The Abbotsford News is honored to feature the 2022 Education Heroes from a long and astounding list of nominees sent to us by our readers. Heroes in Education is kindly sponsored by Sevenoaks Mall, University of the Fraser Valley, BE Power Equipment, Valley Laser Eye Center and the City of Abbotsford.
Teaching, at the best of times, is hard work. Add in an extremely unpredictable pandemic and you better have a good sense of humor to survive.
Meet Heather Thiessen, Vice-Principal and Special Education Coordinator at Cornerstone Christian School.
Quick with a quip, and as self-effacing as possible, Thiessen’s particular brand of teaching, and, well, his state of being, is contagious. After all, she is a woman who occasionally dresses up in a unicorn costume to amuse and delight her students.
“It helps to distract them (students) from what’s going on,” she said of these difficult pandemic times.
It is this affinity for humor as well as for the comfort and well-being of her students that led Shelly Fontaine to name Thiessen Hero in Education.
“She’s so sweet and has a very humorous side,” Fontaine said. “She is just amazing.”
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Fontaine has two adopted native sons who attend Cornerstone, one of whom has special needs. She credits Thiessen, along with teachers Ms. Fung and Ms. Gus, for reversing the fate of her children. Tyrell, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, struggled as a student in the public school system. After six years at Cornerstone, Fontaine says everything has changed.
“He’s trying things he never would have done before,” she said. “He’s so different now. They engulfed him in love.
Thiessen credits Cornerstone’s small student population of around 200 for making this possible.
“We saw a need in the community where kids could come and be who they are,” she said. “Most schools can’t do that. I can phone a parent. We can mother them (students) because there is so much anxiety and they need stability.
And stability has never been more crucial than in these pandemic times, Thiessen said.
“It made me gray,” she jokes, “but we fought to keep the school open because they need routine. They need a level of stability. It’s about how we can teach resilience and build stability. Children live day to day and they expect adults to feel safe.
This level of dedication leads Fontaine to sing Thiessen’s praises, but Thiessen said it’s Fontaine, a single mother, who deserves credit for adopting five foster children and providing expert respite care. to hundreds of other children over the years.
“I run my hands behind his back every day looking for wings,” Thiessen said with a laugh. “She is ridiculous!
Thiessen said she “decided in kindergarten” to become a teacher and was, in her opinion, a “straight girl.” When asked how she became a special education coordinator at Cornerstone, she replied, “I made eye contact.”
And luckily for Cornerstone Christian School, she did.