I grew up in a blue-collar city called Oshawa. It used to be known as “The city that moto-vates Canada” as an homage to our General Motors roots.
I grew up on the south side of that city. It was a little rougher, but the people who lived there were and still are, some of the most resilient people I have ever met.
There was something special about growing up in South Oshawa and a significant part of that, for me at least, was attending Glen Street Public School.
When I was in grade school, one of our most beloved teachers was a phenomenal woman named Miss Bagshaw. She taught the third grade, but her kindness and dedication to her students were felt far beyond those formative years.
She was a person who saw the talent in just about everyone she came into contact with and she willingly nurtured that talent with a generosity of spirit that could rival anything else I have seen since my elementary school days.
She was Glen Street Public School’s musical director and she wrote wonderful original school plays and musicals that we, the lucky kids who were directed by her, still remember fondly to this day.
When I went off to High School, I returned to my elementary school to volunteer as technical staff for the original production “Shoot For The Stars”. Along with my neighbour and friend, Brent, we helped stage one of the most memorable productions Miss Bagshaw put on for that school. She gave us T-shirts that had the production name on the front and “STAFF” on the back. To this day, it remains one of the most treasured items I own.
Miss Bagshaw’s rehearsals were demanding – and I say that as both an observer and as a former actor in her productions – but she always sought out the best performance in us because she often had more faith in us than we had in ourselves. It is a very powerful thing to have someone believe in you so strongly.
We were inspired to work hard and to do everything we could to make her proud, to ensure our audience was entertained; and at the end of it all, the sense of accomplishment and the personal pride we felt spurred on our confidence and made its way into everything we did. She nurtured a space for us to learn and grow, and to explore our love of music, acting and creative writing.
Miss Bagshaw’s writing ability was awe-inspiring and her knack for penning a catchy tune was second to none…well, except maybe the greats, like Rodgers and Hammerstein and Webber, but that’s just my humble, nostalgic, opinion.
As I walked through the parking lot, heading for my train this morning, a song began to play in my head. It was a song that comes to mind every now and then and I began to hum it quietly to myself. If I am being totally honest, it took quite a bit of self-control not to sing it out loud and I had to chuckle a little to myself.
The song is called “As Sure” and it was one of those catchy ditties from “Shoot For The Stars”. It’s a lovely tune and I think it says something about her ability as a writer to touch an audience if, nearly 30 years later, you find yourself in a GO station parking lot, randomly singing one of her songs to yourself.
She nurtured creativity and helped make some incredible memories while teaching young people discipline and responsibility. That is what a great teacher can do, and we had one in her.
Miss Bagshaw left us recently, but her impact on our lives, her compassion, her creativity and her talents as a writer, a musician, and an educator will remain with us, always.
We were blessed to know her and to have her hand helping to mould us.
And that I know, “As sure, as the stars up in the sky”.