Roger Lawler is stepping down after almost 15 years as director of education with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. Photo courtesy of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board

Waterloo education director proud of the difference made over 27 years in Catholic schools

  • February 11, 2012

With almost 15 years as the director of education for Waterloo Region’s Catholic schools, Roger Lawler says he’s seen the difference that Catholic schools make. In fact, he’s a better person for it.

“I have seen how an entire school community wraps itself around students and families who are in pain,” Lawler told The Catholic Register.

“I have seen how our school faith communities respond every day to being beacons of hope to preparing graduates who are discerning believers who are concerned about being involved in their Church, their community and their world.”

Lawler announced his retirement Jan. 30. His last day is Feb. 29. He is the longest-serving director in the history of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

“I really do value the fact that I live in a province where I can go to work and live out my faith life and contribute to the faith and knowledge development of others. That really has been a beautiful experience over the last 27 years in Catholic education.”

During his time as director, Lawler said the best part of the job has been seeing that people have goals and dreams about what they want to achieve, he said.

“You see people reach for something that may be out of their grasp and they really do get there,” he said.

Born in Goose Bay, Nfld., his father was in the air force so the family moved around a lot. First to North Bay, Ont., and then to Cold Lake, Alta. Once his dad retired, the family settled in Alliston, Ont., where Lawler grew up.

Over the years, he’s also served as president of the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers’ Association, the English Catholic Council of Directors of Education and the Ontario Council of Directors of Education.

Looking back, Lawler said he’s very proud of the adult and continuing education program run through the Waterloo Catholic board, which has more than 25,000 adult learners.

“We provide a lot of programming in English as a second language or language instruction for new Canadians,” he said. “So it’s a very heartwarming program to go and visit and see new folks to our country really engaged and wanting to make a difference.”

And over the last 13 years, students in the board have raised more than $4.5 million for local, national and international projects during a period of declining enrolment, said Lawler.

“We have a group of students who really live out the Ontario Catholic school graduate expectations and they’re engaged in all kinds of social service and social justice activities.”

One of his favourite parts of the job has been helping to select a distinguished graduate every year, some of whom have included CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme and Superior Court Justice Patrick J. Flynn.

But the most challenging has been making sure to allocate resources where they are needed, he said.

“By the time we get our budgets from the ministry, they are so restricted and we have very little flexibility.”

Once he retires, Lawler plans to do some consulting and catch up on his reading, which will include The Death of the Liberal Party and two volumes of John A. Macdonald.

“I began as a teacher of history and that’s my first love… I want to get back to having the time to do some of that reading and reconnect with my past.”

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