After three decades in the teaching profession, Lakeview Elementary School’s Cheryl Stephenson is calling it a career. Recently, Cheryl sat down with Northern Pride to talk about her 30-year career, her love for music and the arts, as well as her recent pirate-themed retirement party.
Q: How long have you taught at Lakeview Elementary School?
A: It’s been 25 years at this school. It became an elementary school in 1991. Prior to that, this was Jonas Samson Junior High. Overall, however, I’ve taught for 30 years, but it hasn’t all been in Meadow Lake. I started my teaching career in Waseca, SK in a two-room school where I taught Grades 4-6. I was there for two-and-a-half years while substitute teaching and parental leave combined with my time at Lakeview have allowed me to reach the magic number 30.
Q: Why have you decided to retire now?
A: There has been a lot of changes in recent years, but that’s education – something’s always changing, so I felt this was the best time to maybe do something else. I’m not sure what that will be, but maybe I’ll try to take a bit of a rest. Yeah, right. That will probably last for the summer and, come fall, I’ll be begging them to let me come back. When I think about it, the years have really flown by and this year in particular has been a year of reflection, a year of reminiscing.
Q: Is teaching the career path you always planned to follow?
A: In high school we had an assignment where we had to write sort of a look into our own future. I wrote I’d either be like to teach students to be like Beethoven, or I’d end up being a phys-ed teacher. As it turned out, I ended up being a bit of both. I have a good laugh when I look back at that.
Q: So, I guess you’ve taught both music and physical education.
A: I started off teaching Grade 3, which lasted for about 15 years. One year, we were rearranging preps and such when then-principal Grant Hansen suggested, because I’m somewhat musical, I should try teaching a music class. From there, someone else came in to teach science and social studies, and I found myself in a full-time music position. As the years went by, more changes came along. With our response to intervention initiative, I started to assist students in need of extra help while, this year, I’ve also become involved with phys-ed, drama and dance. I really enjoy anything that has to do with the arts.
Q: Is this an area of interest you’ve had for a long time?
A: Growing up in my family, the arts were always important. We were always given the opportunity to take music lessons, and I would sing with my brothers and sisters at church and at community events. It’s something that worked out as a plus for me in terms of the overall package of “the teacher.”
Q: It’s great how you’ve been able to translate your personal interest into your teaching.
A: I actually went back to school at one point to learn more about the Carl Orff approach to teaching music. Carl Orff was a German composer and this method is a way of teaching children about musical concepts through singing, chanting, dance, movement, drama and the playing of percussion instruments. Improvisation, composition and a child’s natural sense of play are encouraged.
Q: What are some of the best memories you have of your time at the school?
A: Throughout my career, I’ve always helped with the various school musicals, the choir and with teaching the recorder. In fact, a group of Lakeview students performed the recorder at the grand opening of the Meadow Lake and District Museum’s Back Forty exhibit last week. It was kind of cute they asked us to play – the kids were really pumped about that. And, I’ll always remember the musicals, whether they involved the whole school or only a handful of interested students. The last couple of musicals we did had a pirate theme and we had lots of fun. Whenever you can get the kids to come out and really show their talent is wonderful, and that’s what I’ve always enjoyed.
Q: Speaking of pirates, your recent retirement party was also pirate-themed, correct?
A: Yes, that was my idea. A lot of times retirement parties can be a little boring, so I said we would go out there and have some fun. I told everyone to dress up and we would have a real party. It was great, and a lot of people came out to wish me well. Now what? What does the future hold? A lot of people have been asking me that, but all I know for sure is I’m going to spend more time with my grandchildren and, of course, my husband. We plan to do some travelling, maybe to somewhere tropical. I love the beach, the sand and the ocean. There might even be time to catch up on some projects that have been placed on the back burner.
Q: What are you going to miss the most about teaching?
A: I’m really going to miss my colleagues and, of course, the kids. I’m going to miss those “Aha!” moments – the look on their faces when they finally understand something and how to apply it either in their lives or in their ongoing learning. We’re like a family here, and that’s not something you get to experience in every job. It’s a neat feeling.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born and raised in St. Walburg. I come from a family of nine siblings, most of who are still around the area.
Q: What was it like growing up with so many brothers and sisters?
A: Spell “chaos.” It was very busy and chaotic, but, again, music was a big part of our lives. Mom and dad truly valued education, so it was important to them we did well in school and that we went on to higher learning. Another big part of growing up was 4-H. My parents were farmers, so the whole “learn by doing” thing was also important. We were taught to be problem solvers, to figure things out and to work together.
Q: Once retired, will you stay in Meadow Lake?
A: Yes, we’ll be here for a few more years at least. Our kids live in the area and maybe I’ll still do some subbing. Who knows?
Q: Are you or have you been involved in any community groups or organizations?
A: School always took up so much time, but I was on the board of the local Catholic Church years ago and, when our kids were younger, we were involved with minor hockey and the local figure skating club, things like that. I was also part of the Meadow Lake and District Music Festival committee at one time. I’ll probably become involved in more things now that I’ll have some time.
Q: Tell me more about your family.
A: I’m married to a wonderful person and my best friend for almost 37 years. Terry and I have three amazing and talented children who are all married to great spouses. There’s our sons Justin, or Stan as he likes to be called, and Darrell, and our daughter, Melissa. We also have five beautiful grandchildren with another one on the way in August. We’re very excited about the latest addition to our family.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: What else is possible? And, live each day to the fullest.