Robert Hillmer Award 2004: Linda Brown

Linda Brown 2004 Hillmer

Linda with Wai Lau and Don Lawrence

Linda’s Speech
Over the 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. Betty Tamas, Hillmer Award winner of 2001, said it most appropriately when she said it was like winning the Academy Award for Business Education.When I was told that I would be the Hillmer Award winner for 2004, I was speechless. Anyone who knows me, knows that this does not happen very often. I am humbled and in AH that I am in the company of the former award winners, some of whom are here today.

Receiving this award has given me the opportunity to reflect upon my career as an educator and has made me realize that I am not only accepting this award on behalf of myself, but also, on behalf of everyone who has influenced my career.

The first person that I have to thank is my mother. It may seem strange to think that my mother had such an influence on my career, but in fact she was the person who made sure that I was to be a teacher. You may not realize it by my last name, but I grew up in a Ukrainian family. Ukrainian mothers like to be in control. When I graduated from University in Thunder Bay with a Bachelor of Science in Math, Computer Science, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next. My uncle, Rudy Specht who was a computer teacher at Beal SS school in London, suggested that I become a teacher. He said that computer teachers were in high demand. One of my professors from university also recommended me for an interview at the local hospital for a position as a Pulmonary Specialist which would mean 2 more years of training. I knew when I left the interview that it really went well, so when I arrived at home I told my mother that I was going “camping” with my friends for a few days and to make sure to take the message when he called. When I returned, I asked my mother if the hospital had called, she said yes and that I didn’t get the position. I was a little surprised because I knew I had a good interview, but thought oh well, I guess I will take my uncle’s advice and go to Althouse. A number of years later, my mother let it slip that when the hospital called to offer me the position, she told them that I didn’t want it because I was going to be a teacher. Ukrainian mothers think that they know what is best and try to alter fate to make sure it happens. I have to thank her now because I have had a wonderful career, with challenging experiences and a variety of roles in Education.

I had the privilege of teaching computer studies at Saunders SS, in London. While there, an opportunity arose for a computer studies headship, not at the best time, as I was 8 months pregnant. I applied anyway, and as luck would have it, I got the headship, and proceeded to go on maternity leave. Fred Buck filled in for me until I returned. From then on, we became the best of friends. I think of those days fondly, as we had so much fun. It almost seemed like a crime to take money for something that you enjoyed doing so much. Together we developed a very large department, over 50 sections of computer courses, unheard of today. Curriculum has always been my passion, and as a result, I was seconded to the ministry in the early 80’s to assist with the writing of the computer studies guidelines.

My next experience was as Computer Consultant with the London Bd. As consultant, my focus was always, “what was best for students and schools” and as such, many times circumvented the rules to ensure this happened.

Fred soon followed me to the Board Office, and together we gave many workshops, presentations and initiated many innovative projects. My philosophy has always been that the curriculum should determine the hardware that is required, and not the other way around. This was one of the most rewarding times in my career, because I felt that I really made a difference.

As I mentioned before, Fred and I gave many workshops and presentations together. We became known as the Fred and Linda Show. One time a workshop participant saw Fred and I unloading equipment from our car. We were bickering at each other as usual. Later, the person was surprised when she saw us as presenters. She said that she thought we were married by the way we interacted with each other. Fred is a true friend and colleague with immeasurable integrity and a tremendous influence on my career. He retired 6 years ago, and as a consequence, left a enormous void in my educational life.

I then decided to embark upon a different leadership role. I became a vice-principal and have been privileged to be part of the administrative team at Glencoe DHS and Clarke Road SS in Thames Valley. This new role has given me the opportunity to actually practice what I was preaching as a Computer consultant, to implement and carry out a plan for the integration of computers across the curriculum. This involved working collaboratively with all stakeholders and ensuring that all needs were being met. I feel strongly that the principal is the curriculum leader of the school, and as such I felt it was important to continue my connection with OBEA so that I always stay grounded.

I have recently been given the opportunity to coordinate the Ministry review of the Business Studies curriculum. When I was chosen, I asked them if they forgot where I lived. When I tell people that I commute regularly from London to Toronto, they look at me very strangely. The opportunity to play a key role in reshaping the business curriculum was something I could not pass up. I thank my sisters JoAnne and Judy, who are doctors in Newmarket, who have helped to make this work by giving me a closer place to stay a few days a week. I am so fortunate to be able to count on my family whenever I need them.

I cherish the relationships and bonds that I have formed with many of the people involved in this organization OBEA. Everyone involved with this organization works so hard to provide opportunities for both teachers and students. They give up many hours of their private time on worthwhile endeavours to enhance the learning of both teachers and students. Don and Wai, you inspire me to do better.

At this point I must introduce members of my family who have allowed me to freely pursue my goals throughout my career. First is my daughter, Katrina. She graduated from Western magna cum laude, in Honours Science. My sisters and I conspired and thought that the summer would be a good time for her to write the MCAT entrance exam for medical school. After many heated discussions, she finally said to me that she wants to be a teacher, that she always wanted to be a teacher and that she was not going to do it. She is presently a grade 7/8 teacher at Balaclava PS in Thames Valley. I am so proud of her and her dedication to her profession. Her students are so fortunate to have her as a teacher. I guess Ukrainian mothers don’t always get their way.

Next is my son, Ian. To think that I took him to the doctor when he was in grade 8 because I didn’t think he was growing. Ian is a natural athlete. He is a scratch golfer, and plays competitive volleyball. He has just finished a very successful first year of a three year program at Humber College in Business Administration, Professional Golf Management. He is also a member of the Humber College volleyball team and recently competed in the Canadian Volleyball Championships in Edmonton.

Finally, I have to thank my husband John, who everyone thinks is a saint for putting up with me for all of these years. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my goals and never once try to discourage me.

I would also like to thank John Thorpe again for taking the time from his busy schedule as Executive Superintendent of Human Resources, to come here to speak on my behalf.

I have three pieces of advice I would like to share with all educators today. The first is to share your expertise freely with your colleagues. It is a rewarding experience for you, and it helps your colleagues in their continuous process for self improvement.

The second word of advice I have for you is to become actively involved with your subject association. You will make lifelong connections with colleagues from across the province. You will be part of a team of educators that wants to make a difference in Business education. You will never regret your decision.

The third piece of advice that I have for you is what Gene Luczkiew said yesterday in his keynote address, is to always” Think Outside the Box”. Challenge the process, don’t accept complacency. Your job as educators is to prepare students for a world that we can only imagine. What better way to do this is through the relevant courses in the business curriculum.

The most significant validation of my career in education has not been any awards or accolades that I have received, but rather when a prior student of mine came back 15 years later and tracked me down just to thank me for inspiring him to pursue a computer related career. This has served as a constant reminder to me of the significant impact we as educators make in the lives of our students.

Thank you for honouring me today.