The United Kingdom has a new prime minister, and it turns out she has a few roots in British Columbia.
Liz Truss was officially sworn in as the U.K.’s new prime minister after meeting with Queen Elizabeth Tuesday, following her victory in the Conservative Party leadership race to replace Boris Johnson.
But decades before she took a seat at the head of the cabinet table, Truss spent a year in Burnaby, B.C., while her father, a mathematician, worked at Simon Fraser University.
In 2018, Truss posted on Instagram of her Grade 7 class at Parkcrest Elementary School, saying the experience “changed her outlook on life.”
She has identified herself in the photo as the girl wearing the “pink jumper” with a “big fringe.”
Brenda Montagano, now a Grade 4 to 7 teacher herself at Parkcrest, was one of the other children in the photo.
“We remember her kind of coy, witty sense of humour — she would tell a joke and have kind of this half-smile, and fit in with us because we were very similar at that age, that kind of sarcastic humour,” she told Global News.
“I’ve said with my adult hat on and having taught now for 25 years, I can appreciate how hard it is to move not just to a new school but to a new country … It felt like she was here for more than a year, so I think that speaks a lot to how she quickly settled in and got along with everybody.”
Bill Chambers, who taught the class and is now retired, told Global News he was shocked when a reporter reached out to ask him if he remembered teaching someone “in British politics.”
“I Googled her and thinking, well, I wonder what she does — and of course the headline comes up, ‘to be named the new prime minister of Britain,’ well, I just about fell over. I mean, it was so funny,” he said.
Chambers, who taught for more than two decades, said he doesn’t remember Truss personally, but that he vividly remembers her class as one that “gelled” and still stands out in his teaching career.
“It probably was a perfect one for her to drop into at 12 years old, you know. I mean, it’s nice that it made such an impact on her. It’s kind of cool, it sort of validates what I was doing for years and years and years,” he said.
He said he hopes to one day reach out to the new PM and say “thank you for the kind words.”
Back at Parkcrest, Montagano said she plans to use Truss’ story and class photo as a teaching tool to inspire her students.
“And talk about goals and dreams and that there is no limit, and also that you have no idea where you words and actions will go and what will be remembered by people,” she said.
“I think about her Instagram post about life changing and some of the hashtags that she wrote that made me think about what exactly, who it was that said something, or what experience it was and how different things stick with people.”
Truss, 47, takes power as her country of 67 million grapples with an acute cost-of-living crisis, strain on the health-care system and the ongoing effects of Brexit.
— with files from Grace Ke