Deb (Beck) Ike was only coming to teach English and French at Caronport High School (CHS) for one year.
That was 10 years ago.
Today, Ike is in her fifth year as principal of CHS and she marvels at the path that brought her to this place.
Before coming to Caronport, Ike had taught several English courses as well as French, History, Yearbook and Journalism at a large public high school in Abbotsford, B.C.
“I was there for five and a half years,” she said. “I had gotten to the point where I was able to teach all the classes I wanted. I had my dream profile.”
Then Ike felt God leading her to take a year’s leave of absence. As she considered various overseas and aboriginal locations where she could teach for a year, her Dad told her CHS needed an English teacher. Ike inquired about the position and after several phone interviews she was offered the job.
“I struggled,” Ike admitted as she explained the process of deciding whether or not to take the position. “Why would I go to a Christian school where all the kids are Christians? I’ve just been here out on the front lines in the public school system. That’s where I felt my calling was. I didn’t feel peace until I’d made that decision. It was like Moses stepping into the water. I had to be obedient and get my feet wet before I saw the way clear for me to move forward.”
Ike found the following year to stretch her in every way.
“It was a challenge,” she said. “But I learned to teach in a whole new way. It was fun to do some things with other types of literature I hadn’t had a chance to do before – such as C.S. Lewis. I had more freedom within the curriculum because we weren’t so focused on teaching to a provincial exam.”
Life in Caronport was also very different from life in Abbotsford.
“It was culture shock,” Ike said. “I lived in a trailer with pipes bursting in the winter. It was so lonely. It was like learning to breathe at a different altitude.”
Even with the challenges, Ike decided to stay on in Caronport when the time came to renew her contract.
Around that time, she got some life advice from one of her students on the way home from a senior ski trip.
“One of the boys sat down by me and he put his arm around me,” she recalled with a laugh. “He said, ‘Miss Beck, You’ve got to get out of here. You will never find anybody here. You have to leave. You have to leave now so you have a chance of happiness in your life.”
“I said, ‘Thanks, that’s kind of you,’” she continued. “’I really appreciate that, but I think the Lord can manage that.’ – Even though I wasn’t quite sure that He could. I was almost 30. I wasn’t coming here to find somebody.”
Just a short time later, Ike started a dating relationship with her future husband Marcelo, whom she had gotten to know at a Bible study. Her students took great interest in the relationship’s development.
“There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Caronport, so watching our relationship was really fascinating for (the students),” Ike said with a laugh.
Ike was married the following winter and several of her students who lived in the B.C. area came to the wedding. AJ Crocker, the current CHS chaplain who was then just freshly graduated from CHS, was one of those students.
“At our wedding there was an open mike,” she chuckled. “(AJ) sort of took credit for our relationship developing – in front of all my former staff and professional colleagues!”
During her time at CHS, Ike says there have been some big changes.
“School culture has been the biggest change,” she said. “Last year we had as many new students come as we had returning students, so it’s a big culture risk every year. There’s potential every single year for the culture to descend but we work really hard to bring them into our culture and have them become a part of it and then in turn to shape it.”
The CHS principal says the two greatest commandments of Jesus – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself – are the foundation that the school tries to use to shape its important decisions. She says it’s changed how they deal with kids in crisis.
“There’s a lot more working with them, supporting them,” she explained. “We’re still holding them accountable – there are still consequences, but our goal is to come alongside them, offer them counseling, mentorship, and tutoring. We’re all trying to make it work for them and giving them every opportunity to do that.”
“We’re not perfect, but we’re committed to regeneration,” she exclaimed.
Besides the thrill of seeing students graduate and begin to make their mark, Ike says she is grateful for the many different faculty and staff she serves at CHS.
“It’s a real testimony to us all being the body of Christ,” she said. “Teachers at CHS for the last 65 years have been pouring into kids’ lives. That’s why we’re still her I think because God had a way of connecting to kids through the staff and that’s always been the heart of it and that’s always what set it apart and that’s what kids remember.”
Ike says she would like her legacy at CHS to be ‘faithfulness to God’s direction.’
“The role of each of us (at CHS) is a drop in the bucket,” she explained. “There’s a bigger work of God that’s happening. Ultimately it’s God’s school to run as He chooses. So we’ve been trying to be part of this chapter of God’s journey for our school and be faithful to that.”