Chilina Kennedy’s

Remarkable Teacher
Ian Malcolm, OCT

by Richard Ouzounian

Sometimes when a teacher has a positive influence on a student, it’s a general thing about confidence, kindness or karma.

But occasionally a teacher has a specific impact on a student’s outlook, and the student will carry this altered attitude forever.

In the case of Canadian TV star Amber Marshall and her favourite teacher, Dwayne Campbell, OCT, of A.B. Lucas Secondary School in London, it’s certainly about attitude.

Marshall thinks about that impact as she builds outdoor pens for some of the nearly 50 animals on her rural Alberta property. “Oh yeah, one hundred per cent,” says the star of the successful CBC series Heartland when asked if Campbell has influenced her life. “We always talked in class about living green and being part of the solution and not part of the problem. I think about that every day.

“I raise my own food, I have my own chickens, my own pigs – I’ve got all that. And I think about keeping them healthy because they’re eventually what I am going to be eating. I know that I’m going to be healthier for it.

“So yeah, that’s what reminded me to call today, actually. I was building this pen and I was going, ‘I’m doing sort of what we talked about doing in class.’ It’s kind of interesting that I can apply it to my regular life.”

Marshall, 22, was born and raised in London and lived there until she was 18. Her acting career sent her to Alberta, where Heartland has been taping for four seasons.

Campbell, as it turns out, was also born and raised in London. He went to the University of Western Ontario and teachers’ college there.

“I never really left,” Campbell says with a laugh. “But I enjoy it here; no complaints.” Marshall and Campbell crossed paths when she was a Grade 11 student in his Grade 12 environment and resource management class. 

“We’re in the geography department; that’s what I teach full-time,” Campbell explains. “We’re in the social sciences, so we look at the human aspect, the relationship between us and the environment, how it’s affecting us and how we’re impacting it. That’s the difference between us and science.”

The subject matter and the way Campbell approached it made an immediate impression on Marshall.

“I think I was in between,” Marshall says when pondering if she was a good or bad student overall. “I wasn’t the teacher’s pet by any means. But I did love that class. And I think that’s why Mr. Campbell sticks out in my mind.

If you can find a way to make it relate to the students, that’s key.

“It’s nice to see a teacher who is so passionate about a subject. I think that makes such a difference. When it’s presented to you in a way that’s like, ‘This is what is happening in our world today, if we do this we’ll have these consequences,’ it makes you want to listen.”

Marshall says Campbell also kept the class current by using DVDs, TV shows and newspaper articles.

“He would watch new television shows that had to do with the course and he’d bring them in and be really excited,” Marshall recalls. “Or he would recommend movies or videos we didn’t have time to watch in class and say, ‘This is a really life-changing video, take it home and check it out.’ He was going above and beyond.

“If a teacher seems bored with something, then why would a student be listening?”

Campbell is thankful for the compliment. “Students know which teachers are there for a paycheque and which teachers truly want to be there,” he says. “Passion is infectious. You motivate the student. But, on top of the passion, the other aspect is finding a way to relate it to the students.

“One of the most frequent complaints you hear from students is, ‘Why should I care about this? Why does it matter? This doesn’t affect me.’ Well, if you can find a way to make it relate to the students, that’s key.”

In this day and age, teaching a class on the environment is probably a much shorter path to connecting with students than teaching, say, algebra.

“Yeah, I have an easier job of it in that way for sure,” Campbell admits. “But still, you’d be amazed at the kids who come into class with a really limited knowledge of what’s going on around them in the environment.


Dwayne Campbell with Amber Marshall – raising awareness and funds for wildlife rehabilitation

“To come in assuming – that is a danger for a teacher. I’ve learned that over 10 years. Never assume that they know. If you discuss something, you’ll find out very quickly what they know and what they don’t know.”

Campbell firmly believes that field trips are fundamental.

“While it’s harder and harder to get field trips going – with all the red tape and liability – I believe they’re crucial,” Campbell says. “We have to find a way. Getting the kids out there, especially with something like geography, is so important. They can make the connection between what you’re teaching in class and the real thing.

“I can’t remember if Amber’s class was the first or second year I did this, but during our unit on water, we went on something the students nicknamed the poop tour. There is the notion that we have so much water but in reality we don’t, and we abuse it. So to understand where our waste water goes and how it gets treated, we actually went to the sewage plant.

“You might think trying to get Grade 12s to spend a morning in a sewage plant would be tough. But you sell it and they get curious. And actually, it’s the only field trip for which I’ve had perfect attendance. When they get to the end of the unit and have to explain the stages, they remember because they were there. They saw it, smelled it – it’s real to them.”

Campbell definitely knew Marshall was a “unique student” even at the time. “Her maturity was the thing that really stood out,” Campbell recalls.

“Instead of an essay, I wanted them to actually do something. They had to identify an environmental problem in their community and come up with a solution. Amber’s issue, with her love for animals, was urban sprawl moving into habitats and displacing wildlife.

“I knew Brian Salt from Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation, so she went there and volunteered a couple of times a week during the semester and fed the deer and squirrels and loons.”

Campbell adds, “It’s what they do after the course that reflects the character of the student. And that’s where Amber was different. After the course, she kept volunteering. Four years later, she’s still coming back to assemblies to raise awareness and raise money for Salthaven.”

Asked about his teaching philosophy, Campbell says, “Being honest with the students is important. When you get their trust, you get their respect. And once you get their respect, the work they will do for you is amazing.

“Say what you mean and mean what you say. I love that quote.”

Campbell’s attitudes continue to exert an influence on Marshall, motivating her to be environmentally aware and responsible.

“Yeah, I’ve told him about things I’ve been doing and how the class really encouraged me,” Marshall says.

“I’ve never come right out and said, ‘You know what, you were the best teacher I ever had.’ But I think Mr. Campbell knows he was important to me.