Wall of Fame inductees praise teachers for encouraging compassion

 page image
Posted on:

Corporate News

Wall of Fame inductee John Beriault, left, points to a map of Africa as his brother Adam Beriault, centre, and Ron Nikkel look on.

Their journeys took them down different paths but it was a similar roadmap the latest inductees into the Palliser Regional Schools Wall of Fame consulted along the way.

Ron Nikkel and brothers Adam and John Beriault praised guidance provided by childhood mentors -Palliser teachers among them - and urged those educators to continue to challenge their future students to make a difference.

The Beriault brothers, who attended Menno Simons Christian School in Calgary, went on to combine a passion for cycling with a desire to serve others. In the process they raised both considerable awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS on epic bike rides in Alberta and Kenya.

Adam said a large family of educators instilled in them early a sense that every student is special and the lessons that stuck with them most from their Palliser teachers were not necessarily about­ math, language arts or social studies

“It is there that we were shown what it means to be a servant, not just to our neighbor across the aisle in the classroom, but across the globe,” he told some 900 Palliser staff members at the Opening Day Celebration in Vulcan. “. . . we were taught to have faith that the small changes and the small impacts a person makes in the world -  those the small seeds of hope and compassion that we plant - can multiply and grow into something bigger and greater than we can ever imagine.”

Nikkel, an alumnus of John Davidson School in Coaldale, was honoured for his role in international restorative justice. His career path and passion began working with juvenile offenders and over the past 40 years has brought hope and dignity to prisoners around the world through Prison Fellowship International. Nikkel, who has witnessed “horrendous” injustices and atrocities at some of the worst prisons around the world, is also a senior advisor to an international human rights organization.

He was taught at home that every person matters and saw that mirrored in the school environment where teachers cared for every student.

“For me it’s a very moving thing to recognize the inclusion of Islamic schools as part of Palliser school district,” said Nikkel, after watching staff from those Calgary schools welcomed earlier. “It’s fantastic and does show that within our Canadian culture, within our community, there is a place for every group.”

He recalled a note his Grade 6 teacher, Mr. Slemko, wrote in his autograph book: “Dear Ron, strive harder to gain more.” Later his Grade 12 teacher, Mr. Brown, would challenge Nikkel and his classmates to write out their personal philosophy of life; their ultimate goal.

“I think there isn’t a teacher in this room who doesn’t know there are some kids who must need a little extra attention to realize they matter. That they have dignity. That they are human beings. That someone cares and that they can strive harder to gain more,” he said. “Thank you for everything that you do.”

The thought of making a real difference in this world might seem a daunting one for a young student. Yet it can all start with just one word, John Beriault told Palliser teachers and support staff.

“Our challenge for you this coming year is to encourage your students to say ‘yes’ when the opportunity to put their passions to use in the service of others is there,” he said. “Show them that making a positive change is not changing the entire world but doing what they can in the world around them; giving them every opportunity to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise come across, and get them out into the wider community and show them that they absolutely have the power to make differences.”

For the past eight years Palliser Regional Schools has honoured former students and alumni who have gone on to become leaders in their respective, chosen fields and their lives. For a list of past inductees, and to nominate an individual for the Wall of Fame, click here.