After 50 years in the classroom, St. Albert teacher retiring

When Jenny Yakimik first started teaching in St. Albert in the 1960s, female teachers weren't allowed to wear pants.

Jenny Yakimik, 70, says she'll miss working with a new group of kids every year

Jenny Yakimik is retiring from teaching after 50 years in St. Albert. (Jenny Yakimik)

When Jenny Yakimik first started teaching in St. Albert in the 1960s, female teachers weren't allowed to wear pants.

A lot has changed since then and Yakimik has been there every step of the way. This year, after 50 years of teaching Grades 1 to 3 in St. Albert, she's retiring.

"I loved working with a group of children every year," Yakimik told CBC's Radio Active. "It's hard work, but it's really rewarding."

She taught most of her 50 years at two schools: Robert Rundle Elementary School and at Keenooshayo Elementary School.

The 70-year-old  originally didn't want to be a teacher — she wanted to be a pastry chef. But after going to school in England, she saw a sign that read, "Canada: land of opportunity!"

She decided to apply for some teaching jobs across the pond.

"It was an adventure," she said. "I'd never been on a plane before."

Though she's retiring, she's not ruling out coming back in to help her colleagues when she can. (Jenny Yakimik)

Yakimik got a job in St. Albert after coming over by boat and train. Her first year was a little rough, she said.

"I was really green. I was right off the boat," Yakimik said. "I had a Grade 3 class and I kind of feel sorry for those kids."

Yakimik had to make adjustments to her vocabulary — she would tell her kids to queue up but couldn't figure out why they wouldn't respond.

Yakimik said eventually her teaching took over her life.

"You go to bed thinking about it, you wake up in the morning thinking about it," Yakimik said. 

"It's really stressful and tense."

But despite her struggles, she fell in love with teaching young kids almost immediately.

"When that lightbulb goes on, it's quite amazing," Yakimik said.

She's taught generations of kids, including some children of her former students. 

She may be retiring from full-time work, but that doesn't mean she's done yet. She expects she'll help out some of her former colleagues when they need it while she transitions into the next chapter of her life.

One thing that next chapter won't include is a second try at being a pastry chef.

"I don't cook very much anymore," Yakimik said, laughing.