One of Sooke’s most dedicated Kindergarten teachers will be retiring after contributing 37 years at John Muir elementary school.
Born in Kelowna B.C., Carolyn Wyngaards began her teaching career in 1969, after completing her teaching degree at the University of Victoria. Back then, she recalls, one could get a degree and actually receive a job offer upon graduating. Wyngaards taught her first year at Marigold elementary in Victoria, then moved over to Penticton, and finally landed in Sooke in 1974. And to the good fortune of her early students (and now, their children), there she stayed! After dabbling in other grades, Wyngaards ultimately found her teaching niche with kids at the Kindergarten level.
“The children come in fresh. I like that age of child,” said Wyngaards. She finds that teaching at that level can be more relaxed and more intuitive in approach. The learning can be more integrated in the moment, so if a child comes in with an earthworm in hand, that can shift the focus of the moment. This intuitive-based teaching style, she admits, comes with experience.
That is part of the appeal. The other is that “kids (at that age])are just so hilarious.”
In her near four-decades of service, Wyngaards has seen many teaching trends come and go.
“I think the biggest change for me was the move to integrate special needs students into the regular classrooms. There are many, many positives about this move and these children invariably teach all of us more than we often teach them! But there never seems to be enough support provided for them, and the impact of this policy on everyone is significant.”
As a teacher, Wyngaards has impacted a few generations in Sooke. In recognition, John Muir will be hosting a “retirement gathering” at Mai Mai’s restaurant on the corner of Townsend and Sooke Rd. It is planned as a drop-in event, and will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 30.
“I really, really hope to see a bunch of my old students and their parents, and maybe even a few colleagues,” said Wyngaards. “But mostly I want to see my old ‘Kindy Kids.’ I will have class photos up so you can find yourselves and your classmates.”
Mai Mai’s kitchen will be open, and guests are welcome to buy dinner, appetizers, or just come to wish Wyngaards well in her next phase of life.
And what does that look like? Well, for starters, there’s a whole lot of “not knowing.” She will join her husband Bill in retirement, who retired in 2004. Reading, gardening and travelling at her leisure — without the time limitations of a full-time job — are on the list of things to do.
When the school year ends, Carolyn Wyngaards will be packing up her teaching toolkit, filling it with a massive amount of memories, and walking out of the John Muir doors one last time. On her final exit, she will definitively close that door behind her. And as one door closes, another will open. Wyngaards just doesn’t know what lies beyond it just yet. And that is the beauty of her next adventure.