Spencer Edwards and Rachel DeSousa enjoying an afternoon hike. (Photo Submitted/Spencer Edwards)

Spencer Edwards and Rachel DeSousa enjoying an afternoon hike. (Photo Submitted/Spencer Edwards)

A teacher’s journey around the world

In Our Valley: Spencer Edwards

Spencer Edwards always found himself moving to pursue a better opportunity in his life and in a twist of fate found himself in a small Northern B.C. town.

Edwards, 49, found various opportunities taking him around the world, ones that eventually brought him here to Kitimat. Edwards was born in south Wales and spent much of his young life in the area. He attended the Penybont primary school before moving onto the Brynteg Comprehensive School.

Much like many teenagers, Edwards held a job at the local supermarket stocking shelves. He also spent a summer working at a milk bottling factory that despite it sounding mundane was actually quite interesting. Stacks of milk crates would come down the conveyor belt and it was his job to scoop it into the dolly and every once in a while it would not go as planned.

“You had to time it right you know, if you didn’t scoop it up in the right moment the whole thing would collapse, happened a couple of times, every newbie would get coated in milk,” said Edwards.

Following his completion of high school, it was time to move to the next chapter of life and Edwards decided to head to the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, where he would study chemistry.

“It’s a great university, it was renowned for very forward-thinking on environmental policy, some of the professors there have made major contributions to environmental policy for the U.K. and climate change agenda,” said Edwards.

“Part of our chemistry degree, a significant part of it was environmental science, we got to talk to those guys and learn what was going on.”

During his time at university Edwards found himself getting into rock climbing and spending some time as a part of the climbing club. This was a good link as Edwards got a job working in outdoor education teaching mostly elementary school kids about a variety of outdoor activities.

“I really loved that, but we got paid 40 pounds a week, it is not a lot, all our accommodations and food were provided, but still,” said Edwards.

This particular job lasted about a season before he realized it was time to find something else. Edward’s father informed him that Lancaster University was offering a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course.

“Subsequent to that, because I had that course and I had a degree in the U.K., I was able to go to Greece to teach within a Greek private language school, the place that I got into was a village called Trikala,” said Edwards.

Edwards found himself enjoying the Greek culture which was a lot more relaxed than he was used to in the U.K. His own enjoyment of the outdoors found himself spending some of his free time exploring the area as well as the mountains.

Realizing that once again this was not a long-term career for himself, Edwards took up the next chapter in his life, teaching in Japan.

“I stepped it up a little bit, I went over to Japan, again teaching English but this time teaching in a more established company named Nova,” said Edwards.

He began working in Nagasaki and was given a tour of the area. Edwards found himself not living in an apartment but living in a full house about halfway up in the mountains. This chapter of his life lasted four years and he enjoyed the way of life in Japan. The job also paid pretty well and gave Edwards the chance to travel around Japan.

He did also end up meeting a girlfriend that he nearly married while in the country.

“We were together for about three years and I enjoyed living in the country and the Japanese culture so I thought this could work out. I think she was quite enamoured with me because most Japanese men in her experience are more [about] the traditional relationship,” said Edwards.

Once again he realized that teaching English as a second language was not a career and when his relationship ended, he returned to the U.K.

This time he wanted to become a high school teacher and spent a year studying to do so at the University of Swansea.

“I was living at home which I wasn’t super keen about, it made things a little easier for me driving back and forth to Swansea every day which was about 30 to 40 kilometres,” said Edwards.

The course was intense but he found himself finishing it and looking for his next opportunity. This time, Edwards headed to Watford in northwest London to teach at Westfield Academy. He rose through the ranks teaching science and eventually became the head of the science department.

After a few years, he found himself hiring a new teacher for the department, one hailing from Kitimat, B.C.

“One of the applicants was from Canada, someone called Rachel DeSousa, who is now my wife,” said Edwards.

When DeSousa arrived in Watford she and Edwards worked at the school together for almost seven years and their relationship developed so that they moved into a tiny apartment together. As any relationship gets more serious, the question of marriage popped up. Edwards had a plan to ask her for her hand in marriage at the Clevedon Manor, however, there was a slight hiccup in the plan.

“I took Rachel down there one evening and we were in the shop getting the little pamphlets to show you around the place and for some reason, she brushed against my pocket or my thigh and she could feel the box in my pocket and knew what it was,” said Edwards.

“She said ‘are you gonna ask me to marry you’. Well not now, she knew it and there’s no surprise now.”

Of course, the two did marry and the proposal happened not long after this moment, slightly devoid of the surprise. They were later married in the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church in Rickmansworth, UK.

There would be one more stop on their journey before they finally came to Kitimat. They spent four years teaching in Qatar and their son and daughter were both born there.

Wanting more of a family connection the couple moved to Kitimat where DeSousa started working at St. Anthony’s Catholic school while Edwards searched for work. Edwards also needed to get certified again as a teacher first having to take English 101 and 102 at Coast Mountain College. Eventually, he received a permanent position at Skeena Middle School in Terrace. Edwards would later receive a two-year special education diploma from the University of Victoria. They are both now at Kitimat City High (KCH).

“We’re called resource teachers, she teaches mostly English and P.E. kind of everything, students come here and they ask you for help based on what they need,” said Edwards.

Edwards is also the coordinator of the outdoor education program at KCH.

Edwards achieved his Masters in Educational Leadership and DeSousa is now doing her masters in counselling. Edwards continues to enjoy exploring the outdoors and has spent time volunteering with Marine Search and Rescue. He retains his never-say-never attitude when it comes to moving however, now he has more than just himself to consider if he wanted to make that move.