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Nov 23
Retirement 2021: Gordon Powell's retirement takes shape after years of shaping young minds

retirement-2021-gordon-powell-principal.jpgWith so many aunts and uncles in the education system, you might say teaching is in Gordon Powell's blood.

"I have a lot of relatives who are teachers on my dad's side of the family, pretty much everyone except my father," he said with a laugh. "My mom taught as well, in a private school in Newfoundland years and years ago."

Powell is one of the past year's retirees, finishing his long, storied teaching career as the principal of Aboriginal Learning with Surrey Schools. After moving to B.C. from Quebec, Powell got his start in Vancouver but spent most of his career in Richmond where he taught French Immersion, social studies and language arts before coordinating the library programs for the district. He also served a few stints as an acting vice-principal.

"Teaching was a good fit for me," he said. "As the new curriculum came into place, there was more emphasis on an Indigenous strand across all curricular areas. My mom's family is Mi'kmaq from the west coast of Newfoundland and I got shoulder-tapped to do some speaking about Indigenous issues and my background."

Around 2016, the opportunity arose for Powell to work in Surrey, a district he was familiar with because his wife was a teacher-librarian in Surrey Schools. He jumped districts and spent the last five years doing meaningful work for Aboriginal Learning. He pointed to field trips with the Windspeaker program, the district's annual cross-cultural symposium and working with many Indigenous artists as just a few of his many highlights.

"I had some great connections with other administrators and the senior team," he said. "If Lyn Daniels and I came with an idea around Indigenous education, the response was, 'OK, great! Let's give it a whirl,' and that was the kind of spirit that I brought to my own team. That was a great thing about working in Surrey.

"I'm so thankful that I had an opportunity to work in Surrey when Jordan Tinney was the superintendent – his leadership was just phenomenal," he said. "He brought a real vision to the district and I was very fortunate to work in Surrey under his leadership."

While he may be retired, Powell still has one foot in education, serving as a trustee for Surrey Libraries and doing some consulting for the district. Otherwise, he intends to spend retirement driving his trailer up and down the coast and seeing his eight grandchildren more often.

Even though he was only with the district for four and a half years, Powell reflects fondly on his time in Surrey and the impact he made throughout his career, sharing some wisdom for new teachers that he gained over the last three decades.

"The best thing about being an educator is you get to shape the kind of Canada you want to live in," he said. "The children you teach today are the future lawyers, doctors, professionals, politicians. Everything we do around diversity and inclusion, language issues and Indigenous issues is going to be reflected in them down the road.

"We want every Canadian to know the good things about Indigenous people, the strengths, how we're still here, we still have our culture. There's a real work around bringing language back, and each of the First Nations have such a cultural richness to contribute to the fabric of Canada."

Congratulations on your retirement, Gordon! Thank you for all your dedications and hard work in the district!

We are publishing several features on a variety of the past year's retirees! Read inspiring stories about others, including former PE teacher Kim Eagle and former EA Ingrid Terwiel!

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