Pupils say goodbye to veteran band teacher

Peter findlay retiring after 32 years at general wolfe elementary

Grade 5 student Emily Au-Yeung sits erect, breathing into her silver flute as she taps her foot on her music stand in time with the beat of "School Spirit March."

She glances to band teacher Peter Findlay and then back to her sheet music, obviously concentrating on the practice just a week before band students perform at General Wolfe elementary's Findlay's Finale, the final school concert for the school's band teacher of 32 years.

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"He's strict sometimes but he's always fun to be around," Au-Yeung said. "He's always happy."

Her sentiments echo what Au-Yeung says her three aunts who also played in extracurricular band classes with Findlay at the school on Ontario Street at West 27th Avenue have told her.

Au-Yeung's aunt Cindy Keung started band with Findlay in 1984. She followed in his footsteps, completing music and education degrees and a master's in education at the University of B.C. to become a teacher.

"He was one of the most encouraging teachers in terms of encouraging the platform for my music education because I didn't always enjoy it because I took private music lessons at first, and when I was able to take music in band in public school he was just there to always cheer me on, all the time, in very special ways," Keung said.

She said Findlay was her only male elementary school teacher, served as her first truly positive male role model and teaching style.

"The way he treats his students, like they're his kids and the way he says, 'It's really good to see you,' these are very small ways that you can help kids feel like they belong," Keung said.

Findlay, 57, says he's retiring because it's time for a change, but he's loved being a band teacher at Wolfe. "It's easily the most rewarding thing that I know of in teaching, partly because you get to take the kids from absolutely nothing, they don't even know how to put their instrument together. and by the end of the three years they're actually playing quite well," he said. "It's more about us doing something together than about me telling them to do something on their own or for me. When you teach music it's really a team kind of thing where we all pull together and work together to make some kind of an artistic result and I don't know of anything else like it in teaching."

Findlay says he'll miss the connections he's made with students and their families. But those links will likely play on.

"I've been to weddings and baby showers and university graduations and high school graduations and things like that," he said. "Teaching music is different from teaching anything else and you connect with the kids in a different way and many of those connections become lifelong friendships."

Current and former Wolfe students, family members and friends can attend Findlay's Finale June 11. The show starts at 5 p.m.

Findlay is organizing an open house for former students and staff from 2 to 5 p.m., July 6. He requests those planning to attend to RSVP as soon as possible at pfindlay@ vsb.bc.ca.

crossi@vancourier.com twitter.com/Cheryl_Rossi

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