Sandy Crisp has watched children evolve in a way that many people have not.
Having taught at Oaklands Elementary School for more than half of his life, Crisp has interacted with hundreds of students from kindergarten to Grade 5 over his 35 year teaching career.
He has spent countless hours helping kids learn in a variety of ways, from teaching them in the classroom to coaching them on the field in after-school sports, including basketball, soccer, floor hockey and track with other teachers.
“We’re learning that the children can handle things more than what we used to think, giving them more responsibility in their education,” said the 56-year-old Cordova Bay resident. “I think technology has become quite an important role, but you can’t forget about the personal connections that you make. That’s the most important thing with teaching.”
Now, after more than three decades, Crisp is stepping away from the classroom and into retirement.
Growing up in Victoria, Crisp always spent time babysitting and playing sports with other kids. He then went on to graduate from the University of Victoria and snagged his first teaching gig at Oaklands, teaching a behavioural class, in which students learned how to control their anger and become better people.
Shortly after, Crisp made the jump to teaching kindergarten and hasn’t looked back since.
Over the years, he has built connections with many of his students.
“Making good connections with children and helping them to be confident in themselves and helping them to learn such things as sitting still, being polite, accepting help (is my proudest accomplishment),” he said, adding the other thing he’s worked on with children is helping them solve conflicts. “Rather than falling apart and crying, staying together and being calm and talking to people rather than fighting.”
While Crisp has made his mark on many students, they have also made their mark on him.
One student in particular had a profound impact on Crisp. Rene Soto-Taylor was a Grade 3 student, who passed away from neuroblastoma last year.
“He’s changed my life forever. He’s the type of person who makes you realize how lucky all of us are and that we need to be strong and continue on no matter what happens because he always did,” Crisp said.
As a send off into retirement, Crisp threw the first pitch at a HarbourCats game last week, where he threw a strike.
“He knows every single child, he knows all the parents. From the moment they’re in kindergarten or even if they’re in the school, he knows the kids’ strength. He’s developing them to be capable, young people. He’s both a kid at heart and he’s an excellent educator,” said Erin Kelly, whose child was in Crisp’s class. “He has affected all of our lives. Our kids will forever be different because of him.”
In celebration of Crisp’s teaching career, two funds were launched — one called Team4Hope, supporting neuroblastoma cancer research in memory of Soto-Tayler and the other called the Sandy Crisp Athletic Legacy Fund, for the purchase of new sports equipment for the school.
So far, more than $1,520 has been raised, of which $1,140 will go towards Team4Hope, and the rest to the sports fund.
In retirement, Crisp, a country music lover, plans on travelling to Nashville and exploring Vancouver Island with his wife, Heather, who is also a kindergarten teacher, and their two daughters.