Local teacher an original

History Teacher, Coleen Chandler

Colleen Chandler reads in her history classroom at Mother Teresa.
She is the longest-serving teacher in the school.
Photo credit: Alexandra Lucchesi

Colleen Chandler doesn’t plan on quitting teaching any time soon, even with nearly 35 years experience.

Chandler, 57, was at Mother Teresa Secondary School when it opened in 1985 and has since become the head of the history department, still loving every minute of it.

She’s the only one of the 10 teachers initially hired 22 years ago who is still there.

“The greatest honour I’ve received from students is when students that I teach in Grade 10 take history in Grade 11 and Grade 12 because they know I’m teaching it,” Chandler said. “And that’s certainly a compliment to me.”

Chandler, who says she’s had a passion for teaching history her entire life, has witnessed changes in both her own life and the students she educates.

After being diagnosed with rectal cancer two years ago, Chandler has been through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A year after overcoming cancer she returned to teaching, even though she could have retired.

“I’m really lucky because I like what I do for a living, and I don’t think a lot of people can say that,” Chandler said. “As long as I still like it and my health pulls through then I will keep it up.”

Chandler moved to Scarborough in 1974 after earning her undergraduate degree in history from the University of Windsor and her teaching degree from the University of Western Ontario.

Since she began her career, she has seen tremendous changes in herself as well as the school system.

“I remember the Harris days when things were protested and it wasn’t very easy to be a teacher at that point,” she said. “You get the feeling now that the government is a little bit more positive and behind teachers.”

Chandler has also noticed a rise in multiculturalism since she was in school.

And as a Catholic schoolteacher, she finds pros and cons in the recent election debate for faith-based school funding.

“I think the danger of it is, if you segregate everyone into nice little compartments then we don’t want to get along with each other,” Chandler said. “Yet, I’m teaching in a Catholic school, and people would say, ‘Well, that’s a faith based school.’ ”

Chandler also insists that you won’t grow without change.

Admitting that the beginning of her career was difficult, she confesses that she initially made a lot of errors. But she’s learned from her colleagues, her students and her own mistakes.

“Everyone that you come in contact with in your teaching career influences you,” Chandler said.

“There were a lot of days where you walk into the room and you’re tired and you’re beat, and somebody says, ’Miss! Miss!’ And with that, you come alive.”