The VSB is staffed with unsung heroes-men and women who care deeply about the education and welfare of students. Wendy Gilmour is one of those heroes, whose tireless passion and advocacy has helped hundreds of students find success and a sense of purpose.
For 23 years, Gilmour has worked at the VSB. Originally a home economics teacher, for the last 10 years she has worked at the VSB as an apprenticeship programs coordinator, fighting to get her trades students to graduate and on a path to employment security.
Though her role as advocate, leader and mentor is rarely an easy one, her students are the first to acknowledge her dogged determination and passion for their success.
"Not only did Wendy help me get into the trades, she completely changed my life," says Coulter Rammell, a recent Windermere Secondary graduate. "High school was going downhill for me even though I am a smart and keen student. As soon as I shared my worries with Wendy she began giving me countless ideas and opportunities for my grade 12 year. Because of my interest in building things and how things work, I decided to become a welder and steel fabricator. Wendy told me everything I needed to know about Tupper Tech and helped me apply, even after hours and on the weekend she would be networking on my behalf. My sails were set and my 1st-year steel-fab course at BCIT quickly followed, which has been my best learning experience ever. Now I'm working full-time, happy, and about to buy my first car with my own, hard-earned money! Wendy has followed me all the way and is always quick to reply if I need help with anything."
Today, Gilmour laughs that her own journey into career education wasn't an easy transition.
"When I started teaching Business Ed, I didn't know how to type. We used manual and electric typewriters. I used to lock myself in the room at lunch and type sample letters!" she says.
One of Gilmour's greatest advocates and supporters is Russ Evans, Tupper Secondary's (much beloved) Tupper Tech program instructor.
"I have come to expect Wendy's 6:00 PM call offering not only sage advice but concrete numbers to call and work placements to contact. She is essentially responsible for every single apprentice I have coached and I strongly suspect every other teacher in the District would tell you the same thing. I cannot do my job without her," says Evans.
When Dr. Grace Li Xiu Woo adopted a child who had had a very traumatic start in life and had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, Gilmour was a bright light in her son's school life.
"When I met Wendy I was desperate," says Woo. "My child does not have the insight required to understand and address his disabilities. He had drifted out of several great programs and was studying the life of beggars on the street because this was the only future he saw for himself. With his poor academic profile and record of attendance, Wendy took a serious risk when she gave him a chance. She made an astute assessment of his strengths and weaknesses and enrolled him in automotive collision repair. This gave him skills in areas where he has above average ability. It completely changed his self-image. He graduated from high school with honours!"
Adds Evans, "Wendy does amazing work with individuals, she recognizes that "more" is often better and the "more" comes from mentoring new professionals to the field, contacting employers, and parent groups. She spends countless hours working to support her colleagues."
Gilmour is reticent to have any attention focused her way, often redirecting compliments around her success as a teacher back towards her students.
"It's not about me, it's about the kids," she says.
For student stories, and tech and trades information follow @vsbcareered on Twitter or VSB Career Ed on Facebook.
VSB Career Education is also on Instagram at @vsb_career_ed
CLICK HERE to go to the VSB Career Education webpage.