It was 94 years ago when P.E.I. born Miss J.M. Henderson arrived to teach school in Spirit River. The independent, adventurous woman intended to stay maybe two years in our little town. She ended up teaching here for the next 37 years.
Her students and the greater community remember her as an inspirational and extraordinarily kind woman. In her classroom she was strict, expecting achievement and not standing for any foolishness. Some remember that she had a heavy ring with gold nuggets in it which could be rapped on a student’s head to regain his attention. She kept a tight reign because she believed in the importance of education.
A major part of her teaching method was to make her subjects interesting. She had musical, artistic and dramatic talents up her sleeve to make school more appealing to students, and those skills were shared with the rest of the community as well.
Her teaching era spanned the great depression and two World Wars, meaning Miss Henderson had to be buoyant and resourceful. She was also willing to spend her own pocket money on school supplies for the children. Their troubles, and those of their parents, were her own. Considering some of her students went overseas during the war, some of those problems were quite weighty ones.
Margaret Henderson certainly had community spirit. She was a church goer and an active member of the Red Cross. She was always aware of those less fortunate, and did whatever she could to help them. When the school had to close during the 1918 flu epidemic, Miss Henderson was always there to help the doctor or the patients. No doubt it wasn’t just the students who fondly called her Auntie Hen – but not to Miss Henderson’s face.
This local gem did not go unnoticed. In 1951, four years after she retired, Miss Henderson had the honour of seeing a new wing of the Spirit River School named for her. What she did not know was that 60 years later, her name would be known to the children of Spirit River because the school library still bears her name. The woman who was instrumental in establishing Spirit River’s first library justly retains her importance.
Spirit River was lucky to have had such a community member. Who else has been a positive influence in our town? Please tell us all through Town Spirit. firstname.lastname@example.org