Teal Ander was a Learning Assistance teacher at Island Pacific School from 2002 – 2007. She had an incredible impact on our school community. Teal was characterized by boundless enthusiasm and energy, deep love and commitment to family and community, and an unbridled passion for nature, children, and education. She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and sister. Her joyful spirit will continue to be an inspiration for the many people she touched. She took great joy in making others happy and will be lovingly remembered forever by her family and friends.
After her passing in July 2012, the Ander family established the Teal Ander Bursary Fund, a fund which will be guided by her family, ensuring Teal’s passion that children with learning difficulties should have every opportunity to reach their potential through specialized learning assistance and compassion.
This fund is to support and enable a deserving student, or students, in need of learning assistance to attend Island Pacific School when insufficient finances, due to this extra assistance, may preclude this opportunity. It may also supplement the salary of a learning assistance teacher, if required, to enable this teacher to enhance the learning experience of those children requiring assistance.
We are forever grateful to Teal for the impression she made on our school and our students during the years she worked with us.
Ted Spear’s Eulogy at Teal’s memorial service on July 22, 2012
Good afternoon. My name is Ted Spear. I am the Head of Island Pacific School here on Bowen Island.
I had the good fortune to work with Teal for a little over five years from about 2002-2007, and today I would like to give you a sense of her contribution at the school and—along the way—a sense of the influence she has had on me and, I think, many others.
I want to begin by saying that I am very grateful to the family for allowing me to be here to share some thoughts and stories.
There are people who pass through our lives who—whether they know it or not—come to serve as exemplars, or touchstones, or guides to help us work through that most enigmatic problem of all: namely, the problem of how to live right. I have come to realize that, for me, Teal has become one such compass point.
I am grateful to be here, therefore, to have an opportunity to explain what I mean by that.
Teal served as a learning assistance teacher—and then the Learning Assistance Coordinator—at Island Pacific School. Here are a couple of observations:
The first and most obvious to anyone who knew her is: that woman has a lot of energy.
I am not sure what she was eating for breakfast every morning, but I wouldn’t mind getting the secret recipe.
It turns out, of course, that she had precisely the kind of energy you need for a middle school because the students there are, after all, 11-14 year old adolescents going through their “special time” in life. To say that you need to be “young at heart” to work at the school is a massive understatement. As it happened, we mostly hired fairly young teachers—aged 20-27—and it always amused me how Teal could run circles around the rest of them.
Notice that I said that Teal has a lot of energy because I think it is still here with us today, and I do not think it will dissipate anytime soon. With any luck, both her energy—and other qualities I will speak of—will pass on from generation to generation.
A second and related observation—that is again obvious to anyone who knew her—is just how positive Teal could be in applying herself to a challenge. A person can have a lot of energy, but be a bit of a slash and burn bulldozer who leaves a lot of carnage in their wake. Or a person can be like Teal who, through their own individual commitment and passion, can inspire others to pick up a shovel and get the job done.
She was certainly that way at Island Pacific School. When I would sometimes get disheartened and say to myself that the IPS project was not living up to its responsibilities and expectations, I would look over at Teal who was working 150 mph and doing great things with kids, and I would have to say to myself, “OK, you slacker, pick up the shovel and keep digging.”
By the very way she threw herself into things—be it the school or the Teen Centre, or whatever else she did—she created a momentum that could not help but move any project forward.
A third quality that people may not be aware of is that Teal had a very fierce commitment to the well-being of her students. She was, at all times, a champion and advocate for their needs. She was like a dog with a bone: she was not going to let them be short-changed. Her central purpose at that school was to create the conditions for kids to feel good about themselves and to be successful.
In looking back through the staff pages in the IPS yearbooks, we had a section where teachers listed their “most memorable moments” in any given year. It is indicative of Teal’s focus and commitment that her most memorable moments were often described in terms of student success:
- In one of them, she wrote that my “most memorable moment” is when children say, “I get it!”
- In another, she said that her most memorable moment is “Seeing students work hard, complete their work … and hand it in!”
The quality that I am having the most difficulty putting my finger on—but which is, for me at least, the most important (enduring)—is the very direct, yet completely disarming way she would let me know that I was wrong about something.
We would be in a staff meeting, and I would announce some sort of a decision that ran counter to what she thought should happen, and her immediate response would be to smile and laugh and look me in the eye and say, “You can’t do that”.
And what she would mean by this is that it wouldn’t work, or it is not in the interest of the students, or—if I was particularly off course—that it was morally unjustifiable.
Now there are two things that underpin Teal’s perfect reaction to my sometimes ill-advised ideas.
The first is the fact that Teal was a person of principle. She actually had a clear idea of right and wrong, and she was not afraid, in her own way, to put that on the table. I have to say that I always found that refreshing and, in fact, much needed.
The second underpinning reveals itself in the manner in which she disagreed with me. When she would say, “You can’t do that”, she would smile and laugh, and there would be a twinkle in her eye.
It was as though she was saying not only that things do indeed matter—i.e. that we have to do right by the kids—but also that there is a bigger picture here—i.e. that in facing the challenges we take on, we have to do right by one another.
You see, for Teal it was all about the people. Principals were important, to be sure, but for Teal the principles always had to be connected at the end of the day to real live human beings. I think one of the reasons that Teal laughed and smiled at me was that she expected me to be better than some of the ideas I put forward. I think the reason she was so successful with her kids is that she communicated the same kind of positive expectation to them.
I am told by her family that Teal’s time at Island Pacific School meant a lot to her. Now I know, to be sure, that Teal meant a lot to Island Pacific School … because she was such a dynamo and she touched a lot of kids’ lives. What I did not know, however, was that it was a long-term aspiration of Teal’s to be a teacher and that there were a few times where she might have felt a bit regretful about not being able to take on a full classroom role.
To this I would say: …. there are two kinds of teachers. There are small-t teachers who teach something called “curricula” to something called “students” within the confines of something called “schools”.
Then there are people like Teal—people I would call capital T teachers—who give us something much more profound. In the lives they live, in their interactions with others, and in the care and compassion they bestow on family, friends, and strangers, they give us touchstones and way markers to remind us how we ourselves ought to live.
In Teal’s case, in particular, they impel us to pick up our shovels, get on with it, and do it with a twinkle in our eyes.
That, for me, is the legacy of Teal Ander and that is why I am grateful to be here to share this with you today. If we can keep just one tenth of a spark of her within us, then we will do her proud.