MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 4, 2011 – Schools across the country will mark Teacher Appreciation Week beginning February 7. While the English Montreal School Board has many wonderful pedagogues, it is always nice to see a child follow in the footsteps of a parent. That is the case for Donna Friedman-Perlin in relation to her mom Beverlee.
There’s something in the air at the Friedman-Perlin home and it is all about education. With a peek at the wall, both Beverlee and her daughter Donna, glance at their trusty EMSB calendar. Together they plan their schedules. For these two, their commonalities run far deeper than your usual mother and daughter, as after all, not many families can boast two generations of EMSB teachers.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, my parents thought it was the best profession,” said Beverlee, a long-time member of the EMSB family. “When I was in elementary school, I always looked up to my teachers, they were so respectful and knowledgeable, I liked what they did and I admired them. I wanted to be like them.”
Beverlee’s passion for teaching began at the former Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal’s (PSBGM) Algonquin School in the Town of Mount Royal, where she was captivated by the new experience and immediately fell in love with her profession. It was this excitement for teaching which eventually rubbed off on Donna, although it took some time as originally, the younger Friedman-Perlin did have other plans.
“I graduated with my Bachelors of Commerce from McGill and then, I went to law school,” said Donna. “I was there for a week or so, and I really wasn’t happy. Luckily, when I made the choice to switch into education, the deadline to pull out of law school was within that week, so I made the switch and I couldn’t have been happier.
“My mother always came home and really showed that she loved her job,” she added. “There was not one day where she said that she did not like it, she was always positive.”
Donna, who has since earned a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership, clearly did not take to law school, however, she did manage to fully absorb the lessons passed onto her from her mother, as they were all she needed to plan out her future. With an older sister, Jewel, working as a psychologist and guidance counselor, the stage was set for her to make the leap into the family trade – at what would become the family’s school board.
“For me, it’s only been the PSBGM or the EMSB,” said Beverlee. “I’ve always liked the Board and I’ve always been happy with them, I never thought of switching. I told Donna that this was the board she should apply to.”
“My mother only told me wonderful things about the EMSB, I kept hearing how great the principals, administrators and students were,” confirmed Donna. “I also wanted to work at the same Board as her, it didn’t matter how many years we were together, but I wanted to be with her.”
While Beverlee has no intention of retiring just yet, both mother and daughter have truly enjoyed the past three years together. Although the duo has yet to have the experience of teaching at the same school, working at the same Board has been more than enough.
After making her EMSB debut at John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel, for the past two years, Donna has been firmly entrenched at St. Monica Elementary in Notre Dame de Grace Donna, while after many years in the system, Beverlee has found a new home in the Adult Sector, currently teaching at James Lyng Adult Centre in St. Henri.
Yet, no matter where Beverlee is teaching, her sage advice has undoubtedly rubbed off on her daughter, as she serves as an encyclopedia for any problem Donna might run into.
“I have one student in Kindergarten who is in his first year in a school setting and is a little bit of a troublemaker. My mother told me to find something for him to do, to make him a helper,” said Donna. “I took her advice and put him in charge of holding open the doors and he loves that. If it were not for her, I never would have thought of that.”
While Beverlee has shared some tricks of the trade, Donna has already begun to turn heads on her own, most notably being named a recipient of the Riva and Thomas O. Hecht Scholarship to study in Israel last summer.
Yet, at the heart of the profession are the students, and for Donna, the legacy being left by her mother is one she will undoubtedly work tirelessly to equal, as it cannot be surpassed.
“We run into her students now from years ago and they always tell us great stories about my mother from then, how she was their favourite teacher, they even remember what she was wearing back then, what her hair was like,” said Donna. “We now see her Adult Education students and everyone that I’ve met always has something nice to say, they make sure to find her and say hi.”