Catholic Division nominates three for Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Daily Herald File Photo

Two current and one former teacher in the Prince Albert Catholic School Division have been nominated by the board of education for the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

The nominees are former École St. Mary High School Principal Mark Phaneuf, École St. Anne teacher Donn Goertz, and St. Catherine Catholic School teacher Renee Garrison.

Phaneuf, who announced his retirement in January and is currently working temporarily as a superintendent at the Catholic Division office until the end of the school year was pleasantly surprised to be nominated.
“It’s very humbling when you get towards the end of your career and people start recognizing some of the good work that you have done or been a part of with your staff,” Phaneuf said.

Phaneuf credited his nomination to the staff at Ecole St. Mary. He said the staff worked hard, and make a significant impact.

“We had an incredibly dedicated staff at Ecole St. Mary High School and they continue to be incredibly dedicated,” Phaneuf said. “When you start looking at the accomplishments of our students, it’s directly a result of the staff. I stated to the staff before I left at the end of January that if I’m seen as the face of the school they are definitely the hands and feet of the school and together with the kids were the soul of the school.”

Phaneuf began his teaching at St. Michael Community School in 1991. He has also held the administrative positions of vice-principal and principal of St. Francis School and Principal of École St Mary High School for 18 years.

“It’s an incredible honour to be nominated and I look back fondly at all of the time I spent in all of the schools I worked in, St. Michael School, St. Francis and of course at Ecole St. Mary,” Phaneuf said.

Goertz, who currently teaches Physical Education but previously taught Grade 4 for 23 years and Grade 1 to 8 Phys Ed, was also grateful for the award.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be nominated for the award because I have been teaching for 30 years and it makes me reflect on all of the students that I have taught and people I have worked with,” he explained. “It’s a good way to go about. I’m not ending my career, but it’s just good that they recognize my accomplishments.

Goertz heard about his award nomination from education director Lorel Trumier before the announcement became public.

“It was nice when Lorel came and told me about it,” he said. “It was a nice surprise to get recognized for your accomplishments. I was in Phys Ed class and she pulled me out and talked to me and it was very good. I went and told my wife and that’s about the only person I have told.

“I’m just thankful for being able to have the job. I enjoy what I do, so it’s just great to be surrounded by wonderful students and other teachers that are trying to accomplish what we are all trying to accomplish, and that’s to help the kids to be the best that they can be.”

Garrison was humbled to be selected, mostly because she teaches Pre-Kindergarten and before that she taught Kindergarten. She has been a teacher for 28 years.

“I found it humbling and I find it very unique in the fact that I got nominated because I teach the younger grades and sometimes people don’t appreciate what we do,” she said. “They sometimes think ‘oh they are just glorified babysitters’. People think that, so I just found it very humbling and an eye opener for everyone.”

Early Years Education has been one of Garrison’s passions from the time she started teaching. She said Kindergarten and pre-Kindergarten teachers give students their first school experience, and that’s a role she takes seriously.

“Establishing safe relationships regarding Education for students and families to grow and learn is important,” she said. “It often paves their attitude toward education in the future. Education is a rewarding career that I describe as a rollercoaster ride of emotions.”

Garrison said she just hopes her teaching has impacted lives.

She added that Trumier contacted her just before Christmas and told her that she was nominated for the award.

“It is just take kids where they are at and have fun and they learn,” she said. “Kids are like little sponges.”