Friday marked a sweet sendoff for a foursome of retiring Oak Bay High staff members.
The entire staff lined up in a socially distanced cheering tunnel with shiny green pompoms and concert-level 1980s music (Europe’s Final Countdown was so loud, someone called the Oak Bay Police).
Principal Randi Falls, 34 years, physical education and social study teachers Mike Sheffer and Keith Butler, 33 years each, and the teacher of deaf and hard of hearing, Denise Chow, who taught her last 18 of a 30-year career at Oak Bay High.
— Oak Bay News (@OakBayNews) June 19, 2020
“We actually went to teaching school together,” said Sheffer, who had a parallel career with Butler. Both acted as Oak Bay High’s athletic director, both ran the school’s legendary track and field program (which consistently dominated at the provincials).
“It’s a strange way to retire, with COVID-19, but I have 32.5 great years to think about,” Sheffer said. “But I also think about the kids who didn’t get to finish their Grade 12 year. The girls who don’t get to wear their prom dress in a crowd. The athletes that don’t get to go to provincials.”
For Randi Falls, it closes a circle. She came in as principal since January of 2017. Falls is an Oak Bay High grad who started as a teacher at Vic High. She left to become a vice principal at Arbutus middle school and then Lambrick Park. She went back to Vic High to become principal, and finished in Oak Bay.
“She is respected for her high level of credibility, unquestionable integrity, and outstanding tact, approachability and accessibility to her staff and students,” said Shelly Green, Superintendent of Greater Victoria School District.
“I personally have appreciated her mentorship, forthrightness and humour,” said Oak Bay High vice principal Melanie Paas.
“I can always rely on her for a clear answer and an opportunity to really laugh at ourselves. She has been a quiet role model for female educators and administrators without needing the spotlight.”
Paas also credits Falls for being one of the first female secondary administrators in the Greater Victoria School District, and an “A-MAZ-ING” mentor.
It was also a big day for Denise Chow, who has been a deaf and hard of hearing teacher since 1990. Chow has been with Oak Bay High for 18 years. The avid dragon boat racer and plans to continue racing once it is permitted again.
“I would like to thank the Oak Bay High staff and community for being inclusive,” Chow said. “I appreciated working here and I learned so much from the students. You learn from them, and you impart that onto others.”
“It’s true,” Falls agreed. “You learn from the kids, from other faculty and teachers, and in my time I learned more than I ever taught.”
Reynolds principal Tom Aerts is scheduled to take over Falls’ role at Oak Bay High for 2020-2021.