It was an emotional evening as Saugeen First Nation paid tribute to Southampton’s G. C. Huston Public School Dan Russell on Thursday, June 14th, at the James Mason Centre.
This is Russell’s last year at G. C. Huston School where he has been Principal for almost eight years and has been recognized for ‘turning the school around’ with community participation with the First Nations people.
“I attended an elementary city school with just under 1,000 students,” said Alexander George. “I felt out of place but all that changed when I came to G. C. Huston for my last two years and I credit those two years to my development today. I was basically a stranger but the school under Mr. Russell taught me a sense of culture and a sense of belonging.”
A tearful Gayle Mason-Stark, (retired Director of Education of Saugeen Nations), said that Dan Russell has been a shoulder to lean on. “Our kids grew up in that school and he has been the best principal we have ever had. He took the time to engage our kids in things like taking our boys to the arena in the early mornings for hockey.”
“Our community truly respects him and he has been a role model for our children,” she added. “It was at G. C. Huston through Dan that our children learned our traditional seven grandfather teachings. The school accommodated our children and he had the vision to create a structure that recognized the special culture and privilege of being an Anishinabek … he gave the strength to teacher Marilyn Root to impart our traditional knowledge and language to our kids. The school once continued for years as it was but things changed when Dan became Principal.”
“Our community loves you and your family, Dan Russell. This is the first time we have ever acknowledged anyone in this way,” said Mason-Stark. “We want to graciously thank you for the kind of man you are and for being part of our community.”
“I have never had an honour like this bestowed on me in my entire teaching career,” said Russell. “I have had the privilege of playing, teaching and learning with your children. Eight years ago, I came to G. C. Huston looking for a school but what I got was a family.”
Russell added that although it’s never easy to leave a school community, the G. C. Huston students are being left in great hands. “It’s always been the staff who have done the ‘heavy lifting’ and they are committed to maintain the same level of excellence and caring for your children.”
Russell said that Hugh Morrison, a former ‘Huston Hawk’ is very excited to be coming back to G. C. Huston.
“Last week we had a very difficult situation,”said Russell (referring to the recent emergency situation). We were blown away however by the support of the community, the first responders and the Saugeen First Nation. Saugeen immediately asked if they could provide food or rides. We are all connected.”