Thompson teachers gathered at the Juniper Centre to honour colleagues retiring from the teaching profession at the 2010 Thompson Teachers' Association (T. T. A.) retirement dinner held on June 11. Emceed by Pauline MacDonald-Smith, the evening featured moving, often comical speeches, videos and songs performed by colleagues in homage to retirees whom have been members of the Thompson Teachers' Associations for decades.
T. T.A. President Anne Lindsay, in reference to the provincial teachers' retirement fund, presented a humourous toast to retirees during her greetings from the association. With a prosperous wish for each colleague to be able to "take more out of T.R.A.F. than whatever you've ever been able to put in," Lindsay congratulated honourees and wished them well in their endeavours. Representing the Thompson Association of Retired Educators (T.A.R.E.), Bea Shantz also presented greetings and best wishes to retirees, reminding them that membership in T.A.R.E. and R.T.A.M. (Retired Teachers Association of Manitoba) has many benefits. In closing, Shantz noted that retirement is "all about choice, living and freedom," urging colleagues to "enjoy extended vacations and pursue dreams that have been put off over the years."
Honouring Deerwood Elementary School's K-6 music specialist Karen Buller was her friend and colleague Margaret McInnis. In her speech, McInnis highlighted many fascinating aspects of Buller's life. Born in Paraguay to parents of Russian and Manitoban descent Karen's family, with the struggles of the Second World War fresh in mind, practiced a central philosophy of the Mennonite Central Committee: "If we could care for the world as selflessly as we care for our families, then all of us would feel safer." Having arrived in Thompson in 1973 and having begun her teaching career in 1984 at Deerwood School with the M.C.C. philosophy firmly embodied, McInnis noted Karen's many musical contributions to the city over the decades: chorister in the Aurora Singers, participation in Thompson's many musicals during the 70's and 80's, director of both the children's chorus "Sunshine Singers" and the adult city choir "Equinox Singers" during the 80's until recently and her participation in many ensembles and chamber groups over the years.
In concluding her speech, McInnis shared a German truism that Karen learned long ago. "There can be no disagreements where joyful music is present. Stay and sit awhile even though you are among strangers; because evil people do not have any songs to sing." In Karen's honour, two musical presentations were made: former members of the Equinox Singers sang the 16th Century chorale "To Music" by Betty Bertaux, as requested by Karen, followed by a humourous version of pop star K-naan's "Wavin' Flag," performed by Deerwood School staff with the lyrics written by Karen's colleague Heather Todd.
Honouring R.D. Parker Collegiate's Greg Pelchat was his friend and colleague Anne Lindsay. Originally from Brooks, Alta., Pelchat graduated from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (S.A.I.T.) and the University of Calgary. Pelchat arrived in Thompson in 1986, but had led a very active life beforehand as a bartender, entrepreneur and teacher in numerous African countries, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Recalling how the first classroom in his entire career had been a goat shed in Nigeria, Lindsay recalled Pelchat's story of how he had been interviewed for the School District of Mystery Lake over a payphone in Cross Lake while being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
With an active interest in search and rescue throughout the years, Greg's retirement plans include plenty of travel to far off places such as South America. To honour Greg's career and his contributions to the profession, R.D. Parker Collegiate's self-proclaimed "The Sour Notes" (R.D.P.C. staff) sang a hilarious version of "The Happy Wanderer," in part as an ode to Greg's adventurous spirit.
Originally from Minnedosa, R.D. Parker Collegiate's Wanda Waldner was honoured by her dear friend and colleague Stacey Hainstock. Presenting the audience with a priceless slideshow of Wanda's career, Hainstock presented many interesting facts about her friend Wanda, who initially arrived in Thompson for the 1974/75 school year. Having graduated from Brandon University in mathematics it is in her later work and, in particular during a job interview with the National Research Council, where she discovered that she should become a teacher.
When asked if she will miss any aspects of teaching, Waldner noted that she will not miss the marking and in reflecting on retirement, with typical Waldneresque humour, stated that she's "looking forward to the aftermath because that's what teachers like to do!" R.D.P.C.'s "Sour Notes" made another appearance with a humourous version of the 1979 hit song "Y.M.C.A." a la Waldner to honour their colleague.
Hired in 1981 to teach science at Eastwood Elementary School (now Wapanohk Community School), Dave Mackie came from Winnipeg and is a graduate of the University of Manitoba, noted Faye Roberts, honouring her long-time friend and colleague. Noting how he had nine successful years teaching at Eastwood followed by 20 years at R.D. Parker Collegiate as a biology teacher, Roberts noted how Mackie felt it was so rewarding when he learned of former students pursuing careers in science.
Having been actively involved with the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre and the Burntwood Regional Health Authority as a volunteer for many years, Mackie intends to move to British Columbia and plans to travel to exciting destinations such as Vietnam. A final appearance by R.D.P.C.'s "Sour Notes" provided Mackie with their own version of the popular children's folk tune "Puff, the Magic Dragon" by singing "Dave, the Magic Teacher."
Although not all honourees could be present for the event due to prior commitments, the Thompson Teachers' Association would like to once again acknowledge and thank the teachers for their many years of dedicated service to the teaching profession and, most of all, to the youth of the City of Thompson. Good luck in life's next chapter!