When You Hear Pinterest and Math, Who Do You Think of?

Reflected on my pre-pandemic calendar for tonight was our annual OPC Spring Dinner. Historically, an evening to come together with colleagues, one last time before the end of the school year, to share funny anecdotes and upcoming summer plans.  It is also our opportunity to celebrate and recognize colleagues who have decided to take the next step in their journey and venture into retirement. For the past few years, the evening has been a bittersweet one, as many of those who are retiring are my contemporaries.  We started teaching or we entered into the wild world of administration at the same time. I start to envision the fall when we come together for our first meeting of the new school year and know that there will be fewer and fewer familiar faces.  It’s a magical time in one’s career when you know all of the retirees and some of them you’ve had the pleasure of working closely with.

Tonight was the night that we were going to acknowledge and honour a colleague who has had a tremendous impact throughout his entire career on so many students, families and educators.  I recall the first time I passed Scott Armstrong in the hallway at the Board Office.  I was just starting my career as an administrator and he was a Math Learning Coordinator.  I, of course, knew who he was and was so delighted that when we passed each other and he knew my name.  Scott’s trademark charismatic smile, endless energy and deep, deep knowledge of curriculum are just some of his trademarks.   As Scott transitioned into administration, our paths occasionally crossed, but it wasn’t until he took on the role of the Learning Supervisor for the MSTE portfolio that we had an opportunity to work side by side (our offices were literally next to each).  I watched in awe as he effectively navigated both Board and Ministry “ever-changing, ever-increasing” expectations, as the world of Math was thrust into the forefront. He passionately supported the work that his team was doing and made every attempt to join in the professional learning by kicking off the session with a trademark Armstrong “soap box” mantra.  None of us will ever be able to hear “Pinterest” and “Math” in the same sentence and not hear Scott’s voice.  His passion for ensuring that educators knew the front matter of the curriculum is a message that we can never hear too often.

When his role demanded it, Scott articulately shared comprehensive and optimistic presentations at Board Meetings and in Regional and Provincial settings.  He was the “Thames Valley Math Guy” and we were all so proud of his leadership and the work that was being done.  I enjoyed attending conferences with him and watching as he effortlessly connected with people and dove into authentic conversations about math and life.

As a partner in the work we were doing at a system level, Scott was never too busy to share a laugh, a great new resource or when needed, a shoulder.  There were many times, that all I needed to do was to walk next door, close his door, exchange a knowing glance and then return to the task at hand.  Colleagues like that are golden.

Scott has also had a tremendous impact on our future leaders.  Every candidate who has had the pleasure of having Scott as one of their PQP instructors knows, first hand, that he provides a comprehensive, honest and inspiring account of what it means to be an administrator.  They love his stories and appreciate his depth of knowledge about the role.   I have no doubt that over the years he has inspired so many teachers to venture into administration.

As Scott ventures into this next phase of his life, I have no doubt that he will continue to find soapboxes to perch on.  His work in the area of inspiring educators to be the best versions of their self is not over yet.  Like all of you, who have had the pleasure of working alongside of Scott Armstrong, I wish him nothing but the best and thank him for his dedication to our Valley, but more importantly for his friendship.