Paying Tribute to Mr. Lawrence, the Essence of St. George’s School

Catrina Van Rijn
Mr. Lawrence after the pie eating contest with Dr. Matthews at the Saints Fair.

Principal Shawn Lawrence, who has been teaching at St. Georges for 32 years, announced his impending retirement at the start of the school year, thus marking the retirement of another well respected member of the St. George’s community. Mr. Lawrence has been a pivotal part of St. George’s school, and his leaving of Saints will be a bittersweet moment for both students and staff, leaving behind a commendable legacy for the next principal to follow.

A quick Mr. Lawrence bio:

Mr. Lawrence has been a faculty member at St. George’s for 32 years. He was born on the west side of Vancouver, attending Queen Mary for elementary school. His dad’s business moved his family over to Victoria for a couple of years, but his family moved back to the lower mainland in his senior years. He graduated from Burnaby Central and then went to university locally at Simon Fraser University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science and kinesiology. He started his respectable career at St. George’s in 1983 as a science teacher, and after 20 years of outstanding service, became the head of grade 12 in the fall of 2003. He was head of grade 12 for nine years and is retiring from St. George’s as the senior school principal. He has been an active member in the athletics department, coaching the first XI soccer team for over 15 years, and he has coached the track and field team over his time at St. Georges. Certainly a large legacy to leave behind.

The Final Assembly

On May 26, the entire school held an assembly to commemorate Mr. Lawrence’s retirement. To start off, Head Boy Quinton Huang shared his memories of Mr. Lawrence as his teacher: “Mr. Lawrence was my first teacher, of the first block, of my first year at Saints”, emphasizing Mr. Lawrence’s longevity and dedication to the school. Following his speech, grade 12 student Christopher Milani spoke about Mr. Lawrence as his soccer coach, always cheering the team up and even letting the team eat breakfast at his house.

The senior school band also played two tribute songs, Arabesque and Bohemian Rhapsody. Dr. Mercer then gave a speech about his fellow staff member, describing Mr. Lawrence as a great biology teacher and a vital part of St. George’s over the past few decades. Dr. Matthews finished it off, delivering a heartfelt speech to his friend and colleague, touching upon Mr. Lawrence as both an amazing teacher and friend. Mr. Lawrence’s daughter, Ms. Lawrence, then presented him flowers and a commemorative gift, capping off an emotional moment for the entire St. George’s community.

Here is an exclusive interview with Mr. Lawrence in which he discusses his retirement and longevity at Saints:

We also interviewed many people to share their opinions about Mr. Lawrence.

First, We interviewed Ms. Lawrence. (Mr. Lawrence’s daughter.)

The Creed: Is Mr. Lawrence’s behaviour different as a dad rather than a teacher?

Ms. Lawrence: Maybe he’s a little more laid back at home life. I’m sure his discipline for students is a lot different than his own children, but some of it also carries through. I’ve only seen him this year at school, so I’m not too sure.

The Creed: How does it feel to work in the same school as your dad?

Ms. Lawrence: Weird and awesome. It’s kinda strange seeing your dad and realizing he’s your dad but also your boss. Saying “Hey dad!” in the hallway is probably inappropriate when I do that, because I should probably be calling him Mr. Lawrence.

The Creed: Did you expect his retirement to be earlier or later?

Ms. Lawrence: I expected it to be around now. I don’t think it would be later.

The Creed: How has he inspired you to become a teacher?

Ms. Lawrence: He’s totally inspired me to become a teacher probably since high school. I think I witnessed his life here at Saints, and it was awesome. As a child, I’ve been coming here since I was born and I’ve been part of the school with my dad, who’s been here for 33 years. So, I get to come to all the Saints’ fairs, children playtimes, and even help staffing. I saw my dad’s experience here and I thought it was awesome, which inspired me to become a teacher.

The Creed: Is there anything you want to tell us about him?

Ms. Lawrence: Well, he’s got four daughters at home, so it’s all girls at home. But he works at an all boys school. So it’s probably quite a different life. It’s kind of funny how we don’t have any boys in our family but he decided to work at an all boys school.

We then interviewed Mr. Yen, a former student of Mr. Lawrence.

The Creed: What classes did you have with Mr. Lawrence?

Mr. Yen: He was my advisor in Gr.11 and my Biology teacher in my senior years.

The Creed: Can you tell us about his teaching skills?

Mr. Yen: He was a calm teacher, and I cannot recall him ever yelling at any of my classmates. He knew so much information about biology. He was great at explaining the subject and he told us everything we needed to know. Overall, he was a great teacher.

The Creed: What was your favourite thing he taught you at school?

Mr. Yen: I think that the favourite thing he taught me was during my advisor group. He really emphasized the sense of community to us and that we were all apart of the same family.

The Creed: Was he a mentor for you to pursuit a teaching career?

Mr. Yen: I am not 100 percent sure if he was a mentor for my pursuit of a teaching career. He was definitely an influence for sure. I like to use his style of teaching when I am the teacher in the classroom.

Finally, we interviewed Dr. Matthews, the headmaster of St. George’s School.

The Creed: How long have you known Mr. Lawrence for?

Dr. Matthews: I’ve known him for 5 years, back when he was the head of grade 12.

 The Creed: In 3 words, how would you describe Mr. Lawrence?

 Dr. Matthews: Kind, respectful, and upbeat. He’s always positive and just a great person to be around, always with a smile on his face.

The Creed: How would you describe your relationship with Mr. Lawrence?

 Dr. Matthews: We’ve had a close relationship over the years, working together on a daily basis. I both admire and respect him.

 The Creed: Do you have a favourite Mr. Lawrence memory?

 Dr. Matthews: That’s a tough one… there have been so many moments over the years. I would have to say the farewell assembly on Tuesday was very powerful for me. Just the community coming together to say farewell, showing respect and giving kind recognition.

Have a happy retirement, Mr. Lawrence! You will be missed.