Wallin ought to know. Shes interviewed thousands
of people over her 20-year career as a journalist.
She, too, had a remarkable teacher. The difference is that Wallins teacher is
also her mother. Leone Wallin taught high school in Wadena, Saskatchewan population
1,600 for about 35 years.
"In a small community, a teacher is everything, a teacher is a role model,"
comments Wallin. "There was no discussion of what the work hours would be or whether
was overtime. She taught English, she taught drama, she did counselling for the kids. I
think what she really taught was that you have to do, you have to give, you have to be a
Wallin wasnt alone in thinking her mother remarkable. "People will call me
and say, You wont know who I am but I went to school in the 1950s in Wadena
and your mother was my teacher and she changed my life."
She saw it when, as a kid, she used to tag along and "help" her mother after
school when she was putting a play together. "I think I understood the fuller
definition of the word teacher because all the while that she was putting on a play with
the kids you could see her pulling out of them talents and abilities they didnt know
By the mid-60s, Wallin was in a Grade 9 English classroom with her mother, having to
call her Mrs. Wallin, although she tried to find ways to avoid having to call her mother
Wallin says her teacher was different in that she expected participation. "She
would take things out of the newspaper and bring them in and say, Where are the
parallels here to Hamlet? She kept trying to find a way in for people, trying to
give some kind of contemporary setting. The idea that kids could sit around a classroom
and talk was novel. You were to be quiet."
What was frustrating for Wallin was that, "If you were a good student and your
mother was the teacher, everyone assumed you had seen the test. I used to spend a lot of
time running around saying, Its not true, my mother would never do
Wallin says that experience taught her how to separate her professional and personal
life, how to keep her objectivity as a journalist while maintaining friendships with
people who might be part of a story. "I always used to think back to dealing with Mom
and how you could have two sides to the coin."
Wallin considers journalism another form of teaching. "It is all about exploring
and exchanging ideas. She did it at the front of a classroom, and I do it in front of a
Leone Wallin still phones her daughter occasionally to correct her grammar. "She
will just give me a nudge," says Wallin, "and sometimes it is sort of a
circuitous route, which is, Oh, I just hear things on the radio and television that
just make me shake my head and then I think okay, its coming ..."
Leone Wallin may have retired from the classroom, but shes still teaching.