Students and staff at a Yellowknife school are grieving following the loss of teacher Steve Elms, who passed away suddenly on Thursday morning.
Steve, a resident of the city for almost two decades, taught at NJ Macpherson School. He had been with the YK1 school district since 2004, according to a short biography published by the NWT Teachers’ Association.
In a message to parents on Thursday, the school district wrote: “We regret to inform you that one of our staff members, Steve Elms, suddenly passed away this morning at Stanton Territorial Hospital.”
The district said four counsellors had been made available to support staff and students, who were informed of the news that afternoon.
Writing in a teachers’ newsletter last year, Steve had described his love of teaching.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” he wrote. “My earliest memory is growing up in the small Newfoundland town of Bay Roberts. I’d creep down the stairs into my
parents’ unfinished basement to where I had set up a classroom and a library.
“Here in this secluded place, I would teach stuffed animals and, as the years went on, my younger brother.”
Megan Holsapple, Steve’s former partner of 20 years, said the two had moved to Inuvik in 2000, where they had a son. He learned to teach at Aurora College in the town before the family moved south to Yellowknife in 2003.
“Everywhere I go, people tell me how much they love Mr Elms and how much he meant to them when they were children,” Holsapple said on Thursday.
In stores, she said, “kids would follow us from aisle to aisle, peeking around the corners and saying, ‘That’s Mr Elms, that’s Mr Elms!’
“He was a phenomenal teacher. I was so proud of him, he just had this way with kids. He would find the best in them, even when they weren’t always having the best day.”
Outside the classroom, Steve had a love of magic. He and fellow resident Terry Brookes performed as the Frozen Fingered Magicians at a range of Yellowknife events.
“He had a whole room called ‘the magic room,’ filled with all of his silly magic tricks,” recalled Holsapple. “He loved doing magic. When we had a son, a little tiny magic set was one of the toys he bought for our then-toddler.
“He was just such a well-loved person. It’s kind-of hard to believe he’s gone.”
We will be compiling a full tribute to Steve Elms in the coming days. If you would like to leave a message with your memories of Steve, you may do so using the form below. Submissions will be received by our reporter, Ollie Williams.