January 23, 2022

In grade 5, he wrote his favourite teacher a book. 25 years later, they’ve reconnected | CBC News

A London, Ont., teacher and his former student have reconnected, just in time for the holidays. 

Longtime and semi-retired teacher Don Naylor was digging around his basement recently, looking for Christmas decorations when he found a book gifted to him back in 1996.

It was written by one of his former grade five students at Orchard Park Public School, Andrew Perez. ‘A Toy Like No Other. A Christmas Story for Mr. Naylor’ reads like a Robert Munsch book, said Naylor.

It has a “smart kid, oblivious adults, ascending emotion, satisfying resolution,” he said.

“It’s not the kind of gift you get rid of.”

Naylor posted the cover of the handmade book on Twitter and reached out to the now grown-up author, Andrew Perez, who currently works in public relations in Toronto.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that he was my favourite teacher in public school,” said Perez. “He did work us students quite hard. It was a very serious Grade Five class.” 

Andrew Perez (left) on his first day of grade 5 with his dad and younger brother. (Submitted by Andrew Perez)

Perez admitted he doesn’t remember writing the book but recalls brainstorming gift ideas with his mother.

Naylor remembers Perez fondly. “He was somebody that I wasn’t able to forget and I wouldn’t even want to forget. He was the ideal student for me.” 

“He was enthused. He had lots and lots of opinions. He was curious about everything,” Naylor said. “I didn’t always agree with what was coming out of his mouth, but I liked the way he expressed it with such passion.” 

Andrew Perez, who works in public relations in Toronto and his former teacher, Don Naylor. (Submitted)

“I’m involved in politics and I’m a freelance writer,” said Perez. “I am a big believer that these sorts of things, these interests and skills develop at a very, very young age.”

“I have no doubt that that’s when this all began really, at Orchard Park Public School.”

“I am humble because he doesn’t realize that the whole education thing is a partnership,” added Naylor. “It’s because of them that anybody is able to teach, and that was a stellar class, and he was certainly one of the best members of it.”

The first page of Andrew Perez’s 1996 book, ‘A Toy Like No Other. A Christmas Story for Mr. Naylor.’ (Submitted by Don Naylor)

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