George Bergen has taught and coached at Walnut Grove Secondary for the past 25 years.

Walnut Grove Secondary’s ‘Coach Bergen’ dedicated

George Bergen reflects on 25 years at Walnut Grove's high school.

A teacher synonymous with Walnut Grove Secondary School (WGSS) actually needed a little persuading to join the school’s staff 25 years ago.

George Bergen, 64, has taught P.E. at the school since it first opened its doors in 1991.

Before the school even opened, WGSS’s first principal, Mary Wright, had asked Bergen to join the faculty.

But Bergen was perfectly content teaching Social Studies and P.E. at what was at the time known as Aldergrove Secondary School (now Aldergrove Community Secondary School).

“I went into the board office for an interview and she offered me a job here,” Bergen shared on Saturday, during WGSS’s 25th anniversary celebration. “I found it extremely difficult to leave Aldergrove. I had a really good group of guys there as a coach. It was heart-wrenching to leave Aldergrove. In fact, I turned her [Wright] down three times. But it was a new start and a new challenge.”

When Bergen coached the Aldergrove Secondary boys basketball team at the provincials in Victoria, Wright and Dave Coutu, WGSS’s first vice principal, phoned Bergen daily, asking how the Aldergrove boys were doing.

“Something about that left an impression,” Bergen said. “And I then said, ‘let’s renegotiate.’”

Later, when Bergen took a trip down to Walnut Grove Drive to take a look at the 14.36-acre school site, he was quite surprised at what he saw.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s supposed to start in September?’ There was nothing there. There were these piles in the ground and some building on the north end,” Bergen recalled.

As head of the P.E. department, Bergen said he had the boys change in one portable and the girls in another.

Since construction on WGSS’s gym wasn’t completed yet, P.E. classes were held outdoors, in the elements, at James Kennedy Elementary throughout that first year.

Looking back, Bergen said the years have gone by very quickly.

“I think if you look at the longevity of 25 years of anything, whether it’s coaching, teaching, or a new school, there’s the peaks and the valleys and the ups and downs, right?” Bergen said. “We had some struggles in the early years. It’s like, when you’re building something new, you need to create an identity. So we tried to create an identity.”

Bergen said he established a few core values in the early years that “the students bought into, and there’s been tremendous success.”

To wit: Bergen was at the helm in 2013 when the Gators won the B.C. senior boys Triple A basketball title for the first time in school history.

Fast forward a couple of years and, like a new millennium version of Welcome Back Kotter, WGSS alum Logan Kitteringham is now the school’s vice-principal.

Bergen saw promise in Kitteringham, who captained the WGSS senior boys basketball team that finished fourth in the province in 2000.

“Logan definitely had leadership qualities [as a student],” Bergen said. “That was evident when he was in my team sports class in Grades 9 and 10. He was a leader. He was a go-getter.”

There are other teachers at WGSS who, like Bergen, have been at the school since it first opened its doors. Among them: Paul Favaro (languages), Glen Johnston (math), and Mike Angell (music).

A quarter century of working together has formed a bond.

“I mingle with those three guys a lot,” Bergen said.

“It’s a very, very positive relationship. We’ve been together a long time, we’ve gone through the good and the bad and all of that, so it’s a good, fun relationship.”

Just Posted

Langley teacher who screamed at, grabbed elementary students suspended

This is the second four-month suspension for the Langley teacher.

Langley Thunder player named WLA Rookie of the Year

Tyler Pace had a great year in his first full season for the Thunder.

Langley What’s On: Aug. 16, 2018 edition

Submit Langley events: LangleyAdvance.com/add-event or news@langleyadvance.com (subject: What’s On).

Serious collision in South Surrey

One to hospital with serious injuries; 16 Avenue remains closed

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Interim GoFundMe payments approved in Humboldt Broncos crash

$50,000 to be given to each of the 13 survivors and each family of the 16 people who died

Ottawa intervenes to get B.C. ball player, 13, to Little League World Series

Before immigration issue was resolved, Dio Gama was out practicing the game he loves Wednesday

Pet goldfish invades small B.C. lake

Pinecrest Lake is located between Whistler and Squamish

Metro Vancouver water reservoirs in ‘good shape’

Reserves sitting at 70-per-cent full, officials said, despite long stretch without major rain

Mounties deployed to help B.C. communities affected by wildfires

RCMP officers heading to places particularly within central, northern and southern B.C.

Chinese medicine practitioner in B.C. facing historical sex assault charges

71-year old Kit Wong practiced acupuncture from his home during the time of the assaults

Quebec sets aside $900 million for companies hurt by U.S. tariffs

Premier Philippe Couillard says his government will make $863 million available over five years

Ex-B.C. teachers’ union leader among latest pipeline protesters to get jail time

Twelve people have been sentenced for violating court order to stay away from Kinder Morgan terminal

Most Read