covereng.jpg (10439 bytes)
September 1998

remark.jpg (4946 bytes)

AG00041_.gif (503 bytes) September's
Front Page
June Callwood’s

Remarkable Teachers

callwood.jpg (13726 bytes)

June Callwood was 11-years-old in the summer between elementary and high school. She was standing in front of the Smiles and Chuckles and Laura Secord candy stores in Kitchener, looking at the chocolate.

"I loved chocolate and couldn’t afford it, so I would look at it," she says. It was the Depression.

J. F. Carmichael, principal of Victoria Public School and Callwood’s teacher in Grades 7 and 8, stopped and asked her how her summer was going.

Callwood replied, like one was supposed to, "Just fine."

But that wasn’t really true. "I was a complete misfit. My clothes weren’t right. I was out of sync with everybody and felt very strange. That’s when I did a lot of reading. It contributed to my career choices."

The founder of Casey House hospice still remembers her teacher’s kindness. "He thought it over," she says, "and he said to me, ‘You have the highest IQ we have ever tested.’"

Callwood wasn’t flattered at all. She was relieved. For the girl who had skipped three grades and was out of sync with her classmates, his statement explained why she didn’t fit in. "For the first time, it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t get along with people in the class. There was this goofy reason. To get something positive about myself at that time in my life was hugely important.

"He did it so deliberately," she remembers, "that I have always felt he knew exactly my misery and figured this might help. And it did."

Callwood remembers Carmichael, who taught her for two years, as a tiny man with snow-white hair. "He was particular about grammar. He got me interested in the mechanics of grammar and contributed hugely to my ability to put together a sentence. Whenever I do it, it’s because of him that I am able to."

Callwood moved to the English Protestant school in Kitchener from a French Roman Catholic school in Belle River when she was 10 and in Grade 7.

Carmichael was respected by everyone. A school in Kitchener bears his name. Callwood still has his picture on her wall.

Brantford Collegiate history teacher Freda Summaby also made a lasting impression on the author of Portrait of Canada and more than a dozen other books, including Emma: Canada’s Unlikely Spy, Twelve Weeks in Spring, and Jim: A Life with AIDS.

"She loved history and taught it as a good story," says Callwood. "I think it was British Empire, but whatever she was teaching, the people who were moving through those events were people you understood. You felt their triumphs and losses."

Summaby must have been a romantic and had a life of the imagination, remarks Callwood, even though she didn’t look it. According to Callwood, Summaby looked "very dry, very spare. But she was full of passion for history and communicated it to me.

"I guess I was teacher’s pet that year," she says. "I have loved history every since. She made me a great gift."

Callwood corresponded with Summaby until her death. "Luckily," says Callwood, "I told her how grateful I was that she was such a wonderful teacher and how much I enjoyed history."