If there is anything that my three years at CCH have shown me, it’s that you’re going to meet some truly amazing people in your life. Often times, these people aren’t going to present themselves in any spectacular manner. They’ll quietly insert into your life, and you’ll find yourself wondering just how you managed without them. I know this obviously doesn’t hold true for everyone, but Mrs. Polec really and honestly is one of those people for me. I met her as a counselor in my grade ten year, and I had the great pleasure of having her as my English teacher this year; she continues to be such a strong role model for me. To put it bluntly, in my eyes, if you think Mrs. Polec is anything short of amazing, then I’m not sure that you’ve actually met her.
Joanne Polec grew up here in Lethbridge, moving through the Catholic school system, and graduated from our very own CCH. She is the oldest of three, with a younger sister and brother. Being an English Language Learner (someone who does not learn English as their first language), she said she often excelled the most in the Math and Science departments. When I asked her why, she said she often felt very unconfident in her ability to write and speak in English, even though she had learned it as a younger child, in grades 2 and 3. Some of her favourite memories of high school, however, are of her English classes, back when Mrs. Koran was a teacher in room 126, with her dry humour, and guidance. She told me that she remembers going from the last team in the volleyball league, to the first, all with the careful help and skillful coaching of a certain Mr. Wilson, and, surprising no one, she remembers her days as part of the Student Council, planning things like school dances, and pep rallies.When you learn these details about her, it really does just make her that much more relatable, picturing her as a student in this very school, just like us.
She went to the University of Lethbridge, for a Bachelor of Arts and Education, for English Language Arts. Initially, she told me, she had been taking courses that were more suited for someone who was planning on becoming a doctor. She had the marks for it, and God knows she had the motivation, so why not? When I asked her what changed her mind into becoming a teacher, she told me about her English 1900 Professor, an Egyptian English Language Learner, just like herself, Professor Cassis. He had pulled her aside after a class, and asked her if she had ever considered a career path more English based. He, like herself, understood and appreciated the language more than those of us who miss the small nuances of it, because we’ve been speaking it our whole lives. We didn’t have to learn it in the way that they did, and in a way, that puts us at a disadvantage of our understanding of it. Regardless, her Professor saw in her a fit with English that really opened her life for her. Everything after that just really fell into place, she said.
Her favourite part of her job, she told me, is the the students. She loves the high school atmosphere, the guidance that she can provide to the students, the learning that is constantly happening, for everyone (not just the kids), and she even loves the bittersweetness of grad at the end of every year. I guess there is something to be said for sending off 200 or so kids into the real world.
Just recently, Mrs. Polec went back to the U of L to get her Masters. She was most persuaded to pursue this thanks to the other Administration at the school, she told me, but was most hesitant to go back due to the fact that she wasn’t completely interested in following the strands of leadership, or counselling. When they offered a strand in literacy, however, it just made sense. As of now, she’s completed two years, and has loved it.
I asked her if she would do anything differently, but I guess everything turned out just the way it was supposed to be. Even though she would excel highly in other jobs that interest her, like Interior Design, or Event Coordinating, she would stick with teaching. “Well,” she adds on, an afterthought, “I might have gotten my Master’s before I had my children.” Please, Mrs. Polec, as if being a Mother, Associate Principal, Teacher, Coach, and Student is really that difficult.
Her day only consists of getting up to run at 5:00, getting ready, then getting her kids up at 6:00 and having them ready for 7:30. Then she gets to spend her time running around the school, fielding everything in the office, or controlling her own chaos, as she says, (if she’s lucky enough to be teaching) until 4:00, but make that 6:00 if it’s volleyball season. After that she gets to cart to her kids around to their various sports, feed them at some point, be home by 7:00, and then finish everything else until about 11:00. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine doing that five days a week.
And how does she keep her life so together, dealing with all this and more, everyday? Lists. She says she keeps calendars and to-do-lists, and everything in between and she does not procrastinate. Mrs. Polec means business.
I wrapped our conversation up asking who her inspirations in life were. They were all teachers, like herself: Professor Cassis, who guided her onto her life’s path, Mrs. Koran, who has been a mentor unlike anyone, as she was a student, and a teacher, and Mr. Mombourquette, who asked her if she’d ever considered leadership.
We parted on some words of wisdom from her, and I know that I will take these to heart, and I hope that others do, too. “It doesn’t get any easier,” she said, “Life gets more complicated. But take it one day at a time.” She said to make lots of lists, all kinds of lists, even if it’s a bucket list, and do them. Get things planned and done, and that means the fun things, too. Don’t always put things aside.
Mrs. Polec has been one of my favourite people of CCH, with her kind hearted smile and her steady and very real advice. I believe that she makes a wonderful role model and a true inspiration to every student there, and especially to all the girls, who don’t always get to see such a strong female leader. She has made my high school experience all the better, and I know that she will continue to do so for so many other people down the road.
Mrs. Polec, this one’s for you.
Baylee Chilton is a Grade Twelve student at CCH. She enjoys copious amounts of television, novels, and terrible old, indie music. Her favourite thing about CCH is the library at Campus East.