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“The time flew by:” Teacher shares childhood inspiration behind 50-year career with Surrey Schools

long-service-2024-margaret-1.jpgLongtime teacher Margaret Mossop received honours from the Surrey Board of Education at the Surrey Schools 2024 Long Service Awards. Mossop has been with the district for 50 years, serving numerous teaching roles across her career. (Photo by Jacob Zinn)

After five decades of wearing just about every teaching hat in the district, Margaret Mossop still remembers the reason she became a teacher.

“It was my Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. Koczapska, who inspired me,” recalled Mossop. “She used techniques that you wouldn’t use back then – she allowed us to work at our own speed, which was unheard of, but she gave us the motivation to do that. She didn’t treat us like babies, she taught us like we were older and gave us respect and maturity. She accepted all of us.”

That respect, motivation and acceptance left a permanent impression on Mossop, who is still in the classroom as a teacher teaching on call (TTOC) at Adams Road Elementary. She was recognized at this year’s Long Service Awards for her long and varied career – but it doesn’t feel that long to her!

“The time flew by, I didn’t even think of it,” said Mossop. “It’s not been laborious, I don’t feel the wear and tear on my psyche or my body working in schools. It’s just part of my life.”

Growing up, Mossop was drawn to teaching, playing school with her sister in the summer and teaching Sunday school, as well as volunteering in her school. Though she didn’t immediately pursue teaching in university, she quickly course corrected to a career in education.

“I was actually going to be a lawyer, but I had to have a workable degree and I thought I’d be a teacher,” she said. “In those days, you could get out with a three-year license, so after three years, I applied and substituted in Surrey. Then I was hired on for my first year, which I guess was September 1974.”

Despite applying to multiple districts, Mossop got her start in Surrey and has stayed with the district the entire time. She took her first position at H.T. Thrift Elementary and, in the span of one month, taught a Grade 5/6 class, a Grade 4/5 class and a Grade 5 class before settling into school’s primary music program.

“I realized by Thanksgiving that I didn’t know who my children were, so I backed off and just did primary music,” she said. “I was privileged to work with Beth Leullier, the first female secondary principal in the district – we didn’t have many female principals in those days.”

Mossop stayed at H.T. Thrift for five or six years before switching to George Greenaway Elementary until her first child was born in 1982. She returned to the district part-time as a core music teacher for two years and then worked as a classroom teacher until she retired in 2007, but not for long.

“I taught for 34 years in the district and I just changed jobs to be a TTOC,” she said. “When you’re working Monday to Friday, you’re so busy, there’s so much stress. But as a TTOC, there’s more control and freedom in the job – I had the opportunity and I took it.”

Since pivoting to on call, Mossop has substituted for other staff as a classroom teacher, a learning support teacher, an inclusive support teacher, a teacher-librarian and a music teacher. She has recently filled medical leaves at Coast Meridian Elementary and Betty Huff Elementary. She’s grateful to have had such longevity with Surrey Schools.

“I just want to thank the district for keeping me in for so many years,” she said. “It’s an honour in one way but it’s totally unexpected because it’s a job. I do a good job and I’m happy with what I’m doing.”

Congratulations on 50 years with Surrey Schools, Margaret!

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