For WMS teachers, Mrs. Donato is far more than a colleague

Eleanor Donato has been at Watertown Middle School for a long time. In that time, she touched many hearts and made many friends, including math teacher Jane Evans.

Ms. Evans has known Mrs. Donato since she was in middle school and was taught history by Mrs. Donato. Ms. Evans has now worked with Mrs. Donato for eight years.

When she was asked what her favorite memory was of Mrs. Donato, Ms. Evans answered, “It’s not just one memory, it’s just you could tell she was a great teacher and friend.

“Without her, we’ll have a huge hole and it will take a lot of people to fill it, It’s like, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.”

If you ask anyone in Watertown Middle School who has had or worked with Mrs. Donato, they will all say great things about her, like special ed teacher Debbie Kelly.

“She taught me patience, acts of kindness throughout the community. She taught me everybody is one,” she said.

Ms. Kelly describes Mrs. Donato as a kindhearted person with a good sense of humor. Ms. Kelly also says that her close friend is hard working and a great role model.

“She’s very smart, she has lots of knowledge about the world. She is creative and is great to co-teach with,” Ms. Kelly said.

Everyone knows Mrs. Donato, but have you known her since you were born, like Phil Oates? Doubt it.

Mrs. Donato has been good friends with his mom, and in his time around Mrs. Donato, he has met her family — all seven of them.

Mr. Oates probably has the most funniest memories with her, like he described that 25 years ago she taught him to put mozzarella on ziti, and that it has changed the way he eats pasta.

Although Mr. Oates met Mrs. Donato when he was born, she wasn’t his teacher growing up. They have worked together for about nine years. He says that she probably does more community service in one year than people do in their lifetime.

Kara Conceison is an English teacher in Cluster 2 who has been working at WMS for 13 years. Ms. Conceison has known Mrs. Donato since she was young. The first time they meet was when Ms. Conceison was in elementary school.

“I was friends with Brian [who teaches here] and Anthony [his twin],” she said.

Ms. Conceison also worked with Mrs. Donato when she was going to school.

“I was an undergraduate student, she taught me how to become a teacher,” she said. “When I was student teaching, Mrs. Donato would drive me to church with her every morning during Lent and we would have big conversations.”

Ms. Conceison said she loved spending time with Mrs. Donato and learned a lot from her.

Margaret Ferguson-Maltzman is a science teacher in Cluster 2 who has been working at Watertown Middle School for 11 years. Ms. Ferguson teaches in the same cluster as Mrs. Donato, so they know a lot about each other.

Ms. Ferguson says she loves working with Mrs. Donato and admires her patience. Ms. Ferguson described that one day she was lost when going to a restaurant.

“It was hilarious because I kept getting lost, so I kept calling her and, at one point, I was on the Mass Pike,” said Ms. Ferguson.

Thankfully, Mrs. Donato was OK with her calling and wasn’t disturbed or upset about it.

Besides the patience Mrs. Donato has, there is more to appreciate about her. Ms. Ferguson enjoys seeing Mrs. Donato give her time with others.

“She always makes time for everything, big or small,” she said.

Mrs. Donato is very generous and that is something to respect her about. Ms. Ferguson knew Mrs. Donato one day would leave. “I can’t imagine, I always taught with her,” she said. Everybody in the school depended on Mrs. Donato and didn’t worry about the upcoming events because the work was taken care of. Now with Mrs. Donato leaving, Ms. Ferguson is “wondering if the community service will stay strong.” She hopes though that it will continue to succeed after Mrs. Donato leaves.

Cluster 5 science teacher Elissa Willoughby has been at WMS since 2002. “Well, I haven’t ever taught in sixth grade [with her], but I worked with her on the Thanksgiving baskets,” she said. “I promised her that the Thanksgiving baskets will get done. The staff party as well.”

Ms. Willoughby said 15 people have already signed up to take over Mrs. Donato’s jobs, but even with that amount of people, she thinks it won’t be the same without her.

Ms. Willoughby’s favorite memory, or rather feeling, of Mrs. Donato is how she treated everyone like they were her “children.” In other words, she made everyone feel like she cared for them. “It’s helped make it the kind of place where people get taken care of,” she said. “It’s more than just learning that takes place here.”

Seventh-grade science teacher Karen MacAulay is happy Mrs. Donato is taking time for herself.

“I think she should have a rest and spend time with her family, because she has given her heart and soul to this school,’’ she said. “She deserves every single penny she has earned because she works so hard and when she leaves it will leave a huge hole in the school.”

Lisa McDonagh is a Cluster 4 humanities teacher and has been working here for 18 years. Since she has been working at WMS for so long, she knows Mrs. Donato well and is inspired by her.

Ms. McDonagh said she is amazed at how many different parts Mrs. Donato has participated in, and if something good is happening in the school, Mrs. Donato is behind it.

Laurie Ann Brackett is a secretary in the office and has been at WMS for 51⁄2 years. She said she like working with Mrs. Donato on Pennies for Patients.

“Ms. Donato is one of the reasons why we are so successful,” Ms. Brackett said.

Ms. Brackett was asked about what she thinks the school will be like without Mrs. Donato.

“Nobody can take her place, and she will be remembered fondly at WMS,” she said. “I can’t imagine how the school will be like without her. I hope that people will step up and help as much as she did.”

According to ESL teacher Judy Powers, she has known Mrs. Donato for 16 years. When asked about her thoughts on Mrs. Donato retiring, she said, “I think that it’s wonderful for her and a big loss for the school.”

When Spanish teacher Holly Cachimuel was asked how she felt about the retirement, she answered, “I’m happy for her, but my heart is shattered into a million pieces.”

–April 3, 2016–