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The Trouble With Teachers

Updated on July 27, 2017
Stephen Sinclair profile image

Stephen Sinclair is a freelance Canadian writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

Toronto's Centre Island
Toronto's Centre Island | Source

Two Toronto Teachers: Christer Nilsson and Don Sinclair

As I have previously written, I am autistic, and I am aware of two suspicious deaths, which I have reported to the police. I suspect my mother, Pamela Sinclair, and her sister, Penelope Goldsmith, of murdering my grandmother, Violet Heck, in 2008.

My mother didn’t graduate from high school and is among the only members of the family not involved in education in some way. My father, Donald Sinclair, worked as a math teacher at Agincourt Collegiate High School for over thirty years. My aunt Penelope, Penny, and her second husband, Herb Goldsmith, own a chain of daycare centers in the Toronto, Ontario area, EduKids. My other aunt, Joyce Nilsson, worked as a teacher at Toronto public schools for her entire career. Her former husband, Christer Nilsson, served as principal of the school located on Toronto’s quaint Centre Island, located in Lake Ontario. My sister, Sarah Orgill, teaches at New West Charter School in Los Angeles, California.

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Christer, probably when I was about 10 years old. He was different than the other members of my family, in that he didn’t binge drink or smoke, liked rock music, and also possessed a true interest in outdoor activities.

By comparison, my father hated camping, at least with me. He seemed interested in camping when it involved Bill and Karen Kenderdine. Bill and my father were friends from their high school days at Don Mills Collegiate in Toronto. Watching my father and Bill pound case after case of beer, getting sick, and passing out, after telling me how much he hated camping, affected me.

My uncle Christer appeared to recognize and understand how my father’s rejection of me, combined with his binge-drinking alcoholism, affected me. He took me on two camping trips when I was about 12 and 13 years old, to the Bruce Peninsula National Park and the French River. At that point in it, these camping trips were the highlight of my life.

As life continued, I was faced with finding a career in the down years of the early 1990s, after the boom of the 1980s, but before the Internet would, once again, jumpstart the world’s economy. During this period, in early 1997, I responded to a job posting in the Toronto Sun looking for stockbrokers in downtown Toronto.

Chartwell Securities, the firm I worked with for less than two hours, conducted a group interview, had no computer system, and shared wisdom like, “Don’t pitch the b****,” a line straight from the 2000 film, Boiler Room. Though I had zero experience in the stock market at the time, and had never heard the term “boiler room,” I knew that something was amiss with Chartwell. The last I looked, they have long since been out of business.

As qualified math and science teachers, my father and my uncle were not required to save for their retirements. Each time they were paid, a portion of their paycheques was withheld and contributed to a pension plan, which guaranteed regular payments after retirement, until they die. I do not address the question of whether or not teachers deserve to receive such pension plans, only that they do, and the resulting consequences.

I walked out of Chartwell Securities during the first break, hightailed it to Union Station, and returned to my parents' house in Pickering, where I was living at the time. As soon as I entered the house, through the garage, my father was waiting for me, aware that I was home early from a new job. After informing him that I quit because I thought Chartwell was a scam, he exploded at me in disgust, certain about what a lazy, good-for-nothing, low-life I was. “What are you going to do now?” he demanded, completely uninterested that his son may have just had a brush with members of a criminal syndicate, and had the wits about him to say no.

Children sit in the classroom at the Milton Keynes Museum.
Children sit in the classroom at the Milton Keynes Museum. | Source

Soon after, I explained what had happened to my Uncle Christer. Being so different that my father, I was sure that he would understand. To my shock, my Uncle Christer explained to me that it’s OK to lie and steal while working, because, after all, “you’re only doing your job.” Around this same time, my father revealed to me that my Aunt Joyce, Christer’s wife, was taking part in pyramid scheme frauds being run by teachers in the Toronto area.

How is this possible? How could a successful math teacher and the principal of a showcase school of one of the biggest cities in North America hold such reprehensible views? Did the stockbrokers working for Jordan Belfort receive pardons because they were only doing their job? Perhaps my father and my uncle were hoping for a future for me similar to that enjoyed by Sandy Winick?

Perhaps predictably, my aunt Joyce, my father’s sister, and Christer, split about 10 years later, after their relationship, seemingly built on greed and deception, had soured. My aunt, whom I now fondly refer to as Pyramid-Scheme Joyce, subsequently encouraged me to make up stories about Christer sexually molesting me on our camping trips when I was young, something that never happened. Christer was no child molester, but, like most Ontario teachers I know, he doesn’t understand the difference between wrong and right, nor does he understand the value of money.

I believe that part of the problem behind this is that math and science teachers, with their defined benefit pensions, have become so detached from reality that they are unable to comprehend it. I hold up my uncle’s explanation that lying and stealing is permissible if one is only doing one’s job and following a boss’s orders as evidence of this complete lack of empathy.

A teacher cannot comprehend having their pension bilked from them by a shady boiler room or pyramid scheme operator, because it is not possible. For those who aren’t aware, there has been a massive shift away from the defined benefit plans enjoyed by teachers, and other government workers, to defined contribution plans, where investments can easily lose money, and leave retirees with meager incomes, even after saving and planning for an entire career.

An 18-year-old student, asking her math teacher for advice about how to save for retirement, or invest in the stock market, is likely to be met with blank stares, or advice comparable to my uncle’s. Many teachers feel that the answer to retirement is to get a job with a defined benefit pension. The unspoken belief seemingly being one that people employed in jobs not offering defined benefit pensions are somehow a lower class of citizen, who aren’t as hard working, or as educated, as teachers, obviously are. Being employed in a job that doesn’t offer a pension is a matter of setting goals, a positive attitude, and who you know. That’s just the way the world works.

To a teacher, such as my sister or father, a person working as a truck driver or factory worker is not deserving of retirement. Obviously, by taking positions without defined benefit pensions, these types of workers are at a transitory phase of their careers. If they really want to retire, they have the chance to better themselves, and get real jobs, like teachers.

The reality of the matter is that a truck driver who saves his or her money, refrains from taking part in fraud, and makes wise investments, has done more for the economic and moral well-being of the nation that a bunch of prima donna teachers ripping each other, and who knows who else, off with pyramid schemes. Throw in the collateral damage teachers are doing by being completely unprepared to teach any semblance of reasonable financial planning, and a moral financial compass, and it’s not difficult to imagine how an autistic cab driver could be the only one to notice the suspicious death of an innocent person and the seemingly related loss in value of stock their family members have sold.

© 2017 Stephen Sinclair


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