Saturday November 01, 2014

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Dwyre remembered for dedication and personality

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Leslie Dwyre is being remembered for her passion for teaching, for her commitment to her students and for her energetic personality.

Dwyre, a 27-year-old who was teaching Grade 8 at Hillcrest Public School in Estevan, was murdered on April 21, in what was Estevan's first homicide in more than six years.

Since her death, students and staff at Hillcrest and at Bienfait Weldon School – the school where she taught in 2012-13 – have been struggling to cope with the news.

Hillcrest principal David Gillingham said the outpouring of grief reflects the contributions she made in her short tenure at the school.

“Ms. Dwyre is a teacher that is going to be much missed in our building, and she made an impact while she was here,” said Gillingham. “The school is definitely a better place for her having been a part of it.

“She was very positive, with a bubbly sort of personality, a great smile and a great sense of humour. She was one of those very dedicated, professional teachers who constantly worked to become better at it. She'd always try to find new ways to reach kids.”

Dwyre dreamed of being a teacher from an early age, Gillingham said, and it reflected in her commitment to the profession.

He described her as empathetic, as willing to give someone a second chance, and as having a positive outlook on life.

“She had a really close, personal relationship with a lot of the staff here,” said Gillingham. “She was a very valued friend and colleague for many of the staff, so the staff are also in a state of grief.”

Dwyre helped, in the background, with a variety of extracurricular activities at the school, Gillingham said. And she was involved with professional development efforts, too.

Grief counsellors and Victims Services workers were brought in to help the school community cope. Three additional counsellors arrived on April 22 after students were informed of Dwyre's death. Two of the counsellors remained through April 25.

One stayed at the school until April 30.

Two Victim Services workers were accessible through April 30.

“The support that they have given to staff and students has been phenomenal,” said Gillingham. “We would not have gotten through this week without them.”

Additional teachers and support staff were at the school the first couple days after Dwyre's passing, so that a teacher could leave their classroom briefly to talk to a counsellor.

The division, its leadership, and the community have provided tremendous support since Dwyre's death, Gillingham said.

A monument wall for Dwyre has been added to the front entrance of the school, and reminds everyone of her impact on Hillcrest. It offers students and staff to share memories and anecdotes, and it features poems, essays, photos and drawings.

“It's whatever people need to share their grief, and it's whatever people need in terms of saying goodbye,” said Gillingham. “It's really open as to what that means to people, but if you had something you wanted to say, and you needed a chance to say it, there's an opportunity to put it up there.”

Hillcrest held a memorial service on April 29. There was a video tribute from Dwyre's Grade 8 class, as well as speeches, poems and music.


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