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Ottawa teacher gets lifetime achievement award

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Ottawa-Carleton District School Board director Jennifer Adams presents the award to Irv Osterer.

OTTAWA — Irv Osterer has been awarded the Marjorie Loughrey Lifetime Achievement Award in Arts Education by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB).

No stranger to awards, the teacher at Ottawa’s Merivale High School has previously received the Capital Educator’s Award from the Ottawa-Carleton Research Institute (OCRI) and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s highest honour, the Director’s Citation. For his athletic prowess, he has received the Lou Honigman Award for athletic performance and sportsmanship in the Jewish Men’s Softball League.

In his letter to Osterer advising him of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the OCDSB awards committee chair Jim McNabb said, “For 30 years, you have been an inspiring teacher, mentor to other students, arts advocate, and all-round cheer-leader for the arts. As department head, no one could be more supportive to teachers and school events. As a true believer in the arts and art education, you are absolutely deserving of this, our highest award.”

Osterer studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design and at Queen’s University, and received a master’s of educational administration from the University of Ottawa. He combined his two interests by embarking on a career teaching what he loves.

He taught visual art, graphic design and photography for nine years at Ottawa’s A.Y. Jackson Secondary School, where he developed curriculum for photography and graphic design. He was also the art co-ordinator and later the arts department head at Confederation High School until it closed in 1999. He has been at Merivale High School ever since.

He’s currently a department head with primary responsibilities in fine arts, serving as well as department head for technology and modern languages, and he’s also involved with co-operative education.

A pilot program he initiated that allows students from other high schools to take a semester of communication and design at Merivale, the FOCUS program, is now attached to a new Ministry of Education directive, the Specialist High Skills Major.

Although this program involves extra time and responsibility, Osterer is enthusiastic about being involved. “Grant money from the province has allowed me to enhance our studios with new software and equipment, so it has really worked out well and has been worth the effort,” he said.

Osterer is in charge of all drama, music and art initiatives at Merivale High and has led the school to success in all those areas.

“We had a very strong year in 2010-11,” he said. “Our school won the [OCDSB student-administered] Cappie Award for best musical in Ottawa. Our musicals are a real collaboration of the arts at Merivale. We have a fantastic team, and we really do amazing things with our students.”

“I have always believed in the power of the arts to be a motivating and positive force in education. It is just fantastic to see our school board now expounding the virtues of creativity,” Osterer said.

“They are wisely starting to examine what we do in the arts and seeing how they can package this approach to learning to make it applicable across a wide swath of the curriculum. I have always believed in encouraging kids to follow their passion and that teachers and schools should be at the forefront of this kind of activity.”

Osterer has encouraged many of his students to continue in the arts after leaving high school. He believes in mentoring students, as he was fortunate to have mentors in his own student days. He is proud that one of his three sons, Jordan, is a student in the prestigious master’s film program at Columbia University.

Although his many commitments mean a great deal of time away from home and family, Osterer is grateful that his wife, Sheila Stanislawski, has been extremely supportive.

 “While my parents, Blanche and Joe, were at one point hoping that I would be a rabbi, they and my wonderful mother-in-law Evelyn in Montreal are also proud of my achievements and are pleased that my years of service have made an impact on the lives of many students, teachers and our school board,” he said.

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