The loss of Skip Bergsma on June 10 is felt deeply by anyone who had the privilege to work, teach or just chat with him.
One of his greatest gifts to our school district was his love of music and strong belief in the value of music education.
Skip believed in having music specialist teachers in every elementary school for all students. He was a big reason why I moved to Stewart to teach K-12 music/band, fresh out of the UVic School of Music.
Skip helped guarantee quality music programs by having music classes cover teachers’ prep time. When Skip was assistant superintendent of the school district, we had thriving music and band programs in Stewart, Hazelton, Kitwanga and at every school in Terrace/Thornhill from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
He recruited enthusiastic, dedicated music educators from BC, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. These music teachers came and discovered a jewel in the wilderness; a school district with a huge appreciation, respect for, and commitment to music and the arts.
Skip remembered. Not just your name, but details around your first interview with him, your family, what you were teaching that year. In conversation with Skip, you felt listened to, respected, valued and wise. He was a true gentleman.
During the lengthy teachers’ strike last year, Skip regularly visited the teachers on the picket line at Skeena Middle School, a short walk from his home.
Busily retired, yet eager to connect, he shared tales of his recent travels abroad, his time on the Terrace teachers’ union executive and past labour disputes.
He commiserated with new teachers and heard their stories. He gave us hope and encouragement.
Skip touched the souls of thousands of students through his integrity and dedication to teachers, education, and the value of music in our daily lives.
Thank you, Skip. We will continue to learn, sing, play, and listen.
We’ll always remember you.