Friday, January 29, 2016

Matt Pearce

I thought I'd post a couple of things I've written lately about the passing of Matt Pearce, the well-known Prince Georgian. The first bit I wrote on our local union folder and also submitted as a letter to the PG Citizen.  Matt was fond of writing letters to the editor, so when a friend suggested I do the same I reckoned it would be a good idea. The second bit I posted somewhere on the The Facebook in response to a "My PG Now" article about how the Prince George District school board recognized Pearce with a moment of silence and some comments from the SD57 Board Chair and current vice-president of the PG Teachers' Association. 

Sent to the PG Citizen:

The news that teacher, husband, father, and P.G. Sports Hall of Famer Matt Pearce has passed away leaves me with a knot of disbelief and dismay. He often wrote letters to the editor, and so I thought I would do the same. I loved how Matt could "speak truth to power" without losing his cool; how he advocated for public education. He normalized advocacy as a way of being for teachers through his many speeches at board meetings, submissions to the media, local committee work as member or chair, provincial work, and P.G. Teachers’ Association presentations. He had a highly developed B.S. detector and paid attention to aspects of interpersonal and organizational dynamics that many others ignore. Because of this, and his integrity, he had fantastic insight into what was worth fighting for and how to do it, commanding as much respect from adversaries as from allies. Those that got to work with him at the Teachers’ Association office and executive meetings saw how deep this water ran. In a few words, he could cut through confusion and present resourceful solutions to complex problems. I loved coaching or watching basketball games when Matt was reffing; I can't think of anyone more consistent and positive with players on the floor. I loved his keen wit, well-placed sarcasm, and wicked sense of humour. I admire his tenacity, his balance of life, work, and health (which makes his passing that much more difficult to process), and his desire to give back to the community as a leader in the union and a coach/ref for multiple sports. I will treasure our conversations about life, politics, education, personality types, etc. on our walks along Ferry & Hwy 16 during the last teachers strike. He had great stories, and loved to talk about his children. During our last conversation a few weeks ago he spoke with tenderness and pride about how his daughter, a former student at my school, was doing. It was also clear that some of his happiest and most fulfilling recent moments came from coaching his son's teams. He was an amazing role model and natural leader in so many ways, and his eccentricities were harmless and endearing. A difficult stretch lies ahead for Matt's family, friends, colleagues, and students. I hope this will also be a time of mutual comfort and the start of some peace.

Reply to "My PG Now" article mentioning moment of silence held for Matt Pearce at the Jan 26, 2016 Board Meeting.

That's a nice gesture from the board. I know that past boards respected and appreciated Matt's work, even when it was directed towards them, because of the passion, thought, and virtue of his approach to educational issues. I am somewhat disturbed, though, to hear from many folks that that the school district administration declined the request to hold a memorial at a school facility. There was a time when schools were considered part of the whole community. I believe there is a strong role for grief and remembrance for schools, and value in students, staff, and community using schools as more than just a daytime learn-house. Memorial involves sadness, coming apart, and anguish, but it also involves storytelling, warmth, and mutual comfort. I think schools are the perfect place for these themes to develop, just as much as they are for sports events, theatre, craft fairs, and polling stations. This strange decision should not take away from our collective sorrow in Matt's passing - as a former student of our schools, as a teacher and someone who visited every school in our district, and coached or refereed kids from almost every school, who was known by virtually every district employee through his role as union president, and spoke out tirelessly for public education -- in many ways he personifies our schools. Wherever the memorial is held, it will be about those things and many others, and not about the building itself. The decision, however, does suggest that our school district should look for the "heart" and "mind" behind its agreements on use of facilities.

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