LaPierre winding up 35 year teaching career | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 14 Jun 2024 6pm

LaPierre winding up 35 year teaching career

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After 35 years, DVSS Principal Curtis LaPierre has decided to put his chalk away and will be retiring at the end of this school year.
LaPierre came to Drumheller in 1989, after taking a chance on a small classified ad. It couldn't have been more suitable; the school board was looking for a person with a teaching degree and a ticket in cooking.
It was a long path to get to that point, which took him through kitchens across Western Canada, university and even a stint slinging insurance. But in the end, DVSS left him with a satisfying career.
“I turned 64 in May and have taught for 35 years, and I still really enjoy working with teens,” he said.
“I have had the opportunity to work with and interact with over 3,000 teenagers over those 35 years. Drumheller has become home. The community has been good to me, the students I have worked with have been good to me and it has been a blessing.”
His story starts like many others, without direction after high school, he had already been cooking in restaurants for a few years and decided to follow that path. When he was 20, he jumped on a train and headed west from Ottawa and within three days, he was working at the Banff Springs Hotel. He then worked at a Greek restaurant in Vancouver, and then as a private chef in Calgary for a year and a half. After some soul searching he decided to go to University.
He went to Mount Royal College and then the University of Calgary.
“I went back and ran the catering department when I was at Mount Royal, while I went to university,” he said.
After a summer studying French at McGill, he started at the University of Calgary.
“While I was there I ran the catering department at the University of Calgary.”
He graduated with a double major in Elementary Language and Reading. After doing his practicums he was looking for a job.
“I couldn’t get a job teaching, there was a glut in the market at the time,” he said. “I sold life insurance with Great West Life, and did that for about two and a half years.”
He was offered teaching jobs but at the time his insurance position was much more lucrative.
Circumstances in his life did change, however, and one day he noticed an ad.
“I saw a little print ad in the Calgary Harald. It said Drumheller Valley School Division #62 was looking for a Bachelor of Education with a Journeyman’s ticket in cooking. I came out and slid my resume under the door. I got the job.”
He pushed hard to get his last insurance commission before he left his previous employment. He made the sale, and the next day he was in the classroom.
He spent the next 13 years in the classroom before he became associate principal in 2002. Along the way, his entrepreneurial spirit never ended, and he continued to cater, did real estate appraisals and also started Drumheller Taekwondo and Hapkido School.
He served as associate principal until 2010, when he was appointed principal. At the time, the school had relocated to the former Central School during renovations. That first Christmas holiday was spent moving back into the new DVSS.
During his time at the school, he has seen many changes, including the blossoming of the cooking program, which has affected many students.
He recounted an experience a few years ago when he was undergoing a medical procedure, the nurse in her mask asked him about the recipe books that students would take when they graduate.
He was also in a leadership role during the introduction and flourishing of the international program. In helping to launch the program, he travelled to China, Turkey, and Central Mexico.
He has seen students excel at the school.
In 2010, when he became principal, the three-year graduation rate from the previous year was 55 per cent.
“Two years ago, our three-year graduation rate was 89.5 per cent. It is 84.5 per cent now,” he said. “Our six-year transition rate… in terms of transitioning into secondary was 50.5 percent. The province is 42 per cent, and the school division at large is 30 per cent. And for a student in Drumheller transitioning to post-secondary, that is way more difficult than a student living in the city.”
“It's been quite a journey, there have been lots of changes. Remapping the vision of the school and turning around school culture, it is significantly different than what it used to be,” he said.
After retiring, he is planning to stay in Drumheller and has a few ideas up his sleeve to keep him busy. These could benefit both students and teachers.
“I have always been supportive of supporting others,” he said. “Sometimes circumstances push you where you are supposed to be, not where you were planning to be.”

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