No, Mr. Lue Tam – We were blessed
De La Salle was very fortunate to have Mr. Norman Lue Tam join us in 1995 as a bequest sent from heaven. T.S. Elliott, one of many connoisseurs of human foley over the centuries, observed that an effective way to ruin a valuable practice or institution was to choke it, smother it with a bureaucratic system. Mr. Lue Tam has a healthy innate skepticism about such systems readily sensing the threat to intellectual health and sanity. Over time a ready sense of humour with a touch of satire, which he wields like a rapier, is and always has been the best rebuttal to foolishness, which talent he has been favoured with and uses effectively to ridicule silliness. Satire and ridicule do get people to think. After three years with large school boards, he lamented the “fickle and feckless changing ministries of education (Rae days, common curriculum, Harris-ment, destreaming,” and heartily thanks “the Providence that brought me to De La Salle, saving my teaching career, at a time when medaling governments prevailed, and the secularization of Catholic schools was high on their agenda. Del became my second home.”
He continues his own narrative.
I am very blessed to have been a part of the Lasallian mission at Del for 25 years. When asked what were the secrets to Del's success, I always replied, "Faith and hard work." Brother Dominic (together with the principal du jour and the Dean) interviewed me for a position as a French Teacher. However, Brother asked me to bring my art portfolio as well. Then I was hired to start the Visual Arts programme at the school. I was very happy to apply my intermediate and senior experience with the boards to introduce the Gr. 7 to 9 art classes in September 1995. I was equally happy with teaching unapologetically in a fully Catholic school.
Over the years, I am honoured to have some input into the direction of the school. Early on, I voted against us becoming a laptop school. I was against any thoughts of IB. However, I accepted AP, and some of our art students have scored highly. As Head of Fine Arts, I hope that all the members with whom I have worked and mentored know that I tried to support them and advocate for them as best as I could. I trust they understood my candid style of conducting most of my "staff meetings" one-on-one during preps and on-the-fly. I endeavoured to help out colleagues in all aspects of the school. I valued respectfully all staff, especially Anna in the main office, and all the custodians who took care of us. I am truly moved and inspired by all the caring, dedicated and bright people in my time at Del.
It is with great gratitude that Brother and the College supported me and the arts throughout my tenure. Supplies and expensive equipment (like a printing press, dark room supplies, and large display panels) were procured over the years. Once Gr. 13 art (then OAC; subsequently AVI4M) classes were established, I believe the inaugural Graduating Show took place in the spring of 1999, in the upper floor of the De La Salle Centre, and still continues today in the Heritage House. The Arts Showcase (formerly Week) was added soon thereafter to feature the talents of all the students in Music, Art, and Drama. I was called upon year to year to teach French in the Junior School.
There are several creative projects in which I am very pleased to have been involved. The original design and painting of the "DE LA SALLE COLLEGE 'OAKLANDS'" mural in the arena; the "SIGNUM FIDEI" painted by students above the doorway in basement leading to the cafeteria; the wonderful student mural of St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle beside the chapel; the art wall showcase on the third floor; and all the Theatre De La Salle set productions.
I am extremely proud of our grads who pursued their creative passion after high school. Many have become artists (Tania Iskiw) and architects (Kate Weppler; Christina Carydis). Others have gone into theatre, digital media, commercial design and teaching. I particularly enjoyed grads coming back to campus for visits and hearing of their current news. There have been many admissions of "Sir, I know I was terrible in your class/team, and I'm sorry. But now I realize what you were trying to teach us back then. Thank you." My wife often teases me that we can't go anywhere without encountering Del people, even across the globe. I still fondly wear my Del gear.
I recall coaching tennis, badminton, and ice hockey (a sport for every season!) in my first year. Hockey was reinstated under the capable hands of Gerry Dee (Donoghue). I helped with the hockey programme until Gerry's departure in 2003 when he went off to pursue his now successful comedy career. Highlights of Varsity hockey included a sponsorship from Itech (a hockey equipment company), playing St. Mike's in the senior final one year with the TDCAA, and capturing the Br. Arthur trophy in 2000. I returned to coaching hockey with the U14 team in my last years at Del, becoming repeat champions in CISAA before the pandemic lockdown. In badminton, we were league champs in 2004, after a scintillating final against Brébeuf/St. Joseph Morrow Park. Many of our fine students represented the school at the OFSAA championships as well. When the College joined CISAA, our badminton players have medaled regularly. One year the Dodig brothers captured Gold in all singles events at the year-end championships.
As an aside, I was a convenor for CISAA badminton for many years. During this term, I wrote the constitution for badminton when CISAA was granted OFSAA status in this sport. Those years were characterized by a helpful association of dedicated teacher coaches.
As a coach, I appreciated the relationships and memorable moments outside the classroom. Children matured on team-building trips to America, Montreal, and the various OFSAA destinations. Without exception, I admire how wonderfully our student athletes conducted themselves, exhibiting great sportsmanship and the love of the game. I always took great pride in our little school that could. Despite setbacks in facilities (accompanying 70 students to practice tennis at Ramsden Park; losing birds and racquets on the vent/balcony overhang in the gym with courts that were under regulation size and a low ceiling), our athletes thrived. Most of our coaches will relate the incredulity at the success and conduct of our athletes against other larger well-appointed schools.
Though I held a few titles at Del (Head of Fine Arts, Lead of Fine Arts, Head of Junior School, Coach, Co-moderator of Art Club), I am most proud of fulfilling my vocation as a teacher. I cannot imagine a different path. To gain the trust and respect of students while engaging them to become the best person they can be (spiritually, academically, socially, physically) is the ultimate reward. I was always thankful to the College administration when they trusted me to teach the children in my care, the way that I knew how. And Del allowed me to do that for 25 glorious years. I joke with the class of 2020 that it took them only 8 years or less to do what took me 25.
The weekly Monday Art Club was a place of welcoming and acceptance. Here, students from all grades (but mostly in the Junior school), came by to relax and create over popcorn and chocolate. In the later years, Gr. 12 students magnanimously volunteered to lead the sessions.
In the end, various health issues kept piling up, leading me to take an earlier retirement. I wish to continue my affiliation with the school. The pandemic so far has prevented me from visiting (again, health issues and trying to stay safe), supply teaching, and coaching (as an outside member). Fortunately, this year I was asked to be part of a Communication Sub-committee that was tasked with the rebranding of De La Salle College. The committee met regularly on-line to refresh the school’s logo and crest and related materials. It was an exciting and pleasurable 6 months of creative and respectful deep dialogue and decision-making. We are very pleased with our chosen designer and the results. As a corollary to this endeavour, I subsequently met over the summer with Steve Mason to discuss the attendant application to athletic and spirit wear. And so, I hope to still be a part of the Lasallian community in a real and present way. I cherish the friendships made and all the social gatherings. I entered Del as a disillusioned learner and left as a Lasallian to continue serving.
As we know he does continue to serve on committees as far as his health allows, concerns that restrict his activities. He cherishes his Del family and all his memories as teacher, mentor, convenor, coach in many sports and above all a willing, devoted and pious activist for De La Salle. He felt blessed to be here; we were blessed to have him. Yes, bless him ever, cradle him gently you sweet heavens.