Robert Hillmer Award 2002: Cathy Pitt

Cathy Pitt: 2002 Hillmer Award

Karen Caskey, Past Principal and Cathy Pitt, Recipient, Glenforest Secondary School, Mississauga

Cathy’s Speech
Over the many years I have been attending the OBEA Spring Conference, I have seen many people receive this prestigious award. I never thought I would be a recipient. When I was informed of this honour, I did a lot of reflection on my career as a teacher and realized that when you accept this award you accept it not for yourself but on behalf of everyone who has influenced your career as a teacher–Your mentors, colleagues, professional organizations, educational institutions, boards of educations and most importantly your students. “They” say if you want to look good, you surround yourself with excellence. And I have done that.

Twenty-six years ago, almost to the day, a very young and dedicated Commercial Head visited my graduating class at Ryerson Institute of Technology (Notice the terminology). He was beating the cattle auction at the Toronto hotels. He interviewed many people including my best friend and myself. His enthusiasm for teaching business inspired me to change my career direction and to pursue a job in Business Education rather than in the Business world. He asked me to apply to his school. I did–AND he gave the job to my best friend. Even though I did not get that job, he did inspire mt to go into a career that would change the rest of my professional life. A career that would constantly challenge me to change, and grow.

In my very first year of teaching, it was suggested that I join MY professional organization, OBEA. I did. Initially to impress my new head in my new school in Hamilton. But the friends and knowledge I have gained from my association with OBEA over the past years from conferences, workshops, colleagues and vendors is priceless.

My first teaching position in Hamilton, I was given the class from Hell. And truly those students taught me how to be a teacher. From them I learned the lesson “When they realize you care, they will decide to learn.” As a result of that lesson, I didn’t leave the teaching profession, but fell in love with it and those students.

My next position was in St. Catharines where I met a wonderful consultant who inspired me to take risks and to be innovative–I volunteered to do an experimental program–large size typing class–60 grade nine students in one class. I also accepted her challenge to drop Classic Pitman Shorthand, and study and introduce this unknown, unheard of American Forkner Shorthand. She inspired me to take risks and to be innovative.She also encouraged me to try new educational directions. It was at her suggestion that I applied for and accepted a position at Sheridan College.

There, I learned about new equipment–word processors and another lesson from my students. You attain maximum knowledge, if you enjoy what you are learning. Finally I arrived at the Peel Board of Education where I met a woman that would have a great impact on my life as a teacher. Those of you who knew Lily Kretchman, know that with a smile, she would plant a seed in your mind, let it take root, nourish it until you were ready to let it come to fruition and then she would praise you for the great idea or work that you had done. I continued to grow under her direction in areas involving Professional Development.

As a Business Director, I was again able to surround myself with excellence–our department is a team of leaders–all experts in one or more disciplines. They continually challenge me. They challenge the old and introduce the new and force me to change and I learn.

Lifelong Learning truly is a concept that I believe in. Education especially Business Education is not about continual change, it is about continual growth and improvement–whether it is curriculum, equipment, methodology, terminology or personnel. So change is good, change is growth, change should be improvement.

Lifelong learning has allowed me to be the student in many classrooms. My students have been and continue to be my teachers, my colleagues have been my teachers, and my various boards and schools have been my classroom. It is those excellent people that I surround myself with who taught me how to travel the road of Lifelong Learning–who have taught, inspired and continually challenged me to grow as a teacher.