FOND FAREWELL: Longest-ever serving volunteer at Coolangatta Special School Joan Gilbert is retiring after 23 years.
FOND FAREWELL: Longest-ever serving volunteer at Coolangatta Special School Joan Gilbert is retiring after 23 years.

Joan?s special years with school

By NADINE FISHER

IT was with a sad reluctance that 83-year-old Coolangatta Special School volunteer of 23 years, Joan Gilbert retired from her work at the school last week.

The school, for students with special needs, is based on the top of Kirra Hill and has a farm facility in the Currumbin Valley.

Former Coolangatta Special School principal and current Coolangatta Special School farm manager/teacher, Ken Lindley said it was almost like the end of an era.

"It's a sad time to see Joan go, she is our longest-ever serving volunteer," he said.

"And the contribution made by our volunteers here is amazing."

Joan, an Elanora resident, who has been involved in the reading program for all that time, said she had enjoyed her time at the school which had become an extended family.

"This is a school that welcomes you," she said.

"There is a warmth here when you walk in and the compassion and care shown by the teachers is immense.

"I have always felt it was a privilege to be here and to be able to contribute something back you're never too old."

Joan, who was an office worker before her retirement and volunteer work, said she felt richer for her experience at the special school.

"I initially came to the school twice a week, but for the past five years I have come once a week," she said.

"You get so much back from being here, the children look up at you with such trust in their eyes.

"And you see them grow from when they started to when they leave the school, and they always remember you - still I often have past students say 'hello miss' when they see me somewhere," she said.

Joan said she had decided to stop her work at the school as the hill was getting just too hard to walk up.

"Better to go while you're still well and able," she said.

"I will miss everyone here terribly.

"Words just can't adequately describe what I feel but I wouldn't have missed these 20-odd years here for anything.'



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