Staff and students at Wayoata Elementary School recently bid Archie Tordiffe farewell by throwing him an emotional send-off assembly. He was principal at the elementary school for five years. Before his stint at Wayoata, Tordiffe served as teacher and acting and vice-principal at several other area schools.
"It was quite emotional for me, saying goodbye," said Tordiffe, who began his education career as a student teacher at Wayoata 33 years ago. He said he had been impressed by the school from the start and had planned to someday end up there.
"The kids here are very accepting of one another. It's just the atmosphere here. It's been that way forever," he said.
But resource teacher Cathy McKinnon says Tordiffe is the reason behind the students' good cheer. It was Tordiffe who coined the school's motto: "Smile, it's the Wayoata way."
"We tease him about his corny sayings, but they are part of why the students here are accepting," said McKinnon, who has taught at Wayoata for 10 years.
She said the principal has an easy rapport with students and staff alike.
"He's an extremely good listener. A lot of staff talk to him," she said. "Principals can lock themselves in an ivory tower. He doesn't."
At Tordiffe's farewell assembly, each class contributed two to four pages to a memory book of their fondest times with their school principal. Some kids dressed up like him and re-enacted some of his more memorable moments.
The song Don't Worry Be Happy was played, a fitting anthem representative of Tordiffe's demeanour. As well, he was showered with happy face-themed gifts.
"It meant a lot to me, as did my time here," said Tordiffe.
His supporters say one of Tordiffe's greatest legacies is the Families and School Together (FAST) program, where parents and school officials meet once a month.
Tordiffe says he is particularly proud of the FAST program, as it has brought parents, staff and students closer together.
"I've seen parents come out of their shell," he said. "We just had a barbeque. The kids were playing as if they were brother and sister. We need more of that."
Wayoata's vice-principal, Sherri Kostecki, is also leaving this year.
Glenn Matsumoto will take Tordiffe's place in the 2003-2004 school year.