2012-08-02 / News

Teaching assistant retires from post after 25 years

Mim Munro worked in the kindergarten at Melrose
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Come September, Melrose Avenue School will be missing a familiar face. Longtime teaching assistant Mim Munro, who spent the last quarter century at the elementary school, retired earlier this summer.

Munro said she spent 25 years working in one of the most important places in Jamestown – the kindergarten. She liked “everything” about her job.

“The teachers were amazing,” she said. “They were so innovative.” For one example, she said, kindergarten teacher Jane Mitchell assigned a Halloween art project the children will likely never forget. Instead of the usual drill, such as making jack-o’-lanterns, Mitchell opted for a fairy house, which the class built in the woods behind the school.

“It was all made out of natural materials and biodegradable,” Munro said. All the teachers used the outdoors to instruct the children so frequently, she said, the district ultimately added an outdoor classroom.

“The kids were absolutely fascinating. They were all cute kids and funny. When a kid got it and you saw the face light up, that was worth all of it.”

Munro would have stayed on but for some medical problems that forced her to miss half of the past school year.

“The Jamestown school system is so good, and it was a pleasure to be there,” she said. “If my health hadn’t intervened, I’d be there yet.”

Principal Carole Melucci said she hopes Munro will visit often and stay in touch with staff and with the many children who were in her care.

“We are going to miss her,” Melucci said. “She’s left many memories.” The principal went on to describe Munro as “caring and dedicated,” and said she had touched many children’s lives.

“She’s an amazing person,” Melucci said. She added that it was “a great honor” working with Munro.

Munro, in fact, does hope to return to Melrose Avenue School as a volunteer. She has signed up to help the art teacher, the prekindergarten and the kindergarten teachers.

She said she hasn’t decided exactly what she’ll do, but the decision will depend on who needs her. Typically, she said, the need is greater in pre-K and kindergarten.

Meantime, she is working her way back to good health at the Newport Hospital Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center. Munro estimates she needs six more months of therapy. She would have liked to continue working but said she decided to retire when she realized there was “no guarantee” about a full recovery. Given that risk, she couldn’t ask the school district to keep her on.

“The school district was very good to me,” she said. “No way I could ask for six more months.”

Munro had taught school over the years, starting in New Jersey in the 1970s when she obtained an emergency certification to work as a substitute. She liked it and took classes to earn her teaching certificate but wasn’t able to finish the program due to her husband’s journalism career, which required moving the family around the United States. Munro’s husband Jim, known affectionately as “The Walrus” to readers of the Jamestown Press, died in April. They were married 59 years. He was born in Newport, she came from the Oak Hill section of Pawtucket.

Her husband had a distinguished career as a reporter and writer, starting at the Bergen Record in New Jersey. They met at the University of Rhode Island, where she majored in advertising and marketing. She didn’t pursue a career in that field, though.

“It just didn’t turn out to be my thing,” she said. After college, she took a job with the telephone company. She stayed with the company when the couple moved to New Jersey, but then she started teaching.

Soon after her husband landed a job with Popular Boating Magazine.

“Those were the glory days,” she said. He covered the America’s Cup and lived on a sailboat in Newport for six weeks. He also covered the Newport to Bermuda races. She visited on weekends. But then he took a broadcasting job in Cleveland.

“Cleveland was inland,” she said, “so the boat went. We moved all the time.”

Their three children were all born in different places. Only one managed to go all the way through a school district, she said, before the family moved and changed schools.

Her daughter, Jenny Munro, is an on-air radio personality in Connecticut. Her son Scott lives in Ohio and programs computers. Keith, her other son, lives in New York and works for the Metro- North Railroad.

The Munros also spent some time themselves in New York. While there, she worked in the schools as a substitute. Finally, her husband retired and they decided to come home. He wrote a column for the Jamestown Press. She applied for a teaching assistant job with the Jamestown schools.

When Munro started, Phyllis Schmidt was the superintendent. Munro began her Jamestown journey in the second grade to replace a teaching assistant who was away on leave.

“I liked it,” she said. When the second-grade teaching assistant returned, Munro worked in the schools as a substitute. “I just subbed whenever.”

But the following year she got a break and landed a full-time job as the teaching assistant for the kindergarten.

She has 25 years of memories about first days of school, she said. Schmidt, who was also the principal for 17 years, as well as the superintendent, had a tradition on the first day of school.

“She would go out on the playground and ring the bell,” she said. “It was a nice custom.” Munro said she also remembers the parents leaving the children at school for the first time.

“One of my fondest memories is when a dad got on the school bus and took pictures of the kids,” she said. Then the father jumped off the bus, raced to the school, and was there to take pictures of the kids when they arrived.

Munro said she did anything that helped the teacher. If a child became upset, for example, she’d take him for a walk or they’d go down to the kitchen.

Munro said the staff laughed a lot and made time for all the youngsters.

“It was great,” she said.

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