Longtime elementary educator to step down

BRISTOL — After 31 years of teaching kindergarten and first grade at Bristol Elementary School, Sharon Donahue, 62, will teacher her last class on Thursday.
Provided with what she considered a sub-par elementary education, Donahue knew from a young age that she wanted to inspire young children as an influential teacher.
“I always felt that I could do a better job and make learning much more interesting (than my teachers did),” the Bristol resident said. “I really became a teacher because I wanted to make it a better experience than the one I had.”
Most in Bristol would agree that Donahue has provided a better experience.
“Sharon’s students care for her very much,” said Bristol Elementary Principal Catrina Dinapoli. “She has left a legacy here through the care and advocacy that she has provided to so many of our youngest learners. She will be greatly missed.”
Throughout her years, Donahue has witnessed many changes in administration, student-learning levels and technology.
“In terms of administration, at first it was very down from the top and now it’s much more collaborative,” she said. “Teachers are very involved with decision making for curriculum and what kids are doing in terms of extracurricular activities.”
She also noted that the administration at Bristol Elementary has been particularly great over the past two years since Dinapoli arrived. Kindergarten students are pushed much further, Donahue said:
“I feel like I’m teaching much more first-grade material in kindergarten.”
Not only is the curriculum more difficult, but she also noted that the school day is longer.
“I think we ask for a lot from kids with seven-hour days … it’s a long day,” Donahue said. “I think they’ve had to build stamina and adjust.”
 The advent of modern technology over the past three decades has also been a poignant change for Donahue.
“There is so much incredible technology. It’s been a struggle for me to keep up with it a little bit,” she admitted. “I’m amazed with what’s out there … and our school is very fortunate because we have some of the best and latest technology.”
When Donahue wraps up the year, says her goodbyes and heads out on the new frontier of retirement, she plans to spend a lot of time with her grandchildren in Australia. After years of going from one winter in Vermont to another winter in Australia — since it’s winter in the southern hemisphere during her summer break — she looks forward to enjoying endless summers — one in Vermont followed by one in Australia — surrounded by family.
But that doesn’t mean Donahue won’t miss Bristol Elementary.
What will she miss the most?
“The children,” she said without hesitation. “They’ve always made me just laugh at life a little bit because they are so innocent and full of wonder. They just make me feel young because they are excited about everything in life and it’s fun to be the one to introduce things to them.”
Of course she’ll also miss her close friends and colleagues for all of their support over the years.
“It’s going to be hard not to come into this school after 31 years,” she said.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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