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Learning through play - Delores Los



"You don't 'control' kids. You engage them. When children are engaged in an activity - really engaged - they don't get in trouble."

Pemberton über-teacher Delores Los

It was the fall of 1972. Delores Los had just returned from a two-year CUSO stint in Nigeria. Her post-grad course in the U.S. wasn't starting until the New Year. Most people would have been happy to just kick back and enjoy the time off. But not Delores.

A restless soul at the best of times, the 23-year-old Albertan was looking for something to channel her considerable energy. Even if it was only for a few months: a temporary teaching post, a coaching stint - didn't matter as long as she was working with kids.

What she hadn't counted on was how hard that next stage would turn out to be...

Pemberton's Delores Los is a force of nature. Nothing, it seems, can hold her back. And her style is overwhelmingly positive. She, as many people have discovered, is the kind of person who changes lives.

That's why her Labrador story so intrigued me. It was the only time in our long, meandering conversation that I sensed a feeling of loss in Delores's narrative. "There was a letter waiting for me when I got home from Africa," she tells me. It was an invitation, she says, to teach kids in an isolated coastal fishing community on the northeast coast of Canada. "They needed a temporary teacher for kindergarten to Grade 3. Nine students in total.  Mostly Irish immigrants' kids. I didn't think it would pose that big a challenge."

Turns out it did. First off, there was no place for her to stay. "The question on my arrival was 'Who'll take the teacher?'" she says, a note of sadness lingering behind her words. "It was such an interesting community..." I can only imagine what 'interesting' means in this context. She shrugs. "I ended up sharing a room with children I taught. It was very, very difficult." A long sigh. "I lasted from October to December. But I couldn't stay longer. I was suffocating."

The local people took her departure hard. "I went to the general store to say goodbye," she recounts, "and the lady who ran it said: 'Things must be very bad here. You survived two years in Africa but only managed three months with us...'"

It was a hard pill to swallow. But Delores's new academic pursuits in outdoor education at Massachusetts's Springfield College soon perked her up. "I volunteered and worked in every outdoor ed situation I could," she says. "I wanted to learn as much as possible."

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