Dee Ann Gastineau wasn't going anywhere. It didn't matter that her home had been hit by the May 20 tornado and there were family members inside.
Gastineau had a job to do and continued to comfort a group of frightened young girls huddled inside a bathroom at Fairview Elementary School in the Moore School District.
“She was very loyal to her job, very faithful to her students,” recalled Karen Smith, a Fairview teacher who worked with Gastineau for 26 years. “It took a lot of guts for her to stay here.”
Gastineau, 56, retired Friday after 35 years as a math teacher at Fairview. She planned to step down from teaching in May, but moved up the date to focus on rebuilding the home she shared with her husband near the intersection of SW 153 and S May Avenue.
Her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who were visiting from Chicago, survived the twister, but were hospitalized for a week. Three of Gastineau's four dogs were killed. So were two horses that belonged to friends.
Gastineau's oldest son — who lived near Plaza Towers Elementary School — also lost his home in the tornado. Her granddaughter, a student at the school, was not injured.
“We were very fortunate,” Gastineau said recently.
Friends and colleagues said the retired teacher looked for the good in every situation and had a knack for always saying and doing the right thing.
“Her generosity is never-ending,” said Shelley McMillin, principal of Briarwood Elementary School and a former Fairview teacher Gastineau once mentored. “She's a giver with her students and teacher friends. She lives it. She models it every day.”
A former student named Kendall Harrell recently reached out to Gastineau to thank her for helping to change the course of his life 30 years ago.
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The kids that come to school, you don't always know what's going on in their home. Some kids, the last thing that's going through their minds is solving a math problem.”
Dee Ann Gastineau,
The Fairview Elementary School teacher is retiring after 35 years.