St. Anne CES students help retired teacher celebrate her 100th birthday

student group holding 100th birthday cards

Nov. 20, 2019

Story by Lance Anderson,
Original Story

Retired Quebec teacher Bessie Monahan recently celebrated her 100th birthday with a wonderful visit from enthusiastic students from St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Peterborough.

On Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, Grade 3 French immersion teacher Shannon O’Neill brought her class to visit with Monahan, who is O’Neill’s grandmother.

O’Neill thought it’d be nice to surprise her grandmother with a visit from her class.

“I wanted to bring my class because 100 is pretty amazing and to give the students a chance to visit with the seniors, which they did,” O’Neill said in an email to

“I knew that having been a teacher, my grandmother would appreciate having the students there and, since I teach French immersion, they were able to sing to her in French.”

O’Neill said once they arrived at Monahan’s home at Jackson Creek Retirement Residence by city bus, the foyer was packed with residents who knew the class was coming.

The only one who didn’t know was Monahan.

“There was a chair waiting for her with balloons and my class around it ready … when she got off the elevator,” said O’Neill. “They sang a few songs in French, skip counted by 10 to 100, and then each took turns bringing her a flower and cards that they had made for her.”

Afterwards, O’Neill said students mingled with the residents and served cupcakes.

“My grandmother was thrilled,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill added her grandmother taught school in Quebec for many years. She moved to Peterborough with her husband in 1978 after they retired. The Monahans chose Peterborough because O’Neill’s mom and family had settled here.

O’Neill said her grandmother had a wonderful impact on her students, so much so that many sent her birthday cards congratulating her on her milestone celebration.

“Her room is actually filled with birthday cards from former students who talked about what a great teacher she was and how much she impacted their lives,” said O’Neill.

To top off the day, O’Neill said Peterborough Transit arranged to cover the cost of the class trip to Jackson Creek Retirement Residence once they learned of the reason for their visit.