Sunday, January 16

Saying Goodbye To Mr. Galloway

You won't hear me complain about living in Alberta, Canada much. I think it is a wonderful place, until it snows.
Although I will happily take the white stuff over spiders and nasty snakes and pretty much everything I see on Billy the Exterminator, there are a few things the snow has dictated that I am not thrilled about.

One of those things was not allowing me to drive down to Calgary last Saturday to properly say goodbye to Mr. Galloway. Mr. Galloway died 2 weeks ago and he was a very special man. Personally Mr. Galloway was my Grade 9 Business Education teacher and he was my Volleyball coach.  Last weekend a friend of mine was asked to speak at his celebration and I really wanted to hear it. But because of the snow, I was only able to participate by reading her tribute, so I asked permission to quote, but I think she did such a marvelous job that I will post it in its entirety for others to enjoy.

My Mr. Galloway

I have been fortunate to know Mr. Galloway for over 20 years; Don the teacher taught my two older brothers and younger sister, Don the coach coached me in volleyball, and Don the friend has been a dear friend of my family for many years.

My Mr. Galloway was amazing, inspiring, caring, tough, honest, real, and absolutely hilarious.

Prior to entering junior high, I knew him as Don the friend of my parents. Sometimes, he would have a sleepover at our house. Some of you in this room contributed to that! Even then, I remember he was an excellent story teller. This was also when I learned about his fondness for cats. He loved our cat Scooter, and I think sometimes he would come over to just to see the damn cat!

And when I entered junior high, I have to confess, I was a little afraid of Mr. Galloway the teacher. In the hallways and in his classroom he was loud and made grand gestures all the time. He hassled everyone, gave students a hard time, and I could never figure out why the older kids loved him. But it wasn’t before long that I would love him too. Some of my favourite memories from junior high are of Mr. Galloway.

I knew Mr. Galloway was in my corner when we had a little heart to heart one day. He said he felt sorry for me. “What?” I asked him, “Why?” “Well kiddo, I know your mom, and you have to live with her and be in her class. It must be awful! Anything you need and I am here.” This moment solidified my respect and admiration for this man! He knew me; he understood me; he got me!

Students loved him because of his wit and humour. His laugh was infectious. You could hear his laugh down the hallways. When he was laughing, we were laughing. And when he spoke, we listened. And when we didn’t listen, he hollered louder and louder or, sometimes, he quietly walked out of the room and left everyone wandering what was going on. Upon his return, with a hot cup of coffee, students would hear a famous Galloway lecture, “When it’s your name above the door, and you’re the one wearing the ties, then you get to make the rules!”

Even though he complained about teaching and was known to say that he chose teaching because he didn’t want to get a real job, he loved what he did and loved teaching history. He had great expectations and his lessons on life were just as important, if not more, than all the history lessons. His exams were often tough, but you always knew you could get one question right – the last one. This question usually went something like this – The reason Mr. Galloway was the greatest teacher in the world is because (a) he is the most intelligent man in the universe, (b) of his amazing charm and wit; (c) he can make the most difficult things easy due to his genius, (d) all of the above (THIS IS THE RIGHT ANSWER!). 

When we were at Samuel Crowther, his supervision post was in the grade 9 foyer. You always knew when it was his day because you could hear his voice bellowing down the hall. On these supervision days he would often bug the girls about who they chose to “date”; a common question we would hear was, “Who is it this week ladies?” I have a vivid memory of him taking us by the arms to the honor roll board and saying, “So, you are with ‘blank’, let’s check to see if his name is here…nope, not here…BAD CHOICE!” Many years later, Barre and I went to the Metropolitan Grill from brunch with Don and Mary. Don was meeting Barre for the first time. I was so nervous; it was like introducing Barre to my parents all over again. Later that day, when we were at the Hitmen game, he gave me a little elbow and said, “Honor Roll! Good job kiddo.” It meant a lot to me that day.

He was an outstanding volleyball coach. He yelled and shouted all the time, and we loved him for it. When a game was going down hill, he was notorious for turning his chair around, so his back was to the court and he could no longer see what was going on. He would often stand along the sidelines with his hands gripping his hair, and when there was a good play he would throw his hand up in the air, all the while still holding his hair. I am sure that our grade 9 team contributed greatly to his hair loss! We would know things were getting really bad when he pulled his nitro out of his pocket and stared waving it at us on the court. We would laugh after volleyball games when he would have to go and have a consultation with his ‘girlfriend’ outside in the parking lot.

A favourite story among our grade nine team was when he was giving us a serious talk about blocking and how we needed to stay off the net. “Listen,” he said, “stand still and listen to me. You have to jump straight up, don’t touch the net….” This is the moment, when I was to be listening, that I decided to jump and block. Except I did exactly what he told us not to and hit the net with my chest, which in turn hit him in the face. His glasses were off kilter, one arm up past an ear and the other at his chin. I remember him standing there, looking, standing there…the rest of the girls were on the floor laughing.

One of his favourite volleyball memories that his spoke of often was when we went to a tournament in Calgary. He had debated whether we should go; it was quite costly and well, we were from a small town going to play in a big city tournament. We went, and we won the whole thing. But that was not the best part for him…he was walking from the coaches room and overheard another team talking. The coach told the team they were playing Strathmore next, and one of the players said, “Oh no, not the Black Death!” He reveled in this! Sweet vengeance…they all thought this small town team was going to be a breeze, and here we were, evoking fear, and kicking everyone’s butt.

Our relationship of teacher/student/coach/player stretched far beyond my three years of junior high school.

When I was in high school, he was in the hospital. A few of us jumped in the car and were off to see him. Even then he was laughing. I wasn’t; I was angry with him. I told him he needed to smarten up and take better care of himself because the students loved him, and they needed him. This was when our letters started. Every so often I would write him a letter. I would write about my life and I would fill him in on what and how everyone was doing….he loved the gossip updates.

Mr. Galloway was the guest speaker at my high school graduation. It was the best speech ever. He had everyone roaring with laughter and tears running down their cheeks. His present that day from my graduation class was two teddy bears. When I said I would get the present, some thought I was crazy. I had informed them that when I asked my reliable source, Mary, what he would love, she gave me the idea. I know that for many years after, those two bears sat very proudly on a shelf in Don’s home. And when I graduated from University, my gift from Mr. Galloway was a letter of course, and a bear.

When I started teaching, Mr. Galloway came to my school and saw my classroom. When he walked in the door of my classroom he started laughing…and not just a little chuckle, it was the full on Don laugh…grabbing his pants and punching you kind of laugh. I looked around, there were poster everywhere, kids work was all over the place, things were hanging from the ceiling and finally, he said ‘I sure hope you don’t have any kids with ADD!” Then, he gave me a big hug and said he was proud of me, very, very proud.

In 2005, to celebrate Alberta’s centennial, there was a story writing contest to honour teachers called ‘My Most Memorable Teacher’. A panel would choose 100 stories from all the submissions to go in a book. I decided I was going to enter a story about my Mr. Galloway. I didn’t tell him because he would have told me no. And much to my surprise, our story was chosen out of the thousands submitted! I had to tell him then. We were invited to the book launch. He was thinking it would be a little informal luncheon and wore his golf shorts, it wasn’t; it was a big deal. He was so giddy like a little school girl. The best part of the whole day was people were coming around to the tables asking who the writer was and who the teacher was. We would introduce ourselves, and then they would ask for his autograph. He would say, “I’m on page 220! It’s called ‘His laugh was intoxicating!’” You should have seen him; he was literally bouncing in his chair saying and dancing by the table, ‘Did you see? Did you see? I’m published! I’m famous! They asked for my autograph!”

I have learned so much from Mr. Galloway. One time, he said he needed to have a chat with me about teaching and give me a few pointers. His pointers went a little like this…Peterson, you need to have rules and enforce the rules, but not too many, keep it simple, these are teenagers we’re talking about here. Be the boss, but not too bossy because then they won’t want to listen to you. Remember to have fun, but not all the time because then the kids can get out of hand. Be nice, but not too nice because then they will walk all over you. Be honest, they won’t like it at the time, but they will thank you later. Be tough, but don’t be mean, there is a big difference. Be kind, a little bit goes a long way. Listen, sometimes you have to stop doing the talking and you have to listen. Don’t stop pushing them, don’t give up on them…if you stop encouraging them, you’ve stopped caring and you shouldn’t be teaching. Tell them stories, stories about you and your family, that way they will see you as something other than a teacher, they will see you as a real person. Tell them jokes, even bad ones. And laugh, laugh with them, and for God’s sake, laugh AT them!

In writing this over the past week, I have learned that these are not just my lessons from my Mr. Galloway; they are our lessons from our Mr. Galloway. The one who made the rules and stuck to them, the one who knew when and how to have fun, the one who was kind in the exact moment it was needed, the one who was honest even when we didn’t want to listen, the one who listened to us when we needed someone to hear our voices, the one who believed in us and pushed us to be better human beings, and the one who laughed and enjoyed life to the fullest.

Thank you Mr. Galloway. Your lessons have been imbedded in the minds and hearts of all of us. You are our Mr. Galloway and you will forever be in our hearts.



I am grateful that Jamie-Dee was able to speak for us all at Mr. Galloway's memorial.  

I am grateful for the tender feelings that I have and the memories that I hold dear of this man; rough around the edges, which is probably why I liked him so much.