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Manitoulin teacher honoured by Armed Forces for her work to support soldiers

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A teacher on Manitoulin Island received a special surprise visit from the Canadian Armed Forces Friday ahead of her retirement.

Heather Jefkins of Charles C. McLean Public School was awarded a Centennial Coin for her longstanding efforts supporting the military.

It was a first for elementary students at the school and a fitting surprise for teacher Jefkins, who is retiring after a 30-year career.

Jefkins was recognized for her numerous contributions to the Canadian Armed Forces, a lengthy list that involves creating Christmas packages and the Flat Stanley Program, a pen pal system to connect students to soldiers.

"Every response we got back told me it mattered, that connecting with military members who were serving far away from home, even if we were strangers, it mattered," Jefkins said.

Heather Jefkins of Charles C. McLean Public School was awarded a Centennial Coin for her longstanding efforts supporting the military. It was a first for elementary students at the school and a fitting surprise for teacher Jefkins, who is retiring after a 30-year career. (Photo from video)

To mark the occasion, she received the Centennial Coin, given to 100 Canadians who embody RCAF values.

"She cares about people,” said Maj. Dan White

“She tries to do more for people (and) she doesn't ask for anything in return. And that is one of the things that the military is known for. They worry about themselves."

It’s a passion that was passed on to former students.

“Ms. Jefkins was my Grade 5 teacher,” said. Maj. Tim Armstrong.

“(She) instilled still a love in history for me, as I'm sure she does with all of her students. So on the 100th anniversary of the RCAF, as well as the 80th anniversary of D-Day yesterday, it's fitting that we come visit the students here in Gore Bay.

School principal Robyn Best said students have learned so much about history, language and math through the Flat Stanley Program.

“Giving kids a real purpose to write for a real reason really ignites that desire in them and helps them to bring their learning to its fullest,” Best said.

And students agree.

“I like that she does Flat Stanley's with us,” said student Blair Noble.

“I have two pen pals, one is Stephanie and the other is Holly. I have two letters from Stephanie and one from Holly.”

“I have one pen pal,” added another student, Alex Woods.

“He's actually in the Canadian Air Force. He flies a really big plane.”

Jefkins will retire at the end of this month and is looking for ways she can continue her efforts, describing her work with the military as one of the greatest honours of her career. 

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