Robert Hillmer Award 2003: Madeline Dennis
I was delighted and shocked to open an e-mail a few months ago from Avanell Scherer, informing me that she and others have nominated me for this prestigious award and asking for more information. Unfortunately, I read the e-mail two weeks after it was written because I was on vacation, on a cruise and without a computer. When I did try to respond, from the Local public library in Sunrise Florida, I discovered that my desktop was too full and TDSB would only let me read my e-mail, no reply until I deleted lots of stuff. Around this time I had to relinquish my computer for the next person.
I did not expect to hear good news when I seemed to ignore the request. Imagine my surprise when I returned home to discover that I was to receive this award.
I didn’t think that I did anything more than most of my colleagues had been doing for years. That involved teaching kids about what Business Studies is all about and making it fun for them to learn and sharing this with others. I should start at the beginning so that you know how amazing it is that I came so far to achieve this success. In the beginning I couldn’t even type my own essays at University and relied upon my Mom and Sister-in–Law to do this.
I was accepted to Lakeshore teachers college and the FEUT at the same time. I tried one day at the elementary teachers college but after being told which end of the pencil to use, I walked out at the lunch break, and kept going. Something I have never done since.
At the interview with the faculty of Ed Registrar, I explained that I wanted to use my undergrad degree in Modern History and Political Science to teach history and if I couldn’t get a job teaching history perhaps I should stay at my first real job as a sales person for a collection agency. He suggested I teach Marketing and since there was not enough Business Studies candidates that year, I would have a choice of schools. I met Professor Bruce Conchie, the Lennox Borel of his day, from the College of Ed and the after ten minutes, my desire to teach history was forever shelved.
I also had to learn keyboarding and I knew that I made the right choice when I got A+ in Keyboarding methods from Professor Seggie , who didn’t know that I could not type and was failing keyboarding at the same time. I learned a very important lesson then, that you do not have be an expert in something to get kids excited about learning it.
Teaching Business Studies was a little different when I started in 1971. I taught my first Data Processing class with a Keypunch machine and later we moved to card readers and mark sense cards. It took kids a whole class to bubble a simple program in Basic and someone always dropped their cards on the floor. I took two Marketing classes at a time on field trips, without any other supervision. Trips to STELCO and Ford were easy.
When I started to teach in Scarborough at Woburn C.I., we had 9 periods a day and six 40 minute classes per day and two on-calls that were always taken. I still remember my first year teaching grade 9 and 10 typing, I still had not mastered the skill myself yet, grade 10 Data Processing, grade 11 and 12 Marketing and I saw 190 kids a day. I was so naïve that I though it was great. We had no photocopier and we lined up for the Gestetne. Our keyboards were blank. Kids really had to learn to touch type. Each Business Studies teacher did typing room supervision twice a week before and after school and detention room for a week at a time. I often wondered who really had the detention.
My curriculum changed from Marketing to Business Law and Business Organization and Management to Administrative Studies and Entrepreneurship, from Data Processing and Keyboarding to Information Technology for Business and International Business.
Since that time I have seen great changes in business studies in our Secondary Schools. I remember the early OBEA competitions as major events that we took turns hosting and when our top achievers had won the school competition and was coached to compete, we took our own typewriters for each student with us. It is much better now…I even had to fill out worker comp for a back injury I had carrying a heavy old manual to my car for the competition.
I remember the excitement of the first DECA meeting in Canada . It was held at Woburn C.I. in 1978, in my Marketing class room and I invited DECA members from Williamsville New York to come and show our kids how to be competitive in DECA. We even changed the name to MECCA to reflect our Canadian Culture and for several years we were Marketing Education Clubs of Canada Associated with DECA. I called few Business Teachers together and we brainstormed and organized the first NARCON at the Sheraton Centre, in downtown Toronto for 5,000 business students from the States and about 100 from Toronto . I saw a vision and look where DECA is now in Ontario . I believe that our future business leaders are down in Orlando now competing at the DECA Nationals.
When asked to do workshops at OBEA, I have always felt that I wanted to share with teacher’s, techniques that I have learned and that work in the classroom. Even yesterday Chris Stevenson told me that she still uses stuff she got at one my workshops on OAC Admin Studies years ago. It is fun and rewarding to help other teachers.
As Business Director at L’Amoreaux C.I. in Scarborough , I learned leadership skills through committee work and all about collaboration. I learned about risk taking and when opportunity arose I took it for the development of staff and students. We created a partnership with K Mart and Ernst and Young for our school. Kids and department heads alike learned from the connection to outside businesses.
I have always encouraged new teachers to go for it. I have been a FEUT associated teacher since the mid seventies and I have loved working with so many of you. Several of the student teachers that I have mentored are in OBEA and are here today. Laura Pinto and Zenobia Omarali are two of your future leaders who I have had the pleasure to encourage.
As Coordinator for Business Studies for TDSB I was asked by some Business Directors at one of our monthly meetings, will teachers write the new Business Studies Curriculum for the Provincial Government? I called the Ministry for them and I guess what? The answer was yes and I was told not to worry about it. Three months later I was called to Project Manage the writing teams for the first two Business Studies profiles. How terrifying it was. I had no idea how to proceed and even less after the first meeting of CODE. But I trusted my instincts and my colleagues in Business Studies in the Province and I called up Lori Cranson, who agreed to be lead writer, Terry Murphy, Micheal Liepner and Doug Ritchie for Intro to Business. With a crew like that, how could business studies go wrong? Then I asked Avanell Scherer to lead write the BTT and I recommended a new young teacher who I saw had great potential and Laura Pinto joined that team.
I knew that Business Studies Profiles were in good hands.
When approached to write a textbook a few years ago I was overwhelmed but after finding the best Co-author in business studies, Lori Cranson; I started another new phase in my career when we wrote Entrepreneurship…Creating a Venture, published by Nelson. I discovered that I really loved research, especially interviewing interesting strangers for our Venture Profiles. You can make a lot of new friends that way.
I have enjoyed that last two years being lead teacher for a special Co-op Education program in Health Care Careers for TDSB. After retirement in June, I came back to teach BTT and Co-op Ed at a Marc Garneau, the space school. What a joy it is to teach kids and to collaborate with teachers and others to promote Business Studies.
I have learned from many on my travels about how to be genuine and care about what I do. As an executive member of OABEC, in my recent years; I have had the chance to work with the best Business Education Leaders in the Province. I thank you all for your mentorship. I thank my family for their constant support for all of my projects and the time it takes me away from them. Lastly I thank OBEA for the honour that you have bestowed upon my this morning with the Hillmer Award.