Letter: A heartfelt thank you for teachers

My name is Amanda Willumeit and I have lived in Cranbrook my entire life.  I am a proud Canadian and a proud British Columbian.   With the current atrocities happening to our public education system I can’t help but think of all of the people who have given unselfishly to me and who have contributed so much to who and where I am today.  My parents, of course, are there leading the pack and for them I am forever grateful.  But what of the truly unsung heroes, those who gave me the tools I would need in life and those who taught me to use them?  I am speaking of the teachers, right here in Cranbrook where I was born and raised, who inspired me and made school such a joyful place that when it came time for me to choose a career, I couldn’t imagine ever having to leave school, and thus I chose to join the profession that influenced me so much; Teaching.

Throughout my education, I feel that I was truly blessed with some of the very best educators, people who loved their jobs, loved the kids and gave 100% of themselves everyday; perhaps that is why they were so influential to me.  And so, I am here to pay tribute to those individuals and the gifts that they have given to me:

K-7 (Steeples Elementary, where I still to this day feel at home)

Mrs. Hamigami (Kindergarten)- the gifts of tolerance and acceptance, given to me when I didn’t want to hold hands with another student because they were different from me.  To this day I remember her words, “Don’t choose who you like because of what they look like outside, choose them because of how they make you feel in your heart.”

Mrs. Bjerstead (Grade 1) – the knowledge that I was important and deserving of love.  I will never forget how she lined us all up on picture day and with love and attention neatly combed each of our hair, straightened and tucked in our shirts and made sure our faces were clean so that each of us could stand proudly with our toothless grins.

Mrs. Sandberg (Grade 2) – the gift of accountability.  A lot of people thought she was too tough, but I know now that she was teaching us to always be accountable for our actions and choices, never letting us get away with being rude or unkind.  It was a hard gift to swallow at 7 years old, but worth so much to me now.

Mr. Mackie (Grades 3 & 5) – the gifts of wonderment, creativity and exploration (oh yeah, and my Times Tables!!).  This man took us on African Safari’s , to the bottom of the ocean, through the jungles and into a “Week in the Life of a Super Hero,” all with a little paper, glue, paint and of course, clay!  Learning was so much fun that most of the time we didn’t even realize how much we had learned.  When you love your job, you never really have to grow up.

Mr. Knipfel (Grade 4) – the gift of poetry, the voice to use it, and my retained ability to play the recorder.  Every season brought new songs, poems and verse which we were

encouraged wholeheartedly to vocalize, even placing at the Fine Arts Festival both with the class and individually with “Banana’s & Cream!”

Mr. Gill (Grade 6) – the knowledge that the power that comes with being a leader is not to be abused.  But, he also showed me that the gift of remembrance can mean more to a person than anything else with the simple gift of a card acknowledging my graduation from high school.  The fact that I had meant enough to somebody to be remembered at a time when I felt incredibly lost and overwhelmed renewed my waivering faith in myself.

Ms. Nahm (Grade 7) – The value of being a positive role model to those younger and/or less privileged than myself.  The self-responsibility that came so easily to me was difficult to others.  Ms. Nahm showed me that I could lead through example; a great gift for a future teacher!

Grades 8 and 9 were spent at Laurie Junior Secondary.  These were, to put it lightly, very difficult years for me.  Yet, regardless of my own self doubt and insecurity,  Mr. Wiwchar, Mr. Harkass, Mrs. Cuthill (Eckersley), Mrs. Jacobson, Mr. Stump and Mr. Toyota were always there to give a smile, an “encouraging nudge” ( well,  let’s just say it, a good old fashioned kick in the pants!), praise for my academic prowess and full encouragement to step out of my comfort zone and showcase my public speaking abilities (only grade eight to run for student council!, I may not have won but certainly made clear my ability to command a room, another great teacher quality, Thanks Mr. Toyota and Mrs. Cuthill!).

Grade 10.  I have to say that hind sight being what it is, it is now that I can see the gifts given to me during this year, most important of all, humility and the ability to eat crow! That being said, here goes. . .  I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to every teacher that I swore at, told off, embarassed, humiliated, lied to, and was just out and out rude to.  In particular, Mrs. Fadeef: God Bless your soul, Ms. Strobel: wherever you are, I hope your still teaching, and Mr. Oliver: it takes incredible strength in character to handle the daily rants of a rebelling15 year old; thank-you.

Grades 11 and 12 truly are a blur to me as I studied relentlessly, ran for Sweetheart of Sam Steele and took part in Mount Baker’s, “The Tempest.”  One teacher who really stands out for me during this time is Mr. Conrad.  I was in his English 12 class and later when it came time to apply for Universities and Colleges, he was the one who really questioned my choices and let me know that I didn’t have to settle.  I had only applied to one school at the time; the College of the Rockies, because I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else.  Mr. Conrad made me feel like even though I felt that this was my only choice, had I wanted to, I could have accomplished anything.

Now, here I sit at 35 years old, the married mother of three children and a Kindergarten teacher at Gordon Terrace.  In the 14 years that I have been teaching here in Cranbrook, both as a TTOC and as a contract teacher, I have been blessed to work side by side with many of the afore mentioned teachers and have also gotten to work with and learn from  many other incredible leaders.  I have taught every grade from K-12 in some facet and have begged, borrowed and stolen countless incredible ideas from my colleagues. I watch in awe the passion and drive that propel them forward each day; I watch them celebrate the tiniest of victories with their students and then hide in the shadows when the victories are theirs.

As of late, my colleagues and friends have chosen to take a stand against a government hell-bent on the oppression of our public school system.  I have watched them hold their heads high and stand their ground for what is right for the future of our children and subsequently, us.  Even with the adversity they are faced with on a daily basis, they continue to persevere, to lead and nurture.  They bend and sway, readjusting lessons in an effort to keep things as consistent as possible.  I have heard many people question my colleagues resolve challenging the strike action and in response, I have witnessed a solidarity amongst teachers fed by their unwavering desire to see learning conditions improved across this great province. It is with great gratitude that I thank every teacher from my past and all of my colleagues, including our CUPE staff without whom I would be lost, for their passion.

I am a teacher, but I am also a parent. I am a product of B.C’s public school system.  I am everything that I am today because of the commitment of the teachers in my life past and present.  Who I am tomorrow is dependent on the youth of today.  If the message we send to them is that they are not important what message will they have for us?



~Amanda Willumeit

SD#5 Cranbrook B.C

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