He was Born to Teach with Compassion and Laughter
Greg Verduin spent his lifetime as an exemplary teacher with an irreverent and irascible sense of humour that engaged students and kept them inspired and in his class. Romeo and Juliet were both part of his life, as he marked over 1,000 Grade 10 essays in his career. He taught English, Business, Law, and Sociology, but his main subject was History and he had a vast knowledge of all things History.
So many students, teachers, staff and parents in the Leaside Community remember Greg as a one-of-a-kind devoted teacher. The memory of Greg survives so sharply at Leaside, that a scholarship has begun in his name.
The scholarship will be a Perseverance Award for a student that struggled through many hours of work, and tried tried again until she or he reached their goal.
Greg was born in East York, Ontario, the first child of young Dutch immigrants, and grew up in Thorncliffe Park and West Hill (Scarborough.)
Greg did not enjoy school very much. He didn’t understand what the teachers wanted or why they would want such strange things. When he was 8 years old, he decided that he would be a teacher so that no other student would have to suffer the humiliations and put downs that he did.
Music, humour and friends helped him get through school. At Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate in Scarborough, Greg played guitar in a rock and roll band named PB&J. In Grade 11, his parents moved to Orangeville and Greg went to Orangeville District High School. He spent his first summer in the town library and read every book. When school started, he played the euphonium in the school marching band and he joined the School Spirit Club. At that club, when he was 17 and she was 16, he met Mary Millar and they became inseparable. They shared a great sense of humour and there was a lot of laughter in the hallways.
Despite constant hard work, Greg frustratedly graduated High School with 13% in math and 50% overall.
Then something marvelous happened. He began the Sociology Program at Guelph University and everything changed. The teachers listened to him, they liked his ideas, they encouraged him to continue his thinking and expand it more and more. For the first time he felt like a real person and that having good teachers can make you feel that way. Teaching can make you feel empowered and that you matter and that you belong.
Greg graduated second-top of his class at York University Teacher’s College. His official transcript from his Teacher-Supervisor said, “There is not another man like this. Greg does not have a mean bone in his body.”
Eventually, Greg found himself a substitute History teacher at Leaside High School in Toronto, where he immediately made friends and was often found after class talking up a storm with students and teachers and making them laugh. He quickly became part of the community and he never left Leaside.
But the dedication that empowered his life was his first love was from age 8, to inspire others to learn.
He was a superb teacher, a valued member of the Leaside High School family, a friend to all and an exemplary human. Greg was a wonderful and lively storyteller and so was able to bring history to life for his students. His passion for events of the past was always clear to those who heard those stories. Greg was generous with his time - both with his students and the staff as Leaside’s OSSTF representative. He was the perfect mediator between staff and administrators - bringing things quietly to resolution.
He had an infectious and hearty laugh that still rings. Leasiders all remember him with enormous respect and fondness - both as a teacher and more important as a person. Many students sought him out for one of his “doodles” whether it was of them, him or animals. Many of these doodles remain today on old schoolwork or cards. He had fun with art, cartooning and continued to get better at watercolours. He loved dogs and posted a photo of his new dog Becky in a baby bonnet on the staff bulletin board reserved for moms’ new baby announcements. His signature look was rocking plaid shirts and suspenders and baggy pants. He always had his long-chained pocket watch to pull out and a couple of snazzy fountain pens in his shirt pocket. If you needed to borrow a pen, he always held the inky cap ‘til you were done.
Sometime in the late 90’s, Greg developed kidney disease, but he refused to miss a day of work. In 2012, Greg began the arduous process of walking to Sunnybrook Hospital afterschool three days a week for 4 hours of Hemo-dialysis, often getting home at midnight. He was getting weaker, and after 5 years of this, his wife, Mary fought her way in to Transplant Assessment and found out that she was a near-perfect genetic match. Now she had the ability to save his life.
In Oct 2017, Greg and Mary underwent Kidney Transplant Surgery together at Toronto General Hospital. At 6 months post-transplant, he was back at Leaside doing what he loved the most in life.
He retired at age 66 after teaching the last few months on-line due to Covid.
Mr. V, or Verduin, as his students called him, is remembered by his Leaside Colleagues, the students of Leaside, whether they were in his class or not, the Parents and the Leaside Community.
He is lovingly remembered by Mary, his wife of 46 years, and his son Matthew. Matthew was a student at Leaside and Trent University and now lives in Peterborough with his wife, Cecilia and their children Arabella and Elliott. Greg boundlessly adored his grandchildren and went to great lengths making them birthday and Christmas cards.
If inspiring teaching, if encouraging kids to stay in school and keep going, if integrity and a awesome sense of humour mean something to you, please donate.
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