Kevin Epp

Kevin Epp is president of the Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union

Do you have a favourite teacher? I certainly do. Mrs. Paulding.

In the early 1980s, my parents moved our family from the farm in Saskatchewan to city living in Chilliwack.

This was before cell phones and social media so, as a young teen, I was without any of the friends I had gone to school with since Grade 1. Dropped into a whole new world, I was at risk of making some really bad decisions.

I had always loved playing music and Mrs. Paulding was the teacher that encouraged me to grow as a musician and a performer. She assured me that I “fit in” and things would get better.

She put me into situations that allowed me to perform, however, I think she also carefully placed me next to other students that I’d become friends with. She encouraged me, supported me and, although I moved along to another school after spending just six months with Mrs. Paulding, I still cherish the book she gave me when we parted.

She wrote some amazing advice in that book that I’ve needed to hear a number of times throughout the years.

In the early 1990s, I began my teaching career. Though the years my teaching colleagues have supported me, taught me, and picked me up when I couldn’t lift the weight. Every one of them has been told that they are a favourite teacher. But, it’s always a cherished moment when someone tells you.

Over the years of my teaching career I’ve had colleagues share countless stories, often on a Monday morning before classes begin, about running into a former student on the weekend. Or a former student reaching out to them online or sending a card, note, letter or email.

I have a shoebox that I keep these notes in, and I’ve pulled the box out after a particularly rough day, week, or, pandemic. These words, like Mrs. Paulding’s have powerful impact over the years.

Today (Oct. 5) is World Teachers’ Day and I’m going to get in touch with Mrs. Paulding. In these difficult times it means so much to teachers to hear from former students and parents.

Kevin Epp is president of the Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union.

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