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Local history teacher, Neil Orford, receives Governor General Award

At Centre Dufferin District High School on October 22, dignitaries, students, staff,  and media gathered to honor and pay tribute to a much beloved history teacher, Neil Orford, as TD Bank Group made a special presentation recognizing hard work, determination and a passion for bringing history alive, re-enforcing relevance and impacting lives.

Orford is one of seven teachers across Canada to win a $1000 cash gift for their school, $2,500, a gold medal, and a trip to the formal Awards ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa to be held on Tuesday November 19th taking part in the 2013 Governor General's History Awards.

Specifically, Orford will receive the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching as Orford is recognised in guiding his students in establishing what Maverick Media refers to as ‘one of the most ambitious high school remembrance programs in Canada.'

Creating a digital database consisting of over 6,000 veteran files, Orford's students will travel to France and locate the graves of many of the local family members they discovered in their research.  Standing in front of the gravestone of a man who gave his life to help preserve a future for all Canadians, a person with a history of their own, a real person with a family, parents, friends, is now alive and well again in the hearts and minds of Shelburne students brought back to life by one man's passion for history, Neil Orford.  It doesn't get more real than that!

Laurie Brennan, of the TD Bank proudly acknowledged Orford commenting, “What caught judges attention was the emphasis on men's contributions to WWII. You have given a voice to someone whose voice was unable to be heard 70 years ago!”

Worth noting the $1000 cash gift went towards the School's Patrick Heaslip Passionate Historian Award for the student most passionate about history and this year's recipient happened to be graduated student, Ashley Lee.

Dufferin County's , Bill Hill commented, “We're very proud of the students.  Mr. Orford puts life into history. You are truly outstanding and awe inspiring. You sir, made many look at history differently. You made their stories real, alive and they will be remembered.”

Mayor Crewson added, “I congratulate Neil on this outstanding award which demonstrates enthusiasm and passion over the years. You are an outstanding member of the community and you give hope for future generations.  I thank you for helping to make Shelburne the best little town in Ontario. .”

Carlo Zen of the Upper District Board of Education was visibly moved when addressing Orford remembering a beloved family member, offering the very emotional comment, “Neil, if my dad were here, he would be very proud of you. You've had a great impact on the school, community and most importantly, the young people of our school.”

Perhaps one of the most important and poignant moments occurred when Graduate Corah Lynn Hodgson addressed an audience in tribute to the teacher she claims changed her life, while in the very front row sat one of Shelburne's very own heroes, Ken Wallace, decorated veteran, machine gunner at Juno Beach.

Generations were present, those who lived the history and those just learned the relevance of it all as Hodgson continued, echoing the emotion of every person in the room, “ Mr. Orford is a mentor, beloved by his students.  He made me a better thinker, a better student. He made me better! It's a privilege to be your student!”

And what of the man to whose shoulders all accolades fell upon? Very humbly Orford took the stage and said, “Nobody has a better job than I do! Thank you!”

And to a standing ovation, this humble, beloved history teacher stood amongst the many forever changed, those who will be forever remembered without realizing he is in that category as well, forever valued as the students in audience shouted a collective, “We love you!”

A fitting and well deserved tribute and just like history, this ceremony is not the end, it is part of the journey, part of the story that is on every page of every student's book of their own life.

By Alex Sher

Post date: 2013-10-31 15:42:26
Post date GMT: 2013-10-31 19:42:26
Post modified date: 2013-11-07 20:09:33
Post modified date GMT: 2013-11-08 01:09:33
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