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Elizabeth confronts an unwelcome figure from her past in the May 12 episode of When Calls the Heart. But who is Thomas Higgins, and why does his arrival in Hope Valley unsettle the schoolteacher so much?  

Elizabeth confronts Thomas Higgins in ‘When Calls the Heart’ Season 11 

In When Calls the Heart Season 11 Episode 6, Elizabeth crosses paths with a man who will be familiar to long-time viewers of the show. 

Last week, Elizabeth learned that a plan to merge Hope Valley with the neighboring town of Benson Hills meant that her school would come under the jurisdiction of the larger school district. She’s fought to maintain her independence in the past but now says she’s willing to give up that freedom for the good of the town. (The merger would allow a plan to build a larger resort that would bring jobs and new residents to the town to move forward.) 

What Elizabeth apparently doesn’t know is that Thomas Higgins (James Kot) is the superintendent of the school board. In a teaser (via YouTube) for “Believe,” he arrives in Hope Valley and greets Elizabeth in her classroom.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, clearly rattled. 

“He nearly cost me my job a few years ago,” Elizabeth later tells Rosemary (Pascale Hutton). Rosemary gently asks if Higgins “propositioned” her. 

Who is Thomas Higgins? 

Higgins is clearly no stranger to Elizabeth. The character first appeared in season 4 of When Calls the Heart, when he was played by Jason McKinnon. 

In the episode “Heart of a Teacher,” Elizabeth was stunned to learn that she was being replaced as Hope Valley’s teacher. When she confronted then-mayor Henry Gowen (Martin Cummins) about being fired, he revealed that he’d received a letter from Superintendent Higgins claiming Elizabeth only got her teaching job due to her family’s influence. 

But that wasn’t the real story. When Elizabeth first accepted the job in Hope Valley, her mother was opposed to her moving so far from her home in Hamilton. Grace Thatcher tried to bribe Higgins into rescinding the offer. When Elizabeth went to discuss the issue with him, he made inappropriate advances toward her. She rejected him. The letter to Henry was his way of getting revenge on Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth and her friend Abigail (Lori Loughlin) traveled to Camp Fullerton to confront Higgins. He was unsympathetic and even propositioned Elizabeth for a second time. But she realized other teachers might have had similar experiences with Higgins. Eventually, one woman came forward and confirmed that Higgins harassed her as well. Henry then agreed to give Elizabeth her job back. 

How will Elizabeth deal with Higgins’ return?

Elizabeth, with her back to the camera, looks at Anna and Thomas Higgins as they stand in her classrooom in 'When Calls the Heart'
Kadence Kendall Roach and James Kot in ‘When Calls the Heart’ Season 11 | ©2024 Hallmark Media/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

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Elizabeth’s last encounter with Higgins happened years ago. She likely thought that he was out of her life forever. His return will only bring up deeply unpleasant memories and possibly result in further harassment. Plus, in the teaser for the upcoming episodes, it looks like Higgins might now be targeting Elizabeth’s former student and current trainee teacher Anna (Kadence Kendall Roach).  

Fortunately, Elizabeth has supportive friends on her side. She eventually turns to Nathan (Kevin McGarry) for help dealing with Higgins. “I need to make sure he never does this again,” she says. 

When Calls the Heart airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel. 

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