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Life lessons, with glitter

Keeping them safe & much more

Grandville — Trish Dagle is on a mission.

The daily recess monitor at South Elementary, called “Miss Trish” by students, lays down and enforces playground rules to keep kids safe. But more importantly, she’s there for life lessons amid the monkey bars.

Six years ago, she wanted to do something else after spending more than 25 years working in retail, and the opportunity at South came along. Her love of children drew her to the job, she said.

“It’s my mission, if I’m going to be honest; it’s a mission, not just a job. We’ve had a lot of life lessons out there.

“I have a lot of fun with them: We play. We do fun things. We plan weddings. We grow gardens. We do all this stuff, but at the end of the day, I just want them to be seen, and (to know) that they are all seen and they are all heard, and that someday they will remember that.”

A certain group of girls, now in fifth grade, often reminds Miss Trish of a life lesson she taught them with glitter. 

“That’s probably one of my favorite stories,” recalled Dagle, who explained that this group had since kindergarten picked on one another constantly, and for reasons unknown, couldn’t seem to be nice.

When they reached the third grade and were still at odds, Dagle had had enough. 

“I grabbed a jar of glitter from the art room and poured all the glitter over the grass,” she said. Then she told the girls to pick it all up. The girls protested, saying it was impossible to get it out of the dirt.

“It’s the same with your words,” Dagle told them. “‘You can’t put them back once they come out.’ 

“They still come up to me to this day and remind me about the glitter.”

Trish Dagle helps students work out a problem

Recess With Morrie & More

Dagle keeps a stuffed animal in her pocket that comes out and “talks” to students when they cry. His name is Morrie, and he speaks with a Brooklyn, New York accent. He’s also available for nuptials.

“We had a lovely wedding with two (stuffed toy) dogs,” she said. “They didn’t have anyone to officiate the wedding, so Morrie did it.”

Besides canine ceremonies, there’s also learning when some moms should be given their space.

‘I just want them to be seen, and (to know) that they are all seen and they are all heard, and that someday they will remember that.’

— Trish Dagle

On a recent Monday it was discovered that a mother duck had brought her eggs to the playground. The area was roped off until the duck and her soon-to-be brood could be rehomed. Dagle spent much of that day’s recess keeping students at a safe distance. 

I think about retiring, (but) it’s not hard to come to work here,” she said. “Today could have been one of those days (though), with the duck.”

High Marks All Around  

Second-grader Josh Braat called Dagle “kind, and a good recess teacher.”

Said fourth-grader Kennedy Flanigan: “She’s funny, and she makes necessary rules to keep us safe. She plays with us and is nice to us.”

Added fourth-grader Abe Monroe: “She’s nice and funny. She’s got a lot of good traits. She keeps people out of trouble.”

Principal Darla England said Dagle is “an intricate part of students’ social and emotional development in our building. She models, teaches and discusses with our kiddos so much more than just how to be safe on the playground.”

Being a listening ear is a big part of playground duty, Dagle said.

“A lot of kids want to just talk. They’re upset about life things. They don’t know how to express themselves. Sometimes it’s just grounding a kid, sitting them down.”

Dagle remembers when she was in kindergarten, struggling to get her boots on after everyone else had gone. A teacher told her to stop crying and just get her boots on. This memory stuck with her. 

“I’m never ever going to allow another child to be in a position where they feel helpless like that,” she said. “If a kid needs a shoe(lace) tied or is frustrated by a friend, it’s important to listen and not let them feel helpless and (as though) they’re not being heard. 

“So yeah, that’s kind of why I do it.”

Read more from Grandville:
Survivor: Grandville edition
Student-organized college Q&A panel earns high marks

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Jane Lally
Jane Lally
Jane Lally is a reporter covering Sparta. Recently retired after working in state government and other areas, she found her way back to the journalism field again. She graduated from Central Michigan University and spent most of her career in writing, editing, graphic design/print production and broadcast closed captioning. She has written for The Grand Rapids Press, The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant/Alma, MacDonald Publications in Ithaca, Leader Publications in Niles and The Herald-Palladium in St. Joseph. She strongly believes in the importance of public schools as they bring communities together and make them stronger. She is happy to be able to tell the stories of Sparta schools.


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