After 30 years of dedicated service to the second-graders at Crane Country Day School, Ellen Bonning was still not expecting the surprise honor she received Friday. The whole school gathered for a special assembly to celebrate her — with 30 students, teachers and staff paying tribute to her through their own words and art.
As the school’s yearbook editor, Bonning takes photographs of all the happenings on Crane’s campus, so when Head of School Joel Weiss introduced the special assembly, Bonning sat at the ready, a large camera in hand, to capture the moment. Giggles rippled through the audience when another teacher took the camera from around her neck, telling Bonning that she would not be taking the pictures this time.
Beckoned to a royal seat of honor on stage, Bonning listened to the words of the 30 children and adults chosen to speak about her 30 years as the second-grade assistant teacher. One of the 30, Crane alumna Megan MacMurray, who now teaches kindergarten there, spoke of her time as student in Bonning’s class, and now, of being her colleague and friend.
“I’ve known you all my life,” MacMurray said through tears of emotion.
Third-grader Kate Spaulding said, “I love Ms. Bonning because she loves gardens, and she taught me to love gardens, too.”
Each speaker’s artwork, which was projected on screen while they spoke, was bound into a scrapbook for Bonning to take and treasure.
After the spoken tributes, Bonning’s husband, Robert, was called from a position of hiding up onto the stage to share in the announcement that the couple would next be whisked away in a limousine to the Santa Barbara Airport, where very shortly their flight to San Francisco would depart. The Bonnings were given the scrapbook, 30 bills of spending cash, and a hug by Weiss, who said, “Ellen, we all love you, but we’re sending you away on vacation!”
Bonning began at Crane in 1982 as the daycare director and then moved into assistant teaching in second grade in 1995. She is the co-editor of Crane’s yearbook, is active in the school’s gardening program, frequently chaperones class trips, and organizes the Crane Women’s Book Club, which has been going strong for 17 years. She and her husband, an administrator at Cate School, have two sons, Rebus and Peter, both Crane alums.
Only two other Crane faculty members have reached this highly honored 30-year mark: Dr. Dan McCaslin, history teacher, who was awarded sabbatical for this year, and Debbie Williams, director of admission and development.
“Welcome to this very exclusive club!” Williams joked.
— Anne Dascomb is the assistant to the head of school for Crane Country Day School.