Janet Ruest said she was humbled when she was asked to read the iconic war poem Flanders Fields in a ceremony in France this month commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The teacher from Chemainus Secondary School will be joined on the trip, which will take place from April 7-14, by Jennifer Bailey, another teacher from SD79.
Ruest said she and Bailey, who also taught at Chemainus Secondary School, have been invited by EF Tours, a company that specializes in taking students and teachers in historic tours around the world, to participate in the Vimy Ridge ceremonies.
The honour is in recognition of fundraising and other efforts the two teachers and their students have done in recent years to help commemorate battles Canadian soldiers were involved in across Europe.
“Flanders Field was written in 1915 by John McRae in the same location where I will read the poem,” Ruest said.
“Historians argue that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was the defining event in the development of our Canadian identity, so I expect that the gravity of the event, in which 3,598 Canadian soldiers were killed, will be overwhelming and there will be a lot of tears shed.”
Both Ruest and Bailey were asked by EF Tours to participate in the week-long professional development opportunity due to their work on its projects in the past.
From 2001-2005, Ruest involved her students in fundraising to support the building of the Juno Beach Education Centre, and plaques to commemorate these contributions are currently on display at the centre.
Both Ruest and Bayley also led a fundraising drive last spring to support the construction of an education centre at Vimy Ridge.
Chemainus Secondary School was one of only three schools across Canada to reach the fundraising goal of $3598 for the project, which represents the number of Canadian soldiers killed at Vimy Ridge.
Three cadets from the Cowichan Valley’s 100 RCSCC Admiral Mainguy Sea Cadets Unit are already on route to join the 100th anniversary ceremony at Vimy Ridge.
They will be among the approximately 8,000 students from across canada that will attending the ceremony.
The unit’s Lt. Nolan Stewart said three sea cadets took on the fundraising challenge offered by EF Tours and were each successful in raising the $3,600 that was required to take the trip.
The three cadets, who left for Vimy Ridge on April 5, are Petty Officer 1st Class Wyatt Robert, 17, Leading Seaman Brian Lillew, 14, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Liam Knott, 16.
“This will be an amazing experience for them,” Stewart said.
“It will be a phenomenal ceremony that commemorates a critical event in Canadian history and they will be on the ground, experiencing it first hand.”