It snowed quite heavily in Winnipeg today and that reminded me of something I unearthed from a box of old treasures as I was unpacking after our return to Canada from Hong Kong. I became a published author for the very first time at age 10. After an April snowstorm in 1964 I wrote a story for my grade five teacher Mr. Helmut Klassen, which he submitted to the local paper The Carillon News. They published my story and my mother cut it out, dated it and framed it as a keepsake for me.
Mr. Helmut Klassen, my 5th grade teacher, who submitted this story to the paper, was one of my favorite teachers. He had all these projects and activities for us to do. I remember making plaster of paris maps, writing books, making presentations and having formal debates about civil rights issues and I’ll never forget the day President Kennedy was shot. Mr. Klassen turned on the radio and we listened to the news about the assassination and talked about it. Mr. Klassen took a keen interest in each of his students and really encouraged us to build on our strengths. Submitting my story to the paper was a way to affirm me as a writer.
Who knew that 22 years later I would become a weekly columnist for that same newspaper. I have been writing my column Viewpoint in what is now The Carillon for more than two decades. In 2000 I would become a regular columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press, a position I had to forfeit three years later when I moved to Hong Kong. Although I was a teacher, I have had a busy second career as a writer, penning personal and institutional histories, curriculums, devotionals, poems, articles for religious and educational periodicals, the lyrics and script for a musical, sermons and many other things.
Mr. Klassen left teaching eventually to become the administrator of a nursing home. I’m sure he was good at that too but he was an excellent teacher. I don’t know where Mr. Klassen is now, but here is a public thank you to him for making it possible for me to become a published author for the very first time.