Alison J. Donaldson Memorial Bursary

The week after her death in September 1995, a letter arrived for Alison from a former pupil who had been in Victoria the week before and tried to contact her. This was a pupil that Alison taught in 1957! She was just one of many pupils who stayed in touch with their much-loved elementary teacher over the years.

It’s not surprising as Alison Donaldson was a woman of great charm and kindness. She was very vivacious with a wonderful sense of humour, a lively curiosity, an abiding interest in people, and great strength of character. These were just a few of the qualities that made her such an inspired teacher. She loved her pupils and they, in turn, loved her.

From her first day at Hume School in Nelson, BC, Alison Younger knew she wanted to be a teacher. She attended Normal School (now Camosun College Lansdowne) in Victoria and began teaching at age 19 in a two-room school in Taghum, BC. She then taught at Hume School until her 1942 marriage to Leslie A. Donaldson of Tregarva, Sask., an RCAF officer posted in Ottawa where their daughter, Lois, was born. Following the war, the Donaldsons settled in Moose Jaw, had two sons, Rod and Grant, and Alison devoted herself to her family.

All was not well, however, as Les’s health deteriorated until he was permanently hospitalized. In 1954, Alison returned to teaching at Queen Elizabeth School. Saskatchewan then required teachers to have university courses in addition to their teaching certificate. With her husband in hospital, three youngsters and a full-time job, Alison embarked on night and summer school courses, commuting to Regina for class. Once when Les was not expected to live and the hospital couldn’t find a special night nurse, Alison spent all night at the hospital, watching over her husband and trying to study for her Psychology final (Les pulled through, and she got an A on the exam). Her example of courage, determination and fortitude in adversity always remained with her family, friends and colleagues.

Following Leslie’s death in 1962, Alison moved her family back to BC and began teaching at Oaklands School in Victoria. She continued her studies course by course, graduating with her prized Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Victoria at the same convocation as her two son. Following her retirement in 1983, she kept busy with reading, painting and bridge club, became a volunteer/guide at the Royal BC Museum, and also volunteered with UNICEF. She also fulfilled her ambition to travel, visiting England and Europe several times, as well as the Middle East and South East Asia.

Alison had a lifelong love affair with the English language and reading was one of her great pleasures. Her house was always full of books, and she taught her children and her two grandchildren to read by age three. Alison’s greatest pride as a teacher was turning her pupils into avid readers. In fact, she controlled her classroom through reading: If the class was well-behaved all week, she read them a chapter on Friday. Her fourth-graders were particularly fond of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but she would slip in classics such as Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island as well. If they were particularly well-behaved, it was two chapters; only occasionally was there no reading at all.

After their mother’s death, her children could think of no finer tribute to her than establishing the Alison J. Donaldson Memorial Bursary. The bursary is directed to those who plan to teach elementary students to read and write the English language – a very fitting memorial for this remarkable woman. It is the family’s hope that the bursary will assist aspiring teachers to become as much an inspiration to their students in fture as Alison was to hers in the past. Interested in applying?