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Gatchell School renamed for the late Jean Hanson

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 30, 2014 - 10:33 AM |
Former Rainbow District School Board director of education Jean Hanson passed away Feb. 3 after a battle with cancer. The Rainbow board is renaming Gatchell School in her honour. File photo.

Former Rainbow District School Board director of education Jean Hanson passed away Feb. 3 after a battle with cancer. The Rainbow board is renaming Gatchell School in her honour. File photo.

Former director of education dedicated to special needs students

Throughout her 40-year career in education, the late Jean Hanson was dedicated to special needs students.

Before she became the Rainbow District School Board's director of education in 2004 — a role she held until her 2010 retirement — she was a teacher, special education consultant, principal and superintendent of special education.

From 1987 to 1993, she was the principal of Gatchell School, which serves students with special needs.


To honour Hanson's work in special education, Rainbow board trustees voted unanimously at their April 29 meeting to rename Gatchell School in her honour.

A dedication ceremony for the newly renamed Jean Hanson Public School will take place at the school starting at 10 a.m. May 12.

“The children that she dealt with that had special needs were very near and dear to her heart,” said Rainbow board chair Doreen Dewar.

She said when Hanson passed away Feb. 3 after a long battle with cancer, the board knew it wanted to do something to honour her.

Hanson's husband, Bob, was overwhelmed and speechless when he found out what the board was planning, Dewar said. The school's new name is very popular with the Gatchell School community as well, she said.

She said this is only the second time in her 25 years as trustee one of the board's facilities has been renamed after someone.

The last time was 15 years ago, when one of its elementary schools was renamed after longtime trustee Ernie Checkeris.

The board's vice-chair, Dena Morrison, said Hanson battled cancer throughout her time as Rainbow's director of education. But she never missed a day of work, scheduling chemotherapy and medical appointments for 7 a.m., she said.

“This is a person that worked 12 to 16 hours a day,” Morrison said.

“Most of us were always on her for working too hard, but this was her life. It was her commitment and her dedication and passion that helped her to make that battle against cancer.”

Hanson was a “caring and compassionate” person, she said.

“But don't let caring and compassion be confused with weakness,” Morrison said.

“This is a person who had a spine of steel. She set a goal, set an objective, and never let herself be deviated. She also didn't apologize for expecting excellence from everyone, because she expected no more than she expected from herself.”

Did you know?

Gatchell School (now Jean Hanson Public School) provides programming for students who have developmental disabilities. Students benefit from a full curriculum, which includes academics, communication and social skills, life skills, physical education and the arts. They have access to the use of a swimming pool, a functional kitchen, an aquatherapy room and a Snozelen room.
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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