Homegrown in Aspen View: Tracey Polak

Tracey PolakAES CHIPMUNKS! Yup, that was me, an Athabasca Elementary School Chipmunk, ‘back in the day’. I am a proud graduate of Aspen View School Division, first an AES student, then a graduate of Edwin Parr Composite in 1992. Reflecting on my school years, I feel fortunate to have had so much freedom and adventure in learning in so many ways. Both schools I attended in Athabasca, as well as after-school jobs and activities I enjoyed in the community, provided me with many opportunities, fun and life lessons. As a student at EPC in particular, what stands out are the numerous adventures in drama class and drama club during my Grade 7-12 years. Field trips to drama festivals gave us all a sense of belonging, pride in our work, and knowing that teachers believed in us enough to put up with our shenanigans and still continue to spend their after-school hours and weekends with us!

I never thought I would work in a school setting after I attended Grant MacEwan’s Rehabilitation Practitioner Program after high school, but a long-time Aspen View employee believed in me and gave me an opportunity at Rochester School as an Educational Assistant in December of 1995. Let me tell you, the opportunities and learning were endless at Rochester School! Not only did I fill my days working with so many wonderful students who mostly wanted adults to believe in them, I also was able to spend after-hours and weekends helping kids succeed in sports and on mountains, doing things they tried to convince me they couldn’t, but I convinced them otherwise. Bissell Centre was a junior high program at Rochester School we started so many years ago that is near and dear to my heart. We taught a unit about homelessness, the stigma, who becomes homeless and how. After students completed numerous projects, their families donated the ingredients to make a meal for 200+ people. The jobs were divvied out, and the students prepared the meal that we took to serve to those less fortunate. We taught them that they were not to judge the clients; they were only there to make them happy by serving them a warm meal. The students experienced many things they had never experienced before or maybe ever will again. Most importantly, they learned to step out of themselves and help someone else — a life lesson. The time spent doing service work in both Edmonton and at Athabasca’s famous annual Christmas dinner are invaluable to me. 

After 16.5 years of being an Educational Assistant, I took a job in the office at Rochester School. What a learning curve that was! In 2013, I took a job at EPC in the office, once again the opportunity to learn new skills and work with so many great staff. I am currently working at Thorhild Central School in the office as the Business Manager and one of the Administrative Assistants.

I am so grateful for the many opportunities, compassion and guidance provided to staff and students of Aspen View. I truly believe building relationships comes first and good relationships really do build great teams! Personally, Aspen View has also provided continuous learning opportunities and balance for our family life. Both my children have had great experiences at both Rochester School and Thorhild Central School, including so many valuable field trips, career fairs, and the Registered Apprenticeship Program, just to name a few.

I am grateful to Aspen View, and the schools I have worked in, for the bountiful opportunities tailored to the talented and unique staff, that not only allow staff to grow while learning but to excel as compassionate mentors in their communities.

Aspen View Public Schools

Tracey Polak
Business Manager/Administrative Assistant
Thorhild Central School

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