I’ve been a teacher for more than four years now. I’ve spent time in dozens of schools in the Ottawa region. Wonderful schools full of amazing students and teachers. They all hold a special place in my heart. But my life completely transformed when I entered Rideau High School for the first time.
In February of 2016, I walked into a school much like any other on the surface, but I could sense a different sort of energy hidden inside the walls. I accepted a long-term position to teach Science and Physical Education, and three days into my gig, I lost my mom. It felt entirely surreal emailing the admin team and fellow teachers in my departments when I hardly knew any of them, sharing something so personal and so tragic. I took the remainder of that week off, and the next week as well. I just couldn’t go back. I wasn’t ready, and in a tearful phone conversation, I relayed that information to one of the Vice Principals (now Principal). He insisted everything was fine in my absence and told me to take all the time I needed.
When I was finally ready to return to Rideau, I was overwhelmed by the support from my colleagues. Everyone signed a sympathy card for me, names I didn’t even recognize at the time. Sometimes I’d be standing in the photocopy room, and I’d just start talking to whoever was there about my mom. I needed to get it all out. And no matter who was on the receiving end of my emoting, I always got the same response: Love, compassion, understanding. CARE.
That is Rideau. Every person in this building cares. And that’s why my heart is breaking right now because it was decided last night, in a 7-5 vote, that Rideau High School will close after this semester. The closure is due to various reasons I won’t get into. I know it was a very difficult decision the board has taken many months to reach. Most of us could already see this coming, but we just didn’t want to believe it. Today, the potential closure is a reality, and it feels a lot like mourning all over again.
When you’re at Rideau, you’re family. This school gets under your skin, as do the students–in every possible way. This school changes you. It makes you stronger. Through the trials and the triumphs of day-to-day challenges, you learn the true meaning of courage, to fight for what matters, to push yourself, and to be a good person. This school doesn’t simply embrace difference, it celebrates it. You can be your best self here. You can shine. We may be a small school, but we’re GIANTS when it comes to our commitment to student success, to community involvement, and to our cohesiveness as a whole.
Rideau will remain open until the end of this semester. I know without a doubt that all the staff here will make these remaining months as smooth and positive as possible for our students, and the transition to Gloucester High School as seamless as it can be. If we have to go out, we’ll go out with a bang, the Rideau Rams way!
I’m not sure where my teaching adventures will take me next, but one thing is certain: Rideau will always remain with me. I’ll have the heart of a RAM beating strongly inside me, and I will never, ever forget this experience and the countless rewards I’ve reaped from Rideau High School. Thank you for everything.
Rideau High School Teacher