Teachers’ primary role is to develop people, says retired educator

As teachers, “never forget that developing people is your primary role,” retired educator Bill Hogarth told graduating students from the Faculty of Education Friday. Three times.

“That notion has always been closest to my heart,” said the honorary-degree recipient who began teaching 40 years ago and retired last year after 16 years as director of education of the York Region District School Board.

Left: Bill Hogarth

“As new teachers facing the most diverse group of students we’ve ever seen, your role is vital in establishing meaningful connections, deeper discussions, clearer understanding, a sense of equity and deeper relevance for your students,” he said.

While director of education, Hogarth demonstrated an unrelenting focus on improving student achievement, not only through classroom instruction but by building innovative programs and partnerships to promote healthy families and communities in York Region.

He was an “enthusiastic champion of education with a fierce commitment to children and to the profession charged with educating them,” said Alice Pitt, dean of York’s Faculty of Education, in her citation.

On his retirement, Hogarth left a legacy of a radically transformed school board whose young people are now among the most literate and highest school achievers in Ontario. His innovations are being emulated by school districts across Canada and internationally. “The thriving and bustling York Region we know today was in part built by Bill Hogarth,” said Pitt.

“Any success I have had as an educator has been the result of a collective effort – the we factor,” Hogarth said. “The we factor speaks to collaboration and community.”

“It requires tremendous energy to teach in the 21st century,” he said. Cultural diversity coupled with advances in information technology make teaching exciting and daunting, and change our concept of literacy. “Just because we connect faster than ever before doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand each other better.”

“You must have an open mind and be able to initiate and accept change,” he said. “It requires tremendous energy to constantly adapt to an environment which changes rapidly and continuously. It requires tremendous energy to develop people.”

Right: Bill Hogarth (left) with Chancellor Roy McMurtry (centre) and York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri 

“You will be the most challenged, the most innovative, the most open, the most adaptable, the most stimulated teachers we’ve ever seen,” said Hogarth. “You’ll be expected to teach students with diverse backgrounds and life experiences you can hardly imagine.” While you must cover the curriculum, you must also be open to innovation in education and in all areas of human endeavour, he said.

"What you know and teach must be what the students need," he said. "So your responsibilities will not be solely defined by the curriculum or its delivery or by a particular subject. You are a teacher. Your responsibility is to develop people."

“In all my years as a teacher and administrator, I never lost sight of the foundational tools that children needed – reading and writing,” said Hogarth. “Whatever your role, it’s important that you model reading to learn and learning to read.”

The most indelible lesson taught by any teacher is example, he said. “By example you can show your students what it means to learn, to become literate and to keep learning for life. By example you can show them what it means to live courageously in a world that continually changes. By example, you can affect an eternity.”

“You never know where your influence as a teacher stops,” said Hogarth. “Your classroom may not only be in a school. In an age of lifelong learning, we’ve never needed skilled teachers more than we do now.”

“Years from now, you, too, will receive an honorary degree,” suggested Hogarth. “It will come in the form of a thank you from a former student who meets you, smiles and says, ‘I remember you. You taught me. You changed my life.’” 

York’s 2010 Spring Convocation ceremonies are streamed live and then archived on the Internet. To view Hogarth’s convocation address, visit the Convocation Web site.