Talk about impact
Several years ago, a new student approached Deb Piotrowski after music class. She explained that she had tremendous stage fright and she’d never be able to sing a solo. Over the year, Deb watched her slowly emerge until she was happily singing solos in Chapel regularly. “I love reaching those kids who may be a little different or awkward,” she says. “When I see something in there, I love drawing it out. I love finding it and nurturing it and seeing them gain self-confidence. Those are the joy moments.” Deb arrived at BSS in 1977 when there wasn’t a formal primary music program. She began teaching piano lessons and accompanying the Junior School choir, later moving to the Senior School where she took over all vocal music as well as special events like the musicals and the Nativity. Over 40 years, the choirs have expanded considerably, and she’s worked with the girls on many fulfilling and creative projects, such as last year when her class wrote and recorded an anthem for the school’s upcoming 150th anniversary. Also an accomplished pianist, Deb says she’ll never stop being a musician. Though the decision to retire is bittersweet and she’ll miss her girls terribly, she looks forward to reconnecting with music in new ways, perhaps through vocal coaching or freelance performance.
Jan Schreiber has a framed letter on the wall of her office. It came from a student who wanted to tell Jan that she had been more than just a French teacher – she brought humour and fun to the classroom every day, and her open, approachable demeanor made French easy to learn. Jan treasures these personal connections with her students. She arrived at BSS in 1994, passionate and eager to teach French. She fell in love with languages as a university student, and honed her French skills at Neuchatel in Switzerland. “I remember meeting Swiss youth my age and being terrified to speak French,” Jan recalls. “They would laugh at my pronunciation. I’ll never forget that. So I’ve always wanted my girls to feel safe and comfortable in class.” Jan is known for her playful and creative approach to teaching. She loves using games and skits in her classroom, and she’s the first to get involved in Spirit Week and talent shows, especially in a crazy costume. As someone who’s helped so many students through the fear of speaking a new language out loud, Jan will use her retirement to explore outside her comfort zone. She’d like to volunteer with kids, develop her jewellery business, and perhaps even become an Uber driver. Though she’s sad to leave the school, she’s intoxicated by the sense of possibility that comes with this new beginning.
Wendy BECK ’80
During the 2008 financial meltdown, Wendy BECK ’80 was teaching an economics unit in her Grade 8 geography class. As a teacher of not only Geography but English, History, Writer’s Craft, Civics and Careers, Wendy drew on her ability to think creatively and across disciplines and wrote a play that her students acted out. “On parents’ night, several parents told me they had a dinner party,” she recalls. “Their daughters not only stayed at the dinner party and followed the conversation on the financial crisis, but fully explained it to the table.” Since 1986, Wendy has taught a wide spectrum of subjects and age groups ranging from Grades 7 to 13. She is passionate about creating engaged and thoughtful citizens who can make connections between our present and our past. “I want the girls to understand today’s news as a product of historical patterns and human nature,” she explains. As an Old Girl herself, and one whose mother and daughter also attended the school, Wendy’s connection to BSS is a deep one. She loves helping girls take risks and explore their true interests, and modeling this behaviour is part of her decision to leave the school. She hopes to spend her time working with newcomers to Toronto on language and other life skills.
HONOUR YOUR TEACHER’S LEGACY with a gift to the Old Girls’ Association Scholarship, which enables the daughter or granddaughter of an Old Girl in need of financial assistance to attend BSS. Your teacher will be notified of your kind gesture, and your support will be recognized in the BSS Annual Report. All donations are eligible for a charitable tax receipt. To make a gift in honour of a significant person in your life, visit www.bss.on.ca/donate or call 416-483-4325, ext. 1875.