School District Superintendent Anita Richardson takes a moment to walk down memory lane and look for familiar faces on the wall of grads while visiting McBride Secondary. Her photo, along with those of her parents and siblings, are among the many graduation portraits. //ANDREA ARNOLD

Newly-appointed School District 57 Superintendent Anita Richardson traveled to the Robson Valley on Monday, January 20, 2020 to check in with schools and meet staff in both McBride and Valemount. When she arrived at McBride Secondary School, she was on familiar ground.

Richardson attended school in McBride from the time her family arrived when she was eight years old. She attended both of the “old” schools, elementary for Grades 3-7 and the high school close to the tracks until the new school opened following Spring Break of her Grade 12 year.

“I felt very proud to graduate from the new building, but for me it was with mixed emotions as my entire family – Mom, Dad and three siblings – all graduated from the old building,” said Richardson. She remembers the excitement as the students watched the building take shape across 2nd avenue. “There was also some sadness about leaving the old school,” said Richardson. “We had a lot of memories made in those halls.”

That said, they were very proud of the shiny new building that had a level gym floor and gorgeous library.

Grad that year was a highly successful dry grad celebration, a first for McBride. Grads and guests enjoyed an all-night celebration consisting of a casino, a dance, movies, snacks and pancake breakfast. The community was instrumental in the success of the event, and each grad received a high-ticket item ranging from dishes to a car.

Richardson feels she benefited from growing up McBride “I always felt safe in my community and supported in the endeavors I wanted to take on,” she said. She felt she was academically prepared for the transition to university, and the positive relationships she had with adults both in the community and the schools contributed to that. “I felt confident to pursue my goals.”

She has many fond memories from her years here. She was an active individual who enjoyed being on the farm and outside enjoying the fresh air and water through activities like hiking, fishing, quadding and such. She recalls one of her favourite experiences, which she was able to participate in twice. “The annual field trip to Berg Lake with Mr. Bond – I was able to go in both Grade 6 and 7,” she said. She was involved in most of the sports offered in

McBride at the time – softball, basketball, volleyball, judo, curling, and figure skating. Sometimes Richardson just frequented the park with friends, “Sometimes life was simple and made better by a great swing with a friend,” she said. Richardson also held many part-time jobs, including at Karen’s Café, McBride Hotel, Country King and both grocery stores. She admits to being partial to the fries and gravy served at the McBride Hotel.

Upon graduation, Richardson didn’t have any idea that one day she would find herself in an educational leadership position. She was drawn to education, having participated in peer mentoring and tutoring as well as leadership within the high school. It was not until she was well into her teaching career and working on her Master’s degree that she started seeing that as a possibility.

Richardson started her teaching career in Coquitlam in 1998 and moved to Mackenzie Secondary School a year later. She taught mostly math and science until she became an administrator in 2008. Richardson has spent the last 7.5 years in rural Alberta as a Junior High School Principal (four years) and more recently, an Associate Superintendent – Programs and Human Services (3.5 years).

Richardson says her upbringing formed her view on rural education. “I benefited greatly from my rural education and I’m passionate to ensure that all students feel that their education provided them the knowledge, tools, skills and attitudes to be successful adults,” she said. “Students in rural communities should not feel disadvantaged by their K-12 experience, and it is our job as adults in the system to ensure that.”

It was Richardson’s heart for the kids and her desire to see students succeed that drew her to the position of Superintendent. “We will definitely be continuing the work on equity and transformation in SD57 with a goal of ensuring that every student gets what they need to graduate high school with dignity, purpose and hope for the future,” she said. She notes a few of the key areas needing focus are the gaps expressed in the United Nations

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), in rural areas and the changes needed to keep up with the increasing enrollment in Prince George.

Richardson and her family made the move back to BC and she took on the role at the start of the year. “Prince George School district has always been in my heart and thoughts,” she said. “My roots are here and I have always hoped to return and was thrilled to have this opportunity.”