Parents group says teachers make a big difference

Nominations sought for Great Teachers program that recognizes Greater Victoria's top educators

Stephanie Longstaff served 19 years with the Parents Advisory Councils at Hans Helgesen and Metchosin elementary schools

Parents are well aware of the important role teachers play in the lives of their children. Black Press is teaming up with Staples with support from Camosun College to let parents express their gratitude and support towards some of the best teachers the community has to offer with the Great Teachers program.

Stephanie Longstaff’s focus on teachers is coloured by a variety of views seen through a multitude of lenses. She served 19 years with the Parents Advisory Councils at Hans Helgesen and Metchosin elementary schools, as well as Dunsmuir middle school and Belmont secondary.

Although no longer “officially” attached to PACs, Longstaff is heavily involved with the Vancouver Island Parents’ Conference, which brings together educators and parents from across the province to discuss innovative approaches to the best practices to ensure student success.

“Communication between parents and teachers is a key element in enabling students to reach their full potential,” Longstaff noted. “The conference in particular and PAC meetings in general give everyone an opportunity to get on the same page. Some of the best improvements we see in the classroom evolved from those kind of interactions between parents and teachers.”

This approach is even more important in today’s changing world of education, where the reality is that both parents work.

Interacting with teachers who work at all levels of primary education through her involvement with PACs has provided Longstaff  with a deeper insight into the role teachers play in the development of students. “It gives you a greater appreciation of their commitment and dedication to the work they do,” she said.

Seeing teachers take the time to participate in PAC fundraisers when they weren’t obligated to attend and watching how much the students and teachers enjoyed interacting together in a casual environment far removed from the classroom also left a lasting impression that underscored the qualities they bring to their workplace.

Shepherding 10 children through the school system has also given Longstaff a wider perspective, with her youngest son being part of the last class to graduate from the old Belmont secondary, which was torn down this year and replaced with a new school where the old Glen Lake elementary once stood. She remembers how one of her sons struggled with reading all the way to Grade 11 before a teacher took the time to take him to the library and find a book that completely absorbed him in reading. “That extra effort by his teacher changed how my son looked at something as simple, yet as important as reading,” she explained. “Something he had no success with changed into something he enjoys and utilizes in his everyday life.”

Longstaff said that’s only one of numerous examples she could mention that highlight how every one of her children has benefited from the time their teachers took to engage them in learning.

“Every one has at least one teacher they talk about fondly years later and credit for their success,” she added. “It takes an amazing person to dedicate their career to improving our future through the students they reach.”

If you know of a teacher who is making a lasting impression on their students, go to SaanichNews.com, click on the Great Teachers icon, and let us know why you would like to nominate them. Those who fill out nominations are eligible to win a $500 grocery gift card. The deadline for nominations is May 29.