Phil Ryan sits in the woodworking shop at the Harrison Landing seniors residence in Langley. The long-time volunteer instructor at Douglas Park Elementary school has retired after 18 years. The school’s Explorations program woodworking course will carry on, however, with a new teacher. A retired RCMP officer offered to take over the role in January after reading the school’s plea for a new volunteer in The Times.

Phil Ryan sits in the woodworking shop at the Harrison Landing seniors residence in Langley. The long-time volunteer instructor at Douglas Park Elementary school has retired after 18 years. The school’s Explorations program woodworking course will carry on, however, with a new teacher. A retired RCMP officer offered to take over the role in January after reading the school’s plea for a new volunteer in The Times.

Long-time Douglas Park Elementary school volunteer puts down his hammer

Phil Ryan spent 18 years teaching students in Grades 3, 4 and 5 the finer points of woodworking

Phil Ryan helped budding young carpenters create works of art out of wood for more than 18 years at Douglas Park Community School.

For nearly two decades, the now 87-year-old volunteered his time teaching Grade 3, 4 and 5 students woodworking skills, like making a treasure chest or a sailboat, through the school’s Explorations program.

“He’s a real special guy,” said principal Esther Schmit. “He’s in a wheelchair and tried to retire from us once before but came back when no other volunteer stepped up.”

But by the end of the last school year, however, Ryan felt he was getting on and couldn’t volunteer anymore.

“There comes a time in a guy’s life when you have to slow down a bit,” said Ryan who recently moved to Harrison Landing with his wife.

“But there wasn’t a day I didn’t enjoy teaching those kids. There wasn’t a sad day. They were all good kids,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he kept the kids busy learning about hand tools and then finding out what they wanted to make — like treasure chests.

“He taught the kids how to swing a hammer, put in a nail. They would make boxes with a lid, bird houses and sailboats. He had all these projects with them,” said Schmit.

While Ryan has retired from volunteering at Douglas Park school, his efforts continue at his new home.

Living at a retirement home, he saw that many seniors were struggling to reach food that was across the table in the dining hall.

“I talked to the chef and he agreed about the size and I made 16 lazy Susans for the table tops,” he said.

In the meantime, Schmit asked, through an article in The Times, for a new woodworking volunteer to step up and continue the program.

“A retired RCMP officer read about the request in your paper and will begin volunteering in January,” she said.

She said the kids love woodworking. Most of the students live in apartments and wouldn’t otherwise have access to the tools and materials.

Douglas Park School lets out early on Wednesdays to allow Grades 3 – 5 students to join in the Explorations program.

The school has added a few minutes to the other days of the week so that on most Wednesdays, students can explore activities like ice skating, photography, art, cooking, gardening, dancing, karate, beading and singing.

Students can sign up for a variety of activities that aren’t usually covered in the regular school curriculum.

“We have 65 kids signed up this year so it shows the interest,” said Schmit. “Kids are open to try new things.”

There are still ample opportunity for people to share their talents with Douglas Park kids, she said.

“If someone has a talent they want to share, give us a call,” said Schmit.

Volunteers are required to undergo a criminal record check. Call the school at 604-533-4491 for more information.