This story is from our series on inspiring women in Revelstoke in celebration of International Women’s Day.
When students come to her office seeking counsel, Lissa Cancilla tells them to strive for meaningfulness rather than just aiming for happy all the time.
“That is a deeper, longer lasting goal,” she said.
Often quoting Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning, she encourages students to seek out connection and love for fellow humans rather than only momentary bursts of joy.
She asks the teens which person they spend the most time with in their life. While some say their mom, the answer Cancilla is looking for is “myself.”
“Often I sit here and say, ‘The journey to know yourself in high school is more important than any course you are going to take,’” she said.
Cancilla moved to Revelstoke, 24 years ago from New Brunswick with her husband, who is also a teacher.
“We came out here on an adventure,” she said.
“But it was strategic, we knew there were jobs out here.”
The two had previously spent time in B.C., finishing their education practicums in Terrace and taking the opportunity to give out resumes and do interviews.
“We missed our graduation but we came back with jobs,” Cancilla said.
For three years they worked for the Prince Rupert School District in a float plane access community on an island.
“I think it really taught us what is precious in life,” she said.
They moved back to New Brunswick to have their first child, when her partner received a job offer in Revelstoke.
“We had no idea where Revelstoke was, we had never been here,” she said.
Though they had a permanent job offer with the Prince Rupert School District, they decided to move to Revelstoke.
She can vividly remember driving across the bridge in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick when they announced that the mill was closing in Prince Rupert and just breathing a sigh of relief, knowing they had made the right decision to end their contracts there.
Compared to remote island life, Revelstoke was a metropolis.
Being able to go to the store to get tea when we ran out was a thrill, she recalled with a laugh.
They were also able to purchase an acreage, which allowed them to have horses and raise chickens to sell eggs as their kids grew up.
When their kids were in high school, Cancilla returned to work, putting her master’s degree in history and Indigenous studies to use.
She stepped into the counselling role at Revelstoke Secondary School four years ago.
“I really, truly do feel very privileged and blessed to have a number of passions that I can work towards,” she said. “I love teaching.”
But, the most rewarding part of her career is the constant learning.
“As I get older I want to stay current, to stay in the know of things that are happening around me and kids do that,” she said.
Of course, COVID has thrown a wrench into things, but for the most part she sees the silver lining.
“Feeling like you are going through something together is better than feeling like you are alone with it,” she said.