Watertown Middle School gives its thanks to Eleanor Donato

As community celebrates sixth-grade teacher before she retires, dozens steps forward to continue with her many charitable projects


Eleanor Donato and her son Brian at the Student-Faculty basketball game, one of the many Watertown Middle School fund-raisers run as part of Pennies for Patients.

Watertown Splash staff

No one ever wants to say goodbye. It’s hard to do. But now we have to.

After a 33-year teaching career, Eleanor Donato is going to give her last lesson in a few short months because she will be retiring. She gave so much to Watertown Middle School it’ll be hard to replace such a hard-working teacher.

Mrs. Donato is someone that everyone at WMS knows and loves. She is a fantastic teacher, lovely colleague, and a great friend.

“The kids are the best part about Watertown Middle School,” she said. “Everyday is different.”

Mrs. Donato, who now teaches world geography in Cluster 2, has worked at WMS for 28 years. She has worked here for so long that some of the teachers today at WMS, including Ms. Evans, were once her students. Ms. Conceison was her student-teacher.

What are her plans for retirement? “I’m still thinking about what I’m going to do,” she said, though she does know she wants to spend more time with her grandchildren and travel. (She has two grandchildren in South Carolina.) She also wants to continue doing even more for the community.

She’s leaving WMS, but she’s not leaving Watertown. “I’ve always lived in Watertown and lived in Watertown all my life, except for the two years when I got married and lived in Waltham,” she said.

Mrs. Donato’s decision to start teaching was influenced by the great teachers that she had, and the fact that she had older siblings that taught, too.

Even though she is a world geography teacher now, she wasn’t always. She first taught history, she also taught a class called Current Social Problems. Besides sixth grade, Mrs. Donato has taught seventh, eighth, and ninth grade, and worked at Cunniff Elementary School for a few years, too. She started teaching at WMS in 1972.

“I can tell I had a student in that time if they call me ‘Ms. Sullivan,’ ” she said. “It always is nice when I hear ‘Ms. Sullivan.’ ”

She left teaching for a while to raise her five children, and she came back in 1993. Mrs. Donato has two sets of twins and one other child. Brian Donato works just down the hall to Mrs. Donato.

“I really like that I get to teach with my son and see him everyday because not many people work with their children,” she said.

Mrs. Donato is famous at Watertown Middle School for running many of the school’s most popular fund-raisers. She has run many student activities, including student council, Coats for Kids, Pennies for Patients, and the community service program.

“It all started with Kids Who Care,” she said.

Kids Who Care was the very beginning of community service at WMS. In Kids Who Care, Mrs.Donato would send a handful of students to help at places like a nursing home or a nursery. She soon realized that she had a love of community service. Mrs. Donato said she “likes to see kids take a role in things at school, which is why most of the fund-raisers are partially run by students.”

The Pennies for Patients campaign is when students come together to collect spare change to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and working on the annual fund-raising drive is one of Mrs. Donato’s favorite memories at WMS. She loves it when the community joins forces to help others.

“Pennies for Patients is the most difficult fund-raiser to run because it goes on for three weeks, but, since everyone helps so much, it makes it easier,” she said.

Another one of her favorite memories is probably one of yours, too: Spirit Week! Suddenly becoming a twin and showing off your school spirit is pretty fun. At the Geography Bee, each student participates and the 10 finalists compete in front of the whole school. She said she loves seeing all of the students cheering on their peers with big signs supporting them.

Another activity she worked on was the Sunshine Fund, for the faculty and staff. Teachers would all chip in to the fund for special times when someone was sick or having a child.

With good times, there are always not-so-good-times, too. Peter Clough — who the WMS auditorium is named after — was a vice principal who was diagnosed with lymphoma. He and Mrs. Donato were close co-workers. She always told him to look for the good in people.

And when he was diagnosed with cancer, people that weren’t his “favorites” were there for him and took care of him. He told Mrs. Donato that she was right and there always is some good in people. He sadly passed away in December 1995. He was 32.

This kind-hearted teacher believes that there is good in everybody and that you just have to find it, and that’s just what she did throughout all her years here at Watertown Middle School.

(Story reported and written by Watertown Splash staff members Zainab Attar, Shabnam Begum, Allison Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Herrera, Adam Houjazy, Sidrah Khan, Rose Muldrew, Julian Reyes, Sabreena Shah, Ian Simpson, Martin Tibets, and Anthia Vrahliotis.)

–April 1, 2016–