September 29, 2005

Thank you.

I am both touched and a bit overwhelmed by all this. And although I am standing in front of friends and family, strangely enough, I am even a bit nervous. I have just come to the realization that I am much more comfortabIe in front of a class. I have been present at several of these receptions when friends were being honoured and it never occurred to me that I too would some day be here.

I would like to begin by thanking the Award Committee for its confidence in me, and especially my dear colleagues in the Modern Languages Program: Gisela, Giovanna, Eric, Francisco, Myriam, Anna Maria, Helen, Nora, and Uta for initiating and supporting the nomination process.

Un merci tout particulier aux amis-collègues de mon autre département, le Département de Français, Sue, Sabine et Marcel.

Thank you also to colleagues from other programs and in various administrative services all of whom I have discovered were kind enough to support the nomination. Please forgive me if I don't mention you all by name, but it would take too long and I would risk forgetting someone.

I would especially like to thank my many students, both present and past, who were so generous and enthusiastic in their letters. Again, although I cannot name them all here, I would, however, like to mention two of you, Lyne Marie Larocque and Maria Salomon, who once attended Vanier and have come back to teach sociology and history respectively. You cannot imagine what a pleasure it is to see them here as colleagues.

The truth is, as my family can attest, that, when I learned about the nomination, this was, for me, an award in itself.

And then to actually receive this award from our Vanier community for doing something that I love to do and have enjoyed doing for so many years is truly wonderful and unexpected. I entered a classroom as a teacher exactly 36 years ago this month and am wondering where the time went.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I have never felt, in all my years of traveling to Vanier, that I was going to work. In fact, come to think of it, I have never thought of teaching as a job.

This probably explains my sporadic, but all too real, nightmares where I am suddenly confronted with the thought that one of these days I am going to have to go out and actually get a job.

Indeed, we teachers are a privileged lot. We are asked to read, to learn, and then to share, to explain, to discuss, and to collaborate with young, enthusiastic, pleasant, inquisitive individuals.

Our students motivate us to constantly renew ourselves: we are in the enviable position of always having to update our frames of reference. Often this actually involves unlearning and then relearning concepts in a totally new manner. I cannot think of a more stimulating and engaging exercise.

And, when you think of it, the astonishing thing is that, as we grow imperceptibly older (or at least we hope it's imperceptible), our students always remain at this same wonderful age.

There is an indescribable, an incomparable joy in preparing a lesson plan, entering the classroom and beginning the interaction with our students. There is always an excitement, a creative tension which I cherish and for this too I must thank my students.

I first experienced this excitement at the age of fourteen when I was tutoring a bright seven-year old girl who was having difficulty learning to read. Today, she would have been diagnosed as being mildly dyslexic. I still remember the feeling I had when, after several weeks of labourious efforts, working from the cards I had made up, she suddenly was able to visualize the difference between a "b" and a "d". Everything opened up. She began to read, ever faster and with growing enthusiasm. The elation that I felt then is the same elation that I feel today when I watch our students understand, question and then, on their own, explore new avenues.

Professionally, can there be anything more rewarding?

We teachers must never forget our good fortune.

And finally, and especially, this distinction you have bestowed on me today, I must truly share with a number of very special people who work in such services as the Recruitment Office, Admissions, the Registrar's Office, Scheduling, Student Services, Counseling, Academic Advising, LITC, the Learning Centre, the Print Shop, the Bookstore, the Service Department, the Deans' offices and elsewhere in our college.

For it is they who ultimately are responsible for directing the students into our classrooms, for guiding them so professionally during their stay at Vanier, for supporting the teachers, and for creating and maintaining the warm and welcoming atmosphere that characterizes our college and makes it such a wonderful place to work and study. It is, in fact, they who provide us, the teachers, with this splendid experience for which I am being honoured, an experience which I hope to enjoy for several more years to come .

Before closing, I would like to express my profound gratitude to Wanda Kalina for organizing this reception and for handling all this with such generosity, kindness and solicitude.

Thank you.