Arbos award winners had much to offer in their respective education careers

May 18, 2019

(Left to right) Murray Wall, Jason Almond, Cindy Kuster Orban and Ali Kuster Orban, wife and daughter of Jerry Orban.

This year’s trio of Arbos award winners presented at the Annual Meeting of Council, while quite different in terms of their respective education backgrounds, certainly cover the gamut both in the classroom, extracurricular activities and involvement with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation.

 

Murray Wall

It is only appropriate that Murray Wall would be the recipient of this year’s Arbos for Contributions to the Professional Organization.

Wall experienced the Federation from a number of different perspectives, including as President and later as a member of the senior administrative staff in the years prior to his retirement. In addition, he was also a classroom teacher in the areas of senior math and science in Watrous at Winston High School.

During his reign as President, commencing in 2003, there was ample evidence of the tempered, yet determined and principled way in which he saw the province’s teachers through a rather turbulent provincial collective bargaining process.

In his pre-election speech, Wall had suggested that the way he envisioned change was as evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary. This sort of measured approach also typified his work as a member of the senior administrative staff.

That was consistent with his remarks at the STF staff long-service awards ceremony when he indicated that his favourite opportunities and memories are of all the people he met and times he spent in schools.

This was evident with Wall’s international opportunities, including visiting schools in India and Ghana as part of his tenure as President, as well as being a member of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation Board of Directors.

His long-standing involvement in teacher organizations also included time spent as a local teachers’ association president, professional development chair, local implementation and negotiation committee chairperson and liaison committee member.

Throughout his career in the teaching profession, and later while employed at the Federation, his respect for the history and traditions of the STF were always evident.

Wall was one of those people who had an innate sense of what public education strives to be, adding that “it’s always fantastic to see teachers who are committed to students and who are working with them to help them succeed–that’s really what education is all about.”

Again, consistent with his approach, Wall said that “being able to support teaching and learning throughout this province has made all the difference for me in my life.”

Wall was born and raised in Saskatoon, completing his high school education at Evan Hardy Collegiate. He attended post secondary institutes in Abbotsford, British Columbia as well as Winnipeg, Manitoba before completing a bachelor of education and a bachelor of science degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

Married to Lynnette, they have two daughters, Orisha and Sian. Perhaps one of the lesser-known aspects of Wall’s passion is that he loves to cook in his spare time, adding that “chopping vegetables vigorously is a great stress reliever.”

 

Jason Almond

Whether it is in his role as a school administrator or pursuing his passion in the coaching ranks, the traits that people tend to associate with Jason Almond are his dedication and support for helping others.

Those attributes highlight precisely why Almond has been awarded the Arbos for Contributions to Education and the Teaching Profession.

Currently a vice-principal at Holy Rosary High School in Lloydminster, Almond has been a member of the STF since 1992. During that time, he has been not only a teacher and administrator, but also an athletic director and active community volunteer.

His profound interest in students can include tutoring those who struggle in math, but just as likely in the countless hours spent coaching athletics or helping organize extracurricular activities in the school from sports to the arts.

One of Almond’s key legacies is the Individual Study Program he initiated while vice-principal at St. Mary’s Elementary School. It was designed for the math program that was to meet the needs of those students who were not able to attend high school full time.

Prior to moving to administration, he was a physical education and math teacher for half of his career. He also spent five years as athletic director, which included coaching volleyball, basketball, badminton, track and assisted with football for good measure.

It’s not just students whom Almond is there for; he was also a part of the problem-solving teams in the Lloydminster Catholic School Division, which brought teachers together from across the division to discuss discipline procedures and assessment of students. This holistic approach is one that yielded success for students across the division. More recently, his involvements have included co-designing the Division Graduation Review Plan spanning the 2007-17 strategic review.

Whether ensuring an individual student’s needs are addressed or supporting individual teachers, it has been suggested that his consistent mantra is continually asking how Holy Rosary can be better, and he is more than happy to add his expertise to that conversation.

Consider, for example, that Almond is also the “voice of the Raiders,” and has volunteered countless hours announcing play-by-play of the school’s Raiders football, basketball and volleyball games. He is just as likely to be found helping with drama and musical productions. Did I mention he is also a sought-after Master of Ceremony at different events while also promoting and managing the online Raider gear store?

His community involvement has included thousands of hours spent officiating hockey games. In 2019, he was honoured by the Northeast Zone Referee Association as an official who demonstrates dedication, hard work and commitment to officiating and development of young officials in the zone and province.

Almond graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992 with a bachelor of education and a bachelor of science in physical education.

The plaudits for Almond are numerous, but the invariable common denominator comes back to his compassion and kindness, characterized by his unselfish, sincere and giving presence through which he exemplifies leadership through service.

As one of his colleagues, Ashley Fullarton, summed up, “Jason Almond is the epitome of what it means to be dedicated to what you do. I’m very lucky to get the opportunity to work with Jason, and he is one of the reasons I’m very proud to be a Raider.”

 

Jerry Orban

Jerry Orban was awarded the Arbos for Distinguished Support of Education and the Teaching Profession posthumously, after he passed away earlier this year at the age of 68.

While Orban dedicated his life to education, spanning 45 years, to most people he was doubtlessly best known for a highly decorated career as player and later coach of the Regina Rams junior and university football programs.

Orban was born in Lestock, Saskatchewan, and his family moved to Regina when he was three years old. He lived in Regina for most of his life with the exception of one year in Vancouver when he attended and played university football at Simon Fraser University.

He graduated from Martin Collegiate in Regina before pursuing his passion for education and sports. For the past 15 years, Orban had served as the faculty of education field placement manager at the University of Regina, prior to his retirement in September 2018.

As respected as he was for his accomplishments in his chosen love of education, arguably the more far-reaching influence was as a longtime member of the Rams who were ostensibly his second family after having played and coached with the organization for more than 30 years.

It wasn’t just a matter of the considerable success he garnered, but more that he taught his players the importance of teamwork, integrity and to be a man of character. A number of his players have evolved in roles as teachers, coaches and community leaders.

Current Rams head coach Steve Bryce summed it up upon learning of his passing when he characterized Orban as a “coach, teacher, mentor and friend.

“Jerry was a second father to hundreds of football players. He earned the respect and admiration of not only his position players, but also other position players and even opponents,” said Bryce, who was coached by Orban from 1987 to 1991.

“He modelled and conveyed the importance of dignity, class and integrity. He was a teacher who provided guidance, support and encouragement. He was an architect of young men and character. He was more than a great coach. He made a difference,” Bryce suggested.

Aside from being part of eight national championships during his time with the Rams, he also helped mentor numerous players who went on to play at the professional level.

Orban is survived by his wife Cindy, son Chris and two daughters, Ali and Joanne.