Article originally appeared in The Montreal Gazette
By: John Meagher
Published: June 21, 2017
When David Reid walks out the main doors of Riverdale High School next week, he’ll be saying goodbye to a remarkable 50-year teaching career that began in 1967.
“I’ll miss this place,” said Reid while sitting in his time capsule of an office at RHS in Pierrefonds.
The walls of Reid’s narrow “gym office” are adorned with old team photos, banners and mementos of a teaching career that spanned six decades and touched thousands of students along the way.
Reid still remembers the names of the students from the championship basketball and volleyball teams he coached at Riverdale in the late 1970s.
“I still keep in touch with many of my former students,” Reid says wistfully, adding that he is not exactly sure what will happen to all the souvenirs on his office wall. He’ll likely pack them up and bring them to his home in Pointe-Claire.
At 71, Reid hardly looks his age. He says the job of a phys ed teacher kept him fit and more importantly, young at heart.
Asked why he didn’t pack it in earlier and collect a pension, Reid smiled, his blue-eyes twinkling, and said: “To me it wasn’t a job. I work in a gym and you have to remember at least 95 per cent of the kids in a gym want to be here. They run around and make noise; they’re not sitting at a desk.”
“Usually people are counting down the days till retirement,” he added, ” I was usually counting down the days in August when I could go back to school,” he said.
Reid’s secret to teaching sounds pretty simple.
“The bottom line is you have to treat the kids fairly. If you give respect, you’ll get respect. And when the students talk to you, you listen.They always have something to say.”
Kimberly De Clercq, a fellow teacher at RHS, said Reid’s popularity with students stemmed from his genuine interest in their well-being.
“Mr. Reid was a great listener. He always cared about the students. He made school a safe, fun place to be. He was always positive and only had good things to say about everyone.”
De Clercq said Reid will be missed by staff and students.
“The thing that we will miss most about him will be his caring way. He always asked how your weekend was and how things were going. He made everyone feel unique” she said.
“David was also independent and strong, had a mind of his own but valued your opinion… The school will never be the same without him.”
Reid’s first teaching stint was at Herbert Symonds Elementary in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, where he grew up. He joined the staff at Riverdale in 1974, and later taught at Malcolm Campbell High School in St-Laurent in the 1980s before it closed. He also served as a long-time instructor with Rod Roy ski schools in Montreal.
While high school students have remained largely the same over the decades, the world outside the school has undergone dramatic changes, he said.
“With the economics of today, there are more two-parents working,” Reid noted. “So the kids don’t have the support at home. If you look at the 1960s, usually one parent was at home. The students are lacking that now.
“And in some cases there are more needy parents than there was back in the day.
“But overall, if you look at the students I have today and the students in had in the ’70s, they’re still kids. They want attention, they want to do well. I’m not saying I inspire them to do better but … (he laughs).”
Reid’s career also overlapped with the explosion of drug culture in high schools that began in the 1960s and continued in the 1970s and beyond.
Although demographics have changed in Pierrefonds and Dollard-des-Ormeaux, he said Riverdale remains a multi-cultural community school.
“The kids today all get along. The brown kids, the black kids, the Jewish kids, they’re all in classroom together. We have no problems here. It’s just a pleasure to see everybody mixing and having a good time.
“This school is the best-kept secret on the West Island,” he said.
Reid is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren, but will miss teaching Riverdale, home of his beloved green Spartans’ teams.
“I’ll miss the students, the camaraderie. You can get away with saying a few things in (gym class) you can’t say in a classroom,” he said laughing.
“It’s a tremendous job to play games for 50 years.”