After more than two decades of teaching at Summerland Secondary School, two high school teachers are retiring.
Dave Stathers has been a high school teacher for 29 years and has spent 27 of those years at Summerland Secondary School.
Tom Brickenden began his teaching career in the fall of 1987 and has been at Summerland Secondary School since the fall of 1995.
Brickenden grew up in Summerland and graduated from the high school where he later taught.
He said his time as a high school student inspired him to become a teacher.
“It was the excellent teachers who taught me in school,” he said.
After graduating, he wanted to become a high school teacher and coach, even though he was shy and quiet at the time.
Stathers also recalled inspiring high school teachers, especially one math teacher who made the material enjoyable. “I wanted to be just like him.”
After graduating from high school, Stathers studied education in university. However, after he finished his degree, there were no teaching jobs available.
For nine years he worked as a journalist. until a teaching position opened up in Invermere.
Brickenden also recalled how difficult it was to get a teaching job after he received his university degree.
“I applied to every single school district in the province,” he said. “Fort St. James hired me over the phone.”
Both teachers have appreciated their time at Summerland Secondary School.
“This school is truly outstanding as a community school,” Stathers said.
Brickenden added that the high school alumni still have a strong connection to the school and will return for events such as the annual alumni basketball tournament, held near the end of December.
While students are in the classroom for several hours each day, and while school is not in session during the summer break, winter break and spring break, the role of a teacher is far more demanding, Stathers and Brickenden say.
“There’s a lot happening before 8:30 in the morning and after three o’clock in the afternoon,” Stathers said. Work including developing the curriculum for the year, grading tests and assignments and preparing lesson materials all require considerable time.
Both teachers have also spent time in volunteer work and as coaches. Stathers was a girls’s basketball coach while Brickenden, the school’s athletic director, coached volleyball and basketball.
Stathers said teaching can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. “It’s a career, not a job,” he said. “You’re never staring at the clock. Time passes by so quickly.”
The best part of being a teacher has been the opportunity to work with the students, both men say.
“You become a teacher for the love of being with young people,” Brickenden said. “Each year you‘re working with a new group of kids.”
“The kids in this community are outstanding,” Stathers added.
And while they have had some challenging students over the years, both teachers have enjoyed the students they have known.
“Teenagers are so misunderstood,” Stathers said. “They’re amazing to work with every day.”
Because they had the same students throughout high school, both teachers have been able to develop strong relationships. “A lot of the kids I taught four years in a row, ” Stathers said. “I got to know them and their families.”
“The relationships with the students last a long time,” Brickenden added.
What’s next after high school? rickenden and Stathers are considering their options.
Stathers plans to referee basketball. He is also contemplating whether to run for office as a school trustee this fall.
Brickenden plans to referee volleyball and basketball. While he wants to take year off coaching, he would like to coach again in the future.
“I think we both would like to have future interactions with students,” Stathers said.