By T.J. Pyette
Margaret McShane gives a delighted smile as one of her afternoon kindergarten students proudly displays a Mermaid Barbie during show and tell.
McShane is genuinely equally delighted when Mermaid Barbie number two makes her debut a few students later.
One soon discovers that McShane is not so much delighted about the parade of items at show and tell as she is about their tiny owners.
"Aren't they little ladies?" she marveled with a broad grin.
McShane's ability to delight and be delighted will be sorely missed by her fellow teachers and students and parents as she plans for her retirement at the end of the school year.
McShane has been teaching at St. Jude Thaddeus School for 18 years, with 16 years in the kindergarten. Before teaching at St. Jude's, McShane taught for 11 years at KG, and before that, she taught at Harlem.
"I have the best job," McShane said, "I probably shouldn't retire."
But after more than 30 years as a teacher, McShane is far from apologetic about her desire to relax and have some fun.
"I really do intend to play," she said. "I've never had a chance to before, and I'm not too sure how to go about it. But I have some friends who are retired and I'm going to follow them around and see what they do."
McShane's husband, John, has worked at Triangle Telephone Cooperative/Hill County Electric the past 30 years. She said he doesn't have immediate plans to join her in retirement.
"I'm going to try it out first and let him know what it's like," McShane said.
McShane plans to spend time with her mother, who lives in Great Falls, and visit her four children and grandchildren often.
There's no doubt she'll have plenty to fill her days as she counts off the hobbies that she enjoys.
"I love to read," she said. She added that she hopes to finally have more time to spend on a whole spectrum of activities like crocheting, knitting, painting and sketching. After a taking a quick breath, she added that she also likes to garden, cook and sew.
"And I love to just visit," she said.
High on her retirement agenda is volunteering at St. Jude's. "I won't substitute teach," McShane said with a laugh. "If I volunteer, then I can come in whenever I want to."
McShane will miss the children. She said she has learned as many lessons as she's doled out.
"They teach you patience. And I've learned to listen," she said. "They're so intuitive and kind, and they are very honest, too."
McShane said she has enjoyed teaching at the Catholic school, and that not much has changed during her tenure.
"There's never a change in values," she said. "It's a very strong, moral atmosphere. It's been a wonderful time and I have no regrets."
McShane said the staff at St. Jude's has become a second family that she is proud to be a part of. She also hopes she's left a little something with each child who has come into her classroom.
"I'm hoping they've had fun. They're just 5 and 6 years old, so we're not trying to be too serious here. I hope they've enjoyed learning to learn."