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A Pioneer, A Teacher, A Coach

     Aaron Calder graduated with a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree from McMaster University in 1989. He went on to complete a Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology in 1992, also from McMaster, before completing his Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto in 1993.

     This past July, Aaron retired following a teaching career at De La Salle College that spanned 28 years. He spent his first year at the College completing a Long-Term Occasional contract in the Science department. That was back in 1993 when there were over 1000 high school boys walking the DEL halls. At the end of that year, he was offered a full-time contract to commence the following year. That was the first year of the re-privatized school when it started with 185 co-ed kids. As such, Brother Domenic has referred to Aaron as one of De La Salle College’s ‘pioneers’. Aaron spent much of his career teaching Canadian History (8 yrs.) and Grade 9 Math (6 yrs.) with other colleagues. He spent 10 years teaching the grade 12 Exercise Science course at the College. In the late 1990’s Aaron became the first Canadian lay-teacher to participate in a three-year Lasallian Teacher Formation training program, which took place in the state of New York. This was particularly useful as Aaron spent the bulk of his career teaching the grade 9 religious education scripture study course which he designed and for which he developed a singular passion. Teaching all the sections of grade 9 also gave Aaron, ever the coach, a unique opportunity to promote the teams he was coaching at DEL with the largest entry level grade.

     De La Salle College experienced an athletic renaissance during the 12-year tenure of Brother Domenic Viggiani as Principal of the College. Three likely reasons for this were (1) the student population surpassing the critical 600+ threshold, (2) a lot of passionate coaching taking place at the College at the time, and (3) our good fortune to have inherited many of the sisters of the boys who attended St Michael’s College down the street, many of whom brought with them an outstanding athletic pedigree. Coach Calder’s teams benefitted greatly during this period of ‘Athletic Renaissance’ and for a while after, winning a total of 75 Tier I league championship titles at the high school level in x-country, swimming, and track, three of the few high school sports which offer multiple titles: Midget (now Novice), Junior, and Senior Boys’ and Girls’ titles, the overall Boys’ and Girls’ titles, and Overall Co-Ed school titles - nine in total.

     The first two titles came in 2000-2001, when the same group of girls first won the Midget (now Novice), then Junior Toronto District Catholic Athletic Association (TDCAA) swimming titles. The remaining 73 championship titles occurred from 2003 and onward when De La Salle College joined the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA). Those titles were more or less evenly divided between the high school cross-country and track teams. Coach Calder’s teams were generally the largest at DEL during the period of our Athletic Renaissance. The high school cross-country teams averaged 40-50 runners (largest 65); the high school swim team generally had 30-35 swimmers (largest 38); while the high school track team consistently had 70-100 participants (one season saw 150). During one of our peak track seasons, DEL qualified a whopping 61 athletes to the Metro Championships. One of the meet convenors remarked to Coach Calder how extraordinary this accomplishment was. Only Vaughan Collegiate, a public school with thousands of high schoolers sent 63 athletes, two more than our school, which drew from a pool of 400 or so secondary school students. This was a testament to the extraordinary athletic talent present in our school at the time.

     In their heyday, from 2003 until about 2015, the De La Salle cross-country and track teams were averaging about 6 - 7 CISAA league titles per school year. We generally won the Midget Girls’, overall Girls’, and Co-Ed school titles. We tended to win the Junior and Senior Girls’ titles, as well, about half the time. Once or twice, we swept ALL the Girls’ titles and the overall Co-Ed titles for both x-country and track in the same academic year; that’s 10 titles in a year. We never generally won ‘boys’ titles because St. Michael’s College rarely ever loses any high school cross-country or track titles. This continues to be the case. We did, however, manage to win two ‘boys’ titles in track. Back when current Montreal Canadien hockey player, Michael Pezzetta, was competing in track in his grade 9 and 10 years at DEL, we won the Midget, then Junior, Boys’ titles. Coach Calder is pleased to report that DEL was able to qualify hundreds of athletes to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) in the sports of cross-country, swimming, and track during his tenure as Head Coach of those high school teams.

     As Aaron reflects on his career, what he will remember the most is the many students that he had the privilege of both teaching and coaching. Below is a list of alumni that he wishes to recognize (please forgive any accidental omissions). These are people who not only contributed greatly to the success of the teams he coached but displayed qualities of character that made a deep and lasting impression on the mind and heart of their former teacher and coach. In most cases, Aaron coached these folks for multiple years and on multiple teams. He wishes to express his deepest gratitude for the time and effort they gave to those teams. Please know that they will always be remembered by him. (Alumni are listed alphabetically by last name. If you see one of your friends’ names in the following list, please send them Coach Calder’s best wishes.)

Alexander ARAZYAN, Amanda ARNINI, Jessica BAUN, Linden BARTON, Alana BATEMAN, Paulina BERETTA, Anastasia BEREZOWSKY, Angelica BERTUCCA, David BIGGAR, Vicky BORBELY, Alessia BORGO, Celia-Marie CASSIANI, Jocelyn and Nathan CHAU, Carly and Jimmy COOKE, Laura COSTEN, Christian D’AMBROSI, Kaya DIZON-SPENCE, Matthew and Thomas DODIG, Barbara DOURLEY, Andres and Eliott EVANS, Dario GARCIA-MENDEZ, Alida GRECO, Alyssa GIULIANI, Alexander HERCEG, Clare HIGGINS, Jason KELLY, Amara KREMBLEWSKI, Danielle LUCCHESE, Marie LUNNY, Richard MAGONY, Candace MAUSNER, Bridget McGLYNN, Arakel and Lori MINASSIAN, Alexandra MISIAK, Michael MOLYNEUX, Aisling O’CARROLL, Mary O’SULLIVAN, Anastasia PETUNINA, Michael and Stefano PEZZETTA, Cassandra PILACINSKI, Skye REID-CALDER, David SHAW, Jackie TMEJ, Philip and Massimo VIRDO, and Teresa ZASOWSKI.

     Aaron wishes to extend an Irish blessing upon this special group of alumni: “May your days be many and your troubles few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you – may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.”

     Coach Calder continues to volunteer his time coaching at De La Salle College to show his gratitude for the time spent at the school to which he continues to feel a great attachment.  Few have been as eager, willing and helpful as Mr. Calder.  For Del he would climb any mountain, cross any river, explore any plain and probe into any valley.  The translation of the last sentence is that he would, and did, go to great lengths to source a swimming pool he could rent for practices, to probe the parks and trails around town for cross-country runs, to pursue like a tiger, successfully, championship titles to bring home to Del.  Imagine the turmoil of having elite swimming squads without having your own pool.  So, when opportunities appeared, he pounced.  Out of all this our students, for years and years, reaped all the benefits of regimented drills, golden awards and coveted rewards.  There is no doubt about his “great attachment” to Del as he cherished it, and as we see it vividly also, in his students and their successes.  We are truly fortunate that the stars were so aligned that Mr. Calder fell into our arms.  As Shakespeare has it, “the man had found the hour.”- A happy ending.