RRDSB announces recipients of annual Recognition of Service awards

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Each year, several staff members are recognized for their contributions to the Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB).

The awards are a way to celebrate the exceptional and outstanding contributions that staff members, bus drivers, volunteers, and community partners make to the school community.

Nominations for the 2022-23 school year were accepted until May 15, 2023. The selection committee reviewed all nominations and determined the award recipients. Successful candidates were recognized at the June regular board meeting.

Sara Empey, an early childhood educator at Mine Centre School, and Susan Mosbeck, an autism support worker at Robert Moore School, were honoured with Employee of the Year awards.

Board of Trustees chair Jeff Lehman presented the awards. He noted Empey’s ability to create a safe and loving learning environment for her students and community.

“Students past and present go to [Sara] when they need comfort. She is always there with open arms, a friendly smile, and a great story to help cheer them up and make sure that they are heard and validated,” said Lehman. “She builds a sense of community wherever she goes.”

He also acknowledged Mosbeck’s willingness to support students in any way she can.

“Susan goes above and beyond for the school community by assisting with planning and implementing activities that promote community involvement. Recently, she put together a beautiful bulletin board for Autism Awareness that included the entire school in her work,” Lehman said.

Community Partner of the Year award was presented by director of education Heather Campbell to the Anishinaabemodaa Program (translated from Ojibwe means “Waking Up Ojibwe”) administered through Seven Generations Education Institute.

Darcy Jones accepted on behalf of the program. Her job title loosely translates to “the one who works with children so they learn the language.”

Upon receiving the award, Jones spoke to the board in Ojibwe saying she is grateful to be there, and that it is important to work together to revitalize the language.

“Waking up Ojibwe greatly values our partners and our relationships. Without everyone’s support here, we cannot do what we do. We are grateful for the Rainy River District School Board and that they understand the role language revitalization has in our Indigenous communities,” Jones said.

Vice-chair Kathryn Pierroz presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Susan Freeman. She volunteers at Robert Moore School helping to run school community events as well as the hot lunch program.

“You can most often find Susan during lunchtime, but her impact goes far beyond helping run the hot lunch program. Whenever there is a bend to an activity, Susan is always ready to lend her support,” Pierroz said. “She amplifies the true spirit of this award.”

The Bus Driver of the Year award is a way to celebrate school bus drivers who have excelled in safety, reliability, and customer relations. In many cases, on a daily basis, the bus drivers are the first and last school district contact with students.

Their challenging profession requires them to maintain the safety and control of students while safely navigating the bus in many types of road conditions and weather.

Lance Halstead received the Bus Driver of the Year award. He has 43 years of experience as a bus driver, starting his career in 1980 as a coach bus driver and then driving a school bus for the last 14 years.

The award was presented by Nikki Armstrong, manager of the Rainy River District Transportation Consortium.

Halstead drives a three-tiered run which consists of Fort Frances High School students, grades 9 through 12, a Robert Moore run, and then another Fort Frances High intermediate run. He is constantly called upon to accept extracurricular trips, both locally and outside the district.

“Lance is reliable, never misses a day’s work,” said Armstrong. “You can tell the person really loves their job, when you see little notes come back from Lance on his trip sheets about how great this group of kids really was, and how wonderful it was to see them win and be a part of that. He says he cheers these kids on at their games. It’s incredible.”