Lola Major

Lola Major
2002 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year

Each year, the University of Lethbridge Alumni Association honours an outstanding alumnus or alumna based on exemplary individual qualities, strong academic performance, excellence in their field, national or international reputation and the impact or benefit of their work to the community at large. The 2002 recipient was Lorraine (Lola) Major, a well-respected and nationally recognized teacher who has greatly contributed to the educational community in Lethbridge and Alberta.

Lola Major began her distinguished teaching career in 1964 at Senator Buchanan Elementary School in Lethbridge. In 1970 she earned a Bachelor of Education with Distinction from The University of Lethbridge while continuing to teach at the elementary and junior high school levels. A life-long learner, she later pursued a Professional Diploma in Education from The University of Lethbridge (1979) and a Master of Arts in Administration and Curriculum through Gonzaga University (1985), and spent a year in Baden, West Germany as a teacher for the Department of National Defense. In 1976 she accepted a position at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, where she continues to teach Social Studies to students in grades ten through twelve.

Throughout her career Lola Major has been an advocate for co-curricular learning, inspiring student interest and involvement inside and outside the classroom. The author of "Why Trip Up?", an elementary field experience handbook, and "Cultural Field Experiences for High School Students" (published), she has planned and chaperoned student excursions to countries on three continents including Russia, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Morocco, and Greece. Since 1990 she has also served as the southern Alberta co-ordinator for Encounters with Canada and the Forum for Young Canadians, two national youth programs based in Ottawa.

A forerunner in her field, Lola Major's exceptional teaching skills have been widely recognized with an Award of Excellence in Social Studies from the A.T.A. Social Studies Council, an Alberta Education Excellence in Teaching Award, a Certificate of Participation In Recognition of Teaching Excellence from the Teachers' Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy, a B.Y.U. International Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award, and most recently, the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. In 1999 she was also selected as one of the YWCA Women of the Millennium.

Lola Major's initiative extends to the provincial level, where she has served as a Member of the Provincial Secondary Social Studies Advisory Committee and as a group leader of diploma exams for Alberta Learning. A sought-after speaker, she has presented at numerous workshops, teachers' conventions and professional development seminars around the province. She also shares her expertise as a guest and sessional instructor at The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge Community College and as a teacher associate for U of L Education students.

In 35 years of teaching, Lola Major has been a mentor to students of all ages and abilities and a model of excellence for her colleagues and peers throughout the province. Today, it is with great pride that The University of Lethbridge and The University of Lethbridge Alumni Association recognize the achievements of Lola Major by presenting her with the 2002 Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award.

University of Lethbridge Journal Article

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." (St. Augustine) Lorraine "Lola" Major has opened the book, and the world, to generations of Lethbridge students. In 37 years of teaching she has led her students through the pages of history and geography, offering unique travel opportunities and innovative classroom activities.

"I have never wanted to be anything but a school teacher," says this year's U of L Distinguished Alumna of the Year, a social studies teacher at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (LCI). Lola Major began her career in 1964 at Senator Buchanan Elementary School in Lethbridge. "The first class of students I taught are now 48 years old,"" says Lola, who transferred to LCI in 1976. "Now I'm teaching their kids!"

Lola received a Bachelor of Education with Distinction from the U of L in 1970 - the result of several years of summer and evening courses. "The way that the University of Lethbridge was set up, it was easy for us to take classes while continuing to teach,"" says Lola. She returned to the U of L a decade later to complete a Professional Diploma in Education (1979), eventually pursuing an M.A. in Administration and Curriculum through Gonzaga University (1984).

Listening to Lola talk - her animated descriptions of class projects and enthusiastic praise for students - it is clear that her passion for teaching has not faded. Neither has her glowing reputation. Modest about her work, Lola's many accomplishments can only be gleaned from the pages of countless reference letters written by students and colleagues. "Have you ever wondered in your years of teaching if you have made a difference?" writes a former student in a recent letter to her teacher. "I can say in my case, more times and on more occasions than you could imagine."

In 2001 Lola was selected as one of 15 teachers in Canada to receive the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. It was the latest in a long line of accolades she has received including an Alberta Education Excellence in Teaching Award Certificate, and a Certificate of Participation In Recognition of Teaching Excellence (Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy). In 1999, Lola was also selected as one of the southern Alberta YWCA Women of the Millennium.

A supporter of co-curricular activities from writing contests to charitable projects, Lola encourages her students to pursue excellence inside and outside the classroom. "Kids underestimate themselves, so you need to encourage them," she says. Her attempts have paid off. In recent years, many LCI students have received bursaries, cash, and travel prizes through local and national competitions. As the southern Alberta coordinator for Encounters for Canada and the Forum for Young Canadians, Lola also encourages students to travel to Ottawa and participate in national youth programs. "I tell my students that what they can learn in 12 days of travel I couldn't teach them in 20 years,"" says Lola. The author of "Why Trip Up" (an elementary field experience guide) and "Cultural Field Experiences for High School Students,"" Lola has literally written the book on travelling with students. Since 1978, she has planned and chaperoned student excursions to countries on three continents including the Czech Republic, Russia, Great Britain, Morocco, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Greece.

"Trying to make a difference is what keeps me going," says Lola, who admits she is not yet ready to retire. "It's hard to explain really. I just love the kids and I love coming to school." Lola continues to teach social studies to grades 10 through 12 at LCI. She has also renewed her ties with the U of L by becoming a mentor to student teachers and a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Education.