By June Norvila
A Bentley teacher was given special recognition in Edmonton this past May.
Mr. Gordon Graves, a long time teacher, coach and vice principal at the Bentley School attended the banquet and awards ceremony of the Alberta School’s Athletic Association general meeting where he was inducted into the ASAA Sport’s Hall of Fame in the coaching category. This is only the third year this award has been offered.
He was, in fact, earlier surprised with the announcement that he had been nominated and had won the award at a general assembly in front of the entire school (K-12) on February 27.
“It (the announcement of his having received the prestigious award) was a total surprise! I am usually on the other end (doing the surprising),” Graves said as a little emotion showed through. “I tried not to get sentimental. It was a real surprise.”
He also officially announced his retirement at the same time when he stated, “This is my last year here.”
“I am grateful to all the people I have worked with and the students I have had the privilege to teach. The camaraderie (within the school) has been very special. To receive an award from them is a real honor!”
Graves has been at the school as a teacher, vice principal, the school athletic director and a coach at the jr./sr. high level for 27 years under two different principals. For 25 of those years he was vice principal after Cecil Galloway retired from the position. Graves had quit for a two-year span but came back. He described his role as the ‘policeman of the students’.
His teaching career started in 1978 in Big Valley 30 years ago before coming to Bentley in the fall of 1981. He says all three of the school principals he worked under “spoiled me.”
Graves was born and raised in central Alberta and attended the University of Alberta at Edmonton after moving on from Red Deer College.
Why I chose teaching: “I thought I would teach for 10 years then be rich enough to retire. Boy I was naive.”
What I will miss most: “I will miss the people, the relationships, the staff.”
Sports participated in: “I was good at a lot, not great at many.”
Favorite subjects to teach: “Phys Ed, then later Grade 9 math and art. Phys Ed offered activity. Math offered academic challenge. Art offered artistic side.”
Favorite sports: “Whatever is in season.”
Highlights: “Phys Ed 30 backpack trips were always special. There was always an element of intrigue.”
Biggest changes during career: “Style of leadership (administration at schools) has changed. The amount of bureaucracy (not at the school level but higher) has increased and that is not good. Another big change is everything is computerized. Kids haven’t changed.”
He is regarded by those who nominated him to be a committed, dedicated coach who not only understands the sports he is involved with but more importantly, he understands his athletes and promotes positive values, attitudes and behaviors along with the necessary skills, sportsmanship, perseverance and confidence needed for the young athlete to succeed.
He has coached X-country, basketball, and track and field, and says each has something different to offer. At times when more students tried out for a school team than could be accommodated on the team, he would try to find another volunteer coach so another team could be made up so all who wanted to got to play.
His philosophy was to have the school involved in all sports and not have the school specialize like some schools do.
He was instrumental in getting the school to host a number of provincial playoffs and had many successful school teams competing at various levels.
Graves has four children and two grandchildren and is a cattleman, a small farmer and 4-H supporter.
What I will do upon retirement: “I will now have more time for my farm and Black Angus cattle, for doing chores, golfing, and big game hunting, especially with my son. I will do whatever I want to do every day.”
He speaks fondly of the Bentley school and its staff. “I am lucky to be at the Bentley school. The Bentley teachers have stuck together and pulled together. The team creates the success!”