Morinville – There were many laughs and a few tears Friday night at the Morinville Rendez-vous Centre where stories about retiring Morinville Community High School teacher Laverne Dewald were shared by colleagues, former students and friends. The evening included a 20-minute documentary on Dewald’s career in Morinville that was produced by students.
Dewald began his teaching career in 1980 as a physical education and math teacher at Morinville’s then newly opened Georges H. Primeau School. In the 1990s he was part of the team behind the development and construction of Morinville Community High School, the town’s newest school. When the school opened in 1994, Dewald took on the role of chief Career and Technology Studies (CTS) teacher in the building, a position through which he offered students the latest in graphic design instruction while still teaching mathematics and coaching the MCHS Senior Girls Basketball team.
Former MCHS Principal Paul O’Dea extolled Dewald’s many virtues and the important role he played in the school. “Laverne’s contribution to MCHS was huge,” O’Dea said, adding the CTS department was a thriving hive where everyone, including school administrators, felt welcomed. “You were allowed to risk and fail and risk again, yet never left to feel like a failure.”
The evening included many such praises for Dewald, who retires this week, as well as many inside jokes and jabs from his colleagues and admirers. Teacher and friend Dave Garret spoke of an ongoing philosophical argument between he and Dewald based on their respective subjects of physics and calculus. Throughout the evening Dewalds unique disposition, love of Star Wars, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the World of Warcraft video game were offered as good-natured tributes to the man and his career as a teacher.
In addition to being an educator, Dewald and his wife purchased Uptown Video in 1997, Crescent Video in 2000, and the local Sears location in 2002. In 2004, the Dewalds built a strip mall on 100 Street, to house the video rental, Sears store and three other local businesses.
After an evening of speeches and reminiscences, Dewald took to the microphone to offer 20 minutes of his own thoughts and memories, as well as a few good shots at fellow educators.
“I’m overwhelmed, I really am,” Dewald said. “Thirty-three years ago when I started teaching, it was really not because I wanted to be a teacher. It was because I thought I wanted to be a teacher. There were so many people along the way that spent so much time encouraging me and challenging me. Like I say, I’m almost speechless.”
Dewald went on to offer thanks to his parents, now deceased, for teaching him accountability and responsibility, and instilling in him the work ethic he has maintained throughout his working career. He also thanked his wife for understanding his absences over his career as he travelled the roads with school teams ranging from jump rope to basketball. The educator ended with his thanks to all who had come out for his send off.
“Each of you has had a special place in my life at some point or another,” he said. “You’ve influenced me as a human being, as a teacher, a father, as a husband, and as a friend. I thank every one of you for coming out tonight and spending some time together – and laughing at me. I just want you to know you all hold a special place in my heart. You always have and you always will. I will never forget any of you and I hope you never forget me.”