Nearly 20 years ago, when Lisa McCully was still Lisa Kierstead and starting off her teaching career in the Burnaby school district, she invited a group of new acquaintances over to her house.
She’d recently moved to B.C. from Nova Scotia, and was still just getting to know people, but she told them all to bring a heart-shaped rock.
“When we got together, everybody had a stone, and she asked us to share stories about something in relation to the stone or the heart or the feelings,” says Miriam Gil, a retired teacher who worked with McCully at Morley Elementary School that year. “It was a way to create an instant friendship, in a way, a connection that was very personal.”
Gil describes McCully as an “incredibly warm, very charismatic” woman who loved the outdoors and was generous with her friendships.
“She left a wonderful impression,” Gil says.
Gil lost touch with McCully after the year they taught together at Morley, she says.
But she recently saw her picture again on the news – learning her former colleague had been one of the 22 people gunned down in Nova Scotia, during the worst mass shooting in Canada’s history.
Seeing the photo came as a shock.
“That is Lisa. She has the same smile, she has the same presence, she has the same charisma. That’s the Lisa that I met,” says Gil. “I hope that her family and her community draw on the memories of her and her strength,” Gil says.
McCully, a 49-year-old mother of two, had taught in Burnaby from 1997 to 1999 and eventually settled back in her home province.
She was remembered in Burnaby during a moment of silence at an online school board meeting Tuesday.
“While it’s been almost 20 years since Lisa McCully, who was then Lisa Kierstead, taught in Burnaby, she is still remembered by her former colleagues here as a warm and enthusiastic teacher whose love of life was compelling and contagious," said school board chair Gary Wong. "Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family and all who knew Lisa.”