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Polk County teacher laid off by Disney after 25 years

Tracey started at Disney in 1995
Posted at 9:50 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 23:29:40-04

DAVENPORT, Fla. — A Polk County teacher was laid off by Disney after 25 years.

Tracey Downey works as a history teacher at Ridge Community High School in Davenport. She also coaches cheerleading at the high school.

In her free time, she worked at Disney. She started at the theme park nearly 25 years ago.

"I started with Walt Disney World in 1995 on the college program. I was a Jungle Cruise skipper and it was amazing," recalled Downey.

She started at Disney at 19 years old. She said she recently received a letter that informed her she would be laid off.

"I think, I knew it was coming. I played it out in my head, this is going to happen. I'm going to get this," she said.

In September, Walt Disney World the Walt Disney Co. said it will lay off 28,000 furloughed workers in the company's California and Florida theme parks.

Downey said she found out many of her students had relatives who were impacted.

"I would say 4 or 5 kids per classroom said my grandmother got laid off, my father, my brother, my sister. It affected so many people. I teach about 15-20 minutes away from Disney and I got to see the impact," she said.

Downey said she loved working for the company and would gladly return someday.

"It's been the most magical thing ever. I know that's really cliche because we're Disney and we say that. I've grown up there. I like a lot of my cast members started when I was very young. I was 19 when we started," said Downey.

An unofficial Disney website, The DIS, is highlighting small businesses operated by laid-off cast members.

"It's endless, really. I've seen gorgeous wreaths for the holidays. A lot of folks have their Etsy shops going," said Jackie Gailey, senior editor with The DIS. "Everyone is so talented in their own way."

Downey said she hopes to eventually be rehired by Disney.

"It's been hard on everyone. I think it's been hard on the whole country. This is definitely not where we'd thought we'd be in 2020," said Downey. "It's a business thing, I understand every part of it, but it doesn't take away the pain. It still hurts."

To learn more about the businesses operated by laid-off cast members, click here.