Jason Willoughby has been a caretaker at MGCI for over twenty-three years. Photo: Jackie Ho

On any given afternoon, if you stroll through the halls or the cafeteria, you might come face to face with a smiling Jason Willoughby. Known by students simply as “Jason”, he has been a caretaker at Marc Garneau CI since October 1991. After twenty-three and a half years, Jason has been promoted to Chief Caretaker at West Preparatory Junior Public School, an elementary school in the Forest Hill neighbourhood. He will be leaving us after this Friday 13 February.

Jason first started out as a substitute in 1991 for a caretaker on long term disability, and stayed on as the position was vacated. He remembers his first day at the school, back when the second and third floors had no walls, and all he saw was “a sea of faces” (the school had an open concept design until a major renovation in 1998). The school was much smaller then; there were only around fifty teachers. Jason observed that the greatest change over his years at MGCI was the shifting demographic of the Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe neighbourhoods. He recalls, “There was always a large demographic of Asian students,  but also many students that were European, mainly Greeks. Today, the students are Afghan, Somalian, or Pakistani. The faces I see have really changed.”

We often forget the work that goes on behind the scenes everyday as messes are mopped up, halls are sweeped, floors are washed, and garbage cans emptied. It is the dedication of the caretaking staff that makes going to school in a clean and safe environment possible. To the students, Jason says: “Realize that Garneau is a great place. Take pride in the school. A lot goes into maintaining it for you guys. Most of the time, it’s done with a happy face. It’s become more than a job – it’s a part of my life.”

Jason is a familiar face to students, with many of them describing him fondly. Maria Kashif, President of MGCI’s Student Council, shares “The best thing [about him] is that you could have a conversation with him while he was working and he never made it feel like you were bothering him.”

When asked to comment on how he felt about his promotion, Jason had this to say: “If it wasn’t for the promotion with more money and responsibilities, I wouldn’t want to leave. It’s really bittersweet. I’ve spent more than half my life here.”

If you see Jason in the next couple of days, be sure to thank him for all his hard work at MGCI. We wish him the very best in his new position!