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Buddy Bench honour for former BHS teacher Don Kusyk

Posted: July 10, 2018

Buddy Bench honour for former BHS teacher Don Kusyk

L - R:  Lissa Palamar, Krista Wasney, Shona Kusyk and Christine
cousin of Don Kusyk, at the Buddy Bench dedication.
A bench designed to help all kids feel included was dedicated June 20 in memory of a former Birds Hill School teacher who had a big impact on the students he taught and the teachers he worked alongside.

Principal Lissa Palamar said the Buddy Bench is dedicated to Don Kusyk, who taught in the River East Transcona School Division for 39 years, 10 of them at Birds Hill School. Kusyk passed away in 2015.  Palamar said Kusyk’s goals as a teacher, and a human being, were to create a safe place for people, a place where people felt good about themselves and a place where he was making a difference in people’s hearts.

"You could be around Mr. Kusyk for five minutes and feel like you had known him forever, he was that type of a person,” she said.

The principal estimated that during his career Kusyk taught around 1,000 students and that he was a "charismatic teacher”.
Teacher Krista Wasney worked with Kusyk when she started teaching at Birds Hill. She said she learned plenty from him, about teaching and about being a good person.

"I’ve been here 11 years and when I first came, Mr. Kusyk was like my school dad…he was my go-to person,” she said.

She said they told jokes, talked endlessly about dogs and he always talked about his two daughters and his nephews.

"Everyone just loved to be around him…I learned so much from Mr. Kusyk.”

Wasney said Kusyk learned the names of all the kids in the school, and he bragged about his students all the time. He had something good to say about each and every one of them.

"He was my mentor as a teacher,” she said.

The Buddy Bench fits in perfectly with Kusyk’s goal of inclusion for everyone.  Buddy Benches are in schools across Canada and the United States, and though each school will have different rules for their bench, the idea is that if someone is on the Buddy Bench, another students asks them to join in a game, or go for a walk or a talk.

Members of Kusyk’s family attended the ceremony and daughter Shona Kusyk thanked the staff and students for honouring her father and reminded them to be the kind of person her dad championed.

The bench was built by Chris Cymbaluk, a former Birds Hill student who is now the industrial arts teacher at River East Collegiate, Sean Smyrski, a former Birds Hill student and current River East student and Ralph Anderson educational assistant at River East Collegiate.


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