VILNA - Born and raised in St. Paul, Steven Yakimec has been able to stay relatively close to home as he begins his teaching career in the Lakeland.
Currently a teacher at Vilna School, which falls within the Aspen View Public Schools region, Yakimec is one of a handful of area teachers who have been nominated for this year's Edwin Parr Teacher Award. The award is presented by the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) and recognizes first-year teachers from across the province.
Teaching is something that simply runs through Yakimec's veins. He comes from a family filled with educators.
"I decided to pursue a career in education as I always enjoyed school and I have a long line of teachers in my family. My mom taught in St. Paul for 35 years and my grandparents both taught around the community for many years as well. I have aunts, uncles and cousins that are teachers as well. I thought it would be a rewarding career as I would get to help youth work toward achieving their goals in life," said Yakimec.
He is now teaching Grade 8 and 9 students at Vilna School. He teaches math, physical education, health, social studies, and options.
When speaking to the Aspen Board of Trustees about why Yakimec was put forward as a nominee, Vilna School Principal Brenda Mykytiuk noted how many of the trustees sitting around the table are already familiar with the challenges that normally face first-year teachers. The complexity of the pandemic has added to that reality, but Yakimec was able to easily adapt to the ever-changing situation of working in a pandemic.
Not only did he adapt, but he excelled, according to Mykytiuk.
Yakimec said that while he sees his first year teaching as being a challenge, it was also "very rewarding."
"With the challenges come learning opportunities, and I've tried to embrace them and learn something new every day. I have grown as a person and as an educator vastly since I began my career at the end of last August because of this," said Yakimec.
Building relationships is a key piece to how the new teacher approaches his new job.
"I believe the most important part in being a successful teacher is to form those relationships with the staff, students, and families you interact with every day, so I've tried my best to make these connections," he explained. "I get to know my students by engaging in their interests and driving conversations around them. I truly have a lot of fun every day at school because of the relationships I have with the students and staff."
Mykytiuk was clearly impressed by Yakimec's approach to teaching.
“Mr. Yakimec’s classes are well-planned, thoughtful and engaging,” said the principal. “His students respond well to him and want to be successful. His lessons are well-paced and he is able to modify content in response to student involvement, engagement and level of understanding. He is reflective, open to feedback and is always keen to collaborate with peers and others to improve his pedagogy. His use of technology is impressive in the classroom and at the school."
Mykytiuk also pointed to Yakimec's positive attitude, and said she felt fortunate to have him on her staff.
“He is always positive, calm and believes in his students. He says things like, ‘It is worth a shot’, ‘I’m willing to try’, or nods his head and says, ‘I think we can do it’. Mr. Yakimec represents a fresh generation of teachers and demonstrates all the qualities we aspire to," said Mykytiuk.
Clearly, the respect is mutual, as Yakimec offers thanks to the school community that has welcomed him over the past year.
"I am very grateful for our administration at Vilna School and from division office for putting my name forward for the award. They have been very supportive of my efforts this year and welcomed me into my position with open arms. This is extended to the entire school community in Vilna as well, the staff, parents and students made me feel at home here."
Yakimec is a graduate from the University of Alberta and has a degree in secondary education as a mathematics major and physical Education minor.
"I have a passion for numbers and sport. I am an Edmonton Oilers fan and enjoy golfing, playing volleyball, badminton, basketball, and a bit of baseball and hockey. I grew up playing all kinds of sports and enjoy staying active," said Yakimec. "I hope to be able to help students reach their athletic goals as well when school sports return."
The Edwin Parr Teacher Award was established in 1964 to honour long-time Athabasca-area school trustee Edwin Parr, who also served as president of the Alberta School Trustees’ Association (now the ASBA) from 1956 until his passing in 1962. The Edwin Parr Teacher Awards are expected to be presented at the ASBA Fall General meeting, which is scheduled for November.