ONTARIO — Although she had no formal training, Charlene Pelland’s lifetime of experience prepared her for teaching health classes to local high school students as part of the Treasure Valley Tech program, which was the start-up program to bring Career Technical Education courses to high school students.
Pelland is being honored as the 2019 Educator of the Year by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
Pelland, who moved to Ontario in 2004, was a nurse for 31 years in Florida. Also, during that time she was a member of a convent for 15 years, which had sent her to nursing school.
Pelland worked in the neonatal intensive care. “I took care of sick babies,” she said.
She had come to Ontario to visit her friends Ron Verini and Doug Dean, who she had met in Florida when she took care of their mother.
“I fell in love with Ontario,” Pelland said.
Four years after her arrival, Pelland joined Verini and Dean in co-founding Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, an organization that provides services to and advocates for veterans, as well as providing a place where veterans can hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Pelland continues to sit on the board. She ran the office and wrote grants from the organization’s beginning in 2014.
Now, she can be found working in the Josh Brennan Memorial Museum or doing other tasks.
Not a veteran herself, Pelland said her father was in the Army during World War II and her six brothers all served in the Air Force.
In addition, she had been teaching religion education classes at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.
Her nursing experience and teaching experience lead to her being suggested for a new program being started for students in Malheur County called Treasure Valley Tech, designed to give students training in several areas of career education.
Pelland was interviewed for the Allied Health Program and taught the introductory course on health occupations.
“I taught for five years, she said. Students did not come to Pelland, she said she went to the students, so she was on the road a lot.
She went from Ontario to Vale, then to Nyssa and back to Ontario.
“I’ve been through three cars,” she said.
Since the degree she had was in nursing, Pelland said she had to get a teaching certificate.
When Pelland was first hired she had two weeks to to get ready, she said, including writing the curriculum.
“I saw quite a few kids,” Pelland said many of those students found places where they could be successful.
In Vale, the classes averaged six to eight students, her average in Nyssa was up to 25 students and in Ontario the average was about 25 students in each of the two classes. There were students from Adrian in the Nyssa classes, as well.
In addition to the classroom work, students have had the opportunity to get practical experience doing volunteer work in programs set up by Heart N’ Home Hospice & Pallative Care. That experience includes visiting with people on hospice.
“I just wanted this program to work,” Pelland said. “I’m honored they would give me this award. A lot is due to the kids,” she added.
In her leisure time, Pelland loves to sew and crochet, and is not a homebody, having recently drove to Florida by herself, camping along the way.
“She is amazing,” Redmond said. “Without her I’m sure the program would not be what it is today. She had a lot of positive effects on our students.”
Redmond noted it was not an easy task to teach four classes in three different schools in the same day.
Pellend will receive her award in January during the Chamber’s annual Honor’s Banquet at the Four Rivers Cultural Center.