This truly is a highlight of my teaching career especially coming from fellow colleagues in my chosen subject area of Business Education and considering the past winners of this award including Linda Brown who I consider the Dean of Business Education in this province, along with Avanell Scherer who provided me with an opportunity to make presentations at the Ministry level and fellow “paison” Vic D’Amico who probably doesn’t know who I am but many of us in this room do know who he is especially those using the various excellent editions of his Accounting textbooks that he has provided over the years.
I began attending this worthwhile professional development opportunity back in the latter part of the 1980s and I can remember standing at the back of the conference hall as often the contingent from Northern Ontario would arrive late due to the travel and restricted budgets as we would have to leave the morning of the conference in order to avoid paying the extra night room rental. As I would stand there and listen to the speeches made by the recipients of this award I would often question how they could have achieved all the interesting things that they were doing in the area of Business Education. So here I am today as proof that regardless of where you live in this great province that you can make worthwhile contributions to teaching students in the area of Business Education if you truly put students first and that you believe passionately in the merits of providing the best possible teaching experience in an elective subject area such as ours.
So how does one become a Hillmer Award Winner? Well let me bring you back to my experiences as a teacher and more importantly as a teacher in business studies or as we were once known as the “typing teacher” which by the way I absolutely despised since after completing five years of university there was much more to being a business teacher than just teaching typing and besides that I much prefer the term “keyboarding teacher” (yeah right). Like many of you in this room who have a degree in business it usually means a career in the much more “important” world of business and commerce or as we call it the “real” world. For me, after a couple of years in banking the real world was not that exciting; so I decided to share my passion of business with students. Upon graduating from Professor Jim Miller’s Business Elective class at the University of Western I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to teach within the Simcoe Catholic School Board at St. Joseph’s High School, a new school in Barrie, where I was the only member of the Business Department. Over the years we were able to hire a number of teachers in the business and computer area including my good friend Mike Grotolli (who now can brag about knowing a Hillmer Award winner, as he put it). We soon grew to become the largest Business Department within the board. In Barrie we spent many years working at convincing our Board to expand the role of business education as it was always a bit more challenging in the Separate School system as we would often need to integrate the Catholic Graduate Expectations with the business curriculum and then compete with one more elective in Grade 9.
I left Barrie and was fortunate enough to move back home to North Bay with my lovely wife, Nicki to raise our family. I became a part of the Near North District School Board, teaching in a very dynamic Business Department at Chippewa Secondary School. After a few years as being the rookie I was able to progress into the role of Business Director and I was able to work with some great teachers including Mary Beth Hurley who is here today. At Chippewa our mission was once again to provide students with the best possible Business education experience, and subsequently we were able to grow that department into the largest one in the district. Our students were very successful in writing and winning the many contests sponsored by OBEA. One of the highlights while working at Chippewa was being selected as a Pathfinders School through the Ministry of Education’s OKNL project. This recognized our school, particularly our Business & Computers Studies Department, as innovative leaders in the integration of technology within our teaching practices. As a Pathfinder School we were able to use the exposure to convince the highly respected Faculty of Education Program at Nipissing University to expand the intermediate/senior division to include an Accounting Elective.
Within the last five years I have been able to help support new Business Studies teachers entering into our profession including a number of teachers such as Roz Prisco, Amy Gauthier and David Wigney, all of whom are now permanent teachers with the Near North District School Board. Another highlight from my experiences at Chippewa was taking a group of Aboriginal students to an Entrepreneurship Competition sponsored by the Federal Business Development Bank of Canada and the University of Manitoba. For many of these students it was their first time on an Air Canada Airplane. Seeing them compete and capture First Place for the National prize for preparing the best business plan, was certainly a memorable experience. Along the way, however, I began to get the itch to get back to my business roots. I wanted to practice what I would preach from my BOH class on leadership. I moved on to and accepted the position of Vice-Principal at West Ferris Secondary School. I was able to work at the same school with another business teacher who shared the same passion for the advancement of business studies. This individual is the current OBEA VP, Karen Bond. A number of years ago Karen, myself, Sean Ruddy (another business teacher turned Vice-Principal) and another business teacher from the Near North Board Jan Stack worked together to produce, if I may say so, excellent teacher friendly curriculum resources for OBEA that are currently posted on the OBEA curriculum link website. Once again I want to thank OBEA for allowing us the opportunity to work on those resources and make workshop presentations that allowed us to meet so many other business teachers across the province. After two years as a Vice-Principal I convinced my school board to put me in charge of one of its schools. This brings me to where I am currently.
I am the proud principal of Northern Secondary School and I am very fortunate to work for a true leader in education. His passion for helping students and treating all staff with respect is evident in the fabric and culture of our Board, Mr. Colin Vickers, Director of Education (thank you Colin for taking the time from your busy schedule as Director of the Near North District Board of Education to come here to speak on my behalf). Now at Northern I am surrounded by professional and caring educators, including one of the OBEA workshop presenters today and my schools Business & Computer teacher, Mr. Albert Gauthier. I certainly agree with a previous Hillmer Award Winner Cathy Pitt when she stated in her acceptance speech for the Hillmer Award that, “They” say if you want to look good, you surround yourself with excellence. And I have done that”. I would like to thank these individuals for allowing me to be a part of the team to promote excellent teaching practices in our subject area, Business Studies.
As well I would also like to thank my family, some of them are here today including my parents Joseph & Lena Pavone who left Italy over 50 years ago and raised a family of 4 teachers, my very supportive wife Nicki who allowed me the opportunity to pursue my career goals, my daughters Kayla (who could not join us today as she is at a soccer tournament in Sudbury), Alexandra (who is at a basketball tournament in Timmins), and for my youngest daughter Christina (who just wanted to hang out with Grandma). My family has certainly allowed me the flexibility and much needed support in order to make a contribution to business education and be selected as this years Robert Hillmer Award winner. Thank you once again to OBEA for honoring a product of Northern Ontario. It is truly a very special day for me!!!