With students back in our Fort McMurray classrooms, I reflect on the past four months and am truly amazed at the enormity of what we have experienced — the evacuation of our schools and our community, the outpouring of support from fellow Albertans and colleagues around our country, and for some of us, the return to homes and schools.
Teachers, as they returned to their schools and classrooms these past few weeks, faced a new reality as many resources and materials had to be discarded because of smoke damage — the health and safety of staff and students being the first priority. Together, colleagues are supporting and reaching out to each other to collaborate and to provide whatever they can — whether it is a shoulder to lean on or words of encouragement.
Teachers have learned to accept support, for so often we are the ones offering support to our students and families. This support has come in many forms. Many schools have received cards and letters with messages of love and best wishes from students and teachers from around the world. These messages fill our hearts. Across the province, many Alberta Teacher’s Association locals donated to the Red Cross or donated directly to our local, and to you we say: thank you, thank you, thank you. With these donations, teachers began the process of preparing their classrooms for Sept. 6, the first day of school.
A kindergarten teacher and Grade 1 teacher from Victoria, B.C., each asked their students’ parents and families to donate to their Fort McMurray fundraiser instead of giving year-end teacher gifts. The funds, $490.50, will go to the kindergarten and Grade 1 classes of Beacon Hill School, Good Shepherd School, and Father Beauregard — the schools not opening this September.
Retired teachers in New York, teachers in New Zealand, Girl Guides in Edmonton, and teachers from Slave Lake have reached out to our teachers by sending materials and donations. We thank the citizens of Fort McMurray for offering assistance. We are so grateful.
We are often asked, “How can we help? What do you need?” Well, teachers are searching for resources since much of their own work had to be discarded. More than 40 of our teachers lost their homes or residences and our hearts and thoughts go out to them. We continue to work with our district staff in supporting our teachers.
As teachers and educators, we eagerly anticipate the first day of school — we are excited to see our students again. We know that there will be triggers in the days ahead that will bring reminders of the fire, the Beast. But we will also experience triggers that will bring happy tears — tears of joy at seeing old friends and best of all, at seeing our students return to the hallways and classrooms of Fort McMurray. ❚
Nancy Ball is the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Fort McMurray Local No. 48.
This opinion column represents the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.