Robin MacLeod has been an educator in Terrace for 43-years – long enough to have taught two generations of students.
“I’ve taught some of my student’s children…. I think it’s best to leave before their grandchildren arrive,” says the vice principle of Caledonia Secondary School who is set to retire in June.
“Mrs. MacLeod”– as she has always been addressed in school (even by her own daughter when she was her student)– joined Coast Mountain School District 82 in 1978, arriving in Terrace when she was 22-years-old.
A graduate from the University of British Columbia, she vividly remembers accepting the job offer after an interview with former Caledonia principal Bill Sturn at Vancouver airport on April 27, 1978. The plot thickened the very next day as she received another offer from her home school district in Langley.
MacLeod did not renege.
“We new BEds (Bachelor of Education) had been warned about being blacklisted in the province if we reneged on even a verbal commitment; I kept my word to Terrace.”
The city provided her with a lot of opportunities, many of which she may not have had elsewhere.
MacLeod taught English, literature, writing, musical theatre, directing and script-writing and wore many different hats at Caledonia school over the course of her career.
Reflecting on the phases of her career, she notes that the beginnings were certainly not easy for a teacher who was hardly three years older than most of her students.
There were many long hours which included arriving at school when it was still dark only to leave when it was dark again.
Older staff encouraged her with sayings like “A diamond is only a bit of coal that made it ‘under pressure.’”
Her family was an invaluable support through it all, she says. “My husband and daughters made sacrifices on account of my work-life.”
MacLeod taught some of the most popular courses in school but it came at a price – it made her nocturnal.
“Six major papers a semester from classes of thirty, eventually returned with detailed feedback…And they wonder why I’m still nocturnal!”
In 1990, she went on to get her Masters in Education from the University of Victoria. (“While teaching English full-time at Caledonia, with a three-year-old and a five-year-old at home and a brownie group at Parkside,” as MacLeod puts it.)
During her tenure she also held the position of a school counsellor for 17 years and doubled as the in-house musical theatre director.
She sustained her passion and background in theatre by directing and co-producing yearly musicals for the school.
Even though the musicals started as extra-curricular activity, MacLeod developed a curriculum and taught it as a locally-developed course.
Stepping back from the musicals in 2016 – when she took on the role of the vice-principal – was perhaps one of the harder things that she has had to do in her career.
Following retirement, MacLeod plans to continue her passion for drama and theatre at the Terrace Little Theatre.
In the more recent years, MacLeod watched her career come full circle as she moved to the backseat and a new circle of educators came in with “energy, ambition, sass and savvy.”
She has had the good fortune of witnessing some of her former students come back as teachers to Caledonia and other School District 82 schools.
Looking back, she says there has been an immense personal growth with her learning at every step of the way.
“I’ve learned to listen more,” she says, a quality which has helped her empathize with and understand people more.
MacLeod also wishes she could go back and change some of the mistakes she made back in her rookie days.
“I often wished I could have a re-do with my first few years’ worth of students as I felt I had improved in the craft of my teaching. The least I would have liked would have been a humane approach to Lit 12, instead of obsessive marathon multiple-choice tests of minute details.”
She is grateful to the students, parents, and staff for their patience, co-operation and forgiveness through the years.
As MacLeod looks forward to retiring and spending time with her family, just one sorrow remains …“I am retiring without having fulfilled my ambition of teaching in every room in the school.”