Written By: Deborah Jin (Grade 12) and Denny (Grade 12)
Photos by: Deborah Jin (Grade 12)
Meet Mr. Parker, a new wolf in our pack!
Since coming back to school in September, life has quickly settled into routine. Everything is as normal with assemblies, the Welcome Back Celebration, and the Terry Fox run. But, there is something different this time: the new head of Senior School: Mr. Parker. Although we had heard his speech, accepted his peppermints and greeted him in the halls, Mr. Parker seemed to be a larger-than-life figure whom we did not know much about. So we decided to venture into the den of the wolf to ask some questions ourselves.
Since returning from overseas, Mr. Parker has resided in Vancouver, but he is originally from Vancouver Island. In the past, he has taught 4th graders and 6th graders in social studies and geography in Columbia and South America. In 2003, he returned to Canada with his wife, Nancy. In Coquitlam, he worked as a Spanish teacher, as well, he received credentials for administration, worked as a school vice principal, school principal, and achieved the title of Deputy Head of School. Mr. Parker described this process as “a big learning curve.”
Before coming to West Point Grey Academy, he already had points of personal contact with the school and was friends with Ms. Corcoran (Head of Junior School). They were both part of a professional organization and met regularly, and worked with one of the first groups that brought schools together to initiate February Professional Days. The first seed that was planted on his path to WPGA was when he visited a French school in Toronto. There, he met Mr. Mathews. Mr. Parker grew impressed with Mr. Matthews “as a person and as a leader,” and with his sense of humour and playfulness. “I just really connected with him,” added Mr. Parker. “I thought, ‘I’d really like to work for that guy.”
Attracted by “the quality of people” and the idea of being in a school “that was close to [his] home,” Mr. Parker decided to come to WPGA. His son, Liam, has enrolled as a 7th grader in Mr. Ross’ class, which he thinks is amusing because he was friends with Mr. Ross before arriving at the school. Because he and his family previously lived Downtown near BC Place, Mr. Parker used to take his son to soccer camps and games at the stadium. He eventually fell in love with soccer. “I’m a die-hard Whitecaps fan, which makes me a sad person, right?” In addition to soccer, Mr. Parker also takes cycling classes, boxes, rows, and has even done yoga at WPGA. In his high school years, he played basketball and Canadian football. While attending the University of Victoria, Mr. Parker met Mr. Pike, who taught him how to play rugby. Surprisingly, he was “hardly ever” a P.E. teacher despite having a degree in kinesiology. “I was more interested in Phys. Ed because it kept me centered… it was for my own personal identity,” he added. “Once I fell in love with Spanish, I was sort of a language teacher.” Aside from sports, Mr. Parker is also a fan of music. His favourite genres include salsa, heavy metal, blues, and jazz. “It is pretty hard to be sad if you listen to salsa music,” he mentioned. He also plays a little bit of acoustic and electric guitar, and enjoys cooking at home.
When Mr. Parker first came to WPGA, he experienced a heartwarming welcome that was different from all of the other schools he has been to: “I was sort of disarmed by the level of kindness, meaning I was really expecting a colder environment.” He offered an example of when a parent called in one Friday evening before school started. Bracing himself for a preemptive rant from an incensed parent, Mr. Parker was surprised to learn that they were in fact his ‘parent partner’ who was calling to make sure everything was alright. “That is not a typical phone call from a parent on a Friday night, and it is certainly not a typical reception from someone who didn’t even know me,” he told us.
At the very start of the school year, on Mr. Lu’s bulletin board, a question was posed: “What advice do you have for Mr. Parker?” Mr. Parker remembered a few funny answers, including a statement about how one student confused him with Peter Parker. A piece of advice he genuinely contemplated was addressing one of our school captains, Evan Daynard, as “O Captain! My Captain!”
Travel is a vital pillar of Mr. Parker’s identity. As we gazed at the sprawling walls of Mr. Parker’s office, we were intrigued by three framed paintings and prints. The first one is a piece depicting some Georgian farmers in their traditional garb which he graciously received during a 1996 trip to the Caucasian republic. The second is a print of some ancient Egyptian deities from a trip to Israel and Egypt that he undertook with some friends. The last one is a painting of “a Columbian Cowboy” from another significant trip while he resided in Columbia. Mr. Parker says that when he feels stressed, just gazing at these pictures allow him to take a mental trip to these places. So, in conclusion, you’ll know what to do if you ever find yourself in a quagmire in the Principal’s office.
Travel remains relevant for Mr. Parker. For example, when living downtown and working in Abbotsford, every day is something of an odyssey. Further, hiking trips have become even more special for the Parkers: they had embarked on “almost all of the major treks in the Lower Mainland” already, and Mr. Parker is looking forward to a three week trip to the legendary trails of El Camino in Spain to “walk his socks off.”
We then asked Mr. Parker what it is like being the new leader of the Wolf pack in the Senior School, and what he thinks is an important characteristic of a good leader. The answer we received was unequivocally “Bravery”. However, this characteristic is not simply used to describe action movie protagonists; with quintessential burly, macho features. Rather, it is a quality that can be connected to those who exude a quiet, confident moral bravery. It is no surprise that the leaders he respects most “act in preservation of love” and not necessarily in the most grand, gregarious fashion. Curious, we asked him how this “bravery” could be reflected within the walls of WPGA. We then discussed bravery’s connection with this year’s theme: Gratitude. We spoke about what we should be grateful for (and kind to): ourselves, each other, and place. In such busy times of our lives, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. To this Mr. Parker says “We care about your success, but your achievements don’t define you”, which we want to frame and show to our parents. Being kind to people is equally important and we need to always strive to do this in school and out. Lastly, we need a kindness of place which includes not taking blue plates out of the Dining Hall, or remembering to put the time in to sort our garbage correctly. “This place is held together with pride, and memories and love. It’s not a new building. It’s circa 1955.” Kindness is in our nature; whether it be kindness to ourselves, each other, or to the campus, we just need to relearn what we already knew.
Before entering his office, we viewed Mr. Parker as merely an authority figure, but curiosity soothed our nerves. Amidst the light-hearted jokes and casual chatter, we learned that not only is he West Point Grey Academy’s new Head of Senior School, but also a lover of sports and music, an adventurous traveler, a compassionate friend, and a loving husband and father. With Mr. Parker’s leadership and welcoming personality, our school will take a turn for the better this year.