For the past 23 years, Rita Manfredi was an anchor of support for staff and students in Henderson Annex. Last week, the Supervision Aide finally decided to hang up her spurs and retire from the annex. She was honoured with a special assembly featuring cake, songs and special thank you notes from all her students.
Manfredi says leaving the school was a very hard decision to make.
"I love working with the kids. I love this job," said Manfredi in an interview under a massive and colourful 'Rita' sign. "I wasn't here for money and it was hard to choose to decide to move on."
Staff members say that Manfredi has been a critical part of the Henderson Annex community, treating all the children as if they were her own kids.
Nick Marino, a Grade 5 teacher at Henderson Annex who looks suspiciously like the Robert DeNiro of Raging Bull, worked with Manfredi for 11 years. He says her work bringing the school display's to life and her ability to solve problems on the playground before they made their way into the classroom made a profound difference in class morale. But while Marino heralds her problem solving skills, he raves about her food.
"She just brought in tons of food. Italian pizza and pasta dishes. Everything was homemade and made from scratch," he says noting that Manfredi took delight in stuffing him and his younger doppleganger Rob Mouro, who also happens to be a School Support Worker at the Annex.
"She always brought leftovers from school and treated us like her Italian family," says Mouro.
Manfredi didn't just touch the lives of the school's Mediterranean staff. For Rita Manzo, who teaches Grade 1-2, working with Manfredi was always a huge pleasure. Manzo and Manfredi have been serving Henderson Annex for over two decades. Manzo says it has been a privilege to work with her friend.
"Her enthusiasm and attention to detail exemplifies going above and beyond," says Manzo. "She has a knack for helping to calm students and she has a great amount of empathy that is important when supporting the individual needs of students who come from various different cultures and countries."
Manfredi for her part doesn't intend to be a stranger. She'll be coming back in the coming months for visits and says she also plans to volunteer at the school.