Seven school years as principal of Chemainus Elementary School have provided Brenda Stevenson with many memorable moments.
Stevenson officially becomes the new principal of Drinkwater Elementary School in Duncan Aug. 1, with former Alex Aitken Elementary principal Fergus Horsburgh taking over for her at Chemainus Elementary.
“I think it’s both exciting and sad,” confessed Stevenson. “It’s a start and an ending all at the same time.”
She’s followed the path of students who were in kindergarten at the time of her arrival right through the elementary school to Grade 6. Those students are going on to Chemainus Secondary now.
“I watched them grow,” Stevenson indicated.
“It is hard to believe it has been seven years when I reflect back,” she conceded. “We’ve watched the school almost double in enrolment in my seven years.”
What started as a K-7 school was scaled back to K-6 due to space being more readily available at the high school to accommodate the extra students and “which has certainly changed the flavour or the culture of the school a little bit,” Stevenson pointed out.
Students who were only at the school for one year in Grade 7 when she started, graduated from Chemainus Secondary in 2019.
“I went to the high school and watched them graduate,” Stevenson pointed out. “It was special.”
She’s been a classroom teacher, vice principal or principal in the Cowichan Valley School District now for 13 years. Stevenson’s longest tenure before Chemainus Elementary was at Alexander School in Duncan and she also has previous ties to Khowhemun and of all places, Drinkwater.
“Drinkwater holds two very special places in my heart,” she said. “That’s where I did my practicum.”
Stevenson also taught Grade 1 at Drinkwater before going to Alexander.
“I’m a product of this district and I’m continuing in my career in this district.”
Stevenson is just tidying up some loose ends before her start date at Drinkwater.
“I’m in the process of making a transition, as is Fergus making that transition,” she indicated.
Highlights of the Chemainus Elementary years will always remain near and dear to her.
“I think probably the biggest takeaway is the strength of the Chemainus community,” she said. “It is extremely strong.
“It is heartwarming how community comes together to support community. I’ve been the recipient of that support and I’ve helped to encourage that support.”
Cancer Research Fundraising Week that includes Terry Fox and Tour de Rock events are always big in Chemainus, along with Breakfast With Santa, the Spring Fair and so much more.
The new playground that opened last year is typical of the outside support the school receives from The Rotary Club of Chemainus, other service clubs, the Chemainus Fire Department, the Chemainus Crofton Community Schools Association and so many community groups.
“Again, it’s that community dedication, community support, community drive with some strong leaders within our Parent Advisory Council,” praised Stevenson. “It just can’t be done in isolation.”
She’s always known movement to another position in the district could happen at any time, but is grateful for having spent so much time at Chemainus Elementary.
“I don’t mind change,” Stevenson said. “Change helps keep us fresh and grow as people.
“I’m blessed with my time here. I’ve grown as an administrator, I’ve grown as a person.”
With COVID-19 causing a bit of an upheaval to her final days at the school, Stevenson is pleased there was still a chance for a proper send-off.
“I have to say I was sad that there wasn’t necessarily going to be closure for my time here at Chemainus,” she said.
“Having the people to come back at the beginning of June allowed some of that closure to take place.”
Unbeknownst to Stevenson, vice principal Ashley Bell and secretary extraordinaire Tammy McMahon planned a little parade for her as well.
“It was outside where families and community were able to drive through and say goodbye,” smiled Stevenson. “It was beautiful. It’s just being flexible. Again, it is a change. Is it going to be September as usual? Probably not.”