Langley Secondary teacher Jeff Dickson tries to help his plumbing and trades students be well-rounded individuals, and that includes having a sense of humour.
"I tease my students that basically I’m teaching them to pay taxes so I can retire one day," the 48-year-old joked.
Dickson knew he had won the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence a while back but it became official Nov. 28 when his family, friends, current students, former students and co-workers filled the LSS library to see Langley MP Mark Warawa present his award.
"I think it’s confirmation that it was a good career choice," he said.
Dickson started out working as a plumber for eight years, before deciding to go for his teaching credentials.
"I came from a family of plumbers," Dickson said. "I came from a family and grew up in rural Langley."
Looking back he can see how teaching would combine with the family business.
"From the days of my bossing around my younger siblings, I had teacher written all over me," he joked.
His choice to add teaching to his Red Seal credentials paid off. He was teaching electronics at Walnut Grove Secondary when he was tapped to start the plumbing trades course at LSS where he has taught for eight years.
About a month ago, Dickson received a registered letter from the Prime Ministers’ Office. "At first I thought maybe I was in trouble," he joked.
It was notification that he was one of 25 teachers across Canada to win the award. Dickson is one of the few trades teachers honoured. "I don’t think you ever feel deserving," he said.
LSS counsellor Marci Statham nominated him, a big task with a lot of paperwork.
She was only too happy to do it because she gets to see the impact he has.
"He’s not only training plumbers," she explained.
Teachers have an impact on students’ lives but Dickson goes beyond teaching about joints and seals and welds and pipe.
Statham said Dickson pushes the kids to develop as people, and think about virtues and values.
That can make all the difference in the world for students struggling in school.
"So many of Jeff ‘s students haven’t had success in school," said LSS principal Dawne Thomlinson.
She said about 91 per cent of his students complete the program and about 80 per cent find work in the trade. Several of his students have gone on to achieve their Red Seal certification.