By Xanthe Couture
When Minister of Education Dave Hancock looks back over his school years, he sees a multitude of teachers who have had an impact on his life.
Hancock attended elementary school in the small northern community of Hazelton, British Columbia, before attending high school in La Crete, Alberta.
“Looking back, the schools I attended may have had limited resources when compared to urban schools, but we did pretty well,” Hancock remembers fondly. “I always liked learning, and each of my teachers had something they brought to the classroom. They all had different and unique perspectives and encouraged us to seek out knowledge based on our interests.”
His first influential teacher was his mother, Kathleen Hancock, who taught him to read. “My mother was a teacher at the local school. She stayed at home to raise us and home-schooled me before I went to school in Grade 2,” Hancock says.
Hancock’s interest in government and serving the public can be traced back to the influence of his parents when he was growing up. “My parents had a huge impact on me. They contributed to the community as volunteers and active citizens and valued the role that a good education would play in our lives,” Hancock says.
“I was the youngest of seven children who all went on to get a post-secondary education. It was no easy task financially but my parents’ love of learning made them very committed to our education,” he says.
Beyond the influence of Hancock’s parents, a Grade 5 teacher, named Mr Minhas, also had a lasting influence on the Minister. “Mr Minhas was a very interesting teacher and almost seemed exotic to me and my classmates,” Hancock says. “Living in the small community of Hazelton, he was the first East Indian that I knew of in the community. He brought the outside world into the classroom.”
Hancock says that many of his high school teachers in the small town of La Crete, in northern Alberta, impacted his life in a positive way. “I was very interested in my social studies and English classes, but even in classes like industrial arts there was a common theme where the teachers would recognize and encourage my inquisitive nature,” Hancock says.
Hancock specifically remembers his English teachers, Bernie Desrosiers and Steve Bouska, who encouraged him and his classmates to read and to interpret the literature they were reading.
“Most of the classes were quite small so the students, including me, were able to have a good working relationship with our teachers,” the Minister says.
“Other teachers who had an impact on me included my high school biology teacher, Larry Mumby, and my chemistry teacher, Mr Harms,” Hancock says. “They didn’t have much in the way of lab materials to work with for experiments, but they still managed to give me enough knowledge and interest in science to successfully pass the diplomas.”
“I guess my many positive experiences in school were largely based on what we would now refer to as inquiry-based learning in today’s curriculum,” Hancock reflects.
Hancock believes that teachers have many important qualities that make them successful. “A successful teacher is an individual who is passionate about helping children to succeed. They inspire a child to seek knowledge. They can make things interesting and find ways to engage their students.”
“Teachers also face a wide variety of social and economic backgrounds when they enter a classroom. A successful teacher will understand where a child is coming from and address his or her needs,” he adds.
In simple terms, Hancock says a good teacher is always ready to face the challenge of helping children to learn and grow. “Every teacher that shows up, is keen to go to work, to answer the bell and to help each kid is a successful teacher.”
“I know there were many more teachers who encouraged my love of learning,” Hancock says. “Living in small communities, most of them would only be teaching in that school for a year or two, but they were great teachers who made a difference.”