In 1969, Disney Elementary opened its doors. Nineteen teachers taught 470 students that first year. Fifty years later, 754 students and 109 staff members make up Disney, and several of them gathered in the gym to celebrate a half century of education by singing, dancing, and reminiscing.
“I’ve been talking to [Principal Donna] Gilford about what it takes to make this happen, and I don’t just mean this assembly. I’m talking about making school happen every day. People, we’ve been making school happen for 50 years,” said Disney teacher John Combs.
Several former teachers and alumni attended the celebration and shared their fond memories of the school.
“Disney is in my heart,” said Marjorie Bayer, who was there on the very first day of school and taught at Disney for eighteen years.
Marjorie and many of the other attendees were at Disney during the fire that closed the school for about a year – a tragic event that brought the community even closer together.
“I had a special connection with the Great Fire of 1980,” said Dan Smith. “At that time, I was driving part-time school bus. I had to take Disney children from here over to Mason. It was during that time with Disney kids that I realized that this is what I wanted to do. I went back to school and got my teaching certificate. My last ten years of teaching was right here at Disney Elementary. It was wonderful.”
Former Disney principals Charlie Carlisle and Louis Galluzzi were also in attendance.
“I’m often asked what I miss most about being principal. Number one always has to be students because the students make your day. Sometimes I would go home from school and I would be nearly sore from all the hugs I got through the day. That’s a good kind of being sore,” said Louis.
The recently retired teachers who returned for the event were greeted with a chorus of “We miss you!” from students and plenty of hugs after the assembly concluded.
After a short tour of the school’s renovations, the honored guests gathered in the library for a reception. The school staff had yearbooks spread out for them to flip through and old photos decorated the tables. The neighborhood Morales Supermarket donated food for the gathering, which everyone enjoyed as they chatted about old times.
“It’s fun to see all the former teachers,” said Cathy Casey, who taught at Disney for 37 years. “When I first started in 1976, they were the people you looked up to. They had been teachers for a long time. As they retired and moved on, you kept growing and going up the ladder. Then in the end you were hopefully one of the teachers who set the examples for the younger people.”
Cathy said every year she spent at Disney was wonderful.
“That Disney spirit is just an intangible factor in the atmosphere of the school,” she said. “It’s a tight community with a lot of participation and very, very dedicated teachers.”