school at Deep Cove Elementary, Bayside Middle School and Stelly’s Secondary where Walts was also involved as a parent.
“I’m definitely going to miss being in the school because you get to see these kids grow up,” she explained.
“It’s at the point now where I’m encountering kids in the community I knew from years ago who are grown up and working jobs here in Sidney. That’s the best part about working in the community you live in.”
Aside from traveling more often with her family and trying out the snowbird lifestyle, Walts will also be exploring her artistic side.
“I’m planning to learn Spanish, take some art classes and do some painting. It’s going to be an adjustment but I am looking forward to it,” she said, adding that she won’t be totally out the working game yet.
“Well, I will go on the on-call list when I get back from Arizona,” she laughed. “It will sort of be like easing myself into retirement.”