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Education as a Worthy End in and of Itself

It was September 1967 when Rich Prophet began classes at AUC. “I had just started teaching elementary school at St. Veronica’s and I wanted to get a degree to move up the pay grade and accrue more knowledge. Back then we didn’t require a university degree. I started teaching at 19, after graduating high school and completing one year at Ottawa’s Teacher’s College.”

Prophet taught all day, went to class in the interconnected portables on the Sault College property on Tuesday and Thursday evening, and then he’d rush to go play hockey. “Many of us did that for about six years… Most of the student population of Algoma was teachers.”

The Brockville Ontario native majored in geography and sociology, and graduated with a bachelor of arts from Laurentian in 1973 (when the degrees were still printed completely in Latin).

He recalls his geology professor, Dr. Hicks, saying: “‘Boys, listen, what I would do if I were you, I would invest in gold, it’s fixed at $26 an ounce.’ I wish I had listened to that sage advice!” His favourite class was history, and he remembers the most unique course he ever took, was climatology.

Of his three children, two also followed in his footsteps at Algoma U. His son Mark graduated with a B.A. in geography in 2003, and his daughter Christa did her first year of a B.Sc. at Algoma U before finishing her degree at Western University.

Education has always been a huge part of Prophet’s life’s focus: from teaching to learning, and also getting involved in administration, and the union, and now the Retired Teachers of Ontario.

“I’ve always felt that education is not a means to an end – but a worthy end in itself. I’ve reiterated that to teachers and students alike…I spent 42 years working in education. What could be more wonderful?”

Prophet taught physical education and history, became Vice Principal, taught the gifted program, became Principal, then President of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. He also sat on the Provincial Executive, then was Governor of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, and was then elected to the governing council of the Ontario College of Teachers.

“I retired in 2000, but was asked to come back in 2002. I missed being around students: the greatest thing is watching the growth of individuals. For some teachers their curriculum is so important, but I always reminded them that the person comes ahead of the curriculum. Coming out of retirement, I resumed the role of Principal in Blind River, and Elliot Lake. I finally stayed retired in 2008.”

Prophet remains involved in education as the President of the Retired Teachers’ of Ontario – Algoma District, spreading the word that anyone involved in education can become a member of RTO, whether they are school secretaries or university professors. Prophet is also proud that RTO stays involved in post-secondary education by presenting an annual bursary at both Algoma U and Sault College.

True to his roots of teaching physical education, Prophet stays extremely active, including downhill skiing and playing hockey four days a week. In the off-season, he plays golf five days a week.

“My next challenge? I’m trying out for the NHL,” he jokes. Considering his hockey team is made up of highly accomplished hockey players, including a goalie who had Tony Esposito as his back up, perhaps Prophet will indeed come out of retirement again.

Written by: Nadine Robinson

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