From student to peer, provincial education minister David Eggen's relationship with his favourite teacher has been one of lifelong learning.
“I always reflected on my own grade school experience to draw from best practices, teachers that inspired me and helped me to learn mathematics and language skills and everything in between,” said Eggen, in a break between meetings as newly re-elected New Democratic Party MLA for Edmonton-Calder, now minister of both education and culture.
While Eggen says he had many great teachers, George Richardson, his Social Studies teacher at Salisbury Composite High School, who inspired his interest in the real-world implications beyond his classroom lessons and continues to be a mentor to this day, stands out.
But it was also Mr. Richardson's genuine care for the subject matter and for his students that Eggen says made him his favourite teacher.
“It opens a lot of doors for creating a safe and secure place for students to learn,” Eggen said.
"The more you get to know your students, who they are, what they want and what they believe, what they hope and what they worry about, the more you do that, the easier the teaching becomes because you engage with them and you form this human connection,” Richardson said, who has since moved from teaching grade school students to teaching aspiring teachers to teach as a professor at the University of Alberta.
A few years out of high school, Eggen reconnected with Richardson – this time as a young teacher in a classroom in Zimbabwe – on an international letter writing project, reaching across borders by making pen pals of their students.
“I was always looking up to experienced teachers that you could tell were masters of their profession,” said Eggen. “You knew the skills that they had were not just curricular skills or subject area skills, but their capacity for leadership, their capacity for being a good council to young people.”
Eggen said the lessons he learned from Richardson have benefitted him life-long, and he has said as much to him whenever their paths cross.
Richardson said Eggen was a bright student with a keen interest in what he was learning.
"At the heart of teaching is a human relationship between teachers and students, a bond they can form around learning. That bond means mutual respect, it means working to find out what potential students have and helping them to realize their potential,” Richardson said, a message he hoped to impart when he was lecturing to young student teachers.
It was Richardson's interest in directing his students' potential that lead Eggen on a path from student, to peer, to MLA.