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Yellowknife Education District 1 has been in mourning since late last week after the sudden loss of one of its beloved elementary school teachers.

Emma Pedersen, 3, gets a balloon puppy on a leash from Steve Elms on Canada Day in 2013. Elms died suddenly last week, but is remembered for his love of magic, making balloon animals and community theatre. A memorial service will be held at NJ Macpherson School on Saturday at 2 p.m. NNSL file photo

Steve Elms, a Grade 4 teacher with NJ Macpherson School, died suddenly on Thursday. 

Yk1 superintendent Metro Huculak said Elms, 45, was discovered dead Thursday after not showing up for work. He said he last saw Elms two weeks ago at school and he looked ill at the time and it was recommended he see a doctor. 

There was no cause of death reported at the time, he added. 

“Steve was a happy-go-lucky guy and people liked him and he got along well with kids and parents,” Huculak said, noting he had a reputation for showing up to work early, always by 7 a.m.. “He was also a magician and did magic tricks and would do parties with (school trustee) Terry Brookes.”

In a 2009 article in Yellowknifer, Elms was featured in a magic show partnership with Brookes called Frozen Fingered Musicians. The pair were at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre giving a lecture on the history of magic up to the modern age.

Shirley Zouboules, former principal at NJ Macpherson, said Elms was a close friend, a beloved co-worker and a parent to whom she could relate.

Elms is survived by his son Michael, 18, and former wife Megan Holsapple.

“We have been friends a long time,” Zouboules recalled this week. “Steve was a really incredibly generous person and was known for his laughs, his kindness and crazy sense of humour.

“He was also very private and he never wanted to burden anybody with anything going on for him.”

Zouboules agreed that magic was always a big part of his life and said he was always willing to perform tricks at a child’s birthday party whenever asked.

“On the fly he would do it absolutely,” she said, noting his love and fascination with people.

Elms had been a teacher in the North for 15 years. A notice of his death on Tuesday stated that Elms came North from Bay Roberts, Nfld., and worked at several schools including Sir Alexander Mackenzie School in Inuvik, Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah, and at Range Lake North School, JH Sissons School, and NJ Macpherson School. 

He had been trained to become an elementary teacher – completing his teacher’s prep at Aurora College in Inuvik – and graduated from the Teacher Education Program in Fort Smith.

“It is hard on the staff and hard on the kids,” Huculak said of Elms’ death. “We have made sure that we have a bunch of counsellors available to talk to kids and talk to staff and even talk to parents if they needed it.

“They talked to the kids and any students who want to speak to counsellors, they are available.” 

Huculak said Yellowknife Catholic Schools was gracious in provide counselling assistance at a time when Yk 1 staff and students are grieving. 

Memorial service 

A memorial service will be held at NJ Macpherson School on Saturday at 2 p.m. Anyone from the public is invited to attend. 

“We have gone through something like this before at our schools and it is never easy when you lose a staff member,” Huculak said, noting that he had suffered the loss of his son last January. “For me I am affected too because I remember things that happened with my son passing away. My son was the same age.”

Also surviving Elms are his parents Byron and Mona, siblings Sean (Adrienne, Zachery, Keagan) and David (Erika, Leah, Gabriel).

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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