It was once said that the true value of a teacher is determined not by what they know, not by their ability to impart what they know but by their ability to stimulate in others a desire to know.
What incredible power and responsibility a teacher must have. After all, they have the ability to inspire, mentor, and encourage their students in a way that can profoundly develop, shape and change their young lives. Wendy Lawson is one of those incredible teachers and she has been dedicated to her calling for the last 36 years. Alas, after all of this time, it’s time for Wendy to put down her pen and paper. She’s retiring.
Wendy decided to become a teacher when she was in the first grade. “I laugh about it now but I remember it well. My teacher had flashcards and I wanted them,” she laughed. After all, the teacher had the cards and Wendy was learning. She felt inspired and empowered by this. By the time that she was in the fourth grade, she noticed that her teacher had a red, felt pen and she was thrilled by this sight. “I would watch her and she had this beautiful felt pen, unlike any that I’d seen. I knew that we couldn’t just go out and buy one but how I wanted one,” she mused.
She made good on her dream and went to UBC after graduating from high school. She earned her Bachelor of Education diploma then went back for a fifth year to receive her certification in Early Childhood. She had anticipated on getting her Masters degree but one thing led to another and that didn’t end up happening. Regardless, Wendy succeeded in every way possible.
Wendy’s desire to succeed started early. Her parents were great role models and Wendy and her older sister were encouraged to be the best that they could be. “I was involved in singing, tap dancing and we took elocution lessons. No one takes those anymore,” she chuckled. She also had a passion for books. “The best thing about growing up was getting sick because every time I ended up sick mom would go out and buy me Nancy Drew books,” she laughed.
Her father was a highly respected chef and she credits him with giving her the desire and courage to try new things. “Dad worked as a chef on the CPR trains, he was chef at VGH, Great Northern Way Detox and he even opened up his own coffee shop. Like him, I wanted to move around and try new things. This gives you an ability to grow and not stay planted in one place. You don’t stagnate. I had that chance as a teacher and I wish that teachers today had more of a chance to do that,” she said passionately. Her father was what she proudly describes as the happiest man around. “He is gone now but he was always so happy. Everyone wanted to have my dad as their father,” she beamed.
She is equally proud of her mother, who was the private secretary to the head of the blood bank at Vancouver General Hospital. “Mom was a secretary, bookkeeper and accountant her whole life. She taught me that you must take care of yourself and that you should do something special for yourself too. She also taught me how to handle your finances,” she chuckled. Her parents were the very best of friends and now that her father is gone, her mother has moved in with her, something that she is thankful for.
Wendy was hired by the Chilliwack School District and she enjoyed teaching here so much that she decided to remain in Chilliwack for the duration of her teaching career. She began teaching a grade one class at Sardis Elementary School in 1975. Eventually, she moved to Chadsey as head teacher and soon after took on the role of Vice-Principal at Bernard Elementary. “I’m proud of that accomplishment given that I was one of the first female administrators in the District,” she said. Wendy was also the Primary helping teacher in the District which meant that she was a key resource for all primary teachers; she provided testing for the Enrichment program and as President of the Primary Teacher’s Association, hosted the annual Primary Teacher’s Fall Conference. “My whole life has been centered and focused on teaching. I have enjoyed the work, the variety and especially the kids. I have thoroughly enjoyed my career and I know that I will miss it,” she smiled.
For now, she continues to be dedicated to her kindergarten students at Little Mountain Elementary, knowing that year-end is just around the corner. After her retirement, Wendy plans on reading the stacks of books that she has waiting for her. She also plans on doing a bit more scrapbooking, spending time with daughter, Shawna, who is currently studying to become a teacher and their rescue dog, Champ. “I also plan on doing more travelling. I want to visit Bell’s Hill which is a place in Scotland where my maternal grandmother was born. I also plan on being on vacation when school starts in the Fall. Sticking around would be strange and a bit difficult,” she smiled.
In honour of Wendy’s retirement, there will be a Retirement Tea on Thursday, May 26th at 3 p.m. at Little Mountain Elementary School and everyone that has had the pleasure of knowing Wendy is invited to attend.