OCT OEEO

PS_March_2016

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27 March 2016 | Professionally Speaking R E M A R K A B L E T E ACH E R PHOTO: MIGUEL JACOB #THANKaTEACHER Twitter's Kirstine Stewart honours the unconventional high school teacher who helped her get a handle on her personal brand. BY RICHARD OUZOUNIAN I 've always been less interested in what has been than what could be," writes Kirstine Stewart in her autobiography, Our Turn. Her devotion to what Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith called "the art of the possible" is a life lesson that she learned from the refreshingly unconventional Suzi Beber during her days at Acton High School. While they haven't seen each other for 35 years, the fascinating thing about these two women is that although their lives have travelled wildly different paths, they've somehow wound up at the same end point of self-realization. Stewart's rise in an industry that's notorious for be- ing cutthroat is well-documented and well-deserved. It's the classic tale of a former "girl Friday" who's hard work pays off, paving her way to becoming the first female head of English-language services at the CBC, and now the vice-president of media for North America at Twitter. Although Beber's former student is perhaps more recognizable, the retired teacher's journey is no less impressive — she made associate head of a department by the age of 26, eventually settling into a vice-principal role at Burlington Central High School. Then, during routine surgery in the late spring of 1993, a series of what she calls "medical misadventures" left her using a walker, with a lasting traumatic brain injury and daily health challenges. It was during the latter part of the '90s that Stewart and Beber began their respective struggles — Stewart securing her place at the top of a male-dominated industry, while Beber was busy mastering the fundamentals of daily living from scratch. "I always carried the memory of Ms. Beber with me in my mind. She knew what she was doing, did amazing work and never cowered to anyone," recalls Stewart. "That always inspired me, especially in some of my roughest moments." Beber admits that although her physical struggles have caused a certain degree of memory loss, she still remembers Stewart from her days at Acton. "Not all my recollections are as vivid, but those ones are," says Beber. "I grew up without a sense of real confidence, without thinking that anyone believed in me, and I didn't want that to happen to anyone I taught." It was Stewart's weaknesses, as well as her strengths, that appealed to Beber. "Kirstine was brilliant, but not demonstrative. I had to find a way to bring out those qualities," explains the former teacher from her home in Victoria, B.C. "I never fit into the regular educational pigeonholes. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both of us." The teacher who wanted to be "different" wound up with the student who was being labelled with that same word. "I skipped some early grades and was always treated differently — which was at times nice, because I was treated as 'special,'" explains Stewart, "and sometimes not so nice, because I was treated as 'strange.'" And so the stage was set for the two of them to serendipitously meet in the Grade 10 Gifted Withdrawal program. "It was for those of us who "

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