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A Tribute to Sarah Gleeson

This past Friday, our School celebrated the career of Sarah Gleeson, our Head of Junior School, who is retiring at the end of the year after 32 years of service. I wish to share my words of thanks to her with our broader community.

It is a remarkable thing to meet someone who can be childlike, fun, and spontaneous, yet is also consistently wise, thoughtful and reliable, no matter what the situation.

It is remarkable thing to have known someone over the course of 32 years; to have seen roles and environments change and life unfold, yet that person remains the same caring, insightful colleague, employee and friend.

It is a wonderful thing to watch an ongoing, enthusiastic and heartfelt outpouring of love and appreciation for a person, and know that it is a true measure of that person’s impact on a School, its culture, its students, parents, staff and alumnae.

Sarah Gleeson- for your ‘remarkableness’ we are deeply thankful.

I have attempted to write this speech too many times to count. I have started with statistics of how many students you have worked with, of your years and roles and positions here. I have restarted with the impact you have made as the first person many of our families meet upon applying to St. Clement’s and just how important this has been, as you are the ‘real deal.’ I have restarted with outlining you as colleague, teacher, leader, and friend.

And yet, I kept coming back to feelings as opposed to timelines or things.

Sarah, you have a remarkable way of making everyone and anyone feel that they count, that they matter and that they are inherently good people. With thanks to your leadership, your ‘little ducks’ of the Junior School are always launched onto their next stage with a sense of belonging and of having been loved.

You have a way of evoking a feeling of joy equally from students and staff with your consistent smile, optimistic enthusiasm, and great sense of humour- perfectly timed.

You have a way of listening to all, pausing, thinking, and then courageously challenging thoughts or ideas should the need arise; allowing all to feel heard, yet ensuring the integrity of the process.

You have a way of working with others through tough situations, occasional conflicts and complexities that inevitably results in people’s feeling they have a voice and that they matter, with closure having been reached.

As I finalized my words this week, and reflected on the impact that you have made, it hit me –hard!– that while your impact will always be with us, some things will change with your retiring; for as I went to pick up the phone to read over my speech with you, as I have done with so many over the last six years, I realized that I couldn’t- that this was my time to ‘fly on my own’ as our little ducks all do one day–that these words needed to be heard by you for the first time this evening.

Sarah, thank you for your love, your time, your commitment and for being who you are. St. Clement’s and our extended community is much the better for it.

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