Local Hero: Jill Coleman retires after 34 years at Leaside High School

The high school teacher was instrumental in supporting the school’s drama club


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Jill Coleman

Being a teacher isn’t just about the grading of papers or time spent during school hours. For Jill Coleman, being a teacher is about so much more. Coleman has spent her entire career, all 34 years, at Leaside High School. The 60-year-old arts teacher has dedicated countless hours behind the scenes of musicals and productions put on by her after-school drama club, encouraging student directors and actors to lead.

“We know as teachers how important to our students those activities are, and that’s why we do it,” she said.

Over the years, the club has performed a number of productions, including Grease and Little Shop of Horrors, often rehearsing four out of five days, for hours after school, sometimes more.

What makes it all worthwhile for Coleman is when students like Andrew Lamb come back to visit. Currently the artistic director of Roseneath Theatre, Ontario’s largest touring theatre company, Lamb runs workshops at the school and credits Ms. Coleman for piquing his interest in the arts to begin with.

“One of the things that makes teaching difficult is that you don’t always get feedback. You don’t know the impact you had,” said Coleman. “So when a student comes back, it really means a lot.”

This September, however, will be the first time in 34 years that Coleman won’t return to Leaside High. She’ll be retiring. Upon hearing the news in June, Leaside students rallied to present her with a gold microphone and clipboard with the words “Drama Queen” emblazoned on it.

The former arts leader said she will pass the torch, or microphone, rather, to Carly Kimmel, another Leaside teacher who will run the club this year. “I’m expecting great things from her,” Coleman said. “The show must go on.”

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