Super Senior: Ruth Daigneault

It’s fair to say, we are living in the most unusual times. At Leyland and Gray School in Townshend, Principal Bob Thibeault sums up the last two years in one wo
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 5:26 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2022 at 7:44 AM EST
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TOWNSHEND, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s fair to say, we are living in the most unusual times. At Leyland and Gray School in Townshend, Principal Bob Thibeault sums up the last two years in one word -- “exhausting.”

It’s been a balancing act of educating the kids and keeping them healthy. They were remote learning last year until February. Now, the students and staff are back in the school full-time. “It’s been lots of changes, lots of shifts, but pretty chaotic, pretty hectic for our teaching staff and definitely for our nursing staff,” Thibeault said.

At the nurse’s office, two women are taking care of the 280 students from 6th to 12th grade. A few months ago, Jorda Daigneault, a nurse practitioner at the school, asked her mother Ruth, a retired nurse, for help during the omicron surge.

“They come in here from a hangnail to, “I want to take a nap,” Ruth said.

But also for tests. “We’re going to COVID this gentleman because he’s not feeling quite up to par,” Ruth explained.

Rapid antigen tests are now the norm. “You’re going to put this up your nostril that far and go all-around five times on each side,” Ruth instructed one student. The results turned out negative.

At 80, Ruth adds a grandmotherly presence with a firm resolve.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Have the kids been pretty good about wearing masks?

Ruth Daigneault: Yes, they have. There are a couple that put them down like this, and you have to keep telling them to put them up.

But a type of culture war has festered outside these walls aimed squarely at Jorda. Parents who don’t think their kids should have to wear masks in school have called her names like “nurse Nazi.”

“That kind of rudeness, it wears on you. I usually have pretty thick skin, but it’s been raided and it’s pretty thin right now.

“Some even attack her on Facebook,” Ruth added.

“She’s a much, much better person than me,” Jorda said

Ruth Daigneault: I wouldn’t say that.

Jorda Daigneault: Oh you are. Because she can rise above it and sometimes I can’t.

Bob Thibeault: Without our nursing staff it would be, it would be impossible.

COVID testing kits, masks, and hand sanitizer are now commonplace at the school, and for schools across the region. “We joke a little bit that it feels like we’re we’re more hospital administrators sometimes than educators, because all the work around making sure the kids have what they need,” Thibeault said.

Then, there are the more commonplace concerns. A student comes in to complain about a loose tooth. “I think it’s loose, but I think it’s an adult tooth,” said Jorda.

“After working in nursing for years and years and years, this is delightful,” Ruth said.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Mother-daughter team...

Bob Thibeault: It’s unbelievable to have a mother-daughter team. It’s a great combo. A one, two punch.

Fighting the pandemic with a gentle touch. “We want them all to be well and all to be happy,” Ruth said.

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