remark.jpg (4946 bytes) Mark Boswell’s Remarkable Teacher

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Olympics-bound high jumper Mark Boswell’s most-used adjective is "wonderful" as he talks about the principal of his Brampton high school, Allison Clinton.

"She was definitely supportive of all the students in Central Peel. She wouldn’t be hassling anyone. She would be more flexible, she would want to know what was going on in your life and try to help you out. She was very wonderful. She went out of her way to help me out and I am very thankful for that."

"I wasn’t exactly a bright student in high school," Boswell says, "I was more of a slacker and my grades were low and my SAT scores were low. She would tell me ‘You need to get your SAT score up. You need to get working in class.’"

Clinton knew that Boswell had exceptional talent in athletics and was bright, but he needed to get higher scores and the right courses to be eligible for an American university. She did more than talk to Boswell. She organized 15 teachers into a "Let’s Make Mark Boswell a Freshman" team. Clinton says of Boswell, "His SAT scores weren’t high enough, not because he wasn’t bright enough, but because he hadn’t taken the courses that allowed you to do well on the SAT."

The teachers worked with him after school, and he also got the courses he needed. Clinton says, "Mark’s mom always thinks that we were wonderful to him, but it took an incredible amount of work on his part, which he did with great dedication."

Boswell was in Grade 10 when Clinton came to Central Peel after two years as vice-principal at another Peel school. Before that, she had taught for 17 years at Orangeville High School, becoming vice-principal. Clinton attended high school in Hamilton, McMaster University and the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto.

Besides being principal at Central Peel, she helped coach track and field. Clinton did the jumping events and so she was the one who took Boswell to meets.

Boswell remembers one in particular. Clinton and another coach drove Boswell and another athlete to Philadelphia for the Penn Relay. "It really helped me to get publicized to the schools in the States," says Boswell, "because a lot of universities were there. It turned out the University of Texas was there and they saw me jumping and that’s where I went."

Clinton adds more detail: "It was a four-day trip and we had a marvellous time. Mark won the high school high jump event. It’s an amazing thing, 65,000 fans in an arena for track and field. Penn State is Bill Cosby’s alma mater and he was there and Mark got to meet him."

In 1996, Boswell competed in Australia. He says, "When I was going to the World Juniors and it was my first really big international competition, she had a school holiday and they helped me out by raising money. And I went there and jumped well."

"Well" means he placed first, becoming the first Canadian to win the World Junior Championships. He had entered the competition ranked 12th.

In 1999, Boswell won the National Collegiate Athletics Association Championships (NCAA). He was also on the dean’s honour roll at university.

Clinton says, "All this jumping he’s doing, which is going to be his claim to fame, but he called and said, ‘I have good news to tell you.’ He told his coach he had to phone his principal because she would be more excited about the honour roll than winning the NCAA."

Now principal at Rick Hansen Secondary School, Clinton pauses, then says, "He was right."

"That is the kind of kid he is, he phones. I’ve coached lots of kids in my time, but I have never had one who was so really appreciative of what teachers and coaches can mean in a kid’s life. Usually kids come back to me in their 30s, but here is this kid still in high school and appreciative, and before he’s gone as far as he is going to go. I think that’s what makes him remarkable."

Boswell says of Clinton, "She is special because she helped me realize that there is not only sports in school. There is also education and she helped me realize how important it is."

He continues, "And her setting up the study program, because if I don’t pass the SATs I can’t go to school in the States — I think that was the most significant thing she has done. It’s overwhelming to think that she would go out of her way to help me like that. It’s wonderful."

Mark Boswell credits teacher Allison Clinton with ensuring his academic achievements kept up with his skills as a high jumper.

A mutual admiration society: Clinton is "special" and "wonderful" says Boswell, for the efforts she made on his behalf. About Boswell, Clinton says she has never had a student "so really appreciative of what teachers and coaches can mean in a kid’s life."