On April 5, 2008 a large crowd gathered (including former Preschoolers, the oldest now 22 years of age) with noisemakers in hand at the Guildford Church of the Nazarene to honour Vernita for 20 years of teaching ministry through Helping Hands Children’s Centre and particularly for her leadership of the Preschool program.
Vernita and Earl initiated the Preschool program back in 1983/84 when the Guildford church was located on 107A Avenue. In those days it was a single program operation and expanded to include Daycare and Out of School programs in addition to Preschool when the current church facility was built in 1991. Vernita began working in the Preschool in 1988 and eventually became the Preschool Supervisor and today also serves as the Assistant Director.
Her inclination toward teaching goes back to those early years when it is said that much of who we are and will become is formed and established. At the age of five Vernita’s Kindergarten teacher often wrote in her report card; “Vernita needs to remember that I am the teacher and Vernita needs to stop talking when I am trying to teach”. Amazingly, when Vernita was completing her teaching practicum at Toronto Teacher’s College in 1971 she had the unique experience of being assigned to a Kindergarten class that was taught by none other than her very own Kindergarten teacher, Miss Olive Branch. She was not at all surprised that Vernita
was becoming a teacher given her five year old propensity to “lead” the class. To date Vernita’s teaching has spanned 29 years in Toronto, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Kansas City and of course Surrey and she has taught K through Grade 7 as well as 20 years at HH.
The celebration on April 5th included tributes from the HHCC Board, former parents, the Skywalkers (a recreational/social/support group of senior ladies that Vernita leads on a weekly basis and which is an outreach of Helping Hands. The group has been meeting on Thursdays for six years and they are very dear to Vernita’s heart), one of the children, fellow staff and the current classes, through song and poem. It was a day filled with fun and celebration.
When Earl became the District Superintendent Vernita’s role changed significantly and whenever possible she travels with him to visit the Canada Pacific District pastors, their families and congregations. It is a busy life teaching full time, assisting with the Centre’s oversight, leading the Skywalkers and travelling many weekends of the year. But, Vernita attributes her endurance in large part to those “little people who are so full of life, imagination and adventure that it keeps you energized and excited to come to work. Every day is an adventure. How could you not love to see those little faces every day”?
Her son Ryan wrote an amazing tribute (a good reminder to parents that your children do know “how” you give yourself to the tasks of life and they are watching all the time even when you least expect it). Here’s a little excerpt:
“…Mom, I’ve always thought that you have gone the extra mile to make the children’s experiences memorable at Helping Hands. Just imagine what must go through the minds of 3 and 4 year old children when they enter the classroom to discover that they are actually in the middle of the ocean or outer space or the jungle!…Mom, your commitment to your students and the obvious love that you have for them and for your co-workers over the past 20 years has been inspirational for me. Over the years I have grown to appreciate your attention to the little details and how you go all out to make experiences as special as possible for your students and for all of those around you. I have seen the impact you have made through my own desire to try new and fun things in my ministry and the way that I have enjoyed seeing the impact that is made on others when I have gone above and beyond to make an experience special. I know this is something that you must delight in as you work with your precious student’s year in and year out. Congratulations on this important milestone mom! I know Helping Hands and the church as a whole has benefited from your presence and leadership in so many ways, and I know that your students have benefited in so many more ways as you have been used to impact their lives with the love of Christ. Enjoy your special day, we love you…”
One parent said it for us all: “I am so glad that Mrs. Wood is being celebrated! She is such an amazing woman. Me and my gang of boys (all who have been taught by Mrs. Wood) will be there”.
Congratulations “Mrs. Wood”