graduated from New Westminster Secondary School exactly 43 years ago
and am retiring after 20 years teaching at the Pearson ALC (and nine
more with Community and International Education)—34 years spent in
School District 40 as a student and teacher.
But what would I have said to you as a graduate back in 1973? The
question posed is often, “What do you want to be?” I had no
answer then and, certainly, the thought of becoming a teacher was far
from my mind. (and now I face a similar question: “What will you do?”)
Perhaps your goals are clearer than mine, but life brings us many
surprises. In my case, it began, in the early 1980s, as I began working
with children aged six to twelve, at after school daycares in east
Seven years after high school graduation, and after two years running a
daycare, my wife suggested that I become a teacher. So, I did.
Luck does make a difference I have found. Although trained as an
elementary teacher, I began by working at Vancouver Community College
teaching adults and, from there, a call came from New Westminster for
help with Louise Gallie’s Adult Basic Education classes. That was 14
years after my own high school graduation; I was back to stay!
A new graduate is often told to be ready to work at many different
jobs. I’ve been a sheet metal worker, a warehouse shipper and receiver,
a cook’s assistant in Canada’s arctic, a bakery cashier, a bartender .
And, here at School District 40, I’ve also had several careers:
teaching basic education, ESL conversation classes, international
education, the adult learning centre.
But, if you’d asked me as a young man of 17 beginning my first two
years of study at UBC—Where do you think you’ll be a half century from
today? —I could never have predicted this.
Gaining maturity and experience takes time and is well worth the
effort. My final decade teaching was the best. All those years in the
classroom had an interesting effect on me—I began to follow Kurt
Vonnegut’s rule, “you’ve got to be kind.”
Any graduate from a school like the Pearson ALC has been exposed to
that kind of kindness, from all your teachers here. For over
twenty-five years, this school has had a stable and truly dedicated
Which leads me to my final lesson: we go through this life together and
our collaborations are more powerful than we can ever be on our own.
After working in groups, my students can tell you that more brains
equal more results, more insights, and more empathy for others.
This place, this adult learning centre, embodies the idea that if you
put people together, make them feel safe and welcome, great things will
inevitably happen. And graduation is a great thing!
To all of you who fought so hard for this chance, this first step on a
journey of your own design, I congratulate, but most of all, I thank
you for giving me the opportunity to make some small difference in your
Oh, and please do remember to be kind to each other along the way.