Life’s a playground for Joe Krajnyak

Tell anyone in Promontory that beloved school principal Joe Krajnyak is retiring and they’ll likely screw their face up in wonderment.

Long-time teacher and Promontory school principal Joe Krajnyak is embracing his retirement with the same wonderment and enthusiasm that shaped his career.

Long-time teacher and Promontory school principal Joe Krajnyak is embracing his retirement with the same wonderment and enthusiasm that shaped his career.

“Joe’s retiring? What?”

Tell anyone in the Promontory community that beloved school principal Joe Krajnyak is retiring and they’ll likely screw their face up in wonderment.

But he’s not old enough to retire, they’ll say.

The fresh-faced, speed-walking, speed-talking principal of Promontory elementary assures us he is, in fact, of retirement age. While he won’t share his age – that’s locked in a vault, he says – he recites a line he’s been using for years.

“I’m young enough to act like a kid, old enough to know when not too, and spirited enough not to care.”

And it’s that joie de vivre that has made every school Krajnyak’s headed a fun and energetic place to be.

His career has essentially been a playground.

“I’m lucky because I’ve never gone to work,” he says. “Every morning, I go to school.

“I’ve always been the biggest Grade 6 kid.”

Krajnyak started his career up north as a Grade 7 teacher at a small school in Stewart, B.C.. He had 17 students that first year. It was a class he was warned was difficult, and had gone through teachers like McDonald’s goes through ketchup.

It was a challenge Krajnyak took on willingly.

His first day, he jumped on the desks during a mapping lesson and started drawing on a large piece of paper. When the paper ran out, he drew on the walls.

The students mouths were agape.

“I had a great time with them because I went in as a big kid,” he says.

Krajnyak came to Chilliwack in 1981; his first gig was at Central Elementary. Over the last 33 years, he’s also worked at Watson, Yarrow, Vedder, Little Mountain, Cultus Lake, East Chilliwack, Robertson, and Promontory.

He became a principal in 1987.

“Elementary school is my place,” he says. “The kids are so full of energy. We come here to play. We’re dealing with five-year-olds and what do five-year-olds do? They play. What do 11-year-olds do? They play.

“Yes, we have to infuse learning in there, but it’s elementary school, it should be fun.”

Krajnyak points to his black T-shirt that reads ‘I’m never growing up’.

“That’s who I am,” he says. “I’m a little crazy at times. I’m unconventional. I have me-diagnosed ADHD.

“And it was good news for me that people thought that was okay.”

Krajnyak can’t remember the exact year he ditched the professional suit and tie look, but recalls the exact moment.

It was when he was teaching at Robertson elementary, one of Chilliwack’s inner-city schools. Rather than sit behind his desk during recess and lunch, he was almost always out on the fields, often playing soccer or football with the kids.

One day Krajnyak slid through the mud.

“There was a collective gasp,” he recalls. “I had mud up and down, all over my suit.”

And he couldn’t call home for a change of clothes; he’d long lectured his students that these were muddy sports, if they fall, they don’t call home. And so, he marched into his class and announced:

“I got muddy. I’m not calling home. That’s how it’s got to be.”

From that day, he’s worn T-shirts.

But not just any T-shirts, fun T-shirts. Shirts with playful sayings and familiar cartoon characters, shirts that got kids giggling, that got them thinking.

At his retirement last month, 50 were hung for all to see.

“I’ve probably got another 25 at home,” he laughs.

Krajnyak has been at Promontory for the last seven years. The children who started kindergarten his first year graduated out this year.

With an average of 560 students each year, it was the largest school he’d ever worked at for the longest period of time.

“It matched my personality or my personality matched it,” he says. “It’s a big school, it’s busy, there’s lots of things going on. I was always running around.”

Just the way he liked it.

Krajnyak has loved his career from the first moment he walked through that classroom door in Stewart. He still loves it.

Why exit now?

“That’s the point,” he says, “I still love what I’m doing.

“The last thing I wanted people to say was that he should have gone three years ago. I didn’t want to be pushed onto the iceberg, I wanted to be stepping onto it.”

And just like a kid, Krajnyak plans to walk into the retirement sunset with no plans whatsoever.

“Kids don’t make plans,” he smirks. “They just let things happen.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

Just Posted

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
UPDATE: Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Parents of Alexis Paige Simpson provide corrected information in missing person report

BC Wildfire Service (Black Press Media files)
Fire at Eleven Mile Creek near Hope classified as out of control

It’s a small blaze so far at 20 hectares, but firefighters don’t yet have a handle on it

A drone’s-eye view of the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge. (Screenshot/Shutter Speed Network)
Kent Council advocates for a wider Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge

Council voted unanimously to send letter of concern to transportation ministry

Tourism Abbotsford has launched the ‘Let’s Go Do Something’ campaign to encourage visitors to check out all Abbotsford has to offer. (Tourism Abbotsford photo)
Tourism Abbotsford launches ‘Let’s Go Do Something’ campaign

Visitors encouraged to check out all Abbotsford has to offer this summer

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in December that Surrey’s new hospital will be located in Cloverdale, next to KPU. (File photo: Malin Jordan)
Health minister expects construction of Surrey’s new hospital in Cloverdale to begin in 2023, open in 2027

Adrian Dix spoke Tuesday in a Zoom meeting hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade concerning the new hospital

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Police closed off 16th Avenue between 232nd and 240th streets in Aldergrove Saturday night at the site of a reported motor vehicle accident. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Survivors of rollover crash thank Good Samaritans for coming to their aid

Collision flipped vehicle into a 10-foot ditch on 16th Avenue in Langley

Most Read