Red Deer Public School District

All About Don Campbell

All About Don Campbell

By: Lexi Wright

Appreciated and honored for his dedication to community-based schooling, Red Deer Public School’s new elementary school in the Inglewood neighborhood, is named after Don Campbell. An educator with an uncanny passion for helping others, Campbell exemplifies the missions and values set in place for the school.

It began in 1977. Campbell spent the early part of his career teaching in the community near Hanna Alberta, before moving to Calgary and becoming a principal. In 1978, Campbell was offered the first principal position at G.H Dawe Community School in Red Deer. Campbell taught with Red Deer Public Schools for 8 years before retiring in 1984.

“There was a real sense of belonging at G.H. Dawe. Every person felt valued, every person felt like they belonged, every person felt like they had a significant role to play. It was just a wonderful feeling of family. Don helped everybody that he worked with find out that they could be better than they thought they could be. So many people that have previously worked for Don have gone on to contribute in significant ways and to undertake very important leadership roles to continue to perpetuate the values that Don instilled”, says Brian Bieber, who worked closely with Don Campbell as Vice-Principal of G.H. Dawe school.

Campbell was committed to building strong relationships with students, and staff. He loved literacy and often compared “the builder of marvelous temples” to “the building of a child’s life. He wanted the parents and the students to feel like they were part of the family. Don  4.jpg

“Don was practical. He would ask students, where would you like to be? How would you like to get there? He understood the pressures of family life and that people are busy, yet he was able to get students involved in a way that’s workable for busy families and busy kids”, says Jenn Hesby, one of Campbell’s daughters.

“Every morning, whatever the weather be it winter, spring, or fall, Don would always sit in the student's chair at the front entrance and greet the students as they came in. In the winter, the only thing that would modify that scene is he would have a blanket over his legs. He would still greet those students, ask them to take off their boots, and welcome them in. It was amazing to see”, says Barrie Wilson, personal friend and educator.

“I can remember many times when Don would spend a Saturday morning just going down a long list of phone numbers just phoning people, not necessarily anything specific just phoning to keep in touch with parents and students. One of the retirement things we held for Don once, we bought him a little toy telephone, one that you could pull on wheels and it would make little dingy sounds. We gave it to him so Don could happily spend his retirement talking on the toy phone and his wife would finally get a chance to talk on the regular phone”, says Michael Dawe, historian and friend of Campbell’s.

It is undoubtedly true that Campbell inspired the lives of many people, motivating them to work-hard and always remain positive. Whether you saw Campbell in a classroom or in an administrator's office, he was always the same man; always displaying his self-deprecating sense of humor and passion for being around people.

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“One of the most amazing things that I've learned about Don Campbell is that he truly believed  a school should be the hub of a community, that it's more than just a building where children are educated. We wanted to open up the school to the community in the evenings and on the weekends. With Don's beliefs, the name seemed like a natural fit", says Red Deer Public Schools superintendent, Stu Henry.

“Don Campbell approached me at an assembly at G.H. Dawe School where he was a guest as former principal. He spoke to me in such a way that made me feel like I was the best person in the universe. It was one interchange, it was a small interaction but it was a memorable one and one that I remember to this day”, says school board trustee, Bev Manning.

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Campbell spent his whole career dedicated to students and their families but he was also a man that was dedicated to the community, reaching his pinnacle with his work in Red Deer. He was a Mayor's Award recipient for volunteerism and citizen of the year award recipient and even helped with the women's shelter when it first opened. In 1986, Campbell decided to run for MLA. He had often been described as “the best MLA Red Deer never had” and came very close to winning the polls. Perhaps one of the best ways we can remember Don Campbell is through his infamous quote: “if you want responsible kids, give them responsibility”.

Photos from the Don Campbell Elementary School Open House, June 26th: