Lesson Clans: Celebrating families who teach

February 14, 2017
Of the four members of the Baile family (L-R: Allan, Janene, Lorne and Kim), only Lorne is not a teacher … yet.
He is in the third year of an education degree.

Family shares highs and lows

Bromley Chamberlain
ATA News Staff

Some days, being a teacher is hard, so it’s nice to have family members who understand. So say the members of the Baile family, three of whom are currently teachers while the fourth is studying to be one.

“Sometimes when you get into the van and say it was one of those days, your spouse and your kids know. … There is no way you could find humour in today, so it is just a quiet ride home,” says mother Kim.

She and her husband Allan both became teachers more than 30 years ago. Now Allan teaches at Red Deer’s Aspen Heights Elementary School while Kim teaches at Oriole Park School, where their daughter Janene also teaches. Son Lorne is a third-year education student at the University of Alberta.

It was never a master plan to have the two children follow in their parents’ footsteps. Janene originally thought she wanted to be a paleontologist but changed her mind in her early teens while attending a summer camp at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

“When I was there I realized that I liked being with the kids more than I liked the dinosaurs,” she said, laughing. “That’s when I decided to be a teacher.”

Lorne came to education through his passion for sports, fitness and nutrition.

“I figured, through education, the best way to get people on the right track and teach them about that would be through secondary education,” he said.

A fun part of being in a teaching family is being on the same page with daily updates and anecdotes, which often contain punchlines that non-teachers miss.

“When you tell your friends, sometimes they don’t understand, and I’m like, no, no, no, this is hilarious,” Janene says.
Given the career paths that Janene and Lorne have both chosen, Mom and Dad have tried to show them that there are also some not-so-great sides to teaching.

“Especially with finding out that some children don’t have food or the greatest home life,” Kim said.

“You hope you make a little bit of a difference,” added Allan.
One thing that he and Kim have passed on to Janene and Lorne was to get involved in their students’ lives.

“We are really involved in the community and volunteering,” he said. “It is fun to be part of a teaching family and sharing our stories and trying to figure things out.”

Teaching spans three generations

The Michaud/Bishop/Owen teachers are, back row, L-R: Cathi Bishop (author’s mother), Greg Michaud (father), Carmen Michaud (aunt), Gary Michaud (uncle), Janice Carsell-Michaud (aunt). Front row, L-R: Phil Owen (husband), Margaret Michaud (grandmother), Adrienne Owen (author).

Adrienne Owen

My father’s side of the family comprises a total of eight educators over three generations: my grandmother, father, mother, two aunts, an uncle, my husband and me.

I am the only grandchild, so I grew up surrounded by educators. The value of education was strong in my household, and my future was presumed: I would attend university — it was not a matter of if, but when. However, I swore that I would never become a teacher, especially after witnessing my aunt and uncle’s lifestyle of long hours of marking and planning when I lived with them during my high school years.

Though I did try to pursue a different career, I inevitably ended up in the faculty of education at the University of Alberta and, ultimately, in the classroom — a destiny I am quite happy with. My family members have an inherent understanding of the plights of report card season, full moons and stacks of marking. It is refreshing to be able to dialogue with fellow administrators in the family as I navigate new territory in my own career. Though teaching is, without a doubt, incredibly challenging at times, having a built-in support network of educators helps put trivial issues into perspective and helps me focus on the rewards of the profession.

Adrienne Owen is a teacher and assistant principal at New Myrnam School in Myrnam.

 
Mother and daughter Diana and Shannon Smith completed their education degrees together.

Family members inspire each other

Wayne Smith
In the school year of 2000/01, my wife Diana and our daughter Shannon went off to do B.Ed. degrees together full time at the University of Ottawa. They were the first ever ­mother-daughter grads from the ­education faculty at Ottawa U.

My wife was an early childhood educator before becoming a teacher. Our daughter was always around the daycare growing up, so the teaching bug hit her early (and she excels as a kindergarten teacher today).

As the ladies did their education degrees together, I learned so much from them about education, as I was the editor of all their papers. It was the spark that started my own desire to teach.
As a family of teachers, we always have common ground to discuss anything related to school and are always keeping each other informed of best practice and training opportunities. There is no greater reward in life than to teach and enrich the lives of students, and that is why we are all still teaching to this day.
Wayne Smith is a learning assistant at Meadowbrook Middle School in Airdrie.

Louise Schumann and her mother Gisele are two of 20 teachers on that side of the family.

Carrying on a tradition

Louise Schumann
There are 20 teachers on my mom’s side of the family in only two generations!

My mom is one of 12 children born and raised in Bonnyville in the 1930s to the early 1940s. Out of the 12 children, seven became educators. Six, including my mom, were schoolteachers; one became a professor. Another uncle became a college instructor. Marriage added in three more teachers and a university professor — that makes 11 so far.

My aunts and uncles have touched students’ lives from the 1950s onwards in the following places: Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Meander River, Fort St. John, Bonnyville, Grande Centre, Fort Kent, Fort McMurray, Slave Lake, Guy, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Killam, Vanderhoof, Airdrie and Calgary.

Out of my 23 cousins, eight of us have become teachers, including my sister and me. One of my cousins married a teacher, bringing the total up to 20 teachers.

We have collectively taught in Cold Lake, Fort McMurray, High Prairie, Alexander First Nation Kipohtakaw, Rocky Mountain House, Edmonton, Claresholm, Calgary, Cochrane, China, Chile, Ontario and Quebec.

What is it like belonging to a family of teachers? Teaching seems to come second nature to us. It is great having my mom and sister as teachers. Before my mom retired we would meet up at teachers’ convention, take sessions together and sit together at district events such as Faith Day. Most importantly, we understand what it means to be a teacher and we provide support for each other. Another bonus is the sharing of resources.

How about the next generation? So far none have taken the education route, but there is still time for most to decide. The other day, my youngest daughter, who is in Grade 12, mentioned that she may be interested in becoming a teacher. Secretly, I hope that she does. There is a tradition to carry on here.

Louise Schumann teaches junior high science at St. ­Timothy Junior/Senior High School in Cochrane.

Betna Huddleston loved being taught by her mother Lucy DeAlmeida, as well as by her dad.

Teaching is a dream career

Betna Huddleston

Both my parents were immigrant teachers from India who moved here in 1966, the year I was born. My dad was a principal in Peace River for most of his Canadian teaching career, and my mom was an elementary teacher. Both of my parents taught me in school, and I loved that.

I knew from when I was very young that teaching was for me. I’ve always enjoyed being around children, and I feed off the energy they give. I feel so blessed to have been able to follow my career dream for so many years.

This is my 29th year of teaching. My husband, Mark, is also a retired principal and teacher. Our four children are going through (and have gone through) the school system I teach in, which is also a blessing.

Teaching is an absolutely rewarding career.

Betna Huddleston teaches at Holy Family School in Red Deer.

 
Ryan Turner (left) and his brother Dustin run sub- three-hour marathons together and are both teachers in Calgary. Their career choices were influenced by their mother Janice (centre), who taught for about 20 years.

A brotherly approach

Ryan Turner

My brother Dustin and I both work for the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). We both moved from Winnipeg for teaching jobs in Calgary (me in 1998; Dustin in 2007), both finished our master’s degrees at the same time (spring 2015) and both became assistant principals this school year.

In addition to mirroring our career paths, we also run marathons together. Most often, we run together the whole way. During our long runs, conversations inevitably drift towards our teaching — we’ve certainly bonded immeasurably during these runs!

In addition to all this, our mother was a teacher of about 20 years, retiring about 10 years ago. So the three of us have a strong understanding of how busy teachers are, but we all feel as if we have lived very fulfilling lives, having worked with so many students over our time.

Without question, seeing our mother teaching inspired us to want to make a positive difference ourselves. To this day, we share the wonderful gifts of joy that teaching has brought us.

Dustin’s wife Letitia is also a teacher who moved from Winnipeg to work for the CBE at the same time as he did. When we go camping together, or at family meals, there is even more to discuss — funny stories, nodding heads and so on!

Ryan Turner is the assistant principal of Highwood School in Calgary.

Sharing discussions and stress

Carolyn Lewin
I have been teaching for Buffalo Trails Public School Division for 32 years. Ten members of my family are teachers.


Interesting facts

  • Altogether we have taught in seven school divisions.
  • Total years of teaching between us is presently 207.
  • Our dad drove a school bus for about 20 years.
  • I also have an aunt and some cousins who are or were teachers.
  • What is it like to belong to a family of teachers?
  • Never short of teaching discussions around the table
  • Speak the same language
  • All passionate about helping kids and proud to have a hand in shaping the future
  • Enjoy learning about different districts, trends in education, new initiatives
  • Share ideas and resources
  • Have the same stress times: start of year, report cards, Christmas concerts, etc.
  • Enjoy the same holiday times
  • Most importantly, we are a big support for each other and learn from each other’s experiences

Carolyn Lewin teaches Grade 3 at Kitscoty Elementary School.

Tom Stones is part of a long line of teachers, beginning with his grandmother and mother. His son has continued the tradition and his daughter-in-law is also a teacher.

Teaching spans four generations

Tom Stones
On my home office wall are three teaching certificates: my grandmother’s from 1923, my mother’s from 1946, and mine from 1997. I could also add my son’s from 2012 and my daughter-in-law’s from 2013. My family’s teaching experience ranges from small one-room schools in rural Alberta to large urban high schools.

Having many teachers in the family often results in shared stories around the dinner table and confused looks from non-teaching family members when we start using education acronyms. It has also meant that a sympathetic ear is readily available and that education is highly valued in our family.

 
Katrina Zack with her parents Paula and Brian. The three are among several teachers in the Zack family.

Proud to be teachers

Katrina Zack
There are many teachers in my family. My aunt Bonnie Zack is a teacher for Edmonton Public Schools; my aunt Lori Zack was a teacher for Parkland School Division; my mom, Paula Zack, taught home economics in Slave Lake for over 30 years; and my dad, Brian Zack, was a teacher for over 30 years in Slave Lake.

My dad was also the local president for High Prairie for many years prior to and even after his retirement. He attended more than 30 ARAs! He also taught me the importance and the value of what it means to be a part of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Now the next generation of Zacks have entered the teaching profession. I’ve been a teacher for 11 years in Whitecourt, and my cousin, Alyssa Zack, just graduated last spring.

The value of teaching is very strong in our family, and we are proud of the work we do and did for the students of Alberta. I am also proud to have had such an amazing mentor in my dad, who showed me the value of the ATA.

Katrina Zack teaches art at Hilltop High School in Whitecourt and is the president of ATA Local No. 43.

 
Teacher Jody McElroy credits her teacher parents, Susan and Kerry, with instilling a love of supporting and working with youth as part of a school team.

Professional success due to support from teacher parents

Jody McElroy
My dad retired as the principal at Barrhead Composite High School. Previously he was principal at both Lorne Jenken High School and J.R. Harris Junior High in Barrhead. My mom is also now retired and was a kindergarten teacher her whole career at various schools in Pembina Hills.

I had the privilege of starting my schooling in my mom’s kinder class and ending with my dad as my principal. Personally, I cannot imagine doing any other job, as my parents instilled a love of working with youth and being an integral part of a school team supporting students. Both are the highlights of every day for me.
They also taught me to be involved beyond the classroom, as they made sure that my brother and I participated in school activities that they became involved with too. This gave us something other than schoolwork to talk about (as being in a teacher family kind of monopolized conversation).

Looking back, I know they had lots of busy nights and probably stayed up after we went to bed, but they always made sure that there was family time.

Coming from a teaching family, with the support my parents gave when I first started teaching to still bouncing ideas off each of them now, I think that I am successful because of them (though they would never agree).

Jody McElroy is an instructional coach with Black Gold School Division.

Teaching together provides wonderful twists

Linda Klym
           
I always wanted to be a teacher. I married my high school sweetheart, who also was a teacher. Our first positions were in Iron River, just outside of Bonnyville. We lived in a teacherage right on the school grounds and taught there for three years. We moved on to Sherwood Park, where we taught for the rest of our teaching careers. After I retired in 2007, I continued to be a substitute teacher for seven years.

My husband’s career had two interesting twists. When he retired after teaching for 30 years at École Élémentaire Ardrossan Elementary, where he’d run the physical education program for his entire 30-year tenure, the large gym was named after him. When I subbed there, it was weird to see his name and picture hanging over the gym doors or hearing announcements that said classes were to come to the “Klym gym.”



The other twist was both wonderful and extremely painful. In 2004, our daughter joined my husband’s staff as the kindergarten teacher. Father and daughter in the same school was a delight for both of them — father’s last year; daughter’s first year. In 2006, during the Christmas break, our daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She never returned to the classroom and died in 2010.

What is it like belonging to a family of teachers? Wonderful, just plain wonderful. All three of us, even our daughter (especially our daughter), have left a legacy that lives on long after we’ve left the classroom or, in her case, this life. We will never really know how we affected all the students that we taught or th colleagues and student teachers that we taught with. Our daughter’s students still talk about her long after she was a major presence in their lives, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Linda Klym taught at the elementary level for 30 years before retiring in 2007.

Kelly Gibbs with her father Gerry and nephew Myles. 

Three generations

Kelly Gibbs
My father Gerry Gibbs, my nephew, Myles Gibbs and I belong to a group of educators from three generations. Together, we embody the history of education and its future. Of course, we all knew better than the previous generation ... or thought we did. We learned something from each other and we carried on to make a difference in the lives of our students. We knew what we wanted to do with our lives and knew it was to make a life, rather than have a job.