by Stephen Dafoe
Pastor Lou and Shirley Brunelle say goodbye to Morinville Christian School this week after 39 years of faith-based teaching. Although the couple began their teaching careers in Yorkton, Saskatchewan in 1976 — he a Grade 5 teacher, she as a Kindergarten teacher — the couple have called Morinville home for the past seven years.
“We carpool each day,” Pastor Lou Brunelle said. “It’s funny, we carpooled when we started our first job in 1976. We lived in a little town 20 minutes away. And 39 years later we are finishing our career carpooling again and teaching at the same school [just] as we did way back then.”
Though the couple is sorry to be leaving the school, they are looking forward to spending time with their children and six grandchildren. The Brunelles have a daughter moving from Ohio to California this year and a son who lives in British Columbia.
“We’re just looking forward to spending some extended time with them, not just the five or six days that we get here and there,” Shirley said.
Beyond added family time, the couple is hoping to spend a little time travelling as well. However, having taught school, ballroom dancing and even boating courses over the past 39 years, the couple is certain they will continue to educate even in retirement.
Over their careers, the Brunelles have had a variety of experiences as educators and a variety of fond memories.
For Shirley Brunelle, the family atmosphere created at Morinville Christian School over the past seven years will be the fondest memory she takes away from her time at the school. “Working together I’ve learned a lot just having to keep up with the kids, researching along the way,” she said.
For Lou Brunelle, two international trips with the school’s high school students are among his fond recollections of the time spent at the school. One trip was a missions trip to Mexico. The other was a trip to an international student convention in Missouri where students competed in some activities
“I love travelling with kids and organizing activities,” he said. “I love taking them to another culture and learning as we go.”
Both educators take away many fond memories of the staff, teachers and parents at the school they have called home. “It’s just a wonderful atmosphere,” Lou said. “We both thoroughly enjoy coming to work each day and just enjoy the children and the parents and the staff very much. It is certainly with mixed feelings that we are pulling the plug. It is not an easy decision.”
The Brunelles are planning on remaining in Morinville for the present but do have plans to move back to Saskatoon where the couple met in University and spent 30 years of their nearly four-decade teaching career. “We sort of feel the sense to go back home,” Lou Brunelle said, adding they have been away from the community for 14 years. “We did a four-year stretch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a four-year stretch in Regina Beach. Fourteen years away from home and we feel like it’s time to go back.”
But the couple will not just be leaving the school when they eventually move, but they will also leave the broader Community of the Father’s House Christian Fellowship.
“I’ve seen it grow. I’ve seen the volunteerism grow exponentially,” Pastor Brunelle said of the church. “We just have massive amounts of people jumping in and helping out in all these ministry areas.”
For Shirley, there has been joy in seeing the large number of young married couples that have joined and found encouragement in the church in recent years. “It’s exciting to watch the whole refreshing energy that precipitates people experiencing something for the first time,” she said. “The fellowship through the care groups that we have in the church has caused people to network with people in a way that is just healthy.”
The influx of fresh young faces in the church has transferred to the student population at the school. The Brunelles have seen seven Kindergarten students at the school this year, a number higher than previous years. Eight are already confirmed for this fall, five for the following year, and 10 preregistered for the fall of 2017.
“You can see where this thing is going,” Pastor Brunelle said, adding he expects the school will need more space for the 2017 school year. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Families and students had another opportunity to bid farewell to the Brunelles at the Morinville Christian School Awards Night held in St. Albert June 18.