tofino profile: sandi rideout

Tofino Profile: Sandi Rideout

by Shirley Langer, Tofino


Sandi (yes, with an i) is all teacher. She knew she wanted to be a teacher since she started grade one. She just can’t help herself. When she was first asked to become the director of Soundwaves, Tofino’s Community Choir, she was reluctant, thinking she needed a teaching break, having spent a total of thirty one years in the in the elementary school system, ten of them as a vice principal, then eleven as principal in Kamloops. But she soon realized she needed to be fulfilling her artistic drives and inclinations to direct, so she eventually accepted the request. Under her guidance, aided by her significant musical training in piano and years of performing “barbershop” harmonies with The Sweet Adelines, the choir is now able to learn and perform some complicated four-part harmonies. Speaking as a member of Soundwaves, she makes learning enjoyable and fun, and we sometime feel amazed at the rich music we produce under her direction.

This woman was, no doubt, a gifted principal. Her assignment in 1992 was an inner city school built in 1907 on the outskirts of Kamloops. One part of the neighborhood was poor and rough; the other gradually being turned over and money gentrified. The challenge was getting the kids to overcome their differences. The key, she determined, was using the history and heritage of the school itself to unify the kids. The program emphasized that “school is family”, and the teaching team and students created multiple ways to develop their common bond as promoters of the school’s history and heritage. Students, for example, gave guided tours of the school.

Sandi describes her present status as semi-retired, and still wanting and needing to work. Everyday she rises very early to prepare herself and walk the dogs, Chico and Zoe, so that she can be ready to leave should she get the early morning call to do substitute teaching. I want to know what plans she has when fully retired. “My piano will come out of storage and I’ll give piano lessons, and perhaps teach Speech Arts, which I’ve done a lot of. And I’ll finish a book I’ve started.” All I could squeeze out of Sandi about this book, is that it will be short stories about an urbanized woman trying to adjust to life in a very small town. Hmmm… I wonder whom that’s about.

Almost everyone has something intriguing about them, and Sandi is no exception. I learn she has been twice married, the first time to the high school rock star—“he had a band, listened to Led Zeppelin; I listened to Joni Mitchell”— the second time to a teacher, whose two children she helped raise. Yet she’s the live-in partner of long-time Tofino teacher, Margaret Eady. I ask if the explanation is a delayed realization of sexual orientation. Her reply is unusual, but I buy it. “Margaret and I went to university together. We’ve kept in touch. Living with her now is natural for me because she’s my oldest and dearest friend.”

Does Sandi harbour any unfulfilled ambitions? “Well, I won’t be lamenting that I didn’t go sky-diving (Sandi has already referred to herself as a shrinking violet.), I am interested in visiting New Zealand, I want to see a giraffe in the wild, and I would like to teach again in a foreign country.” Again? The first time was in Shanghai, China, teaching English to high school students on two occasions of one month each in 2000 and 2001. In the evenings Sandi would pull out her guitar and sing. The students were enthralled. In heavily accented English they exclaimed, “Oh Miss Sandi, you sing just like Karen Carpenter!” Sandi recalls that the students chose English names for themselves. Some of the choices were comical, i.e., Zero, a packaged noodle product; Minnie, after Minnie Mouse, and Water, a version of Walter Kronkite.

Sandi made some interesting observations about Chinese culture in Shanghai. “Chinese are very friendly, very hard-working, very guarded. They will not admit even casually to anything that they think would detract from the good image of their society. Surprisingly, school is not mandatory. Their elderly are much healthier. Every morning the elderly emerge into the parks and practice many different types of exercise. There is no crime, likely because the consequences are immediate and severe. And the Chinese give the best massages in the world. Oddly, all the masseurs and masseuses are either blind or vision impaired.”

Sandi recounts an anecdote that illustrated the difference in teaching and learning styles. “I was assigned a young Chinese teacher, Lily, as apprentice. The first day we entered the classroom together and I asked her to help me rearrange the chairs in a circle. She was aghast, and exclaimed, “But Miss Sandi, they will see each other and therefore talk to each other!” “That’s the point, Lily,” I answered. “By the end of the month, Lily told me she had learned so much.”

Sandi has lived in Tofino for 16 months. How is she adjusting to Tofino? “I miss the bigger sky, but Tofino weather doesn’t bother me.”

“ Have you become a water baby yet?” “I’m more likely to be the stranger waving on the shore,” she replied. “I’m scared of the water. Margaret took me out in a kayak and I had a ten minute panic attack because the water was right there! Margaret eventually calmed me down and I enjoyed it, but I won’t venture far. Up to my ankles throwing sticks for the dogs is more my style.”

Shrinking violet, maybe, but a welcome person and talent to Tofino, for sure. Sandi, born teacher and director, maybe you will stage a musical production someday, I hope, I hope, we all hope.

Shirley Langer has resided in Tofino since 1995. She describes herself as a woman about town with a well developed civic consciousness.

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Tofino profile of Sandi Rideout, written by Shirley Langer for Tofino Time Magazine in January 2005.

tofino time january 2005

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