Deborah Yee, Editor
Featuring Steven Tian
Edited by Victoria Chiu
Since this interview took a significant amount of time, it was necessary to chunk the interview into two articles to fit it in. During this interview with Mrs. Larochelle, we talked a lot about herself and her background. It may be useful to know before reading the interview that Mrs. Larochelle was a teacher at St. Rose, a junior high I once attended.
DEBORAH YEE: This is your first time teaching high school. Is it any different from teaching junior high?
MRS: LAROCHELLE: I just find the kids a little more mature but other than that I don’t find it very different from junior high. I like the longer classes and I like having four classes per day. I really like the level we are at with Shakespeare and the novels. That’s more the level that I like to be at for discussions. But other than that I find it very similar to St. Rose.
STEVEN TIAN: Do you find it helps that because our high school is so small in comparison to other high schools—it’s actually similar in size to St. Rose but a bit larger still—but do you think it helps that our school is smaller?
I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Not to me anyhow. It’s still probably about three or four times as big as St. Rose because we only had about 300 and some students there and you have over 900 here.
Steven: We do?
That’s what they said anyhow.
Steven: Oh my. We have, at most, 600.
Yeah, well, Deborah knows though. At St. Rose, I did the gifted and talented class and it’s like an Honours English class. I did a lot of things like Shakespeare and classic novels and that kind of thing with those kids, especially in grade 9. Even though I haven’t taught high school before, I have taught these things before.
Deborah: You probably enjoy high school a lot more?
I do. I really do.
Deborah: Being an English teacher, you must enjoy reading and writing. What is your favourite book?
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.
Steven: Favourite play?
My favourite play? Hmm. Probably a Midsummer Night’s Dream. I love Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s funny. You have to remember that most of them were written as entertainment for a crowd of people and some of them would not be very literate; some of them would not be able to read at all. And so there are lots of things in there that are comedy and I just…I like to be entertained.
Deborah: So you enjoy the lighter, funnier kinds of writing?
Just as a preference, yeah. I don’t really like to read things that are depressing and grim.
Deborah: Like Hamlet?
I like Hamlet, I’ve read Hamlet, and I’ve seen it performed lots of times. Hamlet, Macbeth, all those kinds of things. But just for my preference, as to how I spend my time, I prefer something that is lighter and more entertaining. I also really like science fiction a lot.
Deborah: Oh yeah, I remember we did a lot of that.
Steven: Do your classes also cheer when Hamlet dies?
(laughs) Because he’s so annoying and it’s like, “Make up your mind!”?
Steven: Yes! It’s like, “Do something!”
“Just do something!” Yeah.
Steven: I was in the IB class for English and the moment Hamlet died and he read out the line, everyone started cheering with a loud applause. There were only seventeen of us.
(laughs)Well I haven’t had that happen yet but…
Steven: It was a glorious day.
Deborah: Aside from reading, what else do you enjoy to do?
I’m really into gardening. I do a lot of gardening. I have a rose garden, vegetables, herbs, a lot of that kind of thing at my house. I have three kids and that takes up a lot of my time—doing things with them and for them. I like going to live theatre and travelling. Mostly those things.
Deborah: Three kids? Are they about our age?
The two are in university and the other one is in grade 5.
Deborah: Oh wow!
Yeah there are eleven years between the oldest one and the youngest one but he acts like a tiny little teenager because he’s around teenagers a lot.
Steven: You said you enjoy gardening. Is this an indoor garden or do you just do nothing during winter?
I have an indoor garden and I actually have one over there (point of corner of classroom) where I am going to set up because I can’t cope with having no windows. But I have an indoor herb garden at my house. Mostly outside though.
Deborah: I never liked this classroom that much because it was always so bleak
Bleak, yeah. I’m getting some bulletin boards and my garden in here.
Deborah: When you were our age, did you ever think you would become a teacher?
I kind of always thought I would become a teacher because my mom and all sisters were teachers. My mom has a picture of me when I was three years old. She had bought me a tiny little blackboard and little tiny fake glasses and then I made my brother be my student. We had a little desk at home and he was sitting there with a work sheet. I was about three or four years old. I kind of always had that in mind. But before I became a teacher, I was a journalist. I have a degree in journalism and I worked as a journalist for four years.
Steven: So you’d probably be better at writing this than we are?
I’ve written hundreds of magazine articles that have been published.
Deborah: Like in Edmonton?
In Edmonton, yeah, and the States, also. Around universities.
Steven: You went to university in the US?
My first degree is from Gonzaga University. Probably you’ve heard of it because of their basketball team.
Deborah: What state is that in?
It’s in Washington State. My education degree is from the University of Alberta.
Deborah: Why did you move all the way over here then?
I’m from here.
Deborah and Steven: Oh! (laughs)
My degree from Gonzaga is in journalism because, at that time, you couldn’t get a bachelor’s degree in journalism anywhere around here. You could go to Ottawa or something but Spokane is actually closer than that.
Deborah: Your first career was in journalism?
Yeah. Well, there was a magazine here—like a weekly magazine—sort of like McQueens but it was called Alberta Report and I was on the staff of that. I worked for them for a few years.
Deborah: What made you change career paths?
I really love writing but I did not like invading people’s privacy. I didn’t like having to go up to people that had just had something bad happen to them and say, “Oh, how do you feel,” or trying to ask people things they didn’t want to talk about. I like writing and I especially like interviewing famous people or that kind of thing or writing a play review or review art but not invading people’s privacy. And also, in terms of family life, I was always there at two or three o’clock in the morning. You can’t do that if you have kids, being out all hours of the night.
Deborah: What do you like most about being a teacher?
It’s always different, every single day. It’s never boring. I really, really enjoy being around kids and I find that…I don’t know…people your age are really hilarious and entertaining to be around. It’s always something interesting and fun and never boring. Also, there are not a lot of jobs where you get to feel like you’re making a different. That you’re helping people for sure.
– END OF PART ONE –