An education in Whistler 

Bob Daly
  • Bob Daly

Principal Bob Daly about to retire after three tours of duty at Myrtle Philip school

Children weave and dodge to catch his attention in the hall.

He knows all their names and answers their questions, fired from every direction, without breaking his step.

It’s just another day for Myrtle Philip principal Bob Daly.

But everyday is one to be cherished as Daly, after 32 years as a teacher and principal, gets set to retire this July.

"I have been so, so lucky," said Daly of his career.

Myrtle Philip was Daly’s first principalship and he has always held a soft spot for the school and the community.

"Really working here has been as close to perfection as a principal could get," he said.

Daly first came to the school as principal in 1981. Back then there were only 96 students in the whole school , which was located where the Cascade Lodge now sits.

"It was like a little family in the school," he said.

"We worked to maintain that and I think even today when you see people in the halls there is that comfortable sense here."

He also recalls feeling pretty nervous about being principal and in a town whose future was uncertain.

Daly had some experience with the town as he had built a house here in 1976 to enjoy winter sports.

But he had little experience as an administrator. Before becoming principal of Myrtle Philip he had been head of science at a large elementary school in Surrey.

But, he said, the teachers at Myrtle Philip offered advice and support and it is a risk he’s glad he took.

He fondly remembers spending time with Myrtle Philip, sharing tea and her famous rum cake as she regaled them with stories of her life as a pioneer.

Those tea parties inspired Daly and Molly Boyd to write a musical called Christmas at Rainbow Lodge, which was performed at the school.

"We took those stories and with a lot of artistic license created a scenario about all the people they had met over the years and how they repaid them for their kindness," recalled Daly.

"It was fun.

"Knowing Myrtle was really a pleasure and she enjoyed the kids. All of our children would have a chance to meet her.

"We would have an assembly in the fall and Myrtle would be there and we would hold all of the children that were new to the school back and introduce her to everyone of them so they would know the school’s name sake.

"She was very proud of the school being named after her."

Those days had their challenges too. Daly recalls the community struggling with an economic recession which left many of the parents of his students out of work.

The silver lining, said Daly, was the great turn out when volunteers were needed.

"During the time when there wasn’t a lot of work… we would get loads of men to come out and volunteer and ski with groups of kids and it was just a wonderful thing," he said.

It is also a time he now looks fondly back on as he recalls the antics of students who now have their own children under his watchful eye.

Daly stayed at the school until 1985, when he was moved to Pemberton to be principal of the high school. He stayed at that school for two years before being appointed principal at Pemberton’s elementary school.

But after just one year there the school board asked him if he would return to Myrtle Philip.

In 1988 to took over the reins again and watched as the school experienced a boom in population.

He left in 1991, just before the Myrtle Philip School relocated to its present home.

But like a cat who always find his way home Daly returned to Myrtle Philip in 1997 after six years at Stawamus Elementary in Squamish, where he met his wife, teacher Sheila Kirkpatrick.

"Coming back in 1997 I certainly noticed a change in he demographics," said Daly.

"A tremendous number of people were professionals.

"The thing I noticed is that our parents are not petty at all and those who have been extremely successful value the hard work that other people do, so if they see their child’s teachers working hard on behalf of their child they are very appreciative of it.

"Along with the high expectations there is a high degree of appreciation when they see that people are working hard to take care of their children and they express it.

"If you work hard and you do a good job it is a appreciated and to a person in a care-giver role that is a really important part of it.

"…When children enter the doors here those are very well cared for children. Virtually all of their needs are being met, whether it is the physical needs the health, the food, the clothes, or the emotional.

"So by the time they walk through the door they have a smile and ‘teach me’ written all over them."

Daly believes the success of Myrtle Philip school lies in the relationships between those who work there, the parents and children, and the community in the form of the RMOW.

He is hopeful that as the school moves toward coping with the changes wrought by the funding cuts of the provincial Liberal government these partnerships will steady its course.

"As far as our community goes we are a community of people who face change everyday,’ said Daly.

"We are a community of entrepreneurs, and risk takers who look at things not for the problems but rather for the opportunities. So I think we have a real leg-up on a lot of other communities facing similar problems.

"We also have a community that knows how to mobilize its resources.

"I think too that I have been aware that this is a town of service industries and we have been able to embrace that here.

"We are a service industry where our service is the education of children. Our clients are the children and the parents and I think that we have worked as hard as we can to serve them well and I think most of the kids and parents are pretty happy about being here, and I like that."

While strongly believing that any school’s success is a community effort Daly hopes he has managed to add a focus of "kids first" at Myrtle Philip.

"I’ve tried to put the children first in the decisions that we make here," he said.

Daly still does recess and lunch supervision and is still awed by a child’s ability to play.

"Watching them play with one another and making up their own games, not organized stuff at all, but to see them interact with each other so well and just playing so hard, it’s amazing," he said.

"When they play they are making all these micro-decisions about how they interpret rules. But they are doing it among themselves. They are not relying on anyone to do it for them and the more they can do that the better, because when they have to make some of those bigger decisions they are going to have some experiences in decision making."

And Daly believes that Whistler kids really know how to play. He noticed as soon as he moved here from Surrey that local kids were far more active.

He puts it down to modelling. Moms and Dads are active here, they get their kids involved early and physical sport is as much a part of life as breathing.

Of course Daly will miss teaching he said.

"I think being around the children you really remain young," said Daly.

"They certainly keep you on your toes and they are a lot of fun to talk too.

"The rewards that you get daily in this kind of profession are really just immense.

"And knowing that you’re playing an important role in the life of a child, teaching a child to read, or interpret things if you are a science teacher, and to make sense of things is amazing."

Daly and his wife are planning to move to the Interior so they can spend more time with his mother-in-law. He also plans to spend more time with his father who lives in Florida.

But top of the list of things to do as soon as he retires, said Daly, is: "Dusting off my bike, oiling the chain, and pumping up the tires."

"With the busyness of things around here it has just been too hard to have the energy and time to take care of myself and that is a priority, and then I think other things will fall into place."

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