The end of the school year brings with it a certain amount of nostalgia as we say goodbye to our peers and teachers for the summer. However, this past June was particularly emotional for the UMEI community. Ruth Harnadek, our teacher of 16 years, head of the drama department, chapel coordinator, overall mother figure for the students, and much more, announced that it had been her last year with us as she was starting a new chapter of her life.
This year’s grade tens, elevens and twelves were finally starting to get over the absence of Mrs. Harnadek when last year’s yearbook came out a couple of weeks ago, instantly reversing any progress the nostalgic students had made in accepting the change. When Mrs. Harnadek announced her retirement late in the year, it became clear to the grade twelve editors, Mykayla Tiessen and Bryn Parent, that their yearbook was meant to be dedicated to her. The stars seemed to be aligned for this dedication, as they had already chosen the theme of the yearbook to be theatre, one of Mrs. Harnadek’s many passions.
This dedication does not even begin to communicate the magnitude of Mrs. Harnadek’s legacy here at UMEI. Although she is no longer a teacher here, she remains very dedicated to the happenings at the school. Even in the past, many of her roles were beyond her teaching position, so despite retirement, Mrs. Harnadek remains a key part of the UMEI community.
We’ve seen this in action multiple times already this year. The first example of this was our first pie fundraiser in October. For many years, Mrs. Harnadek and fellow members of her church have led the making of the pies and ensured that everything runs smoothly. This year was no exception. Mrs. Harnadek could be seen at the school several times during the busy week. After briefly reuniting with the students, Mrs. Harnadek once again succeeded in running everything smoothly.
Mrs. Harnadek’s presence is also greatly appreciated at many of our sports games, especially those in Windsor where we don’t habitually have as many fans. Her dedication to the school is evident in her enthusiastic cheering, and it is a joy to have her with us.
Most recently, our school held our annual barn party at a secret location on October 27. This year, students were concerned that Mrs. Harnadek’s highly anticipated scary story would not be happening because she was no longer part of the staff. Student Parliament realized just how important this was to the students and asked her to join us once again, which she gladly agreed to. Barn party is already generally known as one of the best parties of the year and this year, Mrs. Harnadek’s participation made it even better.
We were very upset when we heard last year that she would not be returning as a teacher, so we are greatly relieved for the opportunities that we still have to interact with her. Knowing who she is, we should have known that it was never her intention to leave the school community and that she would continue to show us endless support. Somebody with this level of passion and love does not come around all that often. We are infinitely grateful for Mrs. Harnadek and her continuing activity in our community.
Written by: Elle Klassen and Hayden Epp