Dave Varner

Dave Varner profile picture

Event Edition:
WOW VIII - 2016

Just newly retired, Dave invested over 30 years in students that many give up on; specifically at-risk students within the local Catholic and public school boards. Dave’s dedication to ‘his kids’ and his exceptional ability to help them turn their lives around, earned him not only their respect but also the Barrday’s Corporate “Teacher of Excellence Award” in 2001.

As Guidance Department Head he was concerned about the number of students dropping out of school. In response to his concerns, he singlehandedly designed, fundraised for, and implemented an adventure based program for such students. He used expeditionary learning that involved taking groups of 10-12 students on wilderness setting expeditions every 5-6 weeks. Outdoor expeditions demand that students work together to overcome obstacles- there is no escaping to their room or to electronics. Dave’s programming helped students step outside their comfort zones, work on problem solving, team building, conflict resolution, and personal accountability. In addition, individual and group counselling were key components, both on expeditions and in the classroom; group counselling involved accountability to the group and peer decided consequences.

He is regularly contacted and visited by past students. Recently, an immigrant student who struggled with many interpersonal and belonging issues contacted Dave thanking him and letting him know that “he has completed his 1st year of engineering at University of Waterloo”.

Gail Freiburger, a retired principal, notes: “He’s invested in the kids and they know that and that makes a lot of difference. He’s totally invested in who they are and what they can become.”