Just a thought… In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years. [Jacques Barzun]
You have heard of the Six Degrees of Separation that we all have among us – or even from Kevin Bacon – but on Friday night we learned that one man linked Rob and our dinner guest, and had changed both of their lives for the better. You probably won’t be surprised to learn it was a teacher.
As we enjoyed the vistas at Oak Bay Marina’s restaurant with our friend, the broadcaster/writing/marketing mind Terry O’Reilly, the conversation drifted towards something he and my husband Rob have in common: a Sudbury upbringing. (Born in Brantford, Rob moved as a young teen to the nickel mining town and went to high school there.) It was soon evident that Rob and Terry, who’s five years his junior, went to the same high school and, although their paths never crossed, they both had the pleasure of being affected in an incredible way by one man at the high school they both attended.
The man’s name is Sterling Campbell. He is responsible, it would seem, for setting up a Television component to the Art program at what’s now known as Sudbury Secondary School and, for Rob, it was a lifesaver. Not a particularly avid student (although he had earlier thought of going on to become a math teacher), Rob was drifting by the time he was choosing courses for Grade 13. That was when he discovered that the school had this new program, wherein he could experience the basics of TV production.
For Terry, it was somewhat of a lark: he signed up for the requisite courses – math, English, science, history – and then saw that there was this new course being offered. How lucky he was to be able to take five years of the course, starting it in Grade 9 as he did.
As Terry and Rob spoke, they marveled at the forward thinking of Mr. Campbell and the great fortune they had to have taken his course. Not only was the equipment as state-of-the-art as one could hope to get their hands on in high school, but it was such a rarity in the 1970s that when both Rob and Terry applied at Ryerson to take Radio and Television Arts, the mere fact that they had a “reel” – a tape to prove that they had, not only a propensity towards television arts, but actually had experience with the equipment and how to use it – instantly got them accepted into college.
To say that the post-secondary program was life-changing for both Terry and Rob is a bit of a Captain Obvious observation. Rob fell in love with radio at Ryerson, while Terry heard a guest speaker talk about marketing and advertising and knew at that moment that his future was being laid out for him.
And so, as the lights on masts in the yacht club illuminated and the sun disappeared behind clouds that had, as it turned out, moved in for the weekend, the two men reminisced about a teacher who had changed their lives by showing them what was possible. By working to establish a broadcasting course for high school students that could be envied by colleges. And by being a teacher who nurtured and encouraged students to experiment in a medium new to them.
Look how it all ended up: Rob had a career in radio as a producer and in management (where he met me) and Terry went on to found Pirate Radio, and to become a best-selling author and prominent voice of marketing and advertising in North America.
After Friday’s dinner conversation, Rob reached out to Mr. Campbell, who now resides (appropriately) in Campbell River, about a three-hour drive from where we are now. In case you’re curious, Rob found him by Googling him and learning that he’s with the BC Retired Teachers’ Association. Although he wasn’t sure he remembered Rob (whom he taught for just one year), Mr. Campbell did remember Terry fondly; he added how happy he was to hear from former students and was truly thankful to Rob for reaching out.
Every day should be Teachers’ Day. And how grateful Rob was to make the day of Sterling Campbell, simply by letting him know what a difference his efforts and his encouragement had made in two men’s lives, and doubtless those of many others (and women, too). It’s a noble calling, teaching is. Have a great day and Happy May.