Doing his Best, all the Time

Gerry Young has put his five degrees to good use throughout a long career in education

Like many farm boys growing up in Manitoba, Gerry Young loved sports, both as a player and coach. Looking to expand his horizons, Gerry decided to try teaching as a career. To achieve this goal, and because his local school only went to grade 11, he spent his final year driving several miles each day to neighbouring Neepawa to complete high school. After graduation, Gerry attended the Manitoba Normal School where, after a year of study, he received his interim teaching certificate.

“They were desperately in need of teachers then,” says Gerry, “I could go on the cheap and get my teacher training. Following that I taught for three years in rural Manitoba.” But he had higher aspirations and was determined to get his degree. He came to the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation because of its degree program. The faculty he came to was much smaller than the current one.

“When I was here in ’59-‘60, the Van Vliet Centre wasn’t there yet. We were in a drill hall, which was a far cry from the current facilities. We had a class of only 18 people. [Dr.] Maury Van Vliet was the dean, [Dr. WD] Don Smith was the assistant dean and my mentor.”

By transferring courses taken in Manitoba, and attending summer school, Gerry was able to complete his studies in two years, graduating in 1960.

During the summer of ’59 Gerry worked in the Northwest Territories, teaching the children of Dene hunters and trappers just outside the current Nahanni National Park. “We stayed in an old prospector’s cabin. There were about 22 kids between the ages of five and sixteen, but they were all at the elementary level. The students were willing and anxious; they wanted to learn,” Gerry recalls. “It was enlightening for me. This was toward the end of the fur trade, the end of an era.”

While attending summer school classes in 1960, Gerry met Eleanor and they married the following summer. She was on the piano staff at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Gerry moved to Winnipeg to teach for three years and returned to Edmonton, with his wife, in 1963. During this time he continued to teach physical education and coach sports at the junior high level. “It took up a half to two-thirds of my time.”

Gerry continued to acquire degrees, including a B.Ed. in Winnipeg, a B.A. in Geography, and a M.Ed. (Administration) at the U of A. By transferring courses from the U of A and attending the University of Oregon over three summers, he was able to complete his Master’s in Educational Administration.

He continued teaching until 1982 when he joined Alberta Education’s Student Evaluation Branch. They were in the process of reinstating provincial departmental (diploma) exams and adding grades 3, 6 and 9 achievement tests. Gerry helped to establish new and more efficient methods of accountability in shipping, receiving, processing, filing and record keeping. Alberta’s system of handling and grading thousands of student exams became one of the best in Canada. After 18 years of renewing and improving Alberta’s examination process, Gerry retired in 1999.

Even without the daily demands of work, Gerry doesn’t have much time for relaxing or slowing down. Shortly after he retired a good friend introduced him to the Kiwanis Club of South Edmonton. The service club is responsible for the creation of several important regional facilities including Kiwanis Safety City, Camp He-Ho-Ha and shares in the management of the century-old Kiwanis Music Festival. Shortly after joining, Gerry was elected president of his club. He now sits on the board of the Kiwanis Music Festival and is in the third year as the chair of the board. A love of music is something Gerry shares with his wife Eleanor, a pianist, teacher and senior examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Gerry approaches his volunteering with the same work ethic as he did his career: use what you’ve got to the best of your ability. “I enjoy it,” he says, “When you retire, you can put in as many hours volunteering as you wish. The challenges are always enjoyable. Yes, there are frustrations too, but to accumulate all that [experience and knowledge] in life and not use it is just a waste.”