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To sir (or ma’am), with love

Successful Winnipeggers talk about the teachers who made a difference in their lives

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JUST before the last school year ended in June, What’s Up: Canada’s Family Magazine, announced a contest, asking students, "Who’s your favourite teacher?"

Apple, schmapple: instead of a bruised Granny Smith, the winning instructor, who will be announced in this month’s back-to-school issue, will pocket $500.

Although nominations for the What’s Up contest had to come from current scholars, that didn’t stop us stealing a page out of the magazine’s book and conducting a first-week-of-classes poll of our own.

Here’s what a few prominent Winnipeggers — all of them a few years removed from the three Rs — had to say, when we asked them to name their favourite teacher:


"I have many favourites throughout the years: the Grade 2 teacher who taught me how to square dance; the Grade 5 teacher who taught me what it really meant to study, and my high school English teacher, Mr. Hunter, who encouraged me to follow my dream of being a journalist. But I would say my most influential teacher was Donald Benham. He taught journalism at Red River College in the Creative Communications program. ‘The Donald,’ as he was known to us, was the toughest teacher I ever had. But it was that hard line he took that pushed me to really understand how to write. His teachings are a part of every single day of my life — both professionally and personally — and I appreciate every bit of the knowledge he imparted."

— Kim Babij, Shaw-TV


Kim Babij in the hall of her alma mater, Red River College.

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Kim Babij in the hall of her alma mater, Red River College. (BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Photo Store

"My favourite teacher was Miss Mustard, my Grade 7 English teacher, at Sir Alexander Mackenzie Senior Public School in Agincourt , Ont. She was a very positive and enthusiastic teacher whose class I always relished attending. True story: She told me that I would not be a couch potato and that I should try to reach for the peak. Little did she know how right she would be."

— Larry McIntosh, Peak of the Market






Larry McIntosh

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"I’ve had some great ones but I’m going to go with Mrs. Kisloski. I was the luckiest kid ever, because I had her in Grade 1 at Oakbank Elementary (in Oakbank), then she switched to Grade 2 the next year and I had her again. It’s pretty much the only way to have the same teacher two years in a row without failing. I loved her. She was kind, fair and patient."

— Ace Burpee, 103.1 Virgin Radio


"The brain works in mysterious ways. Sure, I remember ‘I before E except after C,’ but I don’t remember a specific lesson from the curriculum. The moments I do recall vividly shifted into life lessons. And a large portion of them occurred with my favourite teacher of all time, Ms. Hradsky, at Central Memorial High School in Calgary. Ms. Hradsky wasn’t afraid to steer off of the lesson plan if she saw an opportunity to foster a discussion in our high school classroom. She would challenge our views in the most respectful way. This helped expand my intellect and define my character. During those chats, she always gave her undivided attention. Ms. Hradsky taught me, through her actions, that everything a kid says is important. If kids are not listened to at a young age, they lose their voice as they grow older."

— Kristin Hursh, CTV Morning Live


Ace Burpee

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"My favourite was Mr. Thompson, who taught politics and history at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, in Newmarket, Ont. He was very intelligent, but not snobbish or conceited. When you asked a question in his class, it was appreciated. And the answer was given in a way you could understand. Proof of Mr. Thompson’s power came the day he was teaching us about the (John F.) Kennedy assassination. The blackboard was covered, cleaned and then covered again with sketches of bullet trajectories. Class ended but we still had so many questions. So every kid who had a spare (in the next slot) skipped it. And Mr. Thompson skipped his lunch so he could continue answering our questions about (Jack) Ruby and the Warren Commission. It wasn’t just the ‘brains’ who stayed; the smoking section was also missing a few members that day."

— Jeremy John, Breakfast Television


"Mrs. McGonigal, Grade 2, Chancellor Elementary. Mrs. McGonigal was my homeroom teacher, and my Language Arts teacher. She encouraged my fledgling love of reading. Under her I went from reading Mr. Men books to chapter books like Anne of Green Gables. Many teachers over the years encouraged my love of reading, but she was the first to stress — in a fun way — how important it was to learn."

— Elisha Dacey, Metro Winnipeg


Jeremy John

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Jeremy John

"Darlene Weber, Grade 6 — St. Norbert School. I was in love! I even brought her a necklace from a trip to Minneapolis. She handled it well and was flattered. One of the things that made her great was that she made me read out loud when I really didn’t have the confidence. Ms. Weber helped me overcome that issue. She encouraged me to take up public speaking. She brought out the best in me and I am forever indebted."

— Richard Cloutier, CJOB-68





Richard Cloutier

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"My favourite teacher of all time was Mr. Holmes, an English teacher at Dakota Collegiate. There were many times when I felt trapped in high school, ready to get out into the bigger world, and his wry humour kept me entertained until Grade 12. He had a great smile and twinkle in his eye that made me realize you could be grown-up but still have lots of fun in life."

— Heather Witherden, comedian, "Winnipeg’s Favourite Wisecracking Mom"



Heather Witherden

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"Although not a teacher, Mr. Hamilton, the custodian at Maple Leaf School, had a huge impact on my life. He taught me how to shoot a basketball. In Grade 5, I would come in early each morning to help set up the gym equipment. Every so often, he would stop by to help me with my basketball skills. The fact that he believed in me and cared to help was inspiring, and I’ll never forget it."

— Cindy Klassen, Olympic gold medalist


Cindy Klassen

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"I was enrolled in the Radio and Television Arts program at the Northern Alberta Technological School (N.A.I.T) in Edmonton. There was this one teacher, John McKay. I don’t remember the name of the course he taught, but he called it ‘The Art of Cocktail Conversation’ or ‘I’m going to teach you a little about a lot.’ From one day to the next I never knew what to expect. One month he taught us all about classical composers and their effects on the courts of Europe. The next month we were dissecting all the Palme D’Or winners from the world’s best commercials from Cannes. Mr. McKay taught me how to be interested in the world around me, that there is more to everything than what meets the eye and that we should be passionate about the world we live in."

— Frazier, FAB 94.3-FM

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