Catholic educators Suzanne Stubbs and Michael Phaneuf with their Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals. Photo courtesy Prince Albert Catholic School Division

Prince Albert educators honoured, surprised by Queen’s Jubilee medal

  • December 4, 2022

Prince Albert Catholic School Division (PACSD) leaders Suzanne Stubbs and Mark Phaneuf were surprised and honoured upon finding out they would both be feted with a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

In the company of fellow educators, farmers, diplomats, health-care workers and a host of other Prince Albert residents who made a marked contribution to Saskatchewan, Stubbs and Phaneuf received their medals at the Art Hauser Centre on Nov. 18.

The commemorative medal was created to mark the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession in 1952. It has been awarded to people who have made a positive impact on society.

Stubbs and Phaneuf met that criteria for their years of dedication to Catholic education in this central Saskatchewan city.

“To be recognized for something you consider a vocation is really something you don’t expect,” said Phaneuf, principal of École St. Mary High School since 2004. “Because I have been lucky to work in the Catholic school system for almost my entire career, over 30 years, it is incredibly gratifying.”

Stubbs’ roots in Prince Albert run deep. The current chair of the PACSD  is a graduate of École St. Mary High School who later championed the Catholic school community when her own kids began their educational journeys. She became a trustee in 2008 and has remained active ever since. 

The congregant and music leader at St. Joseph’s Parish credits the overall excellence of the school community for her getting noticed by the selection committee. 

“Our graduation rate is really doing well — we’re actually outperforming the provincial rate, which is really exciting,” said Stubbs. “We are there for our kids and we try to advocate for getting what they need for them to continue moving forward in their education. Advocacy plays a big part in our role (as a school board).”

According to data released by the Government of Saskatchewan in late September, PACSD’s three-year graduation rate for First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) students is 63 per cent compared to 40 per cent averaged by the rest of the province. The non-FNMI three-year graduation rate for PACSD is 94 per cent, 10 points higher than the province’s 84-per-cent average.

This high level of achievement is a reflection of the dynamic environment within PACSD schools like École St. Mary High School, said Phaneufl. 

“I feel like this career is life-giving,” he said. “You’re around youth all the time so it is very energizing and positive. I am very hopeful about our current youth becoming future leaders. They just show daily the compassion, the empathy and the love that you want adults to have in society as well.”

Phaneuf adds that over 1,000 students currently attend École St. Mary and he is on a first-name basis with all of them. 

The opening months of the 2022-23 school year have been largely embraced as special by students and staff, said Stubb. It is the first fall semester since 2019 without COVID-19 looming large.

“It’s such a huge improvement. The teachers are telling us, ‘man it’s so good to be back in the classroom teaching our kids.’ And the biggest thing for our kids is being able to be with their friends, which is so important. There is also the return of activities such as sports, music or drama. All those were gone for two years. The kids are just so excited to be back. The smiles are on their faces as they come into the building.”

Not lost on Stubbs and Phaneuf is the historical significance of the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal. As a result of the long-reigning monarch’s passing on Sept. 8, this year marked the last time a jubilee medal with her namesake will be awarded.

Considering Queen Elizabeth II was the only monarch ever to reach the 70-year milestone in the monarchy’s 1,200-year history, there is a strong likelihood that the occasion of a platinum jubilee will never be seen again.

“I am a huge monarchist, believe it or not,” said Phaneuf. “I was a great supporter of Queen Elizabeth II. For me it had extra significance because it would be the last to bear her likeness and her name.”

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.