In the 2021 – 2022 school year, Riverside turned 26 years old. And during that time, teacher Heidi Tilsner taught Biology and Chemistry for 21 of those years. But she has decided to hang up her lab coat and retire at the end of this year, saying goodbye in June to students and a science department that will greatly miss her.
Tilsner states the reason for retiring as a desire to go on a different adventure, which might include finding a different job to keep herself occupied.
Tilsner has had many jobs before becoming a teacher. One of them was working for the Ministry of Environment, teaching farmers the types and functions of plants. At this job, she realized the fun of teaching and decided to pursue it as a career. After completing her teacher training at UBC, Tilsner began her career teaching science at Como Lake Junior (now middle school) before working at Riverside. The surprising thing is that she taught English for a while at Como Lake – which was not her specialty – so she felt sorry for the students who took the course.
But as anyone who knows Tilsner as a teacher, knows she connects to her students regardless of the course content. Grade 11 student, Lucy Ryalls who had Tilsner for the Science Coop program, and is currently in her STREAM, commented on Tilsner’s infectious happy attitude.
“She is always cheery; her class is a positive place to be, and she is never in a bad mood. And learning in her class, all the labs, was a lot of fun. One time she blew a ceiling tile off; she had lots of fun chemistry teacher tricks,” said Ryalls.
Many Riverside alumni have returned to the school over the years to express their gratitude to Tilsner for inspiring them to pursue science in university. And Tilsner does have advice for students as they venture from high school to their lives beyond Riverside’s walls.
“You should do your best to fully enjoy what you are doing or studying. If you don’t enjoy it, you should find another job or work because life is short, and there is not enough time to waste on something you can’t enjoy,” said Tilsner.
Tilsner is not specific about her retirement plans, but she said she would like to take a break during the summer and look for a new job in September. Some jobs that appeal to her are tutoring or working at a garden store. She plans to spend the summer traveling, visiting family in Ontario, Kelowna, and Vancouver Island.
Tilsner’s departure from the school is, as fellow science teacher Jeremy Brown states, “a massive loss to the school, and the department; she is not replaceable. Her kindness and generosity will be sorely missed.” Tilsner echoed similar sentiments regarding the relationships one makes over the course of a career, stating that she will miss her students and colleagues the most.
Riverside teachers and students will remember Tilsner’s sense of humor and passion for teaching, and The Eddy and all of Riverside wish her the best on her new journey.