The biggest news about back to school is who’s not going back to school.
Janet Ruest, a multiple-award winning teacher, has decided to retire and won’t be returning to Chemainus Secondary School for the 2018-19 school year. Her long tenure at the school goes back to September of 1994.
Ruest admits it’s going to feel odd not reporting for duty next week.
“I love this place,” she said during an interview outside her longtime place of employment. “This is home. You spend more time here than you do at home basically.”
Ruest’s passion for her job and the way she has turned her numerous excursions into learning experiences for students has been well documented.
“I’ve always said some people teach, some people are teachers,” she reasoned. “I like to think I’m in the latter category.
“I love the school, community and students – the real sense of community and caring that exists in the building,” Ruest added. “That and the students is what I think I will miss the most.”
Ruest received a 2017 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Certificate of Achievement from the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. In 2016, she was named a Transatlantic Outreach Teacher Fellow by the Goethe Institute. An Innovation in Geography Award from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2015 led to a memorable trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Ruest also won the 2016 and 2015 Government of Canada History Teachers’ Award. In 2011, she was selected to participate in the Teachers’ Institute on Parliamentary Democracy in Ottawa.
Ruest has been to the Juno Beach Education Centre where there’s a plaque commemorating fundraising done by Chemainus students and spent time in France during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Sharing the knowledge she’s acquired with students has always been first and foremost in her mind.
The 2017-18 school year was a tough one for Ruest, with both her parents dying within three months of each other that led her toward retirement. Student support helped her get through it.
“The kids are real important to me,” she said. “The fact I had such caring compassionate students when I was going through the death of my parents was wonderful.”
Morgan Bottomley and Hannah Pachet did a nice presentation for Ruest at an assembly near the end of the year. “I got up to speak and I started to choke up,” she conceded.
A staff luncheon on the last day brought a wonderful acknowledgement from colleague Sue Baker.
Ruest turned 56 at the end of May and admits it’s a bit early to retire, but she’ll always have plenty of things to occupy her time. Her husband Jim is semi-retired.
One dream for her will be realized when she sets foot on Antarctica, the last remaining continent she hasn’t visited, from Dec. 20-30 that includes Jim’s birthday on Christmas Day.
As B.C. rep for Canadian Geographic, she’s creating a poster series to encourage high school students to take geography courses. Of the four completed so far, three are from Chemainus Secondary and one from Vanier in Courtenay.
Ruest also has projects in the works with Pearson Publishing and is writing the content for an App by E.F. Tours about Juno Beach with the 75th anniversary of D-Day coming up in 2019.
“Leaving when I am still able to do other things related to education is important to me as well.”
Ruest has transferred her ownership of a trip there from the Governor General’s Award to a student. Another Chemainus student will be selected from among the current Grade 11s through an application process to make the trip with a group from Claremont School at the end of May and into early June.
“I’ve been twice,” she noted. “I know it’s going to have more of an impact on a kid.”
It’s just one of so many examples of how Ruest will keep on giving, even when she’s no longer teaching fulltime.