I am retiring this June after 29 years teaching in School District 40. In April 1987, I was a young and inexperienced teacher who, lucky for me, met as my first colleague the incomparable Louise Gallie. Her ABE classes in the Massey Wing of NWSS had become too large to handle, so I was hired to teach half her students.
Needless to say, I was a bit nervous taking on a new kind of teaching and, although I had previously taught adults at Vancouver Community College, it was definitely a challenge. Louise, as is her nature, assured me that I would be fine. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a near 30-year career in the district!
To say I’ve had a varied career is a bit of an understatement. In 1988, I was teaching conversational ESL classes, while continuing my work with the basic education of adult students, many of whom had immigrated to Canada and were seeking upgraded qualifications in order to work and successfully integrate into our multicultural mosaic. I began meeting people who inspired me with their hard work and dedication.
From 1989 through 1996, I worked for the International Education Program, specifically with young adults who, although older than 18, needed to complete a high school education in Canada before moving on to universities here. My teaching partner, Pat Hummel, and I were privileged to meet and work with promising young people who, in many cases, were the first members of families that would eventually come here to join them as citizens.
Beginning in 1996, I had the remarkable luck to join a team of teachers at the Pearson Adult Learning Centre. The founders of the centre—Trudi Chang, Louise Gallie, Cheryl Kelly, Tazim Moosa, L Yeo—taught there then (and still do today!). This continuity of vision and dedication to adults is an essential part of what made my time at School District 40 so wonderful and inspiring. I should also mention here Russ Pacey, the former head of Community Education, who was the big picture thinker (and grant writer extraordinaire) behind a multitude of innovative programs, many of which are still in operation.
Over the years, PALC teachers have supported me and my perhaps unusual teaching methods. Early on, I became enraptured with the educational possibilities of the internet and, with staff support, established our highly regarded web site, PALC.net. As an independent contractor (L Yeo’s suggestion), I was able to build a rich and complex web presence that, to this day, is visited by thousands of students worldwide.
The centre was an early adopter of computer projection systems, something I’ve used extensively over the years. An early memory is of writing, live, a short essay with the help of a classroom full of students. I would be at the front, behind an old-style cathode ray tube monitor, facing the students in the room while they followed along with the writing on the screen behind me. I was young and it was fun and interesting; more importantly, it worked to allow students to “see” how a composition is really accomplished.
My final decade in this district was spent in the portables, a place we had originally planned to stay in for about three years (as the new high school was built), but has instead turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to our program. As a separate place, the PALC became much more defined as an adult school, one where all could feel safe while pursuing their educational goals. In our hallways, I meet with former and current students to share a word, find out about a success, remember our special connections.
But now I am tired and ready to move on in my life. Students would like me to stay longer, and I respect their feelings without it changing my mind about my decision. It is not like I am going to disappear! The world has quite a few problems still (one of the sadder parts of this work is always knowing about wars and heartbreak), and I am not done yet. I love to talk and listen to stories; perhaps there are some Syrian refugees who might benefit from my years of experience in teaching English.
This will be my last words published to this web site, a project that began in 1997 with the full support of School District 40. May it live on as a testament to this place, these people, all the students and to a sense of community inspired by a team of teachers devoted to making this world a tiny bit better.
Thank you everyone for making it hard to say goodbye.