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Thursday, December 14, 2017

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Teacher donates playground equipment for school district's youngest students

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

A former local daycare’s loss is proving to be Washington Middle School’s gain with an assist from the school district’s pre-school teacher, who, despite currently facing her own battle with cancer, hasn’t for one second forgotten about the “little people” she has dedicated her career to educating and developing.

Locals driving by WMS on North Meade Avenue may have noticed in the past week or so a small new playground that has sprung up in a corner of the school’s front lawn. The new playground is the result of a donation by Glendive Public Schools pre-school teacher Val Damron, who is currently on medical leave receiving treatment for lymphoma. She received her cancer diagnosis just before this school year started.

Besides teaching pre-school for the school district, Damron also previously worked with Kool Kids, a local private pre-school/daycare center that went out of business this past June. Damron was acting as the interim director at Kool Kids when it closed its doors, and it was from there that she was able to acquire the playground equipment now in place at WMS. Damron said as Kool Kids was shutting down, they let her buy the playground equipment they had, something she had long felt the pre-school students housed at WMS needed.

“We just really needed the playground equipment for the little people to play on,” Damron said. “It’s just a bonus to be added to Washington School and it’s a good thing we were able to reinvest that equipment from Kool Kids back into the community.”

When Damron approached WMS Principal Mark Goyette about making the playground equipment donation, he was all for it, agreeing with her that the school lacked much in the way of outdoor fun for the pre-school kids who attend there.

“Obviously, here at the school, we didn’t have much for equipment for pre-school kids to play on,” Goyette said.

He added that with Damron’s generous donation, it made good sense to move forward with building out a small, enclosed playground for the pre-schoolers to provide them with a fun, safe and secure place to play. The district contributed $3,800 for the concrete work, gravel and fencing to complete the finished product.

“With her donating the amount of stuff she did to the school, we thought that would make a good long-term investment in our pre-school program,” Goyette said. “It’ll be good to have that area for the kids.”

Damron said she is very pleased with the way the new playground turned out.

“It looks amazing,” she said. “I’m excited for them. I can’t wait to get back and play with them on that equipment.”

Damron said her cancer treatment is going well and she hopes to return to teaching at some point this year. That’s a hope Goyette fervently shares.

“It’s been very tough not having her here just because she’s such a vital part of our program,” Goyette said. “We can’t wait to get her back because it’s tough to replace someone who’s as good as she is at her job.”

He added that the playground donation is indicative of the quality of person Damron is.

“There’s very few people that I’ve met in my career in education who are more dedicated. In fact I may have never met anyone as devoted to their job as Val Damron. She eats, sleeps and breathes those kids,” Goyette said. “It’s just part of who she is, so it didn’t surprise me at all that she wanted to do this for her kids.”

Damron, ever humble, said it was just a simple way to give back to the community and to a school district she believes is second to none.

“It was just a great opportunity for me to give back to the Glendive school district and the community,” she said. “Glendive has a great, awesome school district, and I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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