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

Former White Rock Renegades aim to carve out time for themselves with Team Canada

Sara Groenewegen and Danielle Lawrie-Locke competing this week at Canada Cup

Shaw services down in South Surrey/White Rock

Company says it will fix the problem as soon as possible

Fraser Health launches new drug-use support team to curb overdoses

Nearly 200 people have been killed by illicit drug overdoses in the region so far in 2018

Lower Mainland cools down as heat wave lifts

Environment Canada predicts temperatures in the mid to low 20s

RCMP divers search for missing Surrey man at Buntzen Lake

A swimmer was reported missing at 4:30 p.m Tuesday

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

One year later: Still no suspects in killing of 13-year-old B.C. girl

Marrisa Shen was killed in Burnaby’s Central Park on July 18, 2017

BC Games opening ceremonies promise to be magical

Features Shane Koyczan and his band, Asani, parade of athletes, and lots more

VIDEO: Toronto Raptors send DeMar DeRozan to Spurs in colossal NBA trade

Toronto also sent Jakob Poeltl and 2019 first-round pick, gets Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

More lightning forecast as storm sparks 38 new wildfires in B.C.

22 new fires in are burning in the Kamloops Fire Centre according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Banff’s bathroom bears returned to the park after 15 months of rehab in Ontario

Black bears, now yearlings, were sent to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario last April

Monster trucks returning to Abbotsford

Monster Madness tour arriving in September

‘Recovery high schools,’ per diems urged to better manage addiction in B.C.

BC Centre for Substance Use says focus needs to shift to from overdose prevention to long-term care

Most Read

l -->