The last few weeks of school are always crazy busy. Wind up after wind up…a seemingly endless list of evening events that signify the end of the school year. Sometimes it seems like to much, but last night I attended a retirement party for my dear friend and former colleague Neil McPhedran.
I know a number of teachers and administrators retiring this year and all of them have impacted me in some way, but none as much as Neil. In my mind my teaching career really started in 1999 when I was lucky enough to land a job at the new middle school opening in Summerland. It was an amazing group of people – many like me who had no idea what they were doing – we were a malleable bunch to say the least. One of the more experienced teachers in the group was Neil. He was a larger than life. Kids loved him and parents demanded that administration put their child in his class. For a young teacher starting my own class for the first time, he was an inspiration.
Over the years I got to know Neil on both a personal and professional level. Professionally kids would come to my class after having Mr. Mac in Grade 6 and all they would talk about is their favourite teacher – Mr. Mac. I always loved hearing the kids talk about him, because little did they know all the teachers felt the same way. As much as he gave the kids, he always had more for the staff and the school. In my career I have never seen an individual have more to do with shaping the culture of the school. If something was happening, Neil was all in…partly because he had probably planned it.
Neil gives. His gives his time, his passion, his compassion, his energy – his all. Particularly to those things that he is passionate about: Terry Fox, Track and Field, Spirit Days, all sports. Neil’s gifts go beyond the school and he has quietly given his time to those less fortunate in the community for years. In his words, “I am a lucky man.”
I was also lucky enough to get to know Neil on a personal level. For a number of years I played Slo-pitch with Neil, his lovely wife Shirley and their wonderful kids Caley and Chris. Seeing Neil outside of school giving as much at home as he did at school made me want to become a better dad and father. I remember being amazed that their teenage children loved to hang out with their mom and dad and thinking that is the relationship that I want with my children.
Knowing Neil has made me a better educator, father, husband and friend. I know it’s it not goodbye, but I am going to miss you MacMan. Our schools will miss you more and our community is a better place thanks to you.
What’s Good? You are.
Do you know what I like about you? Everything.