The importance of connection in fostering student resilience and success

Retiring after a 30+ year career, School District Superintendent of Schools Mike Hooker provides an introspective look at public education in Revelstoke.

Photo: Mike Hooker, who is retiring as Superintendent of Schools for Revelstoke, is pictured at a May 2019 Fridays for Future rally in front of Revelstoke City Hall. Students from across the district gathered for the protest inspired by activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: contributed

This story is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s July 2022 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:

It was Mike Hooker’s second year in public education when he experienced the profound impact teachers can have on the lives of their students. A Grade 5 teacher in West Vancouver at the time, Mike recalls the mother of one of his students came to meet with him near the end of the school year.

“[She] wasn’t going to be in my class the next year. Her mom came to see me in June, and she had a scarf on her head. She said, ‘I’m not likely going to be around this fall and’ ….” Usually a pillar of stoic professionalism, Mike’s mouth begins to quiver as he tries to fight back a sob that has begun to escape. He asks for a moment to compose himself before continuing:

“… and [the student] is going to have a tough year, so is there any way you can talk to the principal and have her stay in your classroom? And we did, and she stayed in my classroom and her mom passed away. That was the start of understanding the impact that can happen, and that reminds me of what I’m most proud of, the connection.”

In April, Mike announced he will retire as Superintendent of Schools for School District 19 (Revelstoke) this coming fall. Replacing him is Roberta Kubik, who brings with her more than 25 years of experience in education, having worked in teaching and administrative roles in school districts in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

As Mike reflects on a career in education spanning more than three decades (including time spent as an elementary teacher, high school principal and district superintendent) it’s students—the obstacles overcome, the successes celebrated, the youthful antics—who are the common thread weaving through our conversation. Some of the stories are humorous, like the one about the four Grade 12 boys at the old Revelstoke Secondary School whose plan to streak through the gym during a Friday night dance was foiled by a locked door. Other stories, like the one about the young girl and her mother from West Vancouver, are more sorrowful but offer opportunity to contemplate on the importance of how connection can lead to student resilience.

In 2008, while still principal at RSS, Mike recalls the day the school was evacuated after a bombthreat was discovered written on a bathroom wall.

“I remember working with the RCMP trying to decide whether we thought this was a viable threat, making the decision to finally make the call. It was winter, so we were able to move the kids down to the arena. We made some really big mistakes that day because we had everyone leave everything in the building and that’s not good practice. The [RCMP] had to try to clear the building. They brought dogs from Kelowna to clear the building, but the building was full. Every kid had left everything they own in the building, so it took hours and hours.”

Thankfully, it turned out the threat wasn’t viable. Rather, it was written by a student who was struggling and unhappy at the time. That student has stayed connected with Mike in the years since, providing updates on her successes in life.

“That really typifies the way most of our interactions with kids have gone. People got really excited [about the] bomb scare and how dangerous it is and really at the heart of it, it was a hurting youngster,” Mike says, pointing to the importance of prioritizing student health and wellbeing. “Let’s make the assumption that everybody’s doing the best they can and try to meet them where they’re at and move on quickly, because that was the challenge to get her back to school afterwards.”

While the importance of meeting the holistic needs of students is becoming more recognized within the public education system, Mike points out one of the future challenges is further growing the understanding of how to help children and youth who have suffered from or are living in trauma.

“I think it’s important to differentiate, to acknowledge there are no such things as difficult kids. Often kids who are having difficulty are having difficulty because we’re putting them in a situation they can’t handle. Our schools have gotten good at trying to accept behaviours, to say, ‘There’s going to be some crazy shit that happens here, but you know what, that is life and growing up.’ That’s where I really credit staff with the ability to be able to push through, [rather] than saying ‘I didn’t sign up for this when I was going to become a teacher’, they said, ‘No, I’m a teacher of people’ and that’s been an important focus.”

Community interaction, school community highlight of superintendency

Mike and his family came to Revelstoke in 1997, after he accepted a job as principal at Arrow Heights Elementary School. He was appointed to the role of principal at RSS in 2004, where he stayed until the Revelstoke Board of Education asked him to take on the role of superintendent after Anne Cooper announced her retirement in 2012. It’s a slightly unorthodox trajectory into an upper management role within the public education system, as these typically require applying for vacant positions and a willingness to relocate.

“I wasn’t prepared to move and honestly I enjoyed the superintendency, but because of the impact and interaction to be working with the community, but working with the staff in a broader way, what I really missed was the principal-ship. The decision to take the superintendency was related to the way I felt about the school community. I wasn’t quite ready to leave the high school, but at the same time I didn’t want to work for somebody new and I really loved working with Anne, so that sort of drove it a little bit.”

The work Mike did as superintendent differed somewhat from many of his colleagues across the province. With only one high school and three elementary schools there is more opportunity to directly interact with students and staff than in larger districts.

“One day I could be dressing up as Zero the Hero and going to a kindergarten classroom and then sitting down with Bruce [Tisdale, School District 19 secretary treasurer] and doing capital planning around what we are doing with our sites. It’s an interesting mix of things.”

During his time as superintendent, Mike has faced several large challenges including the teacher walk-out in 2014 and the more recent COVID-19 pandemic. In navigating the seemingly constantly changing provincial health rules around COVID, Mike said rather than trying to change people’s minds on how they felt about the broader context of the provincial guidelines, vaccinations and mask mandates, the district’s approach was to try and keep the focus on students.

“We didn’t start trying to help change people’s minds about how they felt. When people were upset or concerned we said, ‘Well, how can we help with your child at our school in her classroom with her teacher. Let’s just focus on that.’ I think focusing on the individual child that way was one of our strengths. I think staff stayed at their comfort level, because staff were on a bit of a continuum on how comfortable they were too, but at the end of the day they all just kept doing what they wanted to do which was look after the kids.”

Working towards incorporating indigenous ways of learning & understanding

Research shows today’s youth face bigger, more complex challenges than past generations. A 2018 United Nations World Youth Report points to “unacceptably high numbers of young people experiencing poor education and employment outcomes.” In a 2018 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, teens reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than all other age groups.

Provincially, the Revelstoke school district is recognized among its peers as a leader in early childhood education, student mental health and wellbeing, and new curriculum initiatives. A long-term partner of the UBC Human Early Learning Partnership, an interdisciplinary research network involved in the assessment of children’s developmental readiness, Revelstoke consistently scores above average on the Well-Being Index, a measure “relating to children’s physical health and social and emotional development that are of critical importance during the middle years.”

While there is certainly a focus on ensuring the diverse needs of learners are met, Mike points to Indigenous ways of learning as a vehicle to help provide better understanding and a path to reconciliation and healing.

“I think for the most part relationships are repaired, but there were relationships broken during COVID and going forward that’s an important part of the work.”

He notes the significance in doing the work in a community where youth are not often directly exposed to first-hand examples of what’s happening nationally with Indigenous Peoples of Canada and their experiences through colonization. While Revelstoke does have an Indigenous Friendship Society, it does not have a local band office or council.

“That’s been a challenge with the work, because it’s our work to do, but we’re not being pushed on it by any group, where other communities you go to—Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Merritt, there are Indigenous [people] there coming to the school, saying ‘You need to do this’, and here that doesn’t happen.”

For Roberta, who will take over as Revelstoke’s superintendent of schools in August, continuing to build on, and recognize, the importance of incorporating Indigenous teachings is pivotal.

“For our children to get a strong sense of place of the Four Nations who were here, it’s important for us to go to community, to go to where there’s a physical presence — pow wows, ceremonies. It’s for us to go out to community,” she says.

“I need to connect with band councils and elders and knowledge keepers myself. This is new to me, and I would like to respectfully do that. Revelstoke does have a lot of things going on with honouring truth and reconciliation and this is a pathway I would like to explore more.

Photo: A TV news crew interviews Mike Hooker, then principal of Revelstoke Secondary School, at the 2011 grand opening ceremony of the new high school. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine


Here’s a look at some of the events that took place during Mike Hooker’s 25 years with school district 19 (Revelstoke)


Mike Hooker and his family move to Revelstoke after he is hired on as the principal of Arrow Heights Elementary School. Hooker, who grew up in Kelowna, spent a few years of his childhood in Revelstoke when his father managed Cooper’s Foods.


Hooker is appointed principal of Revelstoke Secondary School.


The newly built Revelstoke Secondary School opens in October. It includes one of the first Neighbourhood Learning Centres (NLC) in the province. The $39.9 million project includes a 275-seat performing arts centre and coordinated adolescent health services.

Grand Opening of the new Revelstoke Secondary School. Photo: Aaron Orlando/ Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine


Superintendent of Schools Anne Cooper announces her plans to retire the following year, after the completion of the new schools’ project. The Board of Education announces Hooker will replace Anne as Superintendent.

The newly built Begbie View Elementary School opens, replacing both Mountain View Elementary School and Mount Begbie Elementary School. It hosts Revelstoke’s second NLC which includes the Revelstoke Early Years Centre and a gymnastics facility.


Hooker officially steps into his new role as Superintendent of Schools after Greg Kenyon takes over as principal of RSS in January. Cooper remains on staff to oversee the surplus schools and to provide mentorship to Hooker during the transition.


An ongoing dispute between teachers and the provincial government delays the start of the school year. The longest teacher’s strike in B.C. history finally ends in mid-September when 86 percent of B.C. Teachers’ Federation members vote in favour of accepting a new six-year contract.


The BC Ministry of Education announces students will not return to classes after Spring Break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Revelstoke School District staff and students adapt to remote learning. The district provides computers for students who require one to participate in online learning. In-class learning eventually resumes under the B.C. government’s restart plan in September 2020.

A Black Lives Matter protest is forced to move from its planned location on the Mountain View Elementary School field after being informed the event cannot take place on land owned by the Revelstoke School District. In an interview with, Hooker says while the district supports the protest current provincial guidelines regarding COVID-19 and public gatherings mean the event will need to take place elsewhere. It is relocated to the Centennial Park ball diamonds.

Black Lives Matter protest at Centennial Park in 2020. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine


In April, Hooker announces his plans to retire as Superintendent of Schools in the fall. The Revelstoke Board of Education announces Roberta Kubik will replace Hooker upon his retirement.

Melissa Jameson is the civic affairs reporter for the Revelstoke Mountaineer. She handles the newsy side of goings on about Revelstoke. Got a news tip? Feel free to contact Melissa at