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This... From ATA President Greg Jeffery

November 6, 2018

A life lesson found beyond curriculum


On Oct. 10, a young girl from Beaumont walked across the stage at M.E. LaZerte High School in Edmonton and received a diploma.

Odd to receive a diploma in October, you’re thinking? Maybe, but it was also joyous, generous, inspirational and bittersweet. You see, the recipient of that diploma is only eight years old and has a rare form of brain cancer and an inoperable brain tumour. Her name is Janaya, and her mother is Amanda Chekowski.

Their story has caught the attention of many Albertans. One of them was teacher Angie Tomlinson. When she heard about Janaya’s bucket-list wish to graduate from high school, she brought it to the attention of her principal, Kim Backs. Tomlinson, Backs and the rest of the staff and students at M.E. LaZerte made it happen and, from all of the media reports I’ve seen, it was a spectacular day for Janaya.

In my eyes, it was also a spectacular day for teachers and public education.

Teaching is a highly relational profession, but the relationships teachers form aren’t restricted to students and core subjects. Teachers engage their students and communities, and vice versa. The relationships between them intertwine and have helped strengthen public education and our society over the years.

Deeds like the one Backs and her staff undertook to make a dream come true for Janaya and her mom happen in schools across Alberta way more often than is reported in the media. They are not a part of curriculum. When they happen in our schools, they teach students and the rest of us valuable lessons in compassion and gratitude. Gracious deeds like these make me very proud to be a teacher. ❚

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