Retiring teacher Hilda Bergen, from Yarrow elementary, gets comfortable in the front seat of the firetruck, with her daughter and granddaughter in the back, assisted by First Captain Dennis Trill. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

A ride to remember for retiring Chilliwack teacher

Well-loved K teacher had career in Chilliwack that spanned 37 years

Retiring teacher Hilda Bergen always dreamed of taking a ride in a firetruck with her granddaughter and daughter.

The well-loved kindergarten teacher was granted her wish Tuesday.

The fire truck arrived at Yarrow elementary with full lights and sirens on, with students waving and cheering.

Bergen was helped into the truck by Dennis Trill, First Captain of the Fire Department with Fire Brigade Chief Paul Janzen, and accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter to lunch.

Trill described Mrs. Bergen as “just an outstanding teacher” and a “neat lady.”

“As a father of two of her students and a firefighter that has educated hundreds of her students at the Yarrow fire hall because every year she contacted me to set up some public education fire hall tours, this is why I want to do this for her,” said the firefighter, and Yarrow dad.

“The Chilliwack Fire Department is very involved in community support and spirit and I also think this is good way to pay it back,” he said.

He got the idea for the special sendoff from “Mrs. Bergen” herself, and contacted The Progress to share the sweet story.

“About four years ago I put together this package for a fundraiser that offered a ride in the firetruck and lunch with a firefighter. She was trying to bid on it, and the bidding went as high as $400, before she was outbid by someone else,” said Trill.

It was the kind things she always did for her students, he said. She’d take a photograph of each student as they started her Kindergarten classes and then would clip that photo to a hand-written note when they moved on to middle school, years after she taught them.

She’d even keep in touch with some students, following their adventures from afar and cheering them on.

“She was just exceptional,” Trill said.

When the fire hall had Mrs. Bergen’s students in the building on a tour, they were always very well behaved, he remembered, crediting a disciplined approach in her classroom.

Bergen lived in Yarrow her whole life, attending kindergarten and Grade 1 in the school she would later teach in.

Yarrow elementary principal Charlotte DeBruyn said she only got to work with Bergen briefly, but knows the huge imprint she has left.

Bergen is capping off a teaching career that spanned 37 years, starting as an on-call teacher in 1980.

She taught students at Unsworth, Watson and Cheam elementary, as well as Yarrow elementary over the years.

”I have had the privilege of working with Hilda for only a short time and but in this short time she has taught me many things,” DeBruyn wrote in her speech for the retirement tea.

“If you know Hilda, you know that everything she does has a purpose, and maybe this is because she is from a very large family and has the maiden name of Wiens.

“Due to this purposeful nature, Hilda’s students have the opportunity to be submersed into all types of learning environments.”

DeBruyn said it was hard to say goodbye and thank you to someone: who sewed thousands of book bags for kids, showed her gratitude with Mennonite baking, incorporated celebrations into her teaching, and even had a float dedicated to her in the Yarrow Days parade.