2015 Robert Hillmer Award: Rosy Nadalin Kennedy, York Region DSB
Thank you for your kind words Brian, and thank you to my nominator and to the OBEA executive for selecting me for this very prestigious award. When I received the phone call from Linda Brown that I had been chosen as the Robert Hillmer Award winner, to say that I was shocked would be an understatement. I had watched for many years previous winners accept this award and listened to their speech, but I never thought I would be counted amongst them. I respect and admire each and every one of you and count myself lucky to be included in this group.
Teaching was a career I came into later in life. I was actually working as a Meeting’s Planner for Financial Post and at the crossroads of life when I decided to apply to Faculty of Education U of T. In those days jobs were tight and acceptance into the program was also tight. That year 5600 people applied and only 700 got in!! Since my life has always been about saying yes to the opportunities that present themselves I accepted and so began what has been a life-changing and fulfilling career.
I started teaching in York Region in the 80’s at Huron Heights in Newmarket and have come full circle to ending my career at Newmarket High School. In the 80’s teaching jobs were few and resources were the teachers you taught with. We were given a textbook, curriculum document, a daybook and a chair at a table and told you’ll be teaching Shorthand, Intro to Business, Accounting and Law – plan your courses. My teaching career and OBEA seem to have gone hand-in-hand, and as a young teacher I quickly learned the value of the resources I received through the workshops at OBEA.
It was during my early days at Huron Heights that I was encouraged by our Business Consultant – Brian Childs – to join OBEA and get involved. As a Meetings’ planner I understood the value of conferences and workshops so I joined OBEA that first year and immediately became the “official photographer” for the conferences. Brian handed me a camera and said – go take pictures. Those were the days of 500+ people attending the conference at the Holiday Inn in downtown Toronto and, of course, Campus Kits.
After two years of teaching I was head hunted back to meetings’ planning as I had an opportunity to work on the 1996 Olympic bid that Toronto was vying for – well we all know what happened there! So there I was back in industry and trying to figure out what my next move would be, and out of the blue a call comes from Brian – “Hi Rosy, I am going back into the classroom in what could be an “all year round” school in Markham called Middlefield Collegiate, and wondered if you would be interested in coming back to teaching?” Being a great believer that everything happens for a reason I went for the interview and was offered the position. Of course with the job came OBEA and I again joined OBEA and this time got involved in the executive for the first time. Those were the days of sharing rooms – you got to know each other quickly! I have fabulous memories of the fun we had – late nights stuffing bags; early mornings setting up; tending bar in the hospitality suite followed by late night dinners at Pickle Barrel. Through it all came a camaraderie that has lasted over distance and years.
Opening a new school like Middlefield was a wonderful experience. I was lucky to work with a strong group of teachers under Brian’s leadership. He was an outstanding Role Model – he encouraged us to step outside of our comfort zone and led through example. There was nothing he would not teach and this helped me develop my own leadership style when the time came to apply for a headship. My decision to move north – back to Newmarket – was not an easy one. I would be leaving a great group of teachers where we worked hard but always had a lot of fun. Sharing all our resources was ingrained in us and this was what I brought to my new role at Newmarket High School.
Newmarket allowed me to grow in a way I would have never thought possible. I tried to lead through example – as Business teachers we are called upon to be masters of all subjects and asked to teach outside of our comfort zone. I remember coming back to the headship from a year off and I was given a timetable teaching six different courses – two of which I had not taught before. All I could think of was “If I can’t do this as a department head then I can’t ask anyone else to do it!”
My life changed when I got married and I felt I could no longer be at the OBEA summer planning meetings. I retired from OBEA – but as Linda Brown told us – you only leave OBEA by becoming President or dying. So a few years later a very persuasive Wai Lau approached me and asked if I would come back for a year – and after much consideration I said I would – for just a year. At the end of that year I was asked to be President and then Past President. It is an absolute delight to see everyone at the Past-Presidents’ dinner every year and catch up. I think I may be the only person there who has worked with absolutely everyone who currently sits at the table! Being with OBEA has been a great experience – it allowed me to be involved with the curriculum review, curriculum writing, as well as workshop presentations and attendance – the resource sharing has always been key as Brian and Al Samsa can attest to with their years of sharing workshops – I continue to come to the conferences and bring back resources for the teachers in my department and encourage them to become a member of this wonderful organization. My advice to you is – Get involved, give a workshop – it is amazing the camaraderie that develops!
My speech would not be complete without mentioning my family – I would like to thank my family for always being there for me – in good times and in bad – I have had nothing but support from them over the years. My husband, mother and middle sister could not be here today, but I am lucky to have my “big” sister Mari, my niece Tracy who is a CPA and my great niece and nephew, Nadalin and Will here today to see me receive this award. Thank you for being there – again.
I still love being in the classroom – I started there and I will finish my career there. Teaching has definitely changed over the years – accountability has become the rule of thumb. Helicopter parents have become the norm. Some days it feels like all we do is paperwork and that we barely have time to do what we do best – teach. At times like this, remember the students – those who challenged us, those who frustrated us and those who made us laugh. Remember the ones who came back to say thanks. As a percentage they are not many – but those who do – leave an impression and remind us why we do what we do. As one student told me “It isn’t the subjects you taught me Mrs. NK, it is everything else you taught me about life and work skills and being a good person”. When a student shares with you that “aha” moment – listen and say “No, thank you! For you have changed me too.”
Thank you for honouring me today.
Rosy Nadalin Kennedy, York Region DSB