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Lesson Clans: Celebrating families who teach

February 27, 2018
Since teaching runs in many families, and since Family Day has just taken place, the ATA News has compiled this collection of stories about teaching families and what it’s like to be part of one.


Chantal Loose

Back, L-R: Robert Smith, Chantal Loose, Taryn Donald, Travis Rolheiser, Courtney Smith, Lisa Smith, Tana Donald
Front: Randy Smith  

Growing up, my sister Courtney and I went on countless school ski trips, cheered from the bench at school tournaments and sat in our dad’s office during school concerts and other special events. We saw the stress and workload that our parents went through, but my sister and I decided we wanted to make the same type of difference and become teachers ourselves.

My dad, Randy Smith, is in his 44th year of teaching with Edmonton Public. He started in 1974 at Vernon Barford Junior High where he is still working today — same school, same classroom. This is where he met the love of his life, Glenda Wagner, whom he later married. They worked across the hallway from each other, a construction teacher and a home economics teacher. In 1998 our lives changed forever —we lost our mom to leukemia. Although this was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to deal with, for Courtney and me, it made our career path even more certain. An award at Vernon Barford is given out every year in my mom’s honour to a student who has excellent skills in fashion studies.

Years later, Courtney and I walked the halls of Vernon Barford and, outside the school, sat on the bench with our mom’s name on it — we knew the legacy she had left behind. Later, when Courtney was in Grade 9, she earned that fashion studies award.

More years passed, and in 2003 my dad remarried to Tana Donald, another teacher in Edmonton Public. There was no escaping this world of teaching. My uncle Robert Smith was a teacher with Parkland School Division and a principal at Elk Island, and he retired a couple of years ago. Our stepsister Taryn Donald also went into teaching, inspiring kids of various ages in the Sturgeon school division.

My sister currently works at W. P. Wagner High School teaching foods and fashion studies, just like our mom. I am currently teaching Grade 1 and music to students at Malmo Elementary. Not only do we have teachers and principals within the family, we have professors too. Our cousin Lisa Smith taught nursing at the University of Alberta and Camoson College in Victoria. Teaching is our life; we love to inspire students to do their very best and have fun while doing it.

There are many special things about belonging to a family of teachers. Having the same summer vacations has resulted in much family time spent together and allowed us to take care of our niece throughout the holidays. We can relate on so many levels, whether it’s report card season or counting down the days until Christmas holidays.

When starting out in the education world, having this family provided me with many mentors. We can come home and sit around the table and say, “You’ll never guess what happened to me today,” and laugh until our stomachs hurt because we understand the daily life of a teacher.

Most of all, my parents are an inspiration and support to me. From letting students work in the school store to practise their math to cheering on students at their extracurricular sports, we all have molded kids as if they were our own. We all teach based upon our own family beliefs as we truly believe an integral part of this field is to instill in students the desire to become the best they can be while being good, responsible citizens. Having family who understands the daily stress, workload and chaos makes it much easier to face the job day to day, because I know I have one of the strongest support systems right at home.

 Chantal Loose teaches Grade 1 and music at Malmo Elementary in Edmonton.


Mara Poltaruk

Myles Symon

Mara Poltaruk with her grandmother Emily Letwiniuk 

My grandma, Emily Letwiniuk, was a teacher in rural Alberta. Two of her grandchildren have gone on to become teachers, one here in Alberta (me) and one in the UK (Myles Symon).

What is special about belonging to a family of teachers is, first, the one-liners, jokes and camaraderie of sharing and comparing funny teaching stories. Second, we have seen first-hand the legacy that my grandma has created in the Drayton Valley community in which she has taught, and where she still lives. When we go out and former students still, to this day, stop her to share their memories of when she was their teacher many years ago, it creates such a sense of pride in the impact she has made, and it also inspires us to create that same lasting legacy for our students.

Mara Poltaruk is a behaviour coach with Regional Collaborative Service Delivery, which is operated jointly by the Parkland and Evergreen Catholic school divisions.


Kim Krupa-Johnson

 The Krupa teachers: Kim (left), Kerry, Wayne, Gene (front) and Anne


My family of Krupa teachers includes my baba Anne, my dad Wayne, my uncle Gene, my twin sister Kerry and me.

Within our circle exists a group of passionate educators who genuinely understand the culture and heart of teaching. There is an unspoken understanding when marking appears after dinner or someone is up late working on report cards.

Beyond that, belonging to a dedicated family of educators involves witnessing the widespread impact that my family members have made. I often run into people who ask if I am related to a Krupa who taught them. They then proceed to tell me about the impact that this person made on their lives. This strengthens my resolve to continue the Krupa legacy in education, of changing the world one child at a time.

Kim Krupa-Johnson teaches Grade 2 and literacy intervention at Win Ferguson School in Fort Saskatchewan.


Kelly Arial
Clockwise from top: Kelly Arial with her niece Devyn, sisters Kristine and Kerrie, and niece Alex 

Growing up the youngest of three girls, I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age. My mom and dad were both teachers. On my days off I would spend time in my mom’s classroom watching her craft her amazing relationships with students while building their passion for language arts. On weekends we would watch my dad’s high school football team compete against its biggest rivals.

Now it’s years later and my two older sisters and I are all teachers. My oldest sister Kristine’s oldest daughter is also a teacher, and her middle daughter will graduate with her education degree soon. There are so many reasons why this is amazing: life-long learning, great family debates on education and a family passion for the education of our future leaders.
Kelly Arial is vice-principal of Viking School in Viking.



Kim Mason
Kim Mason (centre) pictured with her sister-in-law Brittany (left), brother Ryan , sister-in-law Meredith and brother Jeff


My siblings and I grew up on a farm south of Thorsby. The farm was, and still is, a big part of our family ties, as is teaching. Three of my five siblings are teachers, and two of my siblings married teachers. My youngest brother Ryan was even lucky enough to have me as his Grade 8 math and social studies teacher, and his auntie taught him in elementary school. My sister Kathy, sister-in-law Brittany and I teach in the same school division. My two aunties, Audrey and Cheryl, are both retired after teaching in the same division.

My brother and his wife, Jeff and Meredith, teach in southern Alberta; my niece Amanda is teaching in Indonesia; and my cousin Robert is teaching at the University of Minnesota.
I have 31 relatives dispersed around the globe who share this profession with me. All the teachers in my family, both past and present, far and near, have contributed to my career and have provided me with a wealth of knowledge from their vast years of experience. I am so proud and blessed to belong to this “brotherhood” of teachers!
Kim Mason teaches Grade 2 at Thorsby Elementary School and is president of ATA Local No. 8.


Maria Fitzgerald
 Maria Fitzgerald (centre) is one of four teachers in her family. Other teachers include her brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Kelly de Leon (left) and her husband Neil (right). Also pictured is Fitzgerald’s sister Anna-Liza Pacaoan (a school nurse) and Pacaoan’s two children.


My sister-in-law Kelly (high school math) was the first to enter the teaching profession. Next, it was my husband Neil (phys-ed), me (French) and then my brother Paul (elementary). Not only are the four of us teachers, but three of us teach at the same school.

My husband and I met on the very first day of our new teacher orientation 11 years ago and have loved working together ever since. My sister is not a teacher but works in the education system as a school nurse in California.
One of the most special things about belonging to a family of teachers is that, even though we all have different talents and interests, we all work towards the same goal — helping students achieve their potential. The best thing, however, is all of the time we get to spend together watching each of our families grow up.
Maria Fitzgerald teaches French as a second language at Clear Water Academy in Calgary.

Brendan Walline
 The Wallines (L-R): Norm, Kate, Brendan and Shelly  


My wife, my mom and I are all teachers. All three of us teach Grade 3 at different schools.
The three of us all share the same passion for kids. We can spend hours talking about school and ideas for our classrooms. My dad, who is not a teacher, is always a good sport during family dinners when the three of us take over the conversation!
Brendan Walline teaches Grade 3 at Stony Plain Central School in Stony Plain.


Amy Rivard
Amy Rivard and husband Jeffrey Park enjoy the family togetherness that comes with sharing the same career.


My husband and I are both new teachers in Alberta this year. We recently moved because of a lack of permanent jobs in Ontario. The most special thing about belonging to a family of teachers is that we can experience everything together as a family. We are always together on weekends and holidays, and we especially enjoy our time on summer vacation at our lake house. We have also been fortunate to travel abroad to teach together. Our daughter was born while we were teaching in Kuwait. Belonging to a teaching family has been a great adventure thus far.

Amy Rivard teaches Grade 1 at Windsong Heights School in Airdrie.


Rianna van Egmond
Rianna van Egmond and her mom Lori are both teachers while her father Michael is an instructor at NAIT and her brother Brent is aiming to pursue an education degree. 
Both my mom and I currently work for Edmonton Public Schools and my father is an instructor at NAIT. My younger brother is finishing his apprenticeship in mechanics and hopes to begin his B.Ed. at the University of Alberta and soon become a mechanics teacher. My great-grandmother was a teacher in Uncas outside of Sherwood Park, and many of my aunts are also teachers in Alberta and Ontario.
Belonging to a family of teachers is special because you know that you have people in your life who truly understand the struggles and triumphs that come with this profession. Being raised by a family of teachers, I knew it was all I wanted to do because it was all I had ever known. They understand that this profession is a calling in a way that no one else can.
Rianna van Egmond teaches Grade 5 at Michael Strembitsky School in Edmonton.


Jennifer Matt
Jennifer Matt and her grandmother Betty Wiedemann are among many teachers in the family.
When I was growing up, teaching was always a big part of our family. Many of us are educators in some form. On my mom’s side, I have a great-aunt and great-uncle who were teachers, as well as their daughter. On my dad’s side, teachers include my grandmother, two aunts, an uncle, a cousin, my brother and, of course, me!
The best part of being in a teaching family is that we were always encouraged to try. We had the opportunity to get involved, get dirty and learn from our mistakes. We learned that it’s OK to have fear, but never let that get in the way of living your life — work hard, be resilient, make goals and exceed them.
Jennifer Matt teaches science, biology and anatomy at Medicine Hat High School.

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