By DANIELLE GALVIN
THE original plan to honour Darlene Elder’s 30-year teaching career at Cockatoo Kindergarten was to plant a tree next to the one planted by Princess Diana after the Ash Wednesday bushfires.
But the staff at the kindergarten decided it would have to be something even more extravagant to mark the three decades of commitment and loyalty.
President of the kindergarten Amanda Flint said Ms Elder’s loyalty wouldn’t go unnoticed and the committee set about landscaping ‘Darlene’s Surprise Garden’ with some helpers.
At a special surprise morning tea for Darlene on Monday morning, the garden was revealed.
“We didn’t want to let 30 years of contribution to this kinder community pass by without a small celebration so we gathered a few people, your family and friends, some kindergarten children past, present and future and their families,” she said.
“We also have previous colleagues of Darlene’s including Lorraine Griffiths who was Darlene’s original assistant for 17 years and has travelled from Echuca to attend.”
Three-year-old teacher Gill Birkett said the garden was a combined effort built entirely by volunteers including Shaun Appleyard, Paul Cummins, Trisha Bennetts, Coral Hunter and Jo Revell.
“Darlene’s Garden is filled with native plants and contains a mosaic of the Aboriginal symbol for a meeting place in the centre,” she said.
“So that you will never forget that we as the Cockatoo Kindergarten community appreciate all those extra things you do, like all the extra things you do to make our kinder special, the strong relationships built with the primary school, kaughed with them in the good times and held their hand in the bad times.
“After 30 years she maintains a passion for teaching.”
Past staff members and some of the children Darlene looked after popped in for a visit.
It was only on Sunday that she returned home from the US and she was feeling a little jet-lagged but incredibly honoured.
“I love working in a small community, you get to know all the faces and you get to watch them all grow up – sometimes I look after the second generation too which is amazing,” she said.
“There is such a sense of community.”