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Slocan teacher wins Prime Minister’s Award

Sean Marechal teaches at W.E. Graham School
School District 8 teacher Sean Marechal has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Here he summits a local peak with W.E. Graham School students taking part in the Valhalla Wilderness Program he has taught for the past 25 years. Photo: Submitted

School District 8 teacher Sean Marechal has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Marechal teaches Grade 9 and 10 students in the Valhalla Wilderness Program at W.E. Graham School in Slocan.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence have recognized exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines since 1994, with over 1,700 teachers honoured to date. Teaching Excellence Awards recipients are honoured for their remarkable achievements in education.

“I am humbled to receive this award among so many worthy educators across our district,” said Marechal. “It is an honour to be recognized in this way. I also know that for me, like for many of my colleagues the real reward of teaching an outdoor program is to see children go out into the world and succeed as healthy, aware and generous people who know themselves and understand that we’re all connected through nature and community.”

Marechal has run the Valhalla Wilderness Program for the last 25 of the 27 years it has operated in the Slocan Valley. The program offers students the opportunity to explore the area they live in and build their technical skills in hiking, biking, skiing, and canoeing while following the provincial curriculum for their grades. Students spend approximately 60 per cent of school time in classrooms and 40 per cent in the field.

“I can’t think of a teacher more deserving of this recognition than Sean,” said W.E. Graham principal Mike Hurley.

“His dedication and passion for building and developing this very specialized program has garnered him the respect and admiration of his colleagues, parents, and most of all his students. He teaches children about leadership, teamwork, making safe choices, and building relationships through outdoor learning. Not only do students leave the program understanding commitment and hard work, they understand community and gratitude.”

Marechal plans and participates in the physical challenges of adventure activities, helping students learn everything from meal planning and preparation to wilderness first-aid and avalanche awareness in an outdoor environment.

Students gain leadership and group skills as they work together, problem solve, and communicate effectively to safely confront physical challenges and potentially adverse conditions, as well as contribute to the local community through Christmas food hampers and other local initiatives.

“Sean’s leadership, mentorship, and teaching skill have inspired generations of adolescents to be the best versions of themselves,” said superintendent Trish Smillie. “He has helped young people understand that we are all part of a community in which we excel when we are supported by others and support others in return. This is at the core of education in SD8.”