She may be sitting in her office in the photo, but that is not where Millbrook/South Cavan principal Sheryl Hunter spends her workday. She can be found in the schoolyard during recess, in the halls speaking to students or filling in on Tupper Street for an absent crossing guard. Students know her, trust her and love her.
After ten years in her position, Sheryl is leaving the school alongside her grade eight graduates who began in junior kindergarten the year she arrived. It somehow seems fitting that she moves with them, as like her they head to a new chapter in their lives.
The tenure in a principal position averages around five years, so when Sheryl arrived in 2008, she did not anticipate that this would be her last school. A few things contributed to her decision to stay. First was the closing of the South Monaghan School in 2014. As a former principal at that school, Sheryl knew the students who would be relocating to Millbrook and felt she could help them with their transition. A few years later, the school underwent a major expansion to accommodate those students, and she wanted to see that project through.
Most importantly, though, this educator loves her job in Millbrook, and it shows. There is a positive feeling in the halls which is often acknowledged by school visitors. It’s a happy place because staff and students want to come to school- well, most days. Sheryl knows that is the best tribute a principal can receive, because that atmosphere starts at the top.
In her job, Sheryl is supported by enthusiastic staff that provides an extensive selection of extra-curricular activities which is the envy of many schools. In addition to the regular sports clubs, Millbrook teachers attract the less-athletic students to clubs such as knitting, the newspaper club, Me to We and a new geography club, all on a volunteer basis.
Her staff appreciates her as much as she appreciates them. According to Grade 5 teacher Martha Siberry Monti, “We have had the extreme fortune of having Sheryl Hunter as principal of Millbrook South Cavan for a decade!! In this time, she has overseen the amalgamation of Millbrook South Cavan and South Monaghan as well as a major renovation as MSC continues to grow. With quiet and calm leadership, she has steered the school through triumphs and challenges by approaching every situation with kindness and a passion to help those around her. She is beloved by staff and students and will be very much missed in the community.”
Growing up as the sixth generation operating the family farm in south-western Ontario, Sheryl understands the community and embraces some rural values. First, you do whatever you can to help others. You always appreciate and support the people that support you. That’s why she was a regular participant in the Country Run held in Bailieboro which donated a portion of their proceeds to the school breakfast program. Community is important, and student outreach activities such as weekly visits to the long term care home across the street, food drives for the local food share and interaction with youngsters in the adjacent child care centre reinforce this concept. Another principle is perseverance: giving up is not an option.
The school population continues to grow. There are five kindergarten classes scheduled for the fall, with 122 students registered so far, including some from the new development. That is considerably more than the number graduating this year, so the student demographic is getting younger. A new portable arrived last week, and will likely be followed by a few more as new residents arrive. Incoming principal Janice MacKenzie inherits a thriving school community.
Unlike many retirees, Sheryl has no big plans for the next leg of her journey, but assures anyone who asks that there are lots of things to do in life and she is ready to try something new. That positive, open attitude is contagious.
As she travels the halls in her last few weeks at the school Sheryl is greeted by thoughtful students telling her she will be missed, and it’s true. KG