GUELPH – For Michael Moore, teaching continues far beyond the bell to end the school day.
Regular school hours aren’t enough time to teach students what they need to know to succeed in technology industries, Moore said.
He realized that in the 1990s – a few years into his teaching career. It’s what motivated him to start leading skills clubs on Saturdays while teaching at Holy Family Technology Centre, and to lead the robotics club at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School in Guelph.
The clubs give students a chance to gain in-depth hands-on experience.
“It is one thing to know it – it is another thing to do it,” Moore said, and “experiential learning cannot be confined to the minutes of the school day.”
A number of students that attended Moore’s club more than 20 years ago were in the audience at Our Lady of Lourdes on Sept. 20.
The support for Moore in the gymnasium was palpable, with significant chatter about his legacy and prolonged applause and enthusiastic cheers for the teacher and head of technological education.
The assembly was to celebrate Moore receiving the school’s National Leadership Award in recognition of his success delivering many students into apprenticeships and careers in the transportation and automation industries.
Award ceremony guests included veteran Chuck Merry, Guelph councillor Linda Busuttil (she spoke in place of Mayor Can Guthrie, who was away), Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) director of education Michael Glazier and WCDSB chair Vikki Dupuis.
With tears glistening in his eyes, Moore admitted he didn’t expect to feel so emotional about receiving the award.
He regularly spends hundreds of hours every semester supporting students outside school hours, including the Our Lady of Lourdes robotics team.
He led the team to the World Robotics Championship in Houston, Texas in April, where his students’ robot took first place of 619 teams from 59 countries.
The National Leadership Award was established in 1991 to recognize important members of society.
Past recipients include National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mats Sundin, and prime ministers Justin Trudeau, Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney.
Trudeau sent a personalized letter congratulating Moore and the robotics team for their success, and the letter was read aloud during the award ceremony.
One of the students attending Moore’s extra-curricular clubs was his daughter, Sarah Moore, who began accompanying her father when she was about five years old.
Her passion for technology continued through to graduation, when she was one of the key robot operators in the robotics club.
Moore’s wife and parents attended the award celebration, and Moore noted his wife has always been understanding of his passion and easy going about the amount of time he spends away from home.
“She feels the passion we have for these extra curricular activities,” he said.
Moore noted the couple often breaks bread with former students, who return to share their appreciation and stories of success.
Our Lady of Lourdes student Azahel Selomon shared stories from Moore’s life, including his childhood on a farm, his varied career paths and challenges he faced along the way.
Selomon called Moore “a modern man with a modern plan,” and that plan is to guide students to success in today’s technological industries. She also said he is living proof that “nice guys don’t finish last.”
Growing up on the farm with his parents taught Moore a strong sense of hospitality, he said, as whenever visitors were at the farm during mealtimes, they were always offered a plate of food.
This value led Moore to order many boxes of pizza for students attending his skills and robotics clubs after school.
Prior to his teaching career, Moore ran the family farm after his father passed away, while continuing working as a mechanic.
Farming taught Moore the value of hard work, he said, as he often worked from dusk to dawn, seven days a week.
“Cows need feeding no matter what day it is,” he said.
And it taught him to always “follow a job through and finish what you start.”
A shoulder injury led Moore to pursue teaching and while in teachers college he was advised to choose a different career path.
But Moore is happy he didn’t follow that advice; he knew if he couldn’t practice as a mechanic, teaching would be the next best thing.
Moore said becoming a mechanic was a great career choice, but he told the Advertiser with confidence, “I believe [teaching] has always been my true calling, since day one.”
Moore said “it’s been a long and exhausting journey,” but never for a moment has he doubted that his work is making a difference. And if he could do things again, he would do them the same way.
Moore took time during the assembly to thank many people who made his work possible, including former students who return as mentors.
“You’s are the ones that make me look good,” he said jovially to the mentors in the audience.
“I firmly believe in we, not me.”