Inspiring Teacher: Mister Craig New

Geek Culture
Craig New. Image: Lake Cowichan Secondary School 1992-1993 yearbook

Here in British Columbia, today is the last day of classes. As I look back at this last year, I think it is very important to thank the teachers of British Columbia. I want to especially thank one teacher, Mister Craig New, who has been going the extra kilometre and inspiring students for decades.

This school year has been filled with a lot of challenges, both for students and teachers. The reason for this is a year long labor dispute between teachers and the provincial government, that finally reached a tentative deal late last night. As teachers are considered an essential service in British Columbia, they are not allowed to strike. Because they are not allowed to strike, during labor disputes teachers cutback on all activities that are considered nonessential, such as producing report cards, sponsoring extra-curricular activities, and teaching outside of class hours.

The last two times teachers’ contracts have been up for renewal, the government has legislated them back to work, after almost an entire school year where teachers, students and parents have to be extra patient with each other. Both my children have noticed the effects of how education has changed in the last decade, with my oldest remarking that more and more has been taken away from his classroom, to the point where, if it were not for a couple of extra dedicated teachers, he would not be receiving some of the supports he needs because of his ADHD and associated learning disabilities. One of these teachers is the aforementioned Craig New.

Before I tell you about Craig New, please excuse me while I brag about my oldest son who received a final mark of 92.8% in his Pre-Calculus 11 class.

When he told me his mark, it got me thinking about how proud I am of him. Not only for getting such a great mark, but because this course was taken on his own time during lunch hour and after school, and was mostly self-led. With the cuts to the provincial education budget, a lot of courses are only offered in any given school IF enough students enrol in it. Not enough students wanted to take this course and, as it isn’t the math necessary for graduation, the school did not have to offer it. But students who are wanting to go into some physical or social sciences in university need it as a pre-requisite.

Enter the amazing Craig New, the math and science teacher at Lake Cowichan Secondary School. This year, he taught my oldest Chemistry 11 and 12. Next year, he will be teaching my oldest Physics 11 and 12, and Pre-Calculus 12. Craig New also taught him the Calculus course, on his own time, ensuring that the students get the courses they need to enter their chosen field of study post-secondary.

Craig New is all kinds of amazing. He gets students really excited about math and science. He knows how to speak to students in way that they can related, and he gets them really fired up about learning. I know this, because he, too, was my math and physics teacher. One of my favourite physics classes was when he brought in a bed of nails. He had me walk on his back while he was on the bed of nail, to show us, first hand, about the distribution of weight.

Craig New didn’t stop at bringing in a bed of nails and causing students to wet themselves in fear that they will kill him when walking on his back. He also brought in cameras, strobe lights, bouncing balls, and all sorts of apparatuses. For him, it wasn’t enough that we read the information in a textbook. He wanted to make sure we were able to see, through first-hand experiences, how physics works.

So when my oldest informed me that he would have Craig New as a teacher, I was ecstatic! Excitedly, I told him all he had to expect in his classroom and the AMAZING journey he was about to embark on, under the guidance of Craig New.

Sometimes, teachers can lose steam over the decades. Especially in an educational environment when more and more resources are lost every year. Some how, Craig New has managed to maintain his enthusiasm for passing on his love of math and science to his students, inspiring them in the process.

Below are just two examples of how he still manages, after all these years, to really connect with his students. They are e-mails sent to the Pre-Calculus 11 students.

The first one is a welcome to the course:

Hi folks. You are the stalwarts, the few, the proud, the brave. Be proud of your successes in this course. I think you’ll find it less challenging than your Foundations 11 course (!). You will have to show your maturity and self discipline due to the timetabling of your blocks, but I have every confidence you can do this. You are in charge of your education, but I want to do everything I can to facilitate your learning. Practice the skills, don’t wait to do lessons, get help as soon as you are struggling and you will leave the course early (yes!) and with a great mark.
Dig in!
Mr. New

The following was written when the teachers were doing days of action in lieu of striking :

The Chapter 2 Exam is set for Fri this week. It will be available from 11am to 6pm. You will have 70 minutes to complete it. It WILL be due that day despite any unforeseen circumstances, such as my death, a zombie apocalypse, a day of action on the part of the teachers, etc. I’m considering giving you an extra day or two in the case of the second coming. I’m taking that up with my people.
See you tomorrow after school.

My children are not always the easiest children to teach. They are very critical-thinkers who never outgrew the “why” phase because I never told them, “Because I said so.” Every single why — and let me tell you, there are hundreds of them a week — has received an explanation, even when I’m frustrated and wish they’d just stop asking questions. Because of their never-ending thirst for answers and understanding, they can either be a teacher’s dream student, or their worst nightmare. Both of my boys also have some special needs.

Craig New recognized my oldest son’s thirst of knowledge and understanding, and he fed it. He fed my child’s thirst to the point where every weekend, my son turns the living-room into a laboratory, extending what he had learned in his chemistry classes. Craig New also gave the support and guidance necessary for my child to receive 92.8% on a course done outside of regular school hours.

There isn’t a single day where my oldest doesn’t talk about Craig New at least five times, always with a lot of respect and admiration.

When I asked my son what he thought about Craig New and to whom he’d compare Craig New, he said, “Having Mr. New as a teacher is like having Phil Plait — the Bad Astronomer — as a teacher, except that I can ask him questions whenever I want.” Phil Plait is my son’s favorite well-known scientist. That is a mighty big compliment.

Thank you, Craig New, for inspiring students for over two decades, both inside the classroom and through extra-curricular activities.

What teacher inspired you?

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