They got her.
Teacher Rose Ann Crowley had no idea what she was walking into the morning of Feb. 14, as she entered the small lunchroom at St. Damian. Staff, a former principal, retired friends and Principal Colleen Domke awaited Crowley with congratulatory wishes, gifts, coffee and breakfast in honor of the teacher's 40th year with the school.
Principal Colleen Domke was pleased they had managed to scheme and sneak in the celebration.
"We want you to know that we tried to think of the best way to honor someone who put 40 years into educating students and developing the faith...."
"Vacation?" joked Crowley.
"We could give you a vacation, but I was sitting there, trying to figure out when the last time you took a day off was. So we could give you all the vacation you want, but I'm thinking you're still going to come to work!" Domke said.
Instead, staff and students were invited to dress in red for Valentine's Day, for a $1 donation.
"What we decided to do was make it a healthy donation to educate a child and call it the Rose Ann Crowley scholarship fund," Domke said.
Domke called Crowley an inspiration to everyone at the school, as well as the first person into the building every morning,
"I think unfortunately, in this day and age, we don't find the time often enough to tell people how much they mean, and what they mean to this place and to everybody around here," Domke said. "Mornings like this allow us to do that.
"I feel like I do a lot of talking this year about the people that are behind me, and this is one of the best."
The staff was successful in keeping the celebration quiet — which can be tough to do when Crowley is the first to arrive each morning.
"I was shocked this morning, when I walked in to see all of this," she said of the celebration. Coworkers touched on Crowley's dedication and loyalty to the school and students.
Crowley spoke after the celebration, about what's kept her going through her teaching years.
"When the kids come back to me after they're gone, and they tell me how what we did, how I was able to help them put things in order, keep everything going, they see that in real life that order and planning ahead helps them be successful. ...
"I know that what I'm doing is right, that's why I still am here, after 40 years."
As for retirement, Crowley grins at the idea.
"Not as long as I still feel that I'm making a difference in kids' lives," Crowley said.