Point Grey Mini School teacher John Procyk was on his way to pick up a batch of wine supplies to make blackberry wine for his 95 year-old mother when he learned he'd won the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching.
"The phone rang from the Prime Minister's Award office saying I'd won. I almost dropped dead," he says. "I can't imagine what I said on the phone. I must have sounded like a blathering idiot."
Procyk was singled out among hundreds of applications for his ongoing and passionate work encouraging students to challenge their subject matters (and at times him) and work collaboratively with their peers to achieve great results. The mini school head and biology teacher says working with bright and motivated kids is his passion and it makes his long daily commute from Coquitlam well worth it.
It's this commitment to his work that's particularly recognized by his students.
"We feel smarter when we are around Mr. Procyk, and then we really become smarter because he shows us that you only have to look closely at something to see how fascinating it is," says Grade 12 Point Grey Mini student Noah Bayless.
His positive presence was also noticed by successive generations of the school's parent community. Christine Dearing, a past PAC member of the mini school says Procyk knows every parent and student by name and rigorously follows all of his kids' progress as they grow each year.
"Apart from his qualities as a teacher, we, as parents, are everlastingly grateful to John for the way that he quietly models how to be a person and citizen," says Dearing. "His attentiveness, compassion, dedication and ability to reach out again and again to help someone in times of stress - all of that has been constant throughout the years."
Procyk, for his part, shrugs off the praise.
"Everyone finds their niche in education. For me, this niche is teaching kids who are opinionated, motivated and will challenge you. It is everything to me," says.
Procyk's award came with an all-expenses paid trip to Ottawa where he got a tour of the town (including Parliament), met the 11 other award winners (four of whom hailed from BC) and got to meet both the Prime Minister and his wife.
"You could put into words, but it doesn't do it justice," says Procyk about the trip. "It was a pretty amazing experience and one I'll always remember."
As a result of the win, Procyk also received a cash reward to be used by his school. Noting that the whole mini school and all his staff's work were key to his recent recognition, Procyk says all the money will be divvied up among the staff to allow them to buy new learning resources.