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R E M A R K A B L E T E ACH E R S 31 March 2015 | Professionally Speaking PHOTO: FRANK OCKENFELS 3/THE CW© W hile most of us spent our youth learning life's most basic lessons, Megan Follows spent hers mastering so much more. As a child actor, the iconic Canadian (with that trademark red hair) stepped into show business 35 years ago and recently reclaimed her mark in the spotlight, where she rightfully belongs. Beating the odds in an unforgiving industry, many would chalk her success up to chance. But if you ask Follows, the secret to her longevity stems from her school days at the Institute of Child Study (ICS) — now the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study — the first of the University of Toronto's multi-disciplinary research centres. "There have been so many people, in so many places, who have helped shape my life — and I'm grateful to them all," says the 46-year-old star of stage, screen and television. "But the time I spent at ICS, from pre-kindergarten to Grade 6, was probably the most important." Follows may be known for her role as Anne Shirley — the feisty orphan in the 1985 adaptation of Anne of Green Gables — but three decades later she's winning over a new generation of fans as she takes on Catherine de' Medici, the tempestuous Queen of France, in the acclaimed historical fiction series Reign. Looking back at her formative years, you'd be hard-pressed to recognize the award-winning actor. "I tended to fade into the woodwork, partially out of a well-honed survival instinct. I was the youngest of four children — my brother and sisters were all going concerns," she says of her show business siblings. "Then there was my mother and father [actors Dawn Greenhalgh and Ted Follows], neither of whom were shrinking violets." At nine years of age, Follows made her official debut in the family business, landing in Diane Wicks's classroom just a year later. "I can still see her in my mind's eye as a tiny girl," says Wicks, the then-budding star's Grade 5 teacher. "Megan was both bright and brave to be carrying a load not asked of many children. She was filming a TV series at the time, and we tried to mesh those two aspects of her life — school and work. ICS was used to accommodating students with unusual schedules." CHARACTER BUILDING Actor Megan Follows honours the three elementary teachers whose roles behind the scenes inspired her in front of the camera. BY RICHARD OUZOUNIAN

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