Tannis Calder was visiting her brother at cadet summer camp when the band started to play. As she watched their pitch-perfect performance and synchronized marching routine, a 12-year-old Calder decided to join cadets on the spot.
“It was a lot of fun being in a marching band, because they’re a little rare here in Canada,” Calder said. “You get to perform not just with the music, but also marching and doing formations.”
She was a cadet for six and a half years, playing snare and the trumpet until she aged out of the program.
It wasn’t until her son wanted to join at age 12 that Calder considered returning to uniform. At first, Calder said, she was a hovering parent. Then she became a parent volunteer, then a civilian instructor. Four years later, she enlisted to become a Cadet Instructor Cadre officer (CIC), which means she’s a member of a reserve branch of the military.
As for her son? He’s not a cadet anymore.
“He ended up having to step away from cadets when he was about 16 because he got so busy. We overlapped for a little bit when I became an officer. We always joke about the fact that I came on board and shortly after, he left,” she said with a laugh.
For seven years, Calder has been involved with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corp 7 Captain Cook. When she joined, she just wanted to be the band officer. Now, she’s also the corps’s commanding officer and training officer, organizing lesson plans for kids 12 to 18 years old.
“We were the first corps in the north that had a marching band. From here all the way to Prince George, there weren’t any other corps that had a band for many years,” Calder said.
The band is currently taking a break, since there is only one other adult instructor. But that doesn’t mean the cadets in Prince Rupert are slowing down by any means. This year, eight cadets were awarded deployments, four sailed on tail ship cruises and two competed in the BC Summer Games — and that’s on top of their regular coursework.
Senior cadets can also become instructors, creating and teaching training sessions to younger cadets. In fact, Calder credits her years as a cadet with inspiring her to become a teacher.
“By learning how to teach others and learning what goes into planning for a class, it helped me know that I wanted to become a teacher,” Calder said.
“It’s been the catalyst that sent me off in the direction that I ended up in.”
After she turned 19, Calder went to Switzerland for a year, then began studying at Simon Fraser University. She earned a masters in inclusive curriculum instruction, which she now uses at School District 52.
Calder and her husband initially moved to Lax Kw’alaams from the Lower Mainland, and Calder taught there for several years.
Then, after serving as principal in the Stikine region, in Lower Post the most northern community in the province, it was time for Calder to find her next position. Remembering how much they’d liked Prince Rupert during their grocery shopping trips from Lax Kw’alaams, they moved to the North Coast city.
At Wap Sigagtgyet, the Aboriginal Education Department in the school district, Calder is a helping teacher, combining math and locally developed lessons about living in Tsimshian territory.
“Linear algebra for most people is this abstract concept that nobody quite understands, but yet it’s a very relevant and applicable thing that can help you understand something about art,” Calder said of her work exploring the patterns in cedar weaving. “It’s really exciting to bring everything together and make it make sense for here.”
Right now, as her students are on summer break and her cadets are at camp, Calder has some much-deserved time off — but that doesn’t mean it’s been an uneventful summer. In July, Calder was honoured with the Civic Appreciation Award from the City of Prince Rupert for all her hard work.
“I was very flattered to think I’m considered,” she said. “There’s so many other people in the community who are so busy and involved, to think that I was considered as somebody to highlight was a huge honour.”
When asked what her kids think of the award, Calder smiles as she shares that they’ve kept in touch while they’ve been at training camp.
Realizing the question meant her own children, she laughed as she said her son and daughter tease her that her cadets are like her family. She has watched them grow up, after all.
“Sometimes they come in as these awkward, shy 12-year-olds. Just to see them mature into strong, confident leaders as they leave is super rewarding.”
Between the sailing, navigational courses, all the drills, and learning the ranks of cadets, the corps and its leader spend a lot of time together.
“I hope when they join they find a sense of belonging. They get to be part of something,” she said. “Mostly, I hope they come and have fun.”