There will be a little less sunshine at Brentwood elementary come January. Long-time primary teacher Liz Savage officially retired last Friday (Dec. 16) after seeing more than 1,200 students come through her sunny classroom.
She started teaching Grade 3 at Brentwood in 1976 and after stints in English as a second language – and the former Greenglade elementary – came back to Brentwood to teach kindergarten. She managed to get her first classroom painted bright sunny yellow and it remained the only one in the district for years. She decorated the doorway as a sun to add to the effect.
“It’s a happy room. Whatever the weather it was always happy and sunny,” she said.
Savage was inspired by terrible teachers of her youth. They were “horrible” to her in part because her native tongue was Hungarian and her English was poor. Her literacy skills improved through poetry and song, and she’s used that knowledge to pass on the love of learning for 35 years in the Saanich school district.
“I want to treat everybody special. I want to make learning fun. I wanted them to want to come to school,” Savage said. “I’m going to miss their faces, their smiling faces.”
From monthly themes, the VIP chair and puppetry, to the annual videos and multiple musical recitals, parents, too, will miss her.
“What stands out is the love that she has. You can tell children are her passion,” said Nicole Le Gras. Three of her children passed through Savage’s class. “She is fabulous at what she does. It is just the love for the kids, the love for teaching and the experience. She’s definitely going to be missed at that school.”
“She’s not only a great teacher, she’s become a friend to a lot of us,” added Julie Ethier, who had four children go through Mrs. Savage’s Sunshine Room. “I could come to her because I had that comfort level.”
The primary teacher felt that connection, too.
“I get really close to the children and parents. It was neat connecting with them,” she said. “I just love teaching so much. I’m going to miss it.”
At 59, it’s a bit of an early retirement.
“I just felt it was time,” she said. But expect to see her publish a book about immigrant children in the school system and perhaps in the classroom teaching “don’t say won’t, don’t say can’t” to yet another generation.
“I’m not finished teaching. I’m going to help out with the kindergarten at the (LÁU,WELNEW) Tribal School,” she said. “I don’t want to leave it. I want to still work with kids.”
Sunshine lingers with families
Mrs. Liz Savage is retiring well into a second generation of smiling faces, teaching the kids of kids she’s taught.
“When I was sad she would cheer me up by letting me sit on the VIP chair,” said eight-year-old Carsynne Le Gras, who had Savage as a teacher in kindergarten. It’s a life experience she shares with her mom, Nicole Le Gras who had Savage for Grade 1. Three of Nicole’s children had the sunshine classroom experience.
Field trips are what siblings Jadyn, Carsynne and Tanner recall strongly.
“She took us on a whole bunch,” said 11-year-old Jadyn.
They travelled to places such as the Saanich police station, where a former parent is chief constable; served as scientists at Hatley Castle and learned about animals in area parks.
“I’m going to miss the trips,” Savage agreed. “I used to do 20 a year. The kids remember it forever.”
Savage was a teacher who “was happy and she laughed a lot,” said Jadyn.
She also brought an alter ego to the classroom, a lamb puppet who at times misbehaved, and was chastised to set an example for the class.
“If you were sad or just wanted to cuddle [Lambchop] would cuddle you,” Jadyn said.