eagle is the mascot at Sir James Dunn Collegiate and Vocational School in Sault Ste. Marie
a fitting symbol for Roberta Bondar, whos known as the schools
The school renamed the gym for her. After all, it was where
Bondar spent a good deal of time during the 60s.
Bondar, who entered high school intending to study phys ed
and science, credits four teachers with remarkable influence on her.
Bondars home room and English teacher in Grade 9 was
Donald Walimaki. "We used to do these exercises every Monday called Words are
Important," she remembers, "where we went through these small books and looked
words up in the dictionary and wrote the definition, and then we would have this little
quiz. It was a marvelous way of expanding your English vocabulary."
Walimaki taught Bondar for several years. She says, "I
developed respect for the English language and an appreciation for English literature and
got to know what a source is and how to use it. Those things stood me in good stead as a
"We had to do an assignment and a lot of it dealt with
digging into history around Hadrians Wall. I was a very active soul and my
determination was not to be doing a lot of research in the library. But one of the things
I could do was construct a Roman fort, and so I did. That was fun for me and it led me
into books looking at furniture, and I carved little things out of balsa wood and made
little leather seats for them. It took me into the way people lived in those days, and it
was a way of bringing English into a much more applied field."
Bondar talks of Walimaki as professional, strict, concerned
about students and having a genuine caring. Bondar uses these words as she describes her
other remarkable teachers.
John Fleming taught Bondar her first courses in geometry and
trigonometry. "I was one of these people who started out not liking math," says
Bondar. "He was really, really cool, by todays standards even. He was very good
at his subject and he was a young teacher. He used to be a cheerleader for Western and he
had a dry sense of humour. There were a couple of students who were very, very good in
math but he didnt put anybody down for not understanding the basics. Even though he
had these super geniuses in the class, he treated everyone in a similar manner. For the
average student like me, it was just great to be in a non-intimidating environment."
Helen Harshaw taught physics in a day when a female teacher
in science was extremely unusual, especially in physics. Bondar says she was friendly, but
strict: "There was a combination of discipline and a sense of humour and this real
professionalism she knew her subject."
Bondar still keeps in touch with her French teacher, May
Fournier, who helped Bondar to develop a love for the French culture. In fact, Fournier
attended Bondars shuttle launch.
"I remember her most for my Rs in French," Bondar
says. "When I speak in French I carry the elocution that she provided me, because she
had spent hours at it. She would take the students individually and go through things
until your pronunciation was not just adequate, but really super."
Bondar returns to her theme: "Again, she was very
professional, she had a very good sense of humour and a very keen interest in the
students well-being. She would spend hours talking to any student who was interested
in French, either at noon or after school."
The appreciation for professionalism, as well as the skills
and knowledge taught by these teachers, are propelling this highest-flying eagle through
several careers as astronaut, doctor, scientist, communicator and photographer.