3 min read
08 April 2024

Generations of children gather to bid farewell to beloved WoodGreen childcare teacher

Susan Fuehr, Communications Consultant

Hundreds of people across this city – from babies up to 40-somethings – will always associate mornings with the soft voice of Vione Thomas.

For 36 years children have gathered around her in a circle to welcome the day.

🎶“Good morning. Good morning. Good morning to you….”🎶

Since 1987, Vione has cared for children at WoodGreen’s Child Care Services, helping rock babies to sleep, teaching toddlers the alphabet, encouraging sharing and kissing bumps and bruises.

“I love my job. I’ve got a lot to offer the children,” she says.
“Mostly joy and extra love and kindness.”

🎶“Good morning. Good morning. And how do you do?”🎶

See our Child Care Services and Locations

Being around young people every day keeps her young, she says. But now, at the age of 70, after 36 years on the job, Vione is retiring.

“Working here is such a joy, so it’s very hard for me to go,” she says.

Even when she’s not singing, Vione’s voice has a lilt and a hint of an accent from her native Jamaica. She initially came to Canada as a nanny, but when others saw how good she was with children, they suggested she work in child care. She took early childhood courses at Seneca Polytechnic while she was working at WoodGreen.

She worked at several WoodGreen Child Care Centres, including 835 Queen St. (known as Win Harris Child Care) until it closed in 2012. She spent the last 14 years of her career at the Riverdale Child Care Centre, where Michelle Dutra is her supervisor.

“The children light up and Vione lights up as they greet each other each morning with a snuggle or a hello,” says Michelle. She praises Vione’s positive attitude and willingness to try new things and always supporting her colleagues in whatever way they need.

5 Things Early Childhood Educators Do For Kids (and their parents)

“She brings forward a very nurturing sense of herself that is warm, supportive and mother-like.”

Vione never had children of her own, and despite having cared for hundreds of kids over nearly four decades, she doesn’t forget a child and they don’t forget her. A few years ago, a man working for the TTC knocked on the centre’s door and asked for Vione.

“He asked ‘do you remember me? You used to look after me as a little boy!’,” she laughs, adding she stood before the grown man but could still recognize the face of the small boy she had once known.

🎶“Your face is like sunshine that brings us good cheer…..”🎶

Some former students have even brought their children back to be cared for by Vione.

At a goodbye celebration for Vione at the Riverdale Child Care Centre, several families and former students returned to bid farewell to their beloved “Onie” (OH-nee).

“Some of the parents tell me that when they tell their children it’s time to go to daycare, they yell ‘Onie!’ ‘Onie!’ and run happily to the door.”

🎶“Good morning. Good morning. And how do you do?”🎶

She believes working together with families – as a team – is key to raising happy kids.

“I think it’s very important to earn the family’s trust so they will trust you with their children”

Vione loves to see the children learn. Her favourite moments are when they first start to walk and when she teaches them sign language.

a woman with dark skin wearing a red dress stands in front of a sign painted by children that reads Vione.

After 36 years teaching children, Vione has learned from the kids, too.

“Love,” she says. “The children give me a lot of love.”

✉ Send best wishes or a memory to Vione!✉

Vione plans on taking a little break to relax, but her caring nature won’t take a back seat for long. She would like to volunteer for WoodGreen, but caring for those on the other end of the age spectrum; seniors in care homes.

“I will always love and respect WoodGreen,” says Vione, her voice cracking.

“When I look back I see that everything I have achieved and accomplished is because of WoodGreen. I may be leaving, but I will always be a part of this place.”

Interested in your child growing and learning in a high-quality, diverse and enriched environment? See which WoodGreen Child Care Centres are near you.

Special thanks to Kenneth Tse for photography and videography.

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