Cooke was born in South Africa and came to Canada in his teens. He graduated from Queen’s University in 1973 then headed to Auckland, New Zealand where he completed teacher training and began his teaching career.
Cooke returned to Belleville in 1978 to take a position at Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School (BCIVS) with Hastings County Board of Education. In September 1979, Cooke joined the new Quinte Christian High School, where he has taught math and worked in guidance and became principal of Quinte Christian High School in 1999.
Cooke was instrumental in creating the design of the new school that opened in 2006. Approximately nine years ago he initiated what has become an annual trip to Halifax, during which he works alongside students and volunteer parents for five days in soup kitchens and performing various volunteer services such as painting, landscaping, construction and day care. Cooke’s intent was to encourage his students to have a positive impact on society, and bring their experience back with them and contribute locally.
A strong supporter of student athletes, Cooke attends meets and games involving QCHS, and takes the time to speak with student athletes and their families at each event. He shows the same support for the arts by attending drama and music performances.
The nomination included several letters of support.
A Grade 12 QCHS student wrote: “I have learned so much from Mr. Cooke. He has helped guide me in how to lead by sharing personal accounts from his life as a leader. I think Mr. Cooke deserves the Educator of the Year Award because more than any teacher, he has inspired me to work in life to my highest potential.”
A parent wrote: “Johan Cooke has proven to be an excellent teacher and mentor to students and staff, as well as a wonderful asset to our community. Three of my children have had the great privilege of attending Quinte Christian and benefitting from his extraordinary leadership. He has created service trips in many grades that give students the opportunity to serve others. Mr. Cooke endeavors to stay connected with alumni in order to encourage them in their lifelong process of learning.”
A colleague wrote: “Johan is a man of integrity and authenticity. He cares deeply for students and goes beyond the call of duty for them. He takes an active interest and supports many charitable organizations with his time and resources.”
The Educator of the Year/Sir Mackenzie Bowell Award has been presented to outstanding educators in Hastings County and Prince Edward County since 1967. Last year’s recipient was Rob Garden, of PECI.
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