Grand Forks had best teachers you could find anywhere

Growing Up in Grand Forks column by guest columnist Milton Orris

When we are growing up there are a lot of people in our lives who become mentors – those people who help us along the way by explain life and how best to live it, or by being a great role model.  Happily for me – and moist if not all my classmates – Grand Forks Schools had the best teachers you could find anywhere.

When I arrived I was in grade five – Miss MacMillan.  She was a thoughtful, kind and involved middle-aged teacher who really cared about me as well as the other students.  She wanted us to do well, and taught with passion. She was also moved up a year later to grade seven so we had her twice and we were happy with that.  My memories are all positive – and with one funny one.  She was presenting to us – in English class when one of the students near the back of the room leaned over and started talking to his seat mate across the aisle.  She paused from her writing something on the blackboard, looking at them, expecting a little quiet.  One of them at up but then quickly leaned over again for more exchange of words.  Miss MacMillan now frustrated threw her piece of chalk at him, Leonard Bay I think it was, just as he leaned over and the chalk flew by him and hit Snuggy MacIntosh (as he was nicknamed) in the forehead.  He had been looking down reading something and when the chalk hit him he raised his hand and in an agitated voice shouted out “Miss MacMillan, somebody just threw a piece of chalk at me and hit me in the head!”  The class went into hysterical laughter.  To Miss MacMillan’s credit she took it all positively and apologized and said “I shouldn’t have done that, I am sorry”.  A good role model, admitting honestly and right away that you do something that’s not so nice.

Grade 6 had my favorite teacher of all my years in school – Ken Bradley. Along with being a great teacher about every subject, he was passionate about music and it came through every Friday afternoon. After lunch he would use the first hour or so to play classical music on his record player with the old, 12 inch plastic records.   As the music played he would often stop it and say something like “did you hear those violins and how they affected how you feel” of “didn’t that loud trumpet and drumming get you excited?”  We learned about Beethoven and Mozart and so many more composers.  After the music he would then take an hour or more to read us from a book that was not on the curriculum – like The Lost World, or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – many wonderful stories.  Whenever I go to a music concert now, Mr. Bradley is always in the seat beside me.  He was also the leader of the Grand Forks City Band – and made it a lot of fun for us all.  He lived to be over 100 years old – and at his 100th birthday party in Victoria he was up and about, walking, talking and really enjoying himself and behaving much younger than he was.

Finally in Elementary School grade 8 as it was called then we had Ray Orser – who lived on his farm in the valley.  A tall and strong man – you always knew when something was bothering him as he would clench his fists and give you that look – measure up or move out.  The school day didn’t always end at 3:30 for him.  I remember when we were teaching astronomy we had to meet him one evening after dark out in the school yard and he pointed out the major constellations for us as well as setting up a stand with an apple box on it so we could calculate the latitude of the North Star – 49 degrees as it turned out.

One of the great events of the spring part of the year was the May Day celebration. Elementary schools students danced around the two may poles set up in the schools front yard, and the grade eight student chose the May Queen./  We spent much of the week before putting u the bleachers for the parents and many others to sit in as we performed a play as well – Peter Gyent it was the year I was in grade eight.

In addition to the teachers there were two other outstanding mentors – Constables Reg McKernan and Bill Dunn – both RCMP officers.  They were our baseball coaches as well as good friends.  They got to know us by name and always were looking for the good things we did.