Cityline host Tracy Moore speaks candidly about the English teacher who came into her life at just the right time and changed the course of it soon after.
By Bill Harris
Photos: Roberto Caruso, Lead Photographer, Rogers Media
How well do you remember high school? Tracy Moore thought she had a clear picture of her teenage years until a reunion with her all-time favourite teacher taught her otherwise.
“I thought I was this perfect little prudish kid,” laughs the TV personality, “I guess not.”
The host of Cityline — Canada’s longest running lifestyle show — had the opportunity to visit Anne Houlding last year for a back-to-school special.
“I wanted to tell Miss Houlding how much she meant to me,” says Moore. “How much she helped direct my career at that really young age.”
Among the memories shared was one that Houlding told of Moore’s final day at Langstaff Secondary School in Richmond Hill, Ont.
“I was responsible for doing the announcements that day; every so often they would get the students to help out,” Moore explains. “During my time at the mic, I did my announcements and then played what Miss Houlding called a very edgy, off-colour song over the PA system.”
The reaction was immediate and the office was livid. But before Moore realized that there was even an issue — there was Houlding, by her side.
The now-retired teacher recalls the unravelling controversy vividly: “I had encouraged Tracy to volunteer as the PA announcer; it was a big job in the school. So when they descended on her in the office, of course I rushed down to defend her.”
"Miss Houlding took an active interest in my brain. She helped me come up with ideas for what I could do with my strengths ... She validated me."
Although Moore was a diligent student who always did her homework and loved school, she would have also described herself as a little self-possessed and a bit bold. “I had a lot of opinions and wasn’t afraid to speak out.”
Houlding read the situation as a textbook case of youthful exuberance getting the better part of a student and explained that Moore, who was about to graduate, was a smart girl — one with personality and perspective. “After five years of high school as a great student, I didn’t want this one incident to be their focus.”
Although the then-OAC English teacher offered the same level of support to all of her students, it is fair to say that she spotted something special in Moore. Houlding gained insight into the teen’s strengths while teaching her creative writing and literature over the course of three years, and it quickly became obvious that this student excelled at presenting and was a strong leader.
Moore also loved to write, but she didn’t know how to apply that skill in terms of career possibilities. “At one point Miss Houlding asked me what I was going to do, and I said, ‘I don’t know what to do with writing. Does this mean I’m going to be a creative writer and write a novel?’
“And she said, ‘No, no, no, there’s a lot of things you can do if you love to write. You might want to think about politics. You might want to think about law. You might want to think about journalism.’”
Even though Moore grew up in a house where she and her parents read newspapers and magazines, it had never occurred to her that she could actually pursue a career in journalism.
“Miss Houlding took an active interest in my brain. She helped me come up with ideas for what I could do with my strengths,” says Moore, who was a reporter before transitioning into hosting. “My parents were supportive but they weren’t tied into the world of academia. It was nice to have this teacher who took this interest. She validated me.”
The 35-year teaching veteran admits that validating students was actually her mantra throughout her career in education, which took her to a private school in British Columbia, before moving to Langstaff, then wrapping up at Sir William Mulock Secondary School in Newmarket, Ont. Following Moore’s high school years, Houlding became the head of history at both Langstaff and Mulock.
“A big goal of mine was to encourage students as much as possible, both the boys and the girls,” Houlding says.
“And not just in the classroom. I would encourage them to help with drama or music or student council. I wanted to bring out their leadership qualities. I wanted to teach the whole person.”
She also wanted students to question authority and had a sign on the front of her desk that said just that. “Young people too often sit back and let the teachers spout off at them. I used to say, ‘You need to question them every now and then — we’re human beings. We have our own biases,’” Houlding explains. “There’s nothing wrong with questioning respectfully.’”
So would it be correct to assume that Houlding is not surprised by Moore’s successful career in television?
“Well, I’m surprised that she ended up in that particular role,” Houlding says. “I thought she would’ve made a good investigative journalist or a good lawyer — she’s very good with words.
“But she would have succeeded at anything, I’m sure. She was a remarkable student. I’m very proud of her.” Moore insists that she wouldn’t be where she is today without Houlding’s influence, guidance and unwavering support.
“I was never lacking confidence but she helped to boost that. It’s a very important thing for a 16- or 17-year-old to have. You’re young; you’re impressionable; you’re self-conscious; you think everyone’s looking at you when you walk down the hall. Everything seems so important,” says Moore. “But to have that adult figure who believes in you — it’s an amazing thing. That was a gift.”
In this profile, notable Canadians honour the teachers who have made a difference in their lives and have successfully embraced the College’s Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession, which are care, respect, trust and integrity.