Longtime teacher Joan Stephens in front of the mural dedicated to her in the gym at Sunshine Hills Elementary in North Delta. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Retiring teacher puts the ‘We’ in North Delta school team that has raised $200K in nine years

After 30 years of work, Joan Stephens says goodbye to Sunshine Hills Elementary – well, not quite

After 30 years of teaching at the same school in North Delta, Joan Stephens is ready for retirement, with a catch.

“I’m leaving with mixed emotions, but the good part is I live so close that I can still come and volunteer,” said Stephens, a Boundary Park-area resident who works at Sunshine Hills Elementary.

“I would not be able to survive without that – just reading with the children, things like that. I’m thankful I can still do that, and this way I can still come in on my own time and still be part of it.”

Stephens taught Kindergarten and primary-grade classes during her first two decades at the school, before shifting roles to become a French learning assistance instructor about a decade ago.

In 2009, she launched a We Team at the school when some students were inspired to do so, after attending the first We Day event held in Vancouver.

In years since, Grade 7 students led by Stephens have raised close to $200,000 for charitable work around the globe – money to build schools, medical clinics and water wells in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and, this year, Afghanistan.

“That’s the students’ hard work,” Stephens underlined. “For the children to be able to extrapolate and think about situations so far away, on the other side of the world, that need their help, it just amazes me. They’re inspired enough to empty their piggy banks, set up their little lemonade stands, and this year it was selling slime, of all things, to raise money.”

• RELATED STORY: Students at North Delta’s Sunshine Hills Elementary raise $9,000 to help fight cancer.

This year, the team raised $17,000 – significantly more than the original $10,000 goal – to fund a classroom at a girls’ school in Shebergan, Afghanistan.

The school’s We Team was recently given a Delta Rotary Youth Award for its fundraising work, and, at a year-end assembly on June 27, will present a cheque for $17,000 to Dr. Eric Rajah, founder of the Alberta-based A Better World organization that has partnered with the Sunshine Hills We Team since 2011.

In the school gym, a mural of student “helping hands” painted on a map of the world is dedicated to Mme. Stephens, who has organized and inspired hundreds of We Team-ers during her time at Sunshine Hills.

The team will continue in her absence, she hopes, under new leadership next school year.

“Oh yes, I’m sure of that,” Stephens said. “If not I’ll come in,” she added with a laugh, “but I’m truly retiring, yes. I’m going to be 65 in the fall, so it’s time. It’s not that I don’t absolutely still love it, I just can’t keep up with, you know, all the roles I play here. I couldn’t say goodbye to Sunshine Hills, ever, ever. I’m just lucky to be part of this community, it’s wonderful.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

White Rock breaks temperature record

B.C. city was the hottest in all of Canada

After nearly 100 years in the field, Cloverdale farm recognized for agricultural leadership

Surrey Board of Trade awards Heppell’s Potato Corp with leadership award

First look at Cloverdale Athletic Park’s future field house

Field house part of $5.8-million revitalization project

‘Sophisticated’ mail theft, fraud operation uncovered in Cloverdale, say RCMP

Three have been arrested, charges have yet to be laid

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read