For the past 27 years, the City of Gulfport’s Tot Time and pre-kindergarten teacher Joanne McRoberts was the developmental foundation for hundreds of children. On October, 9 she will pass the torch to Jessica McKinney.
“Joanne has been a huge asset to the city, the Recreation Center and most of all the Tot Time/VPK Program,” said Marivel Gutierrez, City of Gulfport Recreation Supervisor. “Joanne is creative, patient and has a lot of passion for what she does. She has made a big impact in so many children’s lives and their education. The influence of a great teacher can never be erased. Her legacy will move on after her retirement.”
On Saturday, October 3 friends, families and current and former students gathered at the Gulfport Recreation Center to celebrate and reminisce about their favorite Tot Time memories with McRoberts.
The most talked about event was McRobert’s famous “Boo Room.” Every year, McRoberts made a toddler-friendly Halloween party, with themes like “Star Wars” and “Swamp Thing.” McRoberts created unique decorations each year to match the theme, and dress in character – for “Star Wars,” she was, of course, Princess Leia.
“Joanne holds a very special place in my heart,” said parent and colleague Nicole Latragna. “She was not only a wonderful colleague, but is a great friend and someone who offered me unconditional encouragement on my journey to finish my BA in Education. Joanne also played a very crucial role in all three of my children’s early development. Each one of them had the privilege of attending Tot Time under the leadership of Joanne. She exposed my children to a way of thinking that has stayed with them through school. Joanne taught them in such a way that, not only were they prepared for elementary school, but they all excelled. Joanne has a knack for finding the unique way children learn and nurturing it.”
Many others expressed deep appreciation for McRoberts.
“Mrs. Joanne is so much more than just a great teacher. She’s an amazing woman with a huge heart that goes above and beyond for everyone and in everything,” said parent Kim Brethen “She has given so many children a head start and love for learning,”
“She filled her classroom with the love of learning, discoveries, art projects, story time, field trips and play,” said Suny Duran, McRoberts’ daughter.
When asked what retirement looks like for her, McRoberts replied: “Not what I originally thought. My husband has been waiting for me to retire with bated breath; we wanted to travel but that’s looking a little different right now.”
While the pandemic may put a cramp in her immediate plans, McRoberts has a career of happy memories for now.
“Obviously I’m going to miss the kids the most,” said McRoberts. “When you see them grow from 3 years old to 5, that’s quite a transformation for those guys.”
McRoberts says you’ll still be able to see her around town – riding her bike and volunteering from time to time.
Happy retirement Mrs. Joanne McRoberts – you’ve earned it.