BETHLEHEM A mix of tears and laughter filled the Elsmere Elementary gymnasium as loved ones gathered last week in remembrance of former Principal Dorothy Whitney.
Whitney died in February after a long illness, but the memorial was held at the school months later on Tuesday, June 11, with a goal in mind. The gap in time allowed for former colleagues to raise enough money to establish a fund in Whitney’s name and to purchase a plaque that will hang in the building’s main hallway.
Tears fell at the beginning of the memorial as colleagues, friends and family watched a slideshow of Whitney’s time as a teacher and administrator in the Bethlehem Central School District. There were pictures from staff meetings, student concerts, school theme days and Whitney’s retirement celebration in 2003.
“Things were different then,” said retired teacher Cathy Schaefer. “There were more field trips, projects and activates, and fewer tests. There was less pressure and more freedom. There was less accountability and more trust. With Dorothy on board, we felt that freedom and trust.”
Whitney was principal of Elsmere Elementary from 1984 to 2003. She first worked in the district as a reading specialist in 1974, after receiving her master’s degree from St. Rose College and her teaching certificate from the University at Albany. She later advanced to part-time principal and a kindergarten teacher position at Clarksville, before moving on to Elsmere.
At the memorial, Whitney was remembered for always putting the needs of her students first, her “gracious demeanor,” “skillful leadership” and her guidance.
“Dorothy really supported us in everything we did,” said retired teacher Nancy Smith. “She knew the importance of working hard and helped every single one of us become our best.”
Whitney was also remembered for her sense of humor and always being amused by the doings of her teachers and students.