Willow Reichelt

Independent for Chilliwack School Board (incumbent)

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Biography

submitted by the candidate or their team
I was born and raised in Chilliwack, and I raised my kids here. I’m a former teacher, a current school trustee and a passionate defender of public education.

I was born in Chilliwack, and I attended Yarrow Elementary and Vedder Junior High (now Vedder Middle) and graduated from Sardis Secondary. Things have changed so much—and for the better—since I was in school! 

I have a BA in English from the University of Victoria. I am a voracious reader, and I understand the importance of giving kids access to a wide range of books and letting them read what interests them.

I have a teaching certificate from the University of Victoria. I trained for middle school, and my teaching subjects were English and Visual Arts. I keep my teaching certificate up to date and could potentially return to the classroom one day.

I taught in the district for 14 years. I worked as a TTOC when my kids were little, and I worked at every school in the district. When I moved into contract work, I taught at an inner-city school and a more affluent school. I understand that different schools have different needs, and I understand the hard work teachers, administrators and support staff do every day to support students.

My sons attended public schools, including Central Elementary, Sardis Elementary, Strathcona Elementary, Chilliwack Middle, Vedder Middle and Sardis Secondary. I am a passionate supporter of public education, and I also support neighbourhood schools.

Both of my kids had IEPs (one for giftedness, one for autism); I have seen both what the district does well and what could use improvement. 

Since being elected to the Board of Education in 2018, I have served as both Chair and Vice Chair. I have helped steer us through an extremely challenging term, and despite a lot of distraction caused by trustees who have ideas antithetical to public education, I have made sure that the official position of the Board is one of inclusion and reconciliation. I have supported the work of staff and consistently promoted and reinforced Board and District initiatives. I have listened to partner groups and made an effort to make sure everyone feels like a true partner in learning.

Reason for running

submitted by the candidate or their team
I want to make sure our board keeps moving forward and continues to support diversity and inclusion.

I love my community, and I want it to be a thriving city where our diversity is celebrated. Throughout my first four years on the Board I have remained steadfast in my commitment to working to create an equitable district where every child feels included and has the supports necessary to learn.

I am proud of many of the things we have accomplished as a Board during my first term. Our strategic plan is a forward-thinking document that directs our resources to the vital areas of reading and numeracy while also acknowledging the systemic barriers that some students face and that need to be addressed.

A policy that I’m particularly proud to have helped move forward is our new Student Dress Guidelines. Due to the work of this Board, and after extensive feedback from partners, we now have a district-wide policy that focuses on safety rather than modesty. This means that girls in particular are no longer missing class or being body shamed because of their clothing.

In my next term, I want to focus on equity and reconciliation. True equity would mean that every student in the district would have access to the programs and services that support and inspire them regardless of their economic background or the neighbourhood they live in. It would mean that students of all abilities were able to fully participate in learning and play. We’ve made progress, but we have more work to do.

Reconciliation is not just a goal but a duty. Our new district motto is Syós:ys Iets’e th’ále, lets’emó:t (one heart, one mind, working together for a common purpose). Choosing to use a Halq'eméylem phrase as a guiding principle for the district is just one way that we are demonstrating our commitment to true partnership with Indigenous people. Our work will not be done until we achieve parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous grad rates.

The vast majority of Chilliwack residents want to see an inclusive board that accepts and celebrates all students. We don’t want our education system dragged back to the 1950s: We are focused on the future.

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