Students at Edward Johnson Public School that want to protect the environment often ask themselves: “What would Mme Tendick do?”
Yvette Tendick, a local teacher and educational planner, was recently awarded the Upper Grand District School Board’s Mike Elrick Environmental Leadership Award. Over the past 12 years of her career, she has run environmental clubs and organized programs to help students take care of the planet.
“It's really important that these kids understand why it's important to protect the environment,” said Tendick. “And they really enjoy championing it themselves.”
She has been described as a selfless leader and a role model for staff and students, according to one nominator who said: “Yvette is the epitome of an environmentalist. Her care and respect for the environment permeates her beliefs, attitudes and lifestyle.”
Prior to working as a planning teacher at Edward Johnson, Tendick taught at Tytler and John McCrae public schools. She has led a number of environmental initiatives including compost and recycling programs, litterless lunches, walks and bikes to school, presentations, plays and more.
“You name it, we’ve done it. We always have a really enthusiastic group of students,” she said.
In addition to her work at the school, Tendick has been involved with a number of community programs.
As president of the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation for the past eight years, she runs advocacy campaigns to create better and safer active transportation options in Guelph. She is also organizing a program called "Bikes 4 Community Connections" with the City and Guelph-Wellington Immigration Services to help newcomers and refugees learn about their community by riding with bike mentors.
“The objective is that they feel comfortable cycling in the community but [it is] also an opportunity to connect with people who live here so that they don't feel as isolated,” said Tendick, adding that the program will resume and a picnic will be held once more lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Looking back on her career, Tendick says she’s proud to have inspired students to become active caretakers of the environment.
“The kids need concrete ways that they can make a difference,” she said. “And these clubs allow [that] … they run to us with ideas and they really get into it.”
Once schools reopen, she hopes to start a cycling instruction program at the school, acknowledging that the use of bikes for leisure and transportation has proliferated during the pandemic.
“It's heartening to see parents teaching their kids how to ride bikes [on the trails],” she said. “It’s a life skill, so I'm hoping to find a way to help with that at school.”
The Mike Elrick Environmental Leadership Award recognizes a staff member or volunteer who has demonstrated environmental leadership within their school community or school board. Now in its 11th year, the award is named after Mike Elrick, a Guelph teacher who was committed to environmental issues and was involved in numerous initiatives within the local school board. Elrick passed away in November 2009 from lung cancer.
Upon being presented with the award outside her home on June 22, Tendick said she was surprised and happy.
“It couldn't have been more special,” she said. “This award means a lot to me and I'm honoured to get it.”