Alumni, Community

Alumnus leads retired teachers

September 23, 2022

Steve Harvey (submitted photo)

Steve Harvey describes himself as having a bit of an “artsy” streak – and it was his unconventional thinking in the classroom that highlighted his most important lessons he learned in education.

He realized “no” shouldn’t be in a teacher’s vocabulary and educators must take calculated risks to benefit their students and themselves.

The retired educator fondly recalls how he used his artistic skills to teach grade 3 students to make shortbread cookies, teaching 25 students to knead and roll out the dough and cut it into pieces. As a second-year teacher, he appreciated how his no nonsense principal encouraged him to try the lesson.

Harvey credits the Faculty of Education for teaching him to take these calculated risks.

“I learned to take chances,” Harvey said. “For example, I was not a musician or singer, but I had to teach a song to my peers, which I did. I practiced with my dad first before I did that lesson.”

Taking calculated risks were also part of Harvey’s professional growth.

At 47 years of age – he took a big gamble – he changed school boards, leaving the Thames Valley District School Board.

Harvey felt stale and his need to be refreshed was fulfilled when he became a principal in Lambton County. He admits it was scary but it was something he had to do.

“It was a big decision to leave the security of what I knew and doing something completely different,” Harvey said. “I think sometimes as educators, we need to do that.”

All in the family

It wasn’t a surprise when Harvey became a teacher. Growing up in Ilderton, Ontario, he came from an education family. One of his parents was a teacher and other family members were also educators. He entered the Bachelor of Education program at Western after completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo.

He spent his first 26 years working at the London Board of Education and with the amalgamated Thames Valley District School Board.

At the same time, Harvey was a lifelong learning advocate. As a vice-principal, he pursued a Master’s degree at the Faculty of Education.

He said it was the best decision he made in education.

“I recognized there was so much that I had learned in my many years in the classrooms that I didn't know before. That was a real eye-opener,” he said.

New adventures post-retirement

Harvey continues to be active in retirement. He’s currently the president of the Retired Teachers of Ontario, District 8. As president, he hopes to forge a closer relationship with the Faculty of Education.

“Planning is in its infancy right now, but I hope that if there's a legacy I leave behind as president, it will be that we have a much more active role with Western Education,” he said.

Harvey believes current and retired teachers have a duty to help the next generation. While teaching provides job and financial security, he said it also gives them a responsibility to give back to education.

“We have to remember that we are – as a teacher – a servant,” Harvey said. “We serve the community. That's what our job is and we’re creating the next generation of citizens.”

In addition, he stresses the skills he learned as an educator has helped him in other areas. First, he was elected Municipal Councillor for Middlesex Centre, drove an airport shuttle bus and obtained an Ontario ‘C’ licence to drive a highway coach.

“I use the same skills that I had developed because I could stand up in front of people and talk and I could think on my feet. That's the secret to being a good teacher,” he said.