James McGregor is a teacher at Rosedale Traditional Community School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

James McGregor is a teacher at Rosedale Traditional Community School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Heroes in Education: Emotional well-being comes first

‘It’s a miracle some kids show up at the door,’ says James McGregor of Rosedale Traditional Community School

The Chilliwack Progress is honoured to profile four ‘Heroes in Education’ from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us from the Chilliwack community.

When Marliese Hulstein’s grandmother passed away a few years ago, the grade 8 student struggled immensely.

She lost her best friend.

“I did not want to go to school or even show my face,” Marliese said.

It was back in 2016, she reluctantly went to school. Five minutes into the day, she ran out of the class crying and ended up in the girls’ bathroom.

Her teacher James McGregor asked a girl to go get her so he could talk to her.

And they talked for half an hour.

“He explained to me how life goes a certain way and that I couldn’t do anything to change that.”

She agreed to come back to class, and they made a plan. If she positioned her binder a certain way, it meant she had to leave again. But Mr. McGregor turned Marliese’s sorrow into a teachable moment for the whole class, one the girl would never forget.

“’Life is like a rollercoaster,’ is what he said. ‘It has its ups and downs but it will always come back up.’ And it has always stuck with me.”

McGregor teaches middle school at Rosedale Traditional Community School. He said he loves middle school because it is arguably the most challenging time in a child’s life.

“They get bombarded with different emotions and expectations that are put on them,” he said. “Some are really fortunate to have really stable comfortable homes and some are coming from areas with a lot of challenge.

“It’s a miracle some kids show up at the door.”

What Mr. McGregor knows but many kids of that age don’t know, is that everyone has potential. All of us can excel and find our place in the world.

“I feel like we are all gems but some just need more polishing than others before they see their true beauty. It’s our job as a teachers to help us find that beauty, help do that polishing.”

Marliese said that after their talk in the hallway, his talk in class is what is known as a “McGregor Rant.”

“Not a bad rant, just a life rant.”

Mr. McGregor laughed and said anyone who knows him knows about his “rants.” They are really social justice conversations whenever a student has an issue with things like bullying or racism or sexism.

“My main focus is the students’ emotional well-being and then it’s text books later.”

He firmly believes that if a kid doesn’t feel safe, that kid won’t be able to give their best effort. They won’t be able to learn.

Marliese’s connection with Mr. McGregor was six years ago, but to this day he still reaches out to her to see how she is doing.

“To me he will always be the man who saved me from giving up on school and helping me through all my situations in life,” she said. “I will forever be thankful for him and he will always have a part of my heart.”

Asked what it meant to hear that from a student, Mr. McGregor got choked up.

“It’s really humbling to hear that by your actions you helped someone,” he said.

“I’m a firm believer that we are all here to help one person and if we can truly help that one person they will pay it forward. I think I’ve been very blessed as a teacher to help a couple of kids. The future is just gravy.”

Go to theprogress.com/community to read about Chilliwack’s other Heroes in Education. All four features will be published April 30 and May 1, 2022.

Chilliwack School DistrictEducation