Bernadette Provost's dedication to Catholic education has been recognized by the ACSTA.

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Bernadette Provost's dedication to Catholic education has been recognized by the ACSTA.

December 21, 2015
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Bernadette Provost may have retired, but she has not been forgotten.

The former long-time superintendent of the Lakeland Catholic School District was recently honoured with the prestigious life membership award from the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association (ACSTA).

During her 16 years as superintendent of Lakeland Catholic, Provost, 69, was a hands-on leader who visited each of the seven schools in the district monthly to meet with the principals.

Her accomplishments include setting up an anti-bullying initiative with the school board and overseeing the expansion of Catholic education in the Waskatenau area with the help of the ACSTA.

She was also part of a team that developed a world religions text which is now used in high schools across Alberta and in the Northwest Territories.

Provost, who retired in December 2013, believes Catholic education is a "tremendous gift.

"It's just so critical that we continue to work hard to ensure Catholic education is not lost - that it's kept alive and well and doing what we need to do to bring the faith to the children we serve."

Tony Sykora, past ACSTA president, who presented the award to Provost, described her as dedicated and faith-filled.

"In her role as superintendent, what was really important to Bernadette was to see every child as a gift from God with special gifts and talents, and the permeation of faith throughout the division," said Sykora.

STAFF DEVELOPMENT

She ensured all staff were able to receive faith formation and professional development so they had the skills needed to work with every child, he said.

"That's what we do in Catholic education; all the children are served with equal intensity," said Provost. "It's always our responsibility to meet the child's needs and have them move forward."

Provost's passion for serving all children with equal intensity regardless of their challenges was born in her upbringing. Her mother had a "tremendous gift" for working with children with severe challenges and always had four or five children in the home along with Bernadette and her siblings.

"We didn't see them as handicapped; we saw them as brothers and sisters," said Provost.

Her love for Catholic education also started at home, where she was raised with strong Catholic values by parents and grandparents who helped establish Catholic education in Saskatchewan.

Educated at Catholic schools in her hometown of Saskatoon, her love for Catholic education grew, especially when she went to Sion Academy, an all-girls high school run by the Sisters of Sion.

Provost started her teaching career in Saskatchewan before moving to Ottawa to pursue a career in nursing. But the call to teaching continued to gnaw at her.

After a few years, Provost returned west when an old teaching colleague was opening a new high school in Fort McMurray. Over 15 years, despite having no aspirations for leadership positions, she rose from counsellor to vice principal, to principal.

"I couldn't believe I was being paid for having so much fun. But after some encouragement from others you just say 'Well, maybe this is a message,'" she said. "So you apply and things happen."

The same thing happened when she moved to Bonnyville to take up her post as superintendent.

SUPPORT FROM OTHERS

"I was encouraged to apply for the position and saw that as perhaps a call to serve at a different level. You apply and when you get it, you do what you can to serve as best as you can in that call."

While she is humbled and honoured to have received the ACSTA award, she stresses the award is not just about her, but all the people she has worked with who have supported her.

Provost now lives in a lakefront cottage in Meota, Sask., on Jackfish Lake, where she is active in the local parish.