Maureen Tonge, longtime Yellowknife teacher, died Monday after an almost two-year battle with brain cancer.
Originally from New Brunswick, Tonge first arrived in Yellowknife in 1992 to teach at Sir John Franklin high school – the territorial high school at the time.
Tonge taught art, French, yoga, fitness, and career and life management. She spearheaded the “Leaving a Legacy” project where students were to create portraits of prominent Northerners, and in 2019 she addressed the high school’s graduating class.
In an August interview with NNSL Media, Tonge said that teaching is in everything she does.
When asked what message she would want to leave with former students, Tonge, through tears said “don’t limit yourself.”
“Just know that you are capable of far more than you could possibly fathom.”
Pam Schlosser began working at the high school the same year as Tonge. In a correspondence for an earlier story, Schlosser told NNSL Media of the lessons Tonge taught both in and out of the classroom.
“Her students leave her classes with an appreciation of art, a sense of mindfulness and a confidence in their individual talents,” she said.
Tonge, a yoga teacher of more than a decade, was also a co-founder of the Collective Soul Space studio. She eventually created a curriculum to teach yoga as a course in schools.
In her address to the 2019 graduating class of Sir John Franklin, Schlosser recalls Tonge’s “advice about how to live our best life, be it long or short.”
“She spoke of giving things up,” Schlosser said. “Among them, the need to be perfect, the need to be right, feelings of jealousy, envy and resentment, of trying to be everything to everyone.”
Schlosser recounts Tonge suggesting instead to replace those “limiting beliefs” with gratitude, kindness and compassion.
“Ever the teacher, Maureen left us all that day with some of life’s most valuable lessons. I hold them dear and am grateful each day for having her as a colleague, and blessed to have her as a friend,” Schlosser said.
Though Tonge retired from teaching after her diagnosis, she remained in frequent contact with her former students.
In a message to Yellowknife Education District No.1 (YK1) families, superintendent Ed Lippert said that Tonge “left an impression on everyone who met her.”
“She will always be remembered for her infectious enthusiasm and zest for life,” he said. “She will be greatly missed.”