The Chestermere Historical Foundation and special guest speakers will be delving deep into the history of the city's local high school this month for a presentation about the origins and evolution of the educational institution.
According to the group’s president Jen Peddlesden, the upcoming presentation – which will be held both in-person and online on Dec. 21 – follows in the success of last month's presentation held on Ralph Klein Park, which saw a handful of interested attendees tune in both online and in-person.
“[Attendance] was pretty good for COVID times,” she said. “We had lots of good questions at the end, people wanting to clarify points and [who were] just curious about the park.”
This time around, the presentation will be held at the Chestermere Whitecappers Association, the local seniors centre. All attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination and government-issued ID as part of the Restriction Exemption Program (REP). Otherwise, attendees may choose to tune in via Zoom instead.
Peddlesden said the presentation coincides with Chestermere High School’s 60th anniversary this year, as the school first opened in 1961. She said although plans for a 60th anniversary celebration fell through; it was decided to commemorate the school with a historical presentation during a meeting last year.
“When we were having a meeting last [year], we were picking topics and it came up that the high school would be a good topic because we’ve never done that,” she said, adding many newcomers to Chestermere aren’t aware of the school’s long-standing history.
She added the impetus for the presentation was to highlight the school’s longevity in the community. While there are now additional high schools in the area, such as St. Gabriel the Archangel School, Chestermere High remains the main high school in the area.
“For anybody who lives in the city of Chestermere, if they didn’t have children who went to the high school, they would never even know where it was or they might not even drive by it because it’s on the east side [of city limits],” she said. “It’s not on a main road other than if you were going to Indus or Langdon, and [even then] you could bypass it.”
Peddlesden said the historical society hopes to shed light on the city’s more recent history.
“I think it’s important we not just go back to the beginning of time in Chestermere, but we want to feature some of the things that are middle history, where there are people still alive who’ve experienced it,” she said. “It’s not all about the pioneers who have long since died and what they did.
“History is made every single day, so it’s important to engage on some of the things that aren’t too far in the past, but are still part of our history and still important to the community.”
Presenters on Dec. 21 will include Don Deeter, a former Chestermere High School student and long-time teacher, as well as Eileen McElroy, an alumna of the school and a historical society member.
“Don will have some stories from his time there, his time as an alumnus, and he taught there for over 25 years,” Peddlesden said. “He and his family farm are not far from the school site, [within Rocky View County].”
She said Deeter will delve into the changes he witnessed at the school, first during his tenure as a student and then as a teacher. McElroy will also bring some old year books in the hopes of creating a unique display for those who attend the presentation in-person.
Peddlesden’s husband Bill said he also taught and coached sports at the school for approximately nine years, and in that time, he saw many changes take place at the school.
“It’s had renovations and gotten bigger, and the community changed – as Chestermere grew bigger, the community seemed to expand its kind of student [base], where they’re more urban as opposed to rural,” he said, adding many teachers taught at the school during the school’s continued growing pains.
“A number of teachers stayed there for 30-plus years in the same school. That’s a bit unique nowadays – I don’t think that happens anymore.”
He also witnessed the expansion of the school's computer and technology department during the 1990s and early 2000s.
“Every year it was a new kind of operating system – a real explosion and emphasis on computers,” he said.
Despite the many changes at the school, he said it has always held sentimental attachment for him.
“You always have an attachment to it, because I taught in the community – I still see kids that I taught [who are] now adults,” he said.”You always hold attachment to the school you worked at, and I had an enjoyable time teaching there.”
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