Kate Reynolds bids farewell to Gabriola Elementary School

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 18 2017

After 36 years of teaching, 21 of them at the Gabriola Elementary School, Kate Reynolds has retired.

Reynolds is one of four GES teachers retiring this year.

Originally from the United Kingdom, she did her teacher training at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.

She had come to Canada in 1975 and was working in a home for special needs children.

She decided to become a teacher, and her first teaching job was for two years, at the same special needs home.

She then moved out to BC, and taught in the Prince George School District, as well as working in school support before heading to Calgary to teach at a Waldorf school.

“Then we moved out here, and bought a house on Gabriola.” 

Reynolds stayed home with her son until he was four. She then went to work in the Nanaimo School District, in the city for a few years. When her son was seven she was hired to work on Gabriola.

“I’ve stayed here ever since. I like this school, I like the island children, there is something about being a part of a community that is special. 

“And I didn’t want to get back on the ferry.”

She calls Gabriola Elementary a “very community-minded school.”

So why become a teacher?

“When I was working in the home for special needs children, the person who I was working for, he was a mentor, there was something in the quality of how he taught that made me want to teach as well.

“I’ve loved teaching, I love being around children; it is never boring, it is always interesting, the curriculum changes, you are always learning different things. Just being with children is fun.”

Reynolds has had a number of student teachers come through over the years.

“I always encourage them to carry on. It’s not an easy job - but it is a very rewarding job. You do feel like you are making a difference with the children.”

She acknowledges there are always politics and issues within a school system - particularly the last couple of decades in British Columbia.

“If you just focus on the children and the community and what you are doing at the school, there are many rewards.

“The visioning process we did a few years ago was inspiring, and what came out of that has been exciting. And I think it will continue, which is encouraging.”

The Gabriola school, she says, has wonderful children, “creative children. And children who don’t sit like bumps on logs, who interact with you.

“They are independent-minded. Like the rest of Gabriola.”

Being a small community, Reynolds says there is a unique diversity.

“There’s a mix of the artists, the trades, the services, the people who go to town. That’s reflected in the diversity at the school.”

Asked what’s changed since she started, Reynolds says, “What’s the same would be a better question.

“Technology is the obvious answer. The way we teach has changed. The approach to teaching literacy has changed.”

Not all the changes she has seen have been positive. 

Despite the recent court decision and the hoped-for return to smaller classes in BC, Reynolds says she worries there will still not be enough support for children.

“The reality is that yes, we will have smaller class sizes, so composition should be better. 

“But there won’t be more school support. That’s what we’re going to experience.

“It’s not all over. We still need more support for special needs kids.”

The good news, she says, focusing back in on the Gabriola school and students, is “parents can be prepared to be welcomed, there are going to be passionate and engaged teachers, they don’t need to worry.

“That’s who teachers are, by and large. I don’t know an elementary teacher who isn’t passionate and engaged in children’s’ education.

“I will miss being with the children. And the camaraderie with colleagues.”

So what’s next?

“Gardening. I’m a passionate gardener. Travel. Reading. A chance to think about things other than education.”

Since Gabriola is a place where it is hard to sit on the sidelines, Reynold says that after a year or so she does plan to get involved in the community.

For now though, “I just want to sit on my deck and read a good book.”