In January, school divisions across the province were directed by the government to cut core management by 15 per cent. I’ve previously shared that having to arrive at a decision on which one of my colleagues would have to leave the job they loved was one of the most challenging of my career.
On June 22, I announced that Irene Nordheim, Assistant Superintendent, was one of the two individuals affected by the government's staff reduction order. I promised at that time that I’d expand on her qualities as a valued educator and leader so all those who knew and worked with her could celebrate her more than 43 years of dedication to our division and legacy divisions.
While I’ve been in my official role as Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) Superintendent since 2019, my history and friendship with Irene extends further back than that. I’m most grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside Irene on the Senior Leadership Team for the past six years. As a team, we have grown tremendously and in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Like any team, we experienced adversity, but how we pulled together has been remarkable. I’m so thankful to have gotten to know Irene and to learn from her. I’m a better person for it. For me, Irene possesses the many characteristics that define all who strive to do the very best in serving their community. And so, I don’t want what I’m about to say next to narrowly define how I see Irene. Nonetheless, passion and compassion are two key ideas that interconnect and resonate for me and for the many voices that have offered testimonials over the past several days about Irene. From my perspective, they are the cornerstone of Irene’s journey as a teacher and a leader in public education. Irene, I know you will continue to be one of LRSD’s and public education’s greatest and most influential supporters. I wish you health and happiness in the years ahead.
We had the opportunity to acknowledge Irene at a small, carefully planned event on Monday, June 29, where school and divisional leaders had a chance to see Irene, share a memory and wish her well. As colleagues reminisced, they talked about her impact over the past four decades. In that same spirit, I’ve asked three of her colleagues from LRSD’s Senior Leadership Team to share a few of their thoughts.
“I knew of Irene for decades, but I didn’t really know Irene until these past six years. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked so closely with her, although set by circumstance, we quickly found a partnership and friendship that pleasantly surprised us both, one that I value, and one that will extend beyond our work experience. Irene is a friend and a teammate. She is passionate and compassionate, dedicated and committed, creative and realistic. Her quick wit and amusing anecdotes brought chuckles and ease in one to one conversations or huge crowds. She is a troubleshooter, problem solver, a great listener and never afraid to offer her opinion. You can’t help but be drawn in by her magnetic personability. We worked, planned, strategized, fretted, laughed, cried, and laughed some more. She has impacted so many individuals through her career and will continue to make a difference in the lives of others because that is Irene.” Lisa Aitken, Assistant Superintendent
“If I had to summarize Irene Nordheim in just one word, I would have to use the word, “passionate.” No one, in my estimation, is more passionate about education, sports and school culture than Irene. When she worked in a school, everyone soon learned who she was and just what a giant personality she possessed. She had a significant impact on her fellow staff members, the students and the families of those students. She always had time to provide advice, listen to a concern or express an opinion. You never concerned yourself with wondering where Irene stood on an issue. She was never afraid to share her thoughts and opinions. However, to her great credit, she could listen to others, she could be influenced to change when that change was to the benefit of her school community. Irene is leaving a profession and a community that she loves dearly, and she is ending her career from a board office position, but let there be no misunderstanding, Irene is quintessentially a teacher and a school leader. She spent 38 of her 44 years in schools and that is where she is widely known and appreciated. There are few people who have impacted my career more than Irene and for that, I will forever be grateful.” Henri Peloquin, Assistant Superintendent
There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart ~ Mahatma Gandi
“Irene, I will always treasure our time together, giving our “all” working hard toward important shared goals. Your amazing energy and spirit have been a foundation of support for the Senior Leadership team. Please know that you have earned the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children which is an ultimate achievement for an educator. You have made the world we share a better place by sharing your gifts and talents with adults, youth and children alike. I want you to know that you have made a difference in the lives of many during your 44 years of service as an educator and a human being. You deserve the deep satisfaction that comes with the successes you have achieved. It has been a great adventure to share our time together as a colleague and a friend. Wishing you all the very best in new chapters ahead for you and your family.” Marlene Murray, Assistant Superintendent
My teammates have captured many of Irene’s admirable qualities. I’d like to end by saying that Irene has been an invested, influential, candid and supportive colleague that I will miss. I wish her farewell and look forward to learning about her future achievements.
- Christian Michalik