P.E.I. teacher takes a chance and meets Greta Thunberg

Frances Ann Squire's students were doubtful when she told them she would use Christmas break to visit her daughter in Sweden, and trying to meet climate activist and Nobel nominee Greta Thunberg.

'Oh right, Ms. Squire. Like that's going to happen.'

Frances Ann Squire met climate change activist Greta Thunberg while visiting Stockholm in late December. (Submitted by Frances Ann Squire)

In a handful of minutes Island teacher Frances Ann Squire shared an introduction, apology and thanks with Nobel Peace Prize nominee and climate activist Greta Thunberg. All during a not so chance meeting in Stockholm over the holidays.

"I just felt I was in the presence of greatness," Squire said of her time with Thunberg on Dec. 27.

"I walked away with a smile on my face and said, 'Did that really happen?'"

It did. After a bit of planning and some good luck.

"She's just a remarkable young person, and for me, she's a hero," said Squire.

'I'm going to see my daughter and meet Greta'

Squire had been planning the trip to Sweden to see her daughter Chelsea.

She is working and studying in Swedish town of Örebro, an inland community about 200 kilometres from Stockholm.

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg has been protesting climate change in front of Sweden's Parliament House in Stockholm on Fridays for over 70 weeks. The climate strikes, Fridays for the Future, have spread worldwide and made Thunberg the face of youth fighting climate change around the globe. 

While she was talking with her Birchwood Junior High students Squire shared her plans to try and meet Thunberg.     

"They asked what I was going to do over the holidays," said Squire.

"I said 'I'm going to see my daughter and meet Greta.' And they laughed and said, 'Oh right Ms. Squire. Like that's going to happen.'"

Well kids, it did.

P.E.I. teacher Frances Anna Squire was visiting her daughter Chelsea. (Submitted by Frances Squire)

Squire's daughter was on a holiday break from Örebro University. The two planned their visit in Stockholm for a Friday. Squire also had to convince Chelsea's boyfriend to take a day off work to drive them all the two and a half hours to Stockholm. 

Squire wasn't sure Thunberg would be there. It was the holiday break. Maybe she was somewhere else, or took a day off to be with family. But Squire had to take a chance to meet her climate change hero. The three made the drive to Stockholm.

An apology and thanks

"She was there playing a game with her friends," Squire said, describing the scene as she rounded a corner near Sweden's parliament building.

She kept her distance and watched the young face of climate change activism — Time's Person of the Year — a kid playing with friends while her dad watched from a short distance away.  

"Greta and I made eye contact and she waved," Squire said, then Thunberg left the group to say hello.

Squire apologized to Greta Thunberg for taking a jet to Sweden, though she used a bicycle for getting around Ö​​​​​​​rebro during her vacation. (Submitted by Frances Ann Squire)

Squire, who won the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in 2019, did the most Canadian thing. She apologized for taking a jet across the Atlantic instead of a sailboat, which Thunberg recently used to get to New York for her address to the United Nations. 

"I said that I was a teacher from Prince Edward Island and had I been able to take a sailboat across the ocean I would have done that. But I only had a week and I really wanted to see my daughter."

Thunberg laughed as Squire explained where she was from, that she teaches junior high, they talked about being in school, and why she had to take a chance on meeting the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

"I thanked her," said Squire.

"I said thank you for the work that she is doing in inspiring young people."

They took some pictures, Squire took a tour of the city, and then drove back to the university town of Örebro.

Worth the chance, and a lasting memory. 

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Mitch Cormier is the host of Island Morning on CBC Radio in Charlottetown. Email: Twitter: @mitchcormierCBC


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