October 6, 2011

DSBN Educator Honoured as Teacher of the Year by Niagara University 

Heroes play an important role in our lives. Their courage, strength and determination inspire us to reach heights we never would have dreamed possible. Heroes come in many forms; parents, teachers, athletes and sometimes fictional characters.

But ask DSBN teacher Bruce Bellefeuille about heroes and you’ll get a very different answer. Bellefeuille believes the students he teaches are worthy of that lofty label.

“I absolutely believe what my kids do is heroic,” says Bellefeuille.

For the past five years, Bellefeuille has taught the Connect program (formerly known as Second Chance) in Niagara Falls. Connect is a regional DSBN program that provides opportunities for students between 16 and 18 years of age who are behind in their credits and at risk of disengagement from school.

“The students in my class, through no fault of their own, come from a variety of challenging circumstances and it can be difficult to prioritize education when you have so many competing concerns. Yet, these kids all make the decision to get on the bus and come to school each day because they believe in themselves and value their future,” says Bellefeuille.

“If that’s not courageous, then I’m not sure what is.”

Bellefeuille’s efforts and commitments to creating positive outcomes for his students have not gone unnoticed. On Thursday, October 6, Bellefeuille will be recognized as “Teacher of the Year” by Niagara University’s College of Education at an awards ceremony in Niagara Falls, New York.

DSBN Student Achievement Leader Barb Eade, who oversees Alternative Education programs at the Board, will be in the crowd to watch Bellefeuille receive his award. “Bruce is the total package; he is an educator, a role-model and a life coach. He is innovative and creative in his methods, but what stands out the most is how much he cares about his students,” says Eade.

Somewhat uncomfortable with the spotlight of such a prestigious recognition, Bellefeuille insists he shouldn’t be the only one honoured. “It’s a lovely recognition and I’m very appreciative, but people should realize that supporting kids takes a total team effort. I’m very fortunate to work with so many great people who truly want the best for students.”

Although somewhat reluctant to discuss his own achievement, Bellefeuille becomes much more enthusiastic when asked about his class. “I’ve learned so much from my students, it’s remarkable,” he says.

Eade suspects Bellefeuille’s students would say the same about him. “Bruce easily adapts to the needs of his students. Last year, the class was really interested in learning about engines and motorcycles. Bruce immediately went out into the community and found a business partner who donated mini-bikes for the students to work on. Students were able to earn tech credits refurbishing these bikes; it was very impressive,” says Eade.

When they first enter the Connect program, most students are thinking about catching up on their credits and achieving their high school diploma. However, given the proper supports and encouragement, many are beginning to think beyond high school and are now working towards post-secondary education.

“Our students have so much potential,” says Bellefeuille. “Once they begin to believe that, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.”