It’s almost like leaving home again for Jennie Hittinger – her second home, at least.
And the dissolution of the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin with principal Lori Hryniuk is a consequence of vice principal Hittinger’s departure from Chemainus Secondary School. Her last day was Friday, June 25 and Hittinger will dive into her new role as vice principal at Cowichan Secondary School starting Aug. 1 to prepare for the 2021-22 school year.
It’s a change Hittinger wasn’t necessarily looking for, but part of the process of movement within the Cowichan Valley School District for vice principals and principals.
“I’m excited to try something new, but sad to leave and not see what happens here and not be a part of it,” she said.
Hittinger’s long affiliation with the school goes back to her time as a student. She moved to Chemainus from Oliver for her Grade 11 and 12 years, graduating in 1990.
“I actually didn’t really want to teach here because I went to school here,” Hittinger confided.
But that eventually did happen 10 years later in 2000 when she came back to the school.
“I came in at a time when most of the staff were my former teachers,” Hittinger pointed out.
One of them, Barb Stoochnoff (Hlady) provided some precedent for Hittinger as a former Chemainus Secondary student who returned to the school to teach. Stoochnoff was the coach of the volleyball and soccer teams that Hittinger played on when she was a student.
Before Hittinger made the circuitous route back to Chemainus as a teacher, she went to Vancouver Island University and the University of B.C. to play varsity basketball after graduation.
Hittinger was actually elementary trained and among a select group who broke into teaching in the Surrey School District. She got onto the teacher on-call list in the Cowichan School District and started substituting.
“I was always fortunate I got four or five days a week and was in all the high schools and middle schools,” Hittinger recalled.
Basketball and other sports were always important to her and the desire to coach strong as she transitioned into teaching. She got into her old stomping grounds in Chemainus and never looked back over a remarkable 21 years at the school the second time around.
“This was a great community school,” Hittinger enthused. “It worked out very well. One thing I love about this community, it’s a small tight-knit community. There’s a lot of inclusion, doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from.
“This community and the kids are so supportive and resilient. That’s one thing I’m going to really miss is the community.”
The years have been enjoyable for her and “21 seems like a lot, but it’s gone by fast,” she said.
The fun and the relationships built with the students and the staff through an abundance of experiences wrapped around the serious classroom work has been rewarding.
One of the great things that happened at Chemainus Secondary School during Hittinger’s time was the establishment of alumni basketball, starting with the opening of the new gym in 2004. The event went for several years and became a fixture on the calendar, bringing the community together with the school.
It’s been four years since Hittinger moved into the V.P. role and it was tough giving up the emphasis on P.E. and athletics that consumed her calendar before. But she still pitched in and helped out with sports programs whenever she could.
A special honour has been bestowed upon Hittinger at the school, with the outstanding effort in athletics award now bearing her name.
A bond was formed with Hryniuk when she came to the school as principal.
“I’m grateful to have learned under Lori – lots of fun, lots of memories and great leadership,” said Hittinger.
Their Batman and Robin routine began from Terry Fox fundraising when they had to be handcuffed to each other all day while dressed as superheroes. Hittinger said something about it being OK for Hryniuk not to have her cape on and called her Batman, with Hryniuk immediately turning it around and calling her Robin.
They went to a costume place and Hittinger became a traditional Robin, with Hryniuk as a Dark Knight style of Batman.
With that and all their other affiliations through the school’s functions, “Lori has made this role fun for us,” said Hittinger.
“Right back at ya,” said Hryniuk.
As she makes the switch to principal Darcy Hoff’s team at Cowichan Secondary School, a much larger school with a new building on the horizon, Hittinger has good friend Wendy Charles there as a confidante, but will need a blood transfusion to go from red and white to burgundy.
“Staff has been welcoming already, I got to meet them on Zoom,” said Hittinger. “Darcy asked me to say a couple of words on their Zoom. I made a statement saying they bleed burgundy. I guess I’ll have to learn to wear burgundy.”