Retiring Faculty: Reflections

A combined 60 years of teaching experience at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) will come to an end this month when a pair of educators retire.

Elizabeth McDougall, French teacher and Department Head of Languages and Classics and Frank Bergin, Math and former Science teacher, as well as Department Head of Physical and Health Education, have each taught at SMCS for 26 and 34 years respectively.

CAREER IMPACT

“I have experienced the joy that comes from seeing students achieve more than they thought they were capable of; in my classroom as their teacher, out on the course as their coach and in the arts as their supporter,” says McDougall, who has also coached cross country, track and field, alpine skiing and swimming. “What an amazing school to have been part of for most of my teaching career,” she says.

McDougall and Bergin are among four teachers who will be retiring at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Elizabeth McDougall (left) and Frank Bergin (right), both teachers at St. Michael’s College School will be retiring at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

“When I was first offered a job teaching at St. Michael's, my plan was to stay a few years and maybe as many as ten,” says Bergin, currently the longest-serving faculty member at SMCS. As those early years drifted into a second decade, I re-evaluated my situation to realize that I had actually stumbled into my dream job. The teaching and coaching were something that I naturally seemed to gravitate toward and the satisfaction I began to feel, from even the smallest degree of success of my students or athletes, seemed to be an adrenaline rush that drove me to repeat the process each year. Clearly my original plan deviated, not out of lack of any other possibility, but out of a desire to remain,” he says.

FLOOD OF MEMORIES

Following in her father’s footsteps --- Hugh McDougall, OSM was a History teacher, Department Head and Vice-Principal over the course of a quarter century --- Elizabeth McDougall lists several specific memories she will always hold dear.

“Most significant to me has been the opportunity to teach so many sons of alumni who were at one time students when my father taught here from 1960-1986,” says McDougall who is married with two daughters. “For years they have shared their memories of those interactions with me. To hear stories about my Dad at St. Michael’s has enriched my experience immensely and there is that lovely connection between generations that makes SMCS a very special place.” 

FOLLOWING FOOTSTEPS

Another particularly special memory is the number of her former students who she says chose to become French teachers. “To have played even a small role in this choice of career path is a delightful reward as an educator.” She adds, “remarkable young men have passed through my classroom, on their way to universities across Canada and the USA, to the Explore program in Quebec to deepen their knowledge of French, and to careers where they are changing the world around them.”

McDougall and Bergin being honoured at this year's Athletic Awards Banquet.

McDougall also fondly recalls the impact some of her colleagues, including Paul Barry '73 and Frank Bergin, made on her personally. “The support, encouragement and advice, while logging many miles, that I received as I pursued my dream athletic goals and competed in the Boston Marathon and became a master’s champion in my first (and only!) Ironman race was world class.”

As she enters a new phase of life, she plans to travel with her husband, mixing in some reading, running and cycling along the way.

RIGHT ON TRACK

A long-time cross country and track and field coach, Frank Bergin, concludes at the finish line of a rewarding career.

“As I reminisce about my days at St. Michael's I'm proud of the legacy I leave behind in the world of Cross Country and Track and Field,” says Bergin, father of three, including son Chris, who teaches Science at SMCS. “Both teams remain undefeated in league play now well into their fourth decade of competition and provincial championships continue to be captured. The outstanding younger coaches I've helped to mentor will do an excellent job of continuing the legacy, not necessarily of winning, but of creating an atmosphere of teaching athletes to achieve to their potential in a sportsmanlike manner,” he says.

PIONEERING PATH

“I will also look back with many fantastic memories of the adventures within the outdoor education program. Having been a founding member of the program, I'm proud of its expansion into a significant aspect of our entire education process at the school,” says Bergin, whose first year teaching at SMCS was coincidently the year the school became a private institution.

McDougall has taught at St. Michael’s College School for 26 years and Bergin is currently the longest-serving faculty member, having taught at SMCS for 34 years.

Bergin says he looks forward to active and adventurous days in retirement. In the meantime, the memories remain varied and vivid. 

“I know I will greatly miss the camaraderie, friendly jabs, copious volumes of humour and intriguing stories regaled by my fellow coworkers as we gather together at lunch in the staff room.  It has never failed to be a highlight of my day from the early days with the older veterans to the present times and the younger staff.”

He adds, “I will forever be grateful to the generous Basilian Fathers for their continued efforts at building a better world by shaping the lives of enthusiastic young men and for giving me the opportunity to assist them with that challenge for so many years.  I thankfully count many of them as my friends. I pray that the school continues its stated intentions well into the next century.”