On my first day as acting principal at Southview Community School (SVCS) I met Lilian Betcker when she walked up to me in the front office and gave me a hug. She turned around, gave the other staff members a hug, put on her safety vest and headed out the front door. She followed the same routine every day that first week so we began to exchange some short pleasantries and I became very curious about this seventy year old little woman who walked into the school with such familiarity, greeted everyone, and would not let anyone evade her outstretched arms.
I joined her at her safety patrol station a few days after meeting her and learned that she has had a connection to SVCS for over twenty years. Her children and now her grandchildren attend the school at which she has volunteered for the past several years. She shared that she saw a need for an area to be monitored and thought she could offer to help. When she mentioned it to the former principal he said, “When can you start?” and the rest is, as they say, history. Every day she walks past the school from her home a few blocks away, picks up her grandchildren, walks them to school, volunteers to help keep students safe, and then walks home. She gets the occasional wave from people driving by and once in a while someone stops to give her a coffee and a Timbit, but she certainly isn’t doing this for anything else other than to help out the school and community. As we were getting ready for the Christmas holiday she told me she doesn’t really enjoy the breaks from school because, as she puts it, she ”misses her people".
I have only known “Lil”, as she is called, for one short week but I am already proud to call her a friend. It is with purpose that she is the subject of our school’s first post, Tweet and image. I have seen her hugs, her dancing in the hallways and her smile. On Friday she sang 'O Canada' over the intercom with the vice principal (I had conveniently made myself scarce during the 'supposed to be' trio.). Lil epitomizes the reasons why I wanted to return to a community school. She sets an example for everyone. What school could not use more hugs, smiles, singing and dancing in the hallways?