Steve Elms remembered: ‘The kindest teacher, the calmest presence’

Yellowknife resident Steve Elms, who passed away suddenly on Thursday, is remembered as a one-of-a-kind teacher who inspired awe in colleagues and warmed the hearts of students.

In tributes sent to Cabin Radio, Mr Elms’ students, colleagues, and friends described a man whose humour, spirit, and compassion lifted all around him.

Terry Brookes, with whom Steve performed for years as the Frozen Fingered Magicians, wrote: “You showed me how to work and perform magic in front of a crowd, and how the greatest reward was putting smiles on the faces of children.”

Brookes added: “You have done the final disappearing act, but you will not have vanished. Whenever I pull the silk from nowhere or pull the rabbit from the hat or flip over the four Aces, I will be thinking of you.”

Karen Novak, singer of the Yellowknife band Welders Daughter, mourned the “huge loss to our community” following Steve’s passing. She and several others praised his ability to connect with and care for students.

The students themselves wrote to describe Mr Elms as “an amazing teacher.” One 11-year-old said: “No matter how sad we were, he would find a way to make us happy.”

Marina St Croix, recalling Steve’s teaching internship, described his wonderful reaction to an April Fool’s Day prank in the classroom. “I was in awe of him,” she wrote.

Steven Elms was born on April 19, 1974. He grew up in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, before eventually coming north in 2000 – first to Inuvik before moving to Yellowknife several years later.

A gifted magician, he was most recently employed as a teacher at the city’s NJ Macpherson School. On Thursday, the school said Mr Elms had passed away suddenly. Students and staff were informed that afternoon, with counsellors sent to support them.

The McKenna Funeral Home in Yellowknife stated the details of funeral services would be announced when finalized.

On this page, find a selection of excerpts from tributes to Steve Elms received by Cabin Radio. We send our heartfelt condolences to Steve’s family, friends, and all who knew him.

Gabriel Sieffert:
My name is Gabriel. I am 11 years old. I had Mr Elms as my teacher in Grade 4. He was an amazing teacher. He would make us happy. No matter how sad we were, he would find a way to make us happy. Every Wednesday he would have “magic Wednesdays” and show us a magic trick. He was my favourite teacher. He was so nice and amazing.

Karen Novak, of Welders Daughter:
Steve Elms was that extra special teacher. My son was so excited when he learned Mr Elms was to be his teacher for Grade 5. Every year he wondered if he would have Mr Elms as his teacher. It’s kinda rare to have a male home room teacher and he was truly just great with my son, who has “extra” needs and really took a shine to him.

Steve was also my friend and loved to come dance at the Gold Range with his many friends and fellow teachers. It was their special request for us to learn “Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band. That will be forever his song, and “Fishing in the Dark” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His passing is a huge loss to our community and our kids. The halls at NJ will seem very quiet. Rest in peace, Steve.

Terry Brookes:
To Steve: We learned a lot about magic together. You showed me how to work and perform magic in front of a crowd, and how the greatest reward was putting smiles on the faces of children. It wasn’t about the trick, it was about the performance. We had our good shows, and our not so good shows, but we always learned to be better. We were just a couple of boys from the coast; you from the east coast and me from the west coast. The love and fun of magic got us together.

You have done the final disappearing act, but you will not have vanished. Whenever I pull the silk from nowhere or pull the rabbit from the hat or flip over the four Aces, I will be thinking of you.

I will perform the Broken Wand Ceremony for you.

Marina St Croix:
I will never forget how in awe I was of him as a student-teacher. At Aurora College when he had his teaching internship, he entered a classroom on April Fool’s Day to find all the students standing on chairs. He was cool as a cucumber and pulled a chair up, stood on it, opened up a book and taught the whole class standing on a chair. He made his mark that day in the teaching world; never to be forgotten.

Aidan Charpentier:
I had Mr Elms in Grade 4 and 5 back when he was at JH Sissons. He was kind, funny, and most of all a good person. I remember his love of Star Trek and how he and Mr Austin would dress up as Spock and Kirk. I’m sorry to hear about his passing. Rest in peace, Mr Elms. Live long and prosper.

Mr Elms, oh man. You taught me at JH Sissons, you were a great teacher with a definite love for magic. I don’t even know where to begin, this is so unfortunate. I remember you and Mr Austin being my favourite teachers. I will forever cherish those memories, you are greatly missed by many.

Tara Hayne:
Steve! Spicy, I will miss you terribly. You and I had so many laughs together. I loved how you entertained me with your magic! You continued to amaze me always. I am grateful for the years we had together and I will truly remember you for a lifetime. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being my friend and laughing with me. I will love you forever, my friend! I will miss you more.

Sally Hammer:
My grandson was lucky enough to have Mr Elms in Grade 5 when he was making a transition from French Immersion to the English stream. My grandson has ADHD and mild autism. Mr Elms went out of his way to welcome him into the class and searched for ways that he could optimize my grandson’s learning experience. I will never forgot his great kindness. All teachers should aspire to be a Mr Elms.

Mary and Aiden Mesh:
I knew Steven quite well when he was growing up in Bay Roberts. He was a very loved young man. I attended a few of his magic performances – he even hypnotized me many years ago to stop my fear of spiders. To this day, my fear of them is gone. He will never be forgotten.

Lisa Reid:
I grew up in small-town Newfoundland (Bay Roberts), just across the street from that little boy/teacher/magician – or Steven, as I knew him to be. My longtime-lifetime childhood friend, as I read the article of Mr Elms passing, I can truly say that every word said about Steven and his life is so very true, and has been true for his whole life. As a child he would make our group (of lifetime friends) obstacle courses. This was his idea of fun, for all the neighbourhood kids to enjoy.

Our lives went on, but distance and time could not have broken the bonds of our friendship. Today, with the unbelievable sadness in my heart, I hold those memories close.

Sahnia Heron:
After I heard Steve Elms passed away I got really sad, because that was my third and fifth-grade teacher. He was such a nice teacher, good person, and never got mad. The day of summer break we said our goodbyes to teachers and staff and my first teacher I said goodbye to was Mr Elms. He was my favourite teacher till this day. It makes me very sad he had to leave so soon.

Steve was one of my closest friends in the North. We would text and chat almost every day. We shared a deep love of Starbucks coffee – in fact, every time he left the North, he would send me a selfie of himself drinking coffee to rub it in! He will be missed.

Daron Letts:
Steve was a delight to be in the company of. He was witty, caring, compassionate, and exuded the kind of fun spirit and imaginative creativity otherwise embraced only by the very young.

The kindest teacher with the calmest presence. I had the privilege of working alongside Steve in his class the last few months. The memory of him reading to his students as he rocked in the rocking chair will be a fond memory I won’t forget. Your kids and I will miss you dearly.

Ed Drover:
Always the gentleman, the embodiment of kindness. If more of us could be like Steve, the world would be a better place. Now it’s a little less bright without him.