Principal retires for second time

A 40-year Terrace educator is retiring after being drawn back from his first retirement to become principal of Veritas Catholic School.

Retiring Veritas Catholic School principal Dave Crawley with his successor

A 40-year Terrace educator is retiring for a second time after being drawn back from his first retirement to become principal of Veritas Catholic School.

“People say that when you retire you quit working and then do the kinds of things you enjoy doing,” said retiring principal Dave Crawley. “The problem I had was that I was already doing the things I enjoy doing.”

Crawley was born and raised in Prince Rupert, and went to the University of Victoria where he got a degree in psychology and one in education. Then in 1976, he moved to Terrace to start his career, planning to become a school counsellor.

“I came for a year or two [planning] to get some experience and then get back down south… but the opportunities here were just so good,” Crawley said.

He spent his first year as a teacher and counsellor at Thornhill Junior where he worked for eight years. In 1984 he became the elementary counsellor for the whole school district, travelling back and forth between schools for a year.

But Crawley said he preferred to have a community to be connected to and work within, and he also felt it was time for a change from counselling.

“I was always fascinated with psychology and I found that I really enjoyed working with students and helping them through some of their problems and being supportive of them,” Crawley said. “I really enjoyed that for a number of years, but then it started to wear me down.”

He said he was often involved in student crisises after school hours and had a hard time not bringing the concerns home.

“I hadn’t learned to leave it there… as much as I enjoyed it, there was no down time,” he said.

Crawley became the principal at Copper Mountain Elementary in 1985, where he stayed for 13 years (with one year halfway through as interim principal at Clarence Michiel Elementary, now Suwilaawks).

The move to principal proved a good fit, and Crawley continued to work in similar positions for the rest of his career.

In 1998, Crawley became principal at Thornhill Elementary School where he stayed for five years, and then he spent a year as principal at Uplands Elementary.

When Skeena Junior opened in 2004, Crawley became its first vice principal. He was vice principal there for eight years and principal for a year before he retired.

But while camping during that first summer of what was going to be retirement, Crawley got a call from someone asking him to consider covering as principal for a few months at Veritas Catholic School while they found someone permanent.

“I was a little scared of retirement, so I said okay,” Crawley said, adding that those few months extended to a year and then beyond. “I liked what I was doing and started to appreciate the school and the staff here and some of the differences of public and independent schools,” Crawley said. “So I let them know I was interested in continuing.”

Crawley has now spent the last five years at Veritas, and has been involved in several major changes at the school, including expansions to include pre-kindergarten and middle school.

The school district shifted in 2012 to include Grade 7 in the middle school system at Skeena Middle School, so Veritas had to chose whether to drop Grade 7 and stay an elementary school, or add Grade 8 and 9.

Prompted by parents and bolstered by Crawley’s experience in secondary schools, Veritas chose to expand, adding Grade 8 in 2012 and Grade 9 in 2013. Then in 2014, they added pre-kindergarten in order to boost enrolment and help sustain the school.

Crawley said the pre-K students develop some familiarity with the school and staff, and kindergarten enrolment jumped from 17 to 30 the year they added the program, staying high since.

Since Crawley has been at Veritas, the school has also added several applied skills (food, sewing, construction and drama), shifted and developed sports programs, and upgraded technology (adding smart boards and getting two portable computer labs).

Looking back over his years as an educator, Crawley said “I have just been blessed.”

“I’m near the end of my 40th year, and I’m still waiting for my first boring day,” he joked. While some days are less pleasant than others, the job has a lot of exciting and unexpected challenges that keeps things interesting, he said.

The other big thing is knowing the impact made on people’s lives.

“You hear from teachers and you hear from kids about the impact that you had in their lives — you don’t always hear but you sometimes hear — enough to know that what you are doing is worthwhile and that it had a positive impact on some people. That is always something to cherish,” he said.

With retirement, Crawley plans to try some fishing and do more golfing, spend more time with his family and grandchildren, and do some travelling with his wife — possibly a cross-Canada trip and a trip to Europe to explore their heritage.

“I think I’m still going to keep a hand in education,” Crawley said. “I might do a bit of consulting or something because this is an exciting time in education, the new curriculum is coming in, things are changing, and whenever change happens it is exciting,” he said.

He adds that he also plans to stay involved in Veritas as they continue planning their building expansion. Crawley says they expect in the next year, 2016-2017, to start sharing plans publicly and seeking funding.

Veritas has already hired its new principal, Tamara Berg, who is a teacher at the school and is working with Crawley to ease into her new position.

Berg grew up in Prince George, got a degree in wildlife and fisheries biology at UNBC and an education degree at UBC. She got her masters at Vancouver Island University and then moved to Alberta for two years and taught for one year there.

She and her husband moved to Terrace in 2008 and she has taught at Veritas, Caledonia and Skeena on and off in the last eight years – taking a year off with the birth of each of her three children.

“Veritas is very special to me,” Berg said of becoming the principal, adding that her focus will be supporting teachers.

“We have the most amazing teachers… The key, I think, is just supporting them, and as long as they remain passionate about their job, that will transfer to the students and build a passion about learning. Veritas has always been very strong as a school, and we just want to make sure it stays strong.”