Last week, you might have read a story about a former Calgary teacher who was found dead on Quadra Island.
A few days before his death, Michael Andreassen Gregory, 57, was charged with 17 sexual-related offences against former students stemming from incidents that occurred from 1999 to 2005.
I knew him as Mr. Gregory. He taught at John Ware Junior High School in Calgary from 1986 to 2006. I attended the school from 1994 to 1997. He was a popular teacher who coached many teams and led the outdoor education program. He was my math teacher when I was in Grade 8.
I first learned of these charges when my best friend from middle school shared a news article on social media. As the days progressed, I read many comments from former classmates. Many females mentioned their discomfort with him during their years in the school, while other students told of observations of inappropriate behaviour they had witnessed.
It’s awful that there are students who weren’t safe at school. These experiences and stories are not easy to share, which is why it’s not uncommon for them to take 20 years to come out.
As awful as this is, Gregory wasn’t the first teacher to be charged with inappropriate behaviour at that junior high school.
About a year ago, I found myself watching a crime documentary about a teacher who had molested students in the school. The documentary explained how the teacher had groomed the students by taking them out for lunch during school days, being a confidant, and overall being viewed as a peer rather than an authority figure.
As I watched this, I was reminded of my Grade 8 science teacher, Mr. Archer. He was also a favourite teacher in the school. He would fill his car each lunch hour with students and take them for lunch. I felt very lucky when I was one of the students chosen to go for lunch with him and my friends. He took us to Subway, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s, and he always paid.
I’ve learned through social-media posts that Gregory was also known for taking students out for meals.
After I watched this documentary, I decided to Google Archer and see what had happened to him. At the time, I was thinking that he was still a great teacher and the crime program I was watching was painting teachers who treat students to lunch in a bad light.
To my surprise, Archer had been charged in 2008 with molesting three boys, decades earlier. He was convicted and served time in prison.
I’ve lived in Victoria for 20 years and don’t have a close connection to Calgary anymore, so that’s probably why I didn’t hear that news sooner.
Both of these teachers were very well-liked by students. Looking back at those times, I remember how I saw them as a youth, but now I am a mother.
I am not sure if I ever told my mom that my teacher would take us for lunch. I know that if she were to question it, I would have said: “He’s not a normal teacher. It’s fine — it’s Mr. Archer. You don’t understand.”
We hope our children find mentors and adults they can confide in and who can support them. Stories like these are troubling because as parents, we need to allow our children to grow, and to protect them at the same time.
No one would have ever thought that in a suburb of Calgary, there would be two teachers working in the same small junior high school who would eventually face sex-related charges.
I am glad that the victims came forward. It took a lot of courage.
Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations at M’akola Housing Society.