When students returned to WCHS last week, they found that the school has a new principal and vice-principal. Principal Audrey Looker and Vice-Principal Shawn Willmott came to WCHS from Pigeon Lake Regional School where they held the same positions. The change was made because the former principal, Wayne Neilson, and the former vice-principal, Dennis Huebert, have retired after about forty years each in schools as teachers and administrators.
Reflections upon Retirement
WAYNE NEILSON came to WCHS as principal in 1986. He came in mid-April so that he could meet the staff and work with them for a smooth transition. For the last five months before his retirement he held the position of Associate Superintendent for Instruction for the division during a medical leave. In between, every day was a new adventure in a place of high energy with a lot of positive fun and laughter. He found that working with 15 to 19 year-olds provided lots of opportunities for funny moments, and sought to make the high school fun, enjoyable and relevant for the learning of all.
Neilson got his Bachelor of Education at the University of Lethbridge and taught at Brooks for five years before earning his Masters of Education at the University of Alberta. From there he went to Fort McMurray where he was in a Kindergarten to Grade Nine school for three years, then was principal for five or six years at the Fort McMurray Composite High School with 1800 students.
When Neilson came to Wetaskiwin, he planned to stay for five or six years, but the community, the friends, the school with its staff, kids and challenges all combined to keep him here. He finds it hard to say enough about Wetaskiwin, about how wonderful on all levels his career here has been, about the great kids we have here in Wetaskiwin, about the exemplary staff in WCHS, both the teachers and in the office, about the great support from parents. He considers life all about relationships: colleagues, kids, family, community.
Early in his career in teaching, he heard two sayings which have been key to his career.
“Good, better, best,
Never let it rest
Until the good is better,
And the better, best.”
“All it takes for evil to overtake the world is for good men to do nothing.”
Consequently, he has spent his career making good things better and then better things the best they can be. He has kept trying to be better tomorrow than today and to apply that to himself, the staff, the school and the kids. He has searched out what motivates people and to make actions follow words with special consideration of those two sayings. Rather than spending too much time on the kids making poor choices, he has concentrated on surrounding all the kids with good people so that good things happen. In this regard, he considers the teaching and office staff an exemplary and powerful crew to make good things happen. For him, it has been all about relationships with kids, parents, staff. To him, finding solutions is intriguing, every day has been fresh and interesting, and he has had a good, wild ride.
Retiring is about giving time now to his wife and family. Neilson says that he could not have accomplished what he has without the support of his wife, Carol, who also made his career relocations possible. They have two children, both teachers married to teachers. Their son is a vice-principal in Edmonton, and their daughter is in Lethbridge. Soon there will be four grandchildren. He doesn't know what retirement will look like, but considers it a new adventure. He expects it will include sports golf, motorcycle rides with Dennis Huebert, coaching the community girls basketball team as he did last year, teaching stained glass again, among a variety of activities.
For Wayne Neilson, retirement really starts now when he would otherwise have been back at the school. May the adventure be long, interesting and full of the finest of relationships.
DENNIS HUEBERT also retired after 39 years at WCHS as business teacher, department head , vice-principal, and a final five months as principal. When he came in 1973, the Business Ed. Department still taught accounting, typing, office practice, business machines etc. The school was starting to use electric typewriters, and the copying was done on spirit duplicators or the gestetner. Today everything is about computers. Students can instantly get answers on computers, and a great need is instruction and direction in recognizing the validity and quality of the information on the computer. Today the school could not carry on without computers, even to recording attendance. Technology has become a powerful teaching aid, with smart boards opening up all kinds of doors for teachers and students. He has found the change exciting and challenging.
Huebert says that every day in his 40 years of teaching he woke up and looked forward to working with his students and colleagues. He considers it a privilege every day to do a job he really liked, a blessing to work in the area of his enjoyment and passion. He appreciates that, in taking a fifth year of university after his B.Ed., he had the luxury of picking courses, some at the graduate level, which were interesting and helpful in the classroom. He also appreciates the great people he has worked with, the teachers, other staff, administration, great bosses. He found that Wayne Neilson made work fun.
Huebert considers English and Mathematics still the most important areas for students to master. Computers make reading and English skills more important than ever, and students who can read, write and communicate well have an advantage. To lack those skills is a disadvantage. He himself loves to read.
Retirement for Dennis Huebert also looks at more time with his wife and family. His son lives at Campbell River on Vancouver Island, while his two daughters live in Edmonton and St. Albert. The first grandchild is in Edmonton. He and his wife love to travel, she to explore history through the museums etc., and he to see how people live in other areas of the world. May he, too, have a long, interesting retirement rich with great relationships.