The power of social media is profound.
Christine Danroth found that out this past year when the Rupertite posted an Instagram photo to the picture-sharing website, as well as Facebook, of a freshly-painted white crosswalk in Prince Rupert.
In the picture, Christine pondered if the city might one day have a rainbow crosswalk, joining other such areas as Vancouver and Masset.
“When I made that post, it just really blew up on social media and it had a lot of really positive responses. I kind of put it out there as a challenge, like maybe this can happen in Prince Rupert,” she said last week.
While the crosswalk is one of Christine’s latest projects, she’s been involved in the North Coast community almost all her life.
Christine was born in the Kootenays and moved to Prince Rupert at age 5. With her father working at the pulp mill and her mother working at an area dentist office, the Rupertite quickly got used to life in the smaller city.
“I loved growing up here. I walked to school everyday. I grew up on Ambrose Avenue and I have lots of memories of playing outside, having fun, being in a small community and biking around Rushbrook Floats and MacMillan shipyards. I had a great childhood,” she said.
Christine attended Conrad Elementary, Booth Memorial High School and then Prince Rupert Secondary School. During that time, she spotted babysitting duty for a number of families and kids around town and grew quite a keen interest in early childhood education, working with younger kids.
So much so, that the Rupertite decided to make an early career out of it.
“I just really liked working with children and I liked working with kids at the pre-school age. Over time, I realized that I liked working with all age groups. From [infancy on],” she said.
Christine attended Northwest Community College, travelling between Terrace and Prince Rupert, studying early childhood education. Staying in that field for eight years, Christine operated Discovery Daycare, a daycare facility across the street from Charles Hays Secondary.
“Then I decided to go into teaching,” she said.
“I did a bit of distant education at the college and then I transferred over into Simon Fraser University and I did a lot of it through distance [education]. I stayed in Prince Rupert and did as much of it as I could here and I did a couple terms down in Burnaby.”
Now working at Learning Services with School District 52, Christine is a district helping teacher, working in special education and helping a variety of diverse students. She’s also an English-language dialect coordinator and works with Aboriginal students as well.
“I kind of have two jobs, but they blend together,” Christine added.
The Rupertite’s interests expanded into working with disabled students as well as kids aged all the way up to 18, adding Charles Hays Secondary School in her fold.
“I was really interested in the spectrum of children with disabilities and just wanting to know more about that really intrigued me, so I had a friend suggest I go into teaching,” she said.
Very quickly, Christine started to thrive with children of all ages and learning styles.
“Definitely working with kids in early childhood was more my comfort zone, but then as I got more exposure with the elementary and high schools, I realized that the same strategies I used with the younger children also work when you’re working with older children, but you have to adapt what you’re doing. My confidence improved,” Christine said.
Always striving to be the best role model she can be for the students she works with, Christine took that goal to heart in putting forth the notion of a rainbow crosswalk, with the support of the Gay-Straight Alliance, an “inspiring group of students” at Charles Hays.
Being gay herself and raising her son as a single mom, Christine’ family doesn’t fit the ‘traditional’ family mould of yesteryear, but she’s paving the way for progress in an already progressive and open-minded town in Rupert.
“[The crosswalk] would be a great gesture for the students that I work with. I think it would be great for people coming to Prince Rupert to see that we’re a very open-minded community and [after the response on social media] we just took off with it,” she said.
“I didn’t expect [so much] reaction so quickly [to the idea], but it was definitely very heartwarming. I’ve made a decision to stay in Prince Rupert and raise my son [Parker] here and I’m very proud to be from Prince Rupert and it was just a great, feel-good moment.”
Though faced with some opposition from the community about the crosswalk, set to be implemented in the spring of 2016, Christine said it’s typical for any issue that’s potentially divisive.
“There was a little bit of negativity, but I’m choosing not even to address the negativity because we are a diverse community and that’s what this is about. I want to be a really good role model for the students I’m working with and I want people to feel good about who they are. Everyone should feel that,” she said.
Christine thanks her friend, Russel Adams, for helping her with the rainbow idea and her friends, family and students she works with for her success in her career – some of whom even approach her years later with tales of how their life is going after being taught by her.
“Depending on the age, some of them remember me and they’re always up to something interesting. It’s nice to hear how their journey’s been and some of the things they’ve had to overcome, or some of the things they’ve achieved,” she said.