Former RRDSB trustee receives Bernardine Yackman Memorial Award

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As part of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association’s annual Public Education Symposium (Jan 26-28) retired trustee and past chair Raymond Roy was honored with the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association’s (OPSBA) Bernardine Yackman Memorial Award on January 27 in Toronto.

Only two other members from the Rainy River District School Board have received this award since 1985; Gord McBride in 2007 and from the previous Atikokan Board of Education, Jack Switzer in 1991.

“I’m really honored to be selected by my peers for this award. To follow in the footsteps of great trustees like Gord McBride, it’s humbling,” Roy said. “It’s quite an experience to stand up in front of that group and accept the award on behalf of so many deserving trustees.”

Raymond and his wife Kim joined over 300 trustees, student trustees, school administrators, and guests during the reception and awards presentation.

Jay Aspin, former trustee and chair for the Near North District School Board (NNDSB), was also honored with the Bernardine Yackman Memorial Award. He served four terms on the former Nipissing Board of Education and represented Zone 1 North Bay on the NNDSB from 2003 to 2011.

During her speech, Kathryn Pierroz, OPSBA’s second vice president, said it was an honor to celebrate deserving award winners from the North.

“Our honourees tonight had unanimous nominator support from their respective boards and both spent the entirety of the 2018-22 term serving as Chair – leading or do I dare say ‘pivoting’ their boards through the Covid pandemic,” Pierroz said.

She nominated Roy for the award and said she was excited to present it to him as well.

“Raymond Roy exemplifies the virtue of good citizenship, goes above and beyond when volunteering his time, has long been committed to student success and well-being and truly exemplifies the spirit of the Bernardine Yackman Memorial Award.”

Roy was a two-term Trustee for Fort Frances & Unorganized Areas East of Fort Frances from 2014 to 2022, serving as chair for the 2018 to 2022 term.

As a Trustee he championed the Anishinaabemodaa, the Ojibwe Language Strategy, an initiative that works to revitalize Ojibwe language, in partnership with Seven Generations Education Institute, SayItFirst, and the area First Nation communities.

Roy has also worked tirelessly to advocate for funding for multiple projects such as the K-12 school in Atikokan and K-12 school in Rainy River, Pierroz said.

“As Chair during our ongoing COVID-19 response, Raymond exhibited strength and resilience to our communities, our families, and to each of us who works in the Rainy River District School Board System. His resilience made us stronger as a Board. We have learned, adapted, recreated, and innovated in ways that will expand and improve the ways the Board functions in the future. Those lessons learned during the pandemic with Raymond at the helm alongside our Director are reflected in our new Strategic Plan,” Pierroz said during the award ceremony.

“For Raymond, the best part of Board meetings is the opportunity to hear first-hand from students and staff about what they are learning and doing within schools. For me personally, this is also where Raymond shines. Whether it be a student speech contest winner, learning more about land-based learning programming, a service award for staff or community partners, Raymond seems most in his element when speaking on these successes and celebrates alongside individuals. It is very apparent that Raymond really recognizes the contributions that others bring to our greater school community.”

Prior to becoming a Trustee, Roy was a Manager of Plant Operations and Maintenance for RRDSB.

Roy was a passionate advocate for environmental education and stewardship, often tying in aspects of the building operations into teachable moments for students, such as linking the energy recovered from solar panel installations into a dashboard for classes to access as they learned about renewable energy.

He helped implement the Board’s Energy and Facility Renewal Program in 2006 and oversaw many building projects such as for the Robert Moore School and Mine Centre School, the rebuilding of the J. W. Walker School gymnasium, and the renovation of the old Robert Moore School Gymnasium to provide the current Education Centre.

While his volunteering is varied, Raymond is most notably known for coaching and sharing his love of curling with elementary students for both RRDSB and the Northwest Catholic District School Board.

Kathryn Pierroz, left, OPSBA’s second vice president, and current RRDSB vice-chairleft, nominated former board chair Raymond Roy, right, for the Bernadine Yackman Award. Roy is only the third trustee from the RRDSB to win the honour. – Submitted photo

“On behalf of all of our members, I thank Jay and Raymond for their outstanding service to public education in Northern Ontario,” said Cathy Abraham, OPSBA President. “Their constant commitment to their boards, especially throughout the last two-and-a-half years of the pandemic was notable and appreciated both provincially and at their local boards.”

About the Bernardine Yackman Memorial Award:

The Bernardine Yackman Memorial Award is awarded to an Active or Retired Trustee of an Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Member Board for dedication, commitment and an outstanding contribution to education with special recognition for Northern Ontario service.

The late Bernardine Yackman was a trustee on the Sudbury Board of Education and, for many years, an active Director of the Northern Ontario School Trustees’ Association.

First awarded in 1985, the award recognizes dedication, commitment and an outstanding contribution to education in Ontario by an active or retired school trustee. Service to or on behalf of education in Northern Ontario, at the board, regional or provincial level will receive special recognition from the judging committee, the OPSBA Northern Regional Directors.