There is a Facebook page dedicated to Rick Spiller with the title, “Mr. Spiller, thanks for sharing your passion for science.”
And anyone lucky enough to sit in his classroom at Vernon secondary school — or Seaton or Charles Bloom before that — can attest to his love of science and the joy he took in teaching.
Spiller was just 57 when he lost his battle with cancer last year and staff at VSS were looking for a way of honouring the beloved teacher.
What they came up with is something he would have loved: The Rick Spiller Outdoor Classroom.
Next to the basketball court, the outdoor classroom is made up of several rows of concrete benches on the grass.
“It’s part of our Go Green Project, which is made up of four sections: the outdoor classroom, a greenhouse, the school garden and a composter,” said Sandi Slizak, culinary arts teacher. “Rick was quite a gardener and was on board with our project — he loved life-long learning for students so this ties in nicely with that.”
Slizak said it was social studies teacher Teresa Bigsby who spearheaded the idea of using the outdoor classroom as a tribute to Spiller.
Science department head Mike Cornell said Spiller had a huge impact on everyone at the school, from students to staff.
“He was very enthusiastic and just a real character and he had a real passion for teaching,” said Cornell.
Spiller’s wife, Linda, said her husband would have been touched by the outpouring of support from his colleagues and his former students.
“Malcolm (Reid, VSS principal) mentioned that the staff wanted to do something in honour of Rick but I had no idea of the magnitude,” she said.“I think he would have been both honoured and shocked — he was passionate about teaching, but he was a very humble man. There are a lot of amazing teachers and I think this reflects the passion of all teachers.”
A father of two, Spiller had been a teacher in the district since 1984, leaving in 2004 when he and Linda took a sabbatical and lived in Ecuador for three years.
Next to the outdoor classroom is a large boulder with a plaque that reads, “This classroom is dedicated to the spirit of Rick Spiller, who for many years taught science at Vernon secondary school. Mr. Spiller worked passionately every day to knock down the walls of his classroom and bring life and relevance to his curriculum and students’ learning.
“The spirit of Mr. Spiller will live on every time this classroom is used for lifelong learning.”