By Dale Cory
He’s affectionately known around Diamond Willow Middle School as ‘Mister D.’
Terry Dortman, head of the Physical Education Department at Ponoka’s lone public middle school, appears to wear the moniker well. He’s easy going, he’s caring, and he is passionate about his job. His goal is to provide the best possible education for students — both in class, and away from the school grounds.
Dortman has seen a great number of tremendous athletes go through his gymnasium — from former National Hockey League player Harry York, to Isatu Fofanah, an up and coming track star who recently finished in the top six at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
He has nurtured these young students into respectable men and women who have gone on to success at the high school level, and beyond.
All of that hard work has been recognized officially.
Dortman has been presented with the Linda Richter Junior High Athletic Administrator of the Year Award.
Admittedly, the honour came as quite the shock for this personable teacher.
It really shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.
“We had our assembly in the gym the first day of school. Jody McElroy and Scott MacGregor, two teachers from the high school, came over, and presented this award in front of my whole school and the other teachers. It was the first day, so a lot of parents were here,” recalls Dortman. “It was a total surprise to me. It was a really neat thing to be recognized, because I know how hard everybody in our profession works.”
All of the athletic directors in the Wolf Creek School Division voted on the award last spring. Dortman was honoured for his outstanding commitment, dedication, leadership, service and enthusiasm.
In addition to being athletic director at Diamond Willow, Dortman coaches several teams, and teaches full-time.
“As a coach, Terry is always willing to help out, as he thrives on giving students a chance to play sports,” says Larry Cook, principal at Diamond Willow. “Terry is one of the few coaches that has a natural gift communicating with kids. He encourages them in a positive manner and treats them with dignity and respect at all times. In return, the kids give Terry their best effort, which has resulted in Terry winning championships in many different sports. Terry is a most valuable team member to DWMS as a teacher, coach and a positive role model.”
Dortman is in his 22nd year at Diamond Willow. Aside from teaching physical education, he has been involved in a wide variety of sports, including cross-country running, golf, volleyball, basketball, track and field and badminton.
“Just working with this age level of students is unique. I’ve been really lucky to have worked with some great kids and great families who provide parental involvement. I’ve been really blessed to have worked with so many great families, staff members and colleagues. It’s all about relationships with kids when it comes down to it. I’ve been really lucky to be able to do this for the last 22 years.”
Dortman certainly has to demonstrate a wide variety of skills, from teaching students the technical aspects of volleyball in gym class, to helping gifted athletes realize their potential as they move through the middle school system and into high school.
“Our philosophy here at the middle school is participation and co-operation. At the same time, we’re trying to be a stepping stone or bridge between here and the high school,” says Dortman. “So, you want to offer those kids who are more competitive the opportunity to play more competitively. We do step it up in practice a bit at this level. You become more intense as a coach, and you expect more intensity out of your athletes.”
Safety, sportsmanship, work ethic — all are important aspects of participation Dortman pushes onto his students.
“I’ve always believed that, whatever we do here in the gym, I’d like for it to be a reflection of that person in everyday life,” summarized Dortman. “Whether it’s through sports, or, you could say the same thing with academics, we want them to become better athletes, better students, and better people overall.”
And with that, Terry Dortman — ‘Mr. D’ — was headed back to the gym, where he would soon be found officiating cross-town rivals Diamond Willow and St. Augustine in volleyball competition.