When I received the call I was taken aback at first.
“It’s Mr. Chase, how are you doing Michael?”
Mr. Allan Chase has been the principal at St. Jerome’s Catholic School in Vermilion — where I took Kindergarten to Grade 12 — for ten plus years. He explained that he was trying to coordinate some speeches for a small retirement ceremony and wondered if I would write something about Mr. Dave Sader, who was my high school English teacher and basketball coach for three years, and would be moving on after June.
It was a very pleasant surprise to be asked.
Mr. Sader, along with Mrs. Margaret McCormack, who taught me Grade 5 and was also our high school volleyball team’s “momager”, and Mrs. Martin, who taught me Grade 1 and 2 and has a way of making you feel very special in her classroom, were also retiring. The ceremony also celebrated Mrs. Shauna Despins, who began at the school after I graduated, and she received about the loudest cheer of them all.
The wheel of time rolls on. Even just six years removed from attending the school, I don’t know most of the staff. St. Jerome’s has had a lot of retirements in recent times and staff that would be considered school staples decided enough red marking ink was enough.
Mr. Allan MacMillan, high school social studies teacher who bleeds red, black, white, Mr. Brent Wasylik our phys ed teacher whose personality was frankly unmatched and musical choices so anachronistic and repetitive I made a playlist from memory (Del Shannon, Sam Cooke, and The Carpenters, for starters), or Mr. Kevin Sommer who had to tolerate my antics and smartass behaviour, or Mrs. Roth my Grade 3 teacher who was the first to notice that my goal was to be first to finish tests, not whether I did them well, have all retired.
For many years, there were only minor changes to the roster with one new teacher here, another there. Now, the ST.J lineup has been turned over. Now I have friends who are working at the school — weird.
I didn’t pass up the opportunity and insisted I come down to speak in-person at the ceremony (fuel is cheap right now anyways).
There are some classic tales, too many to go over in a lot of ways.
In my senior year we were playing basketball in Lloyd and Sader and I got into a screaming match on the sidelines. We weren’t playing well and should’ve been winning. He said I had to roll off the screen tighter to not draw the defender to me. I said the screen should’ve been set closer to give me space to curl around. If you know Mr. Sader, you know he can bark at times (which basketball coach doesn’t?).
Anyway that was the TSN Turning Point and we won the game by 20. I realized afterward that he was doing it to light a spark in us and I appreciated that. There was also the the time he kicked a chair against the wall in Glendon School after some nauseating officiating during our first ASAA 1A Provincials game in 2014 and kicked himself out of the gym for a few minutes. Classic.
But as a teacher, Mr. Sader opened up my eyes to the lucid thought associations and deeper subtextual meanings of stories, of the words on the page and the schools of thought underneath them. He severely helped my writing and understanding.
He was the type of guy who would make you ponder the meaning of yellow. Or on a 40-minute tangent, explain what the four philosophical postulates were. Perhaps he was relating Metallica lyrics to Macbeth. By the time you finished talking with him, you weren’t just questioning the paper you wrote — you were questioning everything.
I almost forgot how Sader set up my first ever broadcasting opportunity. When St. Jerome’s hosted volleyball Provincials in 2013, I was in Grade 9 and the team was loaded enough that they didn’t call up any junior high players. Instead, me and a good friend of mine Cain Collins, were to set up the broadcast. On the last day of competition, Sader figured out the sound and said the microphone works if you want to try and do play-by-play.
It was my first taste of the mic and got me hooked. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to call volleyball and basketball games at NAIT, and of course, do three seasons of play-by-play for the Bonnyville Pontiacs. I’m forever grateful.
The ceremony was small on Tuesday afternoon but very well done.
At the end, the teachers walked by the staff and out of the gym while students on the bleachers sang one of the loudest renditions of the school song I’ve ever heard. Enough to give you chills, really.
Thank you to Mr. Sader, Mrs. McCormack, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Despins for your dedication and passion to St. Jerome’s. It will surely be missed.