Pair of venerable Weyburn educators share common links, admiration
WEYBURN–Compared to the colleague she is sitting beside, Colleen Weimer is a relative neophyte in the teaching profession.
Admittedly, under normal circumstances you would think having spent 35 years as a music and drama teacher would place you in the upper echelon in terms of longevity. Except for the fact that her longtime colleague and friend Bob King has spent 50 years in the game.
Spend a morning with these two evergreen educators and you come away feeling not only inspired but also invigorated. It’s also one of those stories that you might think is fiction except it’s not. Rather, this is an intertwined tale of incredible ironies that have shaped their respective teaching journeys.
One of the shared traits you might suggest is that neither of them is particularly good at saying no, especially when it comes to extracurricular activities as well as their regular teaching assignments.
King, 73, who actually retired in 1997, reckons he’s still roaming the halls of Weyburn Comprehensive more than 300 days a year (occasionally to his wife’s chagrin). He is the school’s activities co-ordinator and organizes athletic tournaments, awards banquets, the band trip, as well as being a substitute teacher in just about every subject area.
In his own words, the past 50 years have passed very quickly and his continued involvement with students has kept him young and busy.
Weimer, whose influence has been such that at both the school and community levels, the commons area in the Cugnet Centre in Weyburn is named after her. Her humility is readily evident, as she credits “everyone who has put time into making a musical or a concert happen has played a huge part in this.” Weimer also acknowledged her family who has been integrally involved in her work whether at the Comprehensive, or Haig and Assiniboia Park elementary schools where she spends her mornings. There’s also the leadership role she plays with Grace United choir.
At this point, King interjects so as to trumpet Weimer’s unselfish and motivational involvement, which she said includes having had several special-needs children in the musicals and that it’s not uncommon for them to come back to visit.
“Those are all my kids and I love every one of them,” Weimer said as King echoed in “and they love her, believe me.”
Theirs is a relationship that dates back to when Weimer was a student and King was a teacher. Back then her involvement was already taking shape as a member of the student council. Reflecting back on those days, Weimer cited King as a great role model, and that’s been a common thread as she credits a host of folks who have had a major influence on her teaching career.
Along the way, the two have been involved in countless dramas and musicals. By Weimer’s own reckoning, “Bob has helped keep me organized for decades. I’m pretty spontaneous, but I procrastinate and he likes to move things along. I don’t know what I would have done without him all these years,” she smiled.
When you consider King has helped organize every provincial Summer Games since the 1970s (15 by his count), it would be safe to assume he’s a committed athlete. Well, not so much except for a series of circumstances where he was often a convenient fill-in to complement a particular roster.
“I was a biology teacher, but the one year I taught in Dinsmore I wound up doing half phys-ed and half biology,” he mused, recalling how his aptitude test in school had him earmarked to be a mathematical oceanographer.
Since moving to Weyburn in 1969, he has taught primarily science, social studies and history but also has done all sorts of extracurricular including coaching several sports teams.
“I was never a big participant but I coached for 14 years and loved it and became pretty knowledgeable about it,” he said. King also joked that his cross-country career at the University of Regina included finishing second-last in a race “and that was just because the guy who finished behind me had lost his shoe.”
Many of his summers were spent touring with a carnival that his father originally owned. It’s a life he has embraced with considerable zeal, having been to every state in the United States except Alaska. That’s about to change, however, when he and his wife Brenda will be heading there to watch a play put on by their daughter Liz, who is a much-travelled stage manager (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you see). Did I mention his wife is a retired English teacher after having spent 30 years in the school system? Yes, she’s also still a substitute teacher, while their son Rob works for Canada Post.
King’s wanderlust has also extended to taking a year off from school in 1983 to travel around the world to visit 28 countries. There’s also the annual trip to New York City for he and Brenda to attend the latest musicals.
Weimer shares a similar passion for travel, although many of her treks have focused on taking her students on band trips near and far throughout North America. She is a big believer in including everyone who is interested, even though she’s not exactly a pushover.
“Everyone can sing, some better than others, but we can work with that and as the teacher, it’s my job to pull that out of them. It’s about relationships and making every one of them feel important. We don’t have auditions for our musicals, but to be the lead they have to earn their way and our kids know that,” she said.
According to King, the success of Weimer’s productions is such that the numbers have exploded since she arrived at the school – this includes many boys culled from the various sports teams.
Both are big believers in the whole extracurricular aspect of the students’ education. “I’ve seen first-hand on so many occasions what it does for a students’ self-esteem, and I think you miss out if you don’t have that involvement,” Weimer offered.
King’s philosophy mirrors hers, while adding that he’s troubled by sports teams, in particular, becoming too specialized in many cases.“School is about creating citizenship and it’s not about a diploma. It’s about preparing kids to be able to do whatever they want when they are done high school.”
Not surprisingly, their respective passion for what it is they have devoted a lifetime to has been passed on to the next generation as well. In the case of Weimer, daughters Kaila and Kendra are both teachers. Kendra resides in Weyburn and often helps mom with the costumes. Oldest son Blaine is an accountant, but all kids played piano growing up and he was also in the pit band when a student. Husband Doug is the sound man so he can see his family.
As he actually sounds serious about retirement, King acknowledges having some trepidation about it. He then added, “but there’s always going to be something to organize and that’s just part of my world.”
Weimer, meanwhile, is considering it quite seriously, although she similarly is wondering what that might entail, adding that, “my biggest worry is I like to be busy.”
No kidding, times two.