Good things can come out of bad times. Such is the case with Vankleek Hill author Sid MacCallum’s new book ‘All My Best; From Me to You.’
“I probably would have never done the book, were it not for COVID,” says the former physical education teacher, who spent more than three decades working with students at Pleasant Corners Public School (PCPS).
The inspirational book is much more than just MacCallum’s reflections on a 30-year teaching career at PCPS – it’s a snapshot of his entire life.
“A lot of people might be under the impression that I’m just writing about the sports at PCPS, but I’m not,” MacCallum explains. “The theme of my book is very simple – it’s about the little things we do every day that are good, kind and thoughtful.”
‘All My Best; From Me to You’ is a treasure trove of positive stories, philosophies and how we learn life’s lessons. Many of MacCallum’s former students, co-workers and friends are profiled – all of whom have in some way had a positive influence on his life.
“Everything I learned, I learned from someone else and I was a lucky person to have met so many people who influenced my life,” he reflects, naming just a few of the many he has met along the way. “They have influenced my life in ways they will never know.”
“But then again, they would say ‘It doesn’t matter that I may never have known what I did that influenced someone’s life – all that matters is that I did what I did and helped someone along the way.”
Dozens of photos are sprinkled throughout the 310-page work and are certain to inspire a trip down memory lane for anyone who knows the author or has a connection to PCPS. But ‘All My Best; From Me to You’ isn’t just for former PCPS students – everyone can benefit from its inspirational messages.
An example is a section of the first chapter of MacCallum’s book, which asks the question “What are heroes?”.
“Heroes can be everyday people,” he emphasizes. “A hero is someone who has affected someone’s life in a positive way – even though they may never know what it was they did or said, they may have changed somebody’s life for the better.”
MacCallum also traces his own family roots back to his childhood — , growing up on the 6th concession, attending a one-room schoolhouse, and then his high school and university days, followed by his lengthy teaching career at PCPS.
Work on ‘All My Best; From Me to You’ began shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when MacCallum spotted an advertisement in The Review, which read ‘So you want to write a book?’. Stuck at home in the early months of lockdown, he wrote several hours each day – finishing the book in just 14 months, after spending a total of 1,200 hours on the project.
Throughout the book, this retired teacher is still teaching — using his own life story to illuminate what he has learned and the lessons and practical advice that he wants to pass on to others.
“Even COVID can have a positive adjustment,” says MacCallum, who points that out in the final chapter of his book. ‘Except for reading that ad and then actually not having anything to do except work on the book, I might never have written it.”
Positive adjustments are also a key theme in MacCallum’s writing, which was influenced by a presentation he put together for Grade 7-12 students in Ottawa, shortly after his retirement. That presentation – entitled ‘The Masterpiece, the Last Wish, and the Greatest Gift’ – forms the foundation of ‘All My Best; From Me to You’.
“We all have things in our lives that didn’t turn out the way we wanted – whether it’s that we didn’t get the job we wanted, or marry that special girl from high school,” says MacCallum. It’s not the things that happen to us that matters, it’s the adjustments we make to them.”
Of all the amazing people profiled in his book, the author cites his former boss Ed Kelly – long-time principal of PCPS – as his having the biggest influence on his life. There is a dedication to Kelly in the book.
“Whether you are a boss, or a principal – or whatever kind of leader you are – it’s important you remember to give praise,” MacCallum states. “Ed was always very supportive of any program I initiated and he had a special saying – he never forgot to come and say ‘Sid, that’s another feather in your cap. Bless you.”
The former schoolteacher adds that his relationship with Kelly wasn’t always a bed of roses.
“That doesn’t mean we always saw eye to eye,” MacCallum chuckles. “There is a part in the book called ‘The Disagreement’.”
Another adjustment which stands out in the author’s writing is the reaction the physical education teacher had when it was explained to him late in his career that for an upcoming school year he would have to teach music classes at PCPS.
“I talk in my book about that meeting with my vice-principal and how I initially responded,” MacCallum recalls. “But I went in with a positive attitude and actually really enjoyed it – I ended up teaching music for the last nine years of my career.”
‘All My Best; From Me to You’, by Sid MacCallum can be ordered online through The Review Book Store here.
As a reflection of how close-knit a town Vankleek Hill is – the author would also like to alert potential readers of a second way to obtain a copy – even if they are not internet-savvy.
“Anyone who is not computer-literate can call Caroll Carkner and she will order their book for them,” says MacCallum, showing his small-town roots when asked how people can contact his former colleague. “Everybody knows Caroll Carkner. I’m not going to put her phone number in, but people know how to contact her.”
Former student Jason Jackson interviewed Sid MacCallum recently to talk about his career and his upcoming book. You can listen to Jason Jackson’s interview with Sid MacCallum here on the Screaming Beaver podcast.