Lacombe Composite High School Teacher Steven Schultz recently received a Prime Minister’s Award, Certificate of Excellence from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.
Schultz received the award after pioneering projects along with students including the Ecovision Club and the United Robotics’ Club of Lacombe.
“It was a pretty exciting week last week going to Ottawa to receive the Prime Minister’s award,” Schultz said. “There was lots of feeling overwhelmed and I was surrounded by 16 other extraordinary individuals from around the country all doing incredible, innovative activities and projects that are making their classrooms a better place.”
Schultz — during the no-partisan, non-political event — briefly interacted with Trudeau — a former teacher himself.
“Our conversation was around his visit 10 years ago. Madam Galloway, one of our french immersion teachers, invited him for a political symposium we were running,” Schultz said. “I asked him if he remembers and he said he remembered. I told him we would really love to have you come back and I made him an offer to supply him with some student-made honey. He said, ‘That would be great’.
“He said this award is well deserved and that you are doing remarkable things in Lacombe.”
Throughout the experience, Schultz said he was often thinking about his home in Lacombe.
“There was a sense of extreme pride coming from a small community of just over 12,000 to 13,000 people that are so supportive of our endeavors and projects,” he said. “Some of these other teachers come from large schools and large communities where they get their resources from, yet we still seem to find a way to support all of the projects that go on at our school and all the other schools in Lacombe.
“We aren’t the only school that is doing innovative things.”
Schultz said his privileged to be able to use the gifts and passion he has been given in his career.
“If you allow your gifts to be woven into that passion, then it turns into successful projects. The satisfaction and recognition that comes with that will naturally happen,” he said.
Since it was announced that he was receiving the award, Schultz said his students — old and new — have been very supportive.
“Some of my past students have come out of the woodwork and have made an effort to acknowledge my contribution to their lives,” he said. “It was an honour to have one of my first Ecovision students, Charles Nokes, travel all the way from Toronto to come and watch my award being presented.
“To have him make that extra effort is a symbol, maybe, of the impact I have made on students’ lives. “
An added bonus of the trip was being able to connect with teachers doing great work.
“We established a network when we were there and shared our stories,” he said. “We had one individual from Kelowna, B.C. share an aboriginal practice called the Share Circle of Courage and it really brought down the walls that some of us had from meeting strangers.”
Schultz said he was inspired by the stories of the other teachers — with many of them coming from a place of being broken.
“We had one individual that was coming out of addictions while she was in high school and it was a teacher that stepped in and ultimately cared no matter the cost. That really inspired me,” he said.
Schultz said it is important for teachers to work hard to forge relationships with their students in order for everyone to succeed.
“You need to provide them with the resources they need to be successful and when you go out of your way to do that, there are students that will respond positively to that,” he said.
“If you ask them to land on the moon, they will land on Mars.”