Today when Greendale elementary teacher Charity Stobbe steps into retirement she’ll be packing up all her belongings to take home: books, tools, knickknacks, and a live goat.
Stobbe has been a teacher in the Chilliwack School District for 35 years and on June 25 she and her fainting goat, Stevie Nicks, will be walking away from the classroom for the last time.
“I love my job so much,” Stobbe said. “I think it’s good to retire when things are really positive.”
It was an interesting final year for her. Aside from having a goat as a class pet, the school year was more challenging due to online learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the same time the grade she taught made her last year of teaching more fun.
This was the first year Stobbe taught just Kindergarten students which resulted in a much more play-based style of learning and teaching. Normally, in addition to Kindergarteners, she teaches Grade 1 students where there’s a bigger focus on academics.
Stobbe started teaching at the age of 22 at Bernard elementary. From there she taught at Little Mountain, F.G. Leary, Chadsey and finally Greendale. (Chadsey was a three-room schoolhouse for just Kindergarten to Grade 2 students. When Greendale elementary burned down in 2000, Chadsey and Greendale amalgamated.)
She has fond memories of many of her students over the years: there’s the student who stayed in touch for more than a decade and invited her to his Grade 12 graduation; her son Clayton who was her student in Grade 1 at Chadsey; the Lenz family with six children all of whom were pupils of Stobbe; and teaching more than one generation in several families.
She’s taught up to Grade 4, but she said Grade 1 was always her “specialty.”
It was also the most difficult grade to teach because of just how much the kids grow and learn throughout the school year, like reading, writing and math, Stobbe said.
“They learn everything,” she said. “It’s a very hard grade to teach well, but it’s a very rewarding grade for a teacher.”
Last summer, Stobbe welcomed young Stevie Nicks into her life. She’s a calm and mellow animal called a mini silky fainting goat, which is a more gentle and smaller breed of goat. Stevie doesn’t jump up on things like most other goats.
“When I saw what Stevie Nicks was like, I thought ‘this could be the class pet, or the school pet.’”
Little Stevie Nicks was easy to train and she walks well on a leash.
As her breed suggests, she also faints quite easily.
If she gets surprised, Stevie faints. Scared? Faints. Excited? Faints.
Sometimes Stevie will just stiffen up for a few seconds and stay upright, other times she tips right over and is out for a minute or so.
She’s heard her students cry out “Mrs. Stobbe, Stevie’s fainted!” countless times.
At recess time, Stevie runs outside and eats while the kids play around her, and when the bell rings again she runs in with the rest of her classmates.
Stevie wears a diaper to prevent accidents in the classroom, and a onesie to hold the diaper up. She has many outfits and Stevie and Stobbe even got dressed up for Halloween last year as Little Bo Peep and her sheep.
Sometimes Stevie nibbles on books or eats the children’s artwork, but she mostly brings a relaxing vibe to the classroom.
This year Stobbe noticed a great change in one of her students who didn’t speak much. Throughout the school year, the young girl would sit by herself and talk with Stevie and by the end of the school year her speaking had improved quite a bit – both Stobbe and the girl’s mother noticed it.
The calming effect Stevie has with children has made Stobbe want to continue to help others.
At 57, Stobbe is young to be retiring. She still wants to work and is now turning her attention to goat therapy for kids and/or seniors as she says goodbye to teaching.
On Thursday, June 25, Stobbe will be handing out report cards for the last time, along with a book for each child and a hand-painted rock (many of which are Stevie-themed).
Her advice for teachers, especially those dealing with children who act out or need a little more attention is to “stay positive… don’t give up on kids.”
She’ll miss the school plays, singing, being surrounded by kids as she plays the piano, tea parties and grandparents days.
But most of all Stobbe is going to miss the relationships.
“I’m very good at connecting with kids, they love me. When people love you so much… I’m going to miss that a lot,” she said. “It’s going to leave a big hole.”