In a first for St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), a faculty member has been recognized on a national level by the Loran Scholars Foundation for making an impact, as a teacher, on one of their scholars.
John Walsh ’73, Manager of Community & Learning Partnerships at SMCS is the recipient of a 2021 Loran Teachers Building Leaders Award for making a positive impact on a scholar’s growth as a leader.
“It’s very special. Everyone enters the teaching profession wanting to make a difference and most of the time you only hope that you have,” says Walsh. “It is not often that you see tangible evidence of the fruit of your labour on a local or regional scale let alone on a national level and I am both flattered and overwhelmed by this recognition.”
Walsh was nominated for the award by former SMCS student, Chedi Mbaga ’17.
“I nominated Mr. Walsh because the passion he has for the work he does is evident in the care he shows for his students and the time he dedicates to the school community,” says Mbaga, who received the Applebanks Loran Award in 2017 and is currently in his final year at the University of New Brunswick completing a Bachelor of Science in geodesy and geomatics engineering. As a graduating Loran Scholar, he was invited by the foundation to nominate a past teacher who positively impacted his life.
“The number of occasions I can think of in which he either stayed late or came early to assist students with coursework, support student clubs or, especially in my case, just listen and provide support is innumerable. Through his service and dedication, he showed me that a leader must be principled, accountable and—above all—empathetic.”
According to the Loran Scholars Foundation’s website, the Loran Teachers Building Leaders Award, which is sponsored by the McCall MacBain Foundation, “recognizes primary and secondary school teachers who provide early inspiration, guidance and growth opportunities for [their] scholars.”
“Chedi approached me in Grade 7 when he wanted to get involved with the video announcements. Up to that point, we only had older students involved, mainly because of their confidence levels, but this young man was confident, determined, and obviously had a gift,” says Walsh. “He started doing the announcements and you could see his confidence grow on a daily basis. Not only in the studio but in all aspects of his life. He was an excellent student and became very involved in all aspects of student and community life.”
“One of the big things was that Mr. Walsh continuously pushed me to expand my horizons, to keep challenging myself,” says Mbaga. “He was also there for quite a few missteps to show me what it means to bounce back, to persevere, but also to stay the course and all of those are invaluable lessons that I’ve learned from him.”
Before Walsh took on his current role at SMCS, he was a science teacher at the school for 26 years as well as the coordinator of clubs and activities. He also coached the SMCS football, hockey, and track & field teams.
“I have always looked for value-added opportunities to help inspire students to grow at their own pace,” says Walsh. “Building relationships and providing strong mentorship is critical to student success.”
Since Mbaga’s graduation from SMCS, he and his former Grade 11 biology teacher and mentor have remained in contact.
“He is one of the first people I call when there's a major development in my life,” he says. “His breadth of lived experiences has been invaluable to tap into when I found myself facing a crucial decision point.”
“As someone who never seeks recognition, I know news of this award must have taken Mr. Walsh aback. But I can’t think of a more deserving individual. And I am beyond grateful to call Mr. Walsh both a mentor and a friend.”
In addition to the years spent mentoring Mbaga on the Daily Blue morning announcements team, he also informally advised him and provided support during his tenure as Student Government President.
“Every student has a gift. You just have to recognize what it is and let them run with it,” says Walsh. “That talent is not always obvious, it takes patience and sometimes you have to look hard to see it, but it’s there.”
“On behalf of the entire school community, we would like to congratulate John on this recognition and his commitment and impact in supporting the development of leadership in our young men,” says SMCS Principal James McKinnon. “From his many years of teaching to his current role as manager of Community & Learning Partnerships, John has continuously created opportunities to add value and mentorship to students both inside the school and in the community.”
Walsh adds, “It is an honour for St. Michael’s College School and myself to be recognized by Chedi Mbaga. He embodies our mission of Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge and our vision of graduating young men of faith, character, and service. A true St. Michael’s Man.”
Why I Chose Teaching as a Second Career: John Walsh