He attended the one-room island school and, later became a physics teacher at a Moncton high school. He began churning out a staggering number of finalists at Canada-wide physics competitions.
"You usually get from people exactly what you expect from them, so it's important to expect a lot and to give them the tools and opportunities to do it," Tate says of his teaching philosophy, which earned him a 1993 Canadian Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. "I always give students a lot of responsibilities and a lot of authority."
Teaching and historic preservation suddenly came together during a 1992 visit to Cape Enrage. Tate and his wife, Ann, had long enjoyed hiking in the area, and they were shocked to see how quickly the complex had decayed in the three years since automation. Vandals had sacked the buildings, and the Coast Guard planned to raze the 60-year old lightkeeper's house.
The Tates and their teenage daughters drew up a plan: hire motivated students, rescue the buildings from the elements, then try to secure permission from provincial and federal authorities to create a seasonal youth-operated adventure center on the site. Admission fees would be voluntary – so nobody would be denied access for lack of money.
That's exactly what they did, though the path was far from easy. The red tape was considerable – the government was loath to reverse its demolition plan – and the Tates had to front more than $50,000 just to get the project off the ground. They've invested untold (and unpaid) hours painting, scraping, building, cleaning, training, and grant writing.
"We saved and maintained the structures, which is what the public probably focuses on," Tate says. "For Ann and me, the focus was really the students, and training them how to run a business or an organization, to develop a work ethic, and to learn to work with people."
Teaching, he says, is something he can't escape, even eight years after retiring from Harrison Trimble High School. "When I wasn't working with students, I was one."