In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week

I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to also add my voice today and to thank my colleagues in education. I would like to start with a quote from John F. Kennedy: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

Mr. Speaker, today as I prepared for this tribute, I started thinking about all of the gifts that I have received along the way, as I learned from my mentors and from my elders, and the gifts that I attempted to pass on to my students as I taught in the Yukon. I thought about the gift of confidence that I received from my very first experience with bullies in grade 3. Ms. Anne McGillivray — she went and took away that bully’s power and she gave it to me. She taught me a thing or two about self-worth. I had no clue up until that day that bullies are cowards. The confidence that she gifted me became a bully repellent. I still own that gift. It has become a prized possession and it’s one that I shared with all my students.

Mr. McIntosh, in grade 5, was the first teacher to ever open my eyes to the joy of learning and sharing. There wasn’t a day that he wasn’t happy to be in the classroom sharing his knowledge. He taught me how to find the moral in a story. He taught me to question everything, as long as you’re open to changing your perspective and thus expanding your mind. He also lent my brother and me motorbikes and sleds — things that our family couldn’t afford. His gift that I applied as a teacher was to do more than just your job description and always share whatever you can.

Mr. Burke, in grade 9, was my favourite teacher — and before I go any further, don’t worry — I am just going to grade 9. He was my favourite teacher. He had the uncanny ability to see a student’s unique abilities. His gift was exposing you to the truth of yourself and how, every day, you need to get to know and to love yourself more and more. He would say, “Don’t be just okay with who you are. Love what sets you apart.”

In grade 9, my friends and I were in a heavy metal band, and that sure set us apart. We had all the instruments but we didn’t have a lot of talent — lots of volume, not so much rhythm, not so much tone or timbre — but Mr. Burke would never miss an opportunity to watch us play, and he would always let us know when we were getting better and he would always ask us, “How do you learn?”

“Practise will set you apart,” he said. “The best musicians in the world — they might be born with a certain degree of natural talent but what sets them apart is dedication.” His gift was the understanding of the payoff of hard work.

The privilege of teaching in the Yukon and applying what I’ve learned from my teachers remains one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received, and I know that all good teachers can relate with that statement.

I cannot begin to express how enriching it is to teach. In the first few years, it’s chaos. A university degree does very little to prepare you for the classroom. You learn what it means to teach and how students are supposed to learn but you are ill-prepared to deal with teaching humans, especially humans who are dealing with hormones of puberty or family issues, or just life and where they fit in.

But you slowly hone your craft. You learn from your peers and administrators more and more about implementing curriculum and assessment models and the like. You rely on what you have, and all those gifts that you received along the way — they come out and you learn to share. You learn together with your students and you build connections that will last a lifetime. What an honourable profession and what a gift. Those are the gifts of teaching, but the greatest reward is a thank you from a parent or, better yet, from a student.

I urge us all today to reach out to a teacher in your life and say thank you for some specific gift that you received from them. It will mean the world to them. So, on that, thank you, Ms. McGillivray; thank you, Mr. McIntosh; thank you, Mr. Burke.