It was, for her, year 28 at Armstrong Elementary School that beloved Grade 1 teacher Helen Sidney helped the school get a much-needed addition to the library, along with a gymnasium, in 1971.
With the school about to turn 100 in September – a measly 15 months before Sidney reaches the milestone herself – and the library in need of some alterations, Mrs. Sidney is pitching in.
To the tune of $1,000 for every year of the school.
Sidney is donating a $100,000 legacy to the school she began teaching at in 1943 after starting her career with a year in Cherryville.
“I wanted to leave a mark,” said Sidney, who will turn 99 on Christmas Eve. The school is hoping to hold a reunion to mark the 100th anniversary and Sidney plans to be there.
“The school, the thousands of students I taught, their parents, it all means so much to me,” she said. “I want to leave a legacy and of course I want to be there to give them the money.”
When she does return to the school, Sidney will be wearing an Armstrong Elementary School cap and T-shirt with TOOTH FAIRY on it. It’s a role she coveted for years inside the hallways.
“I was the tooth fairy. Kids would come to me and I’d pull out their baby teeth and we’d have a big celebration,” she said. “Sometimes the tooth wasn’t ready, it would wiggle, then they’d come back the next day.”
One former student of hers wouldn’t let her family pull her tooth. That was reserved for Mrs. Sidney.
“I’d usually give the kids a big hug and give them the tooth back,” she laughed. “I had so many wonderful moments with the kids.”
Sidney is well-known and beloved in two communities.
She moved from an Armstrong house into a Vernon condo off Bella Vista Road to do less snow shovelling and lawn cutting. Sidney has become known for walking up and down the road, collecting trash and waving to passing motorists and pedestrians, always with a smile.
Sidney walks seven kilometres every day which takes three hours, collecting trash: pizza boxes, tools, hooks and even unopened finds like flashlights and headlights, and carries them back to her home.
She treks south on Bella Vista toward the new vineyard, turns around, stops at home for a bathroom break and to deposit the stuff she’s picked up, then heads north toward town before returning home. Three signs along Bella Vista have Sidney’s name attached as part of an adopted roadway.
“I walk because there’s no square dancing for me anymore during this pandemic,” said Sidney, who was dancing “nine-to-10 times per week” before COVID.