Thirty students became Diamond Jenness Secondary School alumni last week, including Bret Allinott. For the 17-year-old, his plan to go on to post-secondary education in Alberta in the fall and become a dentist wasn’t always so clear.
“I hadn’t really figured out what I wanted to do and I didn’t do so well in the earlier grades,” he said after graduating. “I kind of hit a slump.”
Then in Grade 9, he had science teacher Chuck Lirette, who the teen credits with helping him get back on track and figure out what he wants to do after graduation.
“I really remember Bret in Grade 9 when he really began to stand out academically as a student,” Lirette said in an interview last week. “He really took off took off in chemistry and all of the other sciences.”
With that clarity, Allinott plans to head south after the summer to the University of Alberta for a bachelor of science program with the aim of then attending its dental school.
He was selected for the role of class valedictorian – giving a speech to his peers before a crowd of family and friends at the June 29 graduation – after finishing with a 90 per cent average in his core classes, he said.
The ceremony included handing out awards to multiple students. Allinott was called up multiple times to receive awards for top marks in several subjects.
“I’m feeling really good,” he said just after the ceremony ended and photos were taken. “I’m happy about the last five years that have lead up to this day.”
Allinott said he was thankful for his mom, Shannon Allinott and all the other teachers at the school.
For Lirette, the day is one of pride in seeing students he has taught complete high school.
Perhaps a sign of Lirette’s influence on the class, several of the graduates plan to head off to higher studies in science fields.
“It just makes you really proud. That’s the ultimate compliment that you can get as a teacher is when your teachers are really engaged and want to pursue and learn more,” said Lirette, a teacher of 30 years.
Allinott, who originally moved to the town from British Columbia in Grade 3, said his graduating class was close-knit.
“I know everyone here pretty well,” he said. “People always talk about bullying in other schools. That didn’t really happen. If you needed something, someone could figure it out and help you out.”
Lirette, a guest speaker at the graduation, said he’s known the students graduating quite well, having taught them in a number of different grades, chaperoning them on trips and through sports.
“When you live in a small town you get to know the kids and their families. They’re very special – they’re very important to you. Teachers are just as proud as their moms and dads on a day like this,” Lirette said between posing for photos with the graduates outside the school.
– Shane Magee