AUBURN – For decades, Steve Galway has been a fixture in the halls and cafeteria of Edward Little High School.

Called “Mr. EL,” his voice starts each school day with morning announcements.

That’s about to change.

Assistant Principal Galway, 65, and fellow Assistant Principal Leslie Morrill, 60, are retiring to spend more time with their respective spouses.

Deciding to retire wasn’t easy.

“I’ve been here 34 years. It’s my life. I love what I do,” Galway said in an interview. “It’s very difficult to think that when I walk these halls, I’ll soon be walking them for the last time.”

He teared up as he spoke.

“This is family. This is home,” he said

“Every time he cries, I cry,” Morrill said. “I just love the kids. That’s the toughest part. We’ve had a great deal of fun working together.”

Galway said the Edward Little community is special. “The love, concern, empathy is very significant here,” he said. “If you were here (Wednesday) you’d see me in my ‘hump day’ shirt. I love that commercial.”

He plays the commercial Wednesdays during morning announcements. An oversized student drawing of a camel with Galway’s name hangs in the hall.

“The culture here allows me to have fun every day,” he said.

Galway started his career in 1972 teaching at the former Jordan Junior High School in Lewiston. He moved to Edward Little as a guidance counselor in 1980, and in 1985 he became assistant principal.

Morrill, who’s married to retired Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill, began her career as an elementary teacher in Phillips in 1978. She’s been in her current post for 15 years.

Morrill and Galway both said they’ve learned a lot from students, including that high school students have leadership talent when given opportunities. Two examples are the way in which students eased racial tensions at Edward Little and how upperclassmen now welcome freshmen.

Nearly 10 years ago racial tensions, including fights, occurred after an influx of Somali students came to EL. Students and faculty received help from the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence. Before long, students took over the effort through the Project Unity program.

“They led the change for this community on how to be more tolerant, accepting,” Morrill said. “It helped cement in me how important it is to let kids have a voice.”

Since 2006, juniors and seniors have welcomed freshmen to the school each fall through a mentoring kickoff project. That’s a vast improvement on how students used to be introduced to the high school, which involved an assembly where they were lectured on what not to do.

“It was cold, sterile,” Galway said. With the freshmen mentoring program, 120 juniors and seniors become big brothers and sisters, showing freshmen the ropes on lunch, lockers, courses and more. After the upperclassmen receive mentoring training, on freshmen orientation day, “they put on bright orange shirts. We stand back. They run the day,” Galway said. “They’ve done it magnificently for eight years.”

Research shows freshmen decide in the first two weeks of school whether they’ll stay or quit, Morrill said. “Kids need to belong.” The mentoring program works, she said. “We can feel a difference.”

One big disappointment during their years at Edward Little that they both cited is the physical condition of the high school. Several committees have studied how to get a better building, but given Auburn’s tax rate and the cost of a new school, the latest recommendation is to wait for state funding.

“Great stuff happens here, but it’s a tough environment to teach in because it’s uncomfortable,” Morrill said. “It’s freezing in the winter, wet in the spring.”

“I’m not even saying a new school, at least give me a remodel,” Galway said. The school looks decent on the outside, Galway said, but inside “it needs a lot of help.”

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said Galway and Morrill will be missed, that they’ve touched many lives.

“Steve and Leslie have put their heart and soul into making sure students’ needs are being met,” Grondin said. “They provided a listening ear, shoulder to lean on and lots of advice.”

Candidates to replace the two are being interviewed. That will leave the number of EL administrators unchanged, three assistant principals and one principal.

Galway offered advice for his successor.

“Three things I would suggest: relationships, relationships, relationships. Spend as much time with the kids, open gym in the morning, supervising lunches, athletic events, artistic endeavors,” Galway said. “If you do that, it will pay humongous benefits for you and the students.”

[email protected]

Retiring from Auburn schools

AUBURN — Others retiring this month from the Auburn School Department include:

Fairview Elementary: Kindergarten teacher Sharon Bryant; art teacher Melinda Campbell; ed techs Patricia Poisson and Jean Butler.

Sherwood Elementary: Former kindergarten teacher and founding director of the pre-K program in Auburn schools Linda Leiva; Sherwood custodian Ron Freve.

RETC: Social worker Wanda Sprague.

Auburn Middle School: Math teacher Margaret Meyer; science teacher Susan Myers; health teacher Steve Robertson; gifted and talented teacher Susan Vogel; ed tech Diana Pippin; and secretary Sheila Aliberti.

Edward Little High School: Guidance counselor Heidi Conn; special ed teacher Lois Hinkley.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.