Linda Schuyler, co-creator of the Degrassi franchise — one of Canada's most valuable cultural exports — reveals how her years as a student and teacher influenced the beloved series.
Canadian culture queen
Describe your school-aged self.
Awkward British immigrant.Most memorable teacher?
Mrs. Harrison, my Grade 3 teacher. When I first arrived — in my school uniform and with my British accent — I felt incredibly alienated. She was so kind and helped me integrate into the mainstream and had a genuine interest in how I did.Most embarrassing moment?
In Grade 8, my grandmother in England sent me a bra. I was excited to wear it to school but ended up being teased by the boys, who noticed that I had grown breasts overnight. This story eventually made it into an episode of Degrassi Junior High.If you could redo a school moment, what would it be?
I should have burned that bra!What career path interested you?
I wanted to be a teacher.If you could create a new course, what would you choose?
I've become aware of the University of Toronto's Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies and would love to see their courses expand to the secondary level, in both the public and Catholic school systems.
What influenced Degrassi more, your experience as a teacher or a student?
I can't separate the two. Both are invaluable.
How would you describe yourself as a teacher?
I was very involved with the students — in both the basic curriculum and extracurricular activities. I made my first documentary with my Grade 8 class. It was called Between Two Worlds and it was about ethnic diversity.Most important life lesson learned as a teacher?
When I moved to Toronto, I was exposed to a variety of ethnicities and really appreciated and respected the cultural diversity. I learned more from the students than they learned from me. I've taken this with me and have made sure that it is very much a part of Degrassi.
Is there anything you miss about teaching?
- Laura Bickle
Name: Linda Schuyler, St. Thomas CI, Grade 12
PORTRAIT BY MATTHEW PLEXMAN; SCHOOL PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA SCHUYLER; POLAROID PHOTO FROM ISTOCKPHOTO