Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thoughts on Teachers, Fires and Education as Equality

It seems every day of the year is a day to acknowledge someone, some organization or some role. From Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, International Day of Women to all points in between, there is a day to celebrate and recognize someone. On Sunday another one of these special days occurred, but I took particular note of this one simply because of the esteem in which I hold the profession it honours: teachers.

Sunday marked World Teacher’s Day, a day to celebrate and acknowledge the educators in our world. I’ve always had tremendous respect for teachers, but perhaps at no point more than now as the Intrepid Junior Blogger winds her way through her final years of education in Fort McMurray before departing for education in parts unknown. Ever since she was a very young child she knew she would attend university (in fact I recall her being shocked at one time to discover that not everyone actually attends university). After a trip to England and Ireland she determined her plans to study overseas one day, and in the last year she finally settled on what she believes is her true calling: engineering, with a probable focus on physics. Now, never mind that my own mathematical skills and understanding of physics rank pretty low, because I knew what would really matter in her world were the educators – the teachers – who could continue to help her develop this ambition and reach it.
The Intrepid Junior Blogger has attended the Fort McMurray Public School District for her entire educational career. She has now had many, many teachers and I have been so pleased with each and every one, as they have provided her with the skills she needed – but they have done more, too. They have encouraged her development, helped her to follow her dream and challenged her. As she embarks on her final three years at Westwood in the AP program (or Advanced Placement for those kids with a passion and talent for certain areas of study and an intent to pursue them in the post-secondary world) I see her blossoming even more.

A couple of weeks ago a remarkable local program started by some Ecole McTavish Junior High School students challenged me, too. Project Cambodia is a student-driven project to support and build a school in Cambodia so students there can enjoy the educational opportunities we have in this country. As part of this initiative they have started a challenge called “Education is Equality”, asking people to talk about the educator/teacher who made a difference in their life – and for me there can only be one answer.
I have written about her before in this blog, a woman I called ‘The Tank’ during my high school days for her solid appearance and short, steel grey hair. She was my high school English teacher, a woman who tolerated no fools and who had very high expectations, at least when she thought you could meet them. I thought her marking scale, where she graded me with a far more critical eye than others, deeply unfair at the time but over the years I came to realize that she simply believed I could do more. I recall more than one essay handed back with “Try harder” scrawled on it, meaning I got to rewrite it all but far, far better. To be honest she drove me crazy with her expectations and demands, but I also know one very important fact: I am the writer I am today because of her. Her expectations, her demands and her belief in me developed a talent that may have been there all along but that needed to be exercised. It may have taken me a very long time to really use that talent, but Mrs Van den Beuken – The Tank – saw it before anyone else ever did, and to say I am grateful to her is to minimize how I feel about her role in my life.

There are many people who have an impact in our lives, but I would suggest that second to close family none have more impact than our teachers. As children and young adults we spend hours every day with them, and their influence on our lives cannot really be measured. Their ability to teach, share their passion and foster the development of our youth is something we should never underestimate – or fail to celebrate.

I end this post with the video I made for the Education is Equality challenge and my tribute to Mrs. Van den Beuken. I encourage you to visit the Project Cambodia Facebook page and learn more about this incredible student-driven initiative to make the world a better place through education. I recently heard a lovely quote about education that I will share here today, because I believe it to be absolutely true. The teacher who changed my life didn’t fill my pail – she lit a fire, one that burns brightly even today and has, quite truly, shaped my world – and I owe it all to The Tank.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely post. My alma matter just opened a brand spanking new engineering building in the past year, completely state of the art.