Award recognizes impact of local teachers on one student’s life

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Two teachers at Westwood togel Community High School were honoured with the Loran Scholars Foundation’s Teachers Building Leaders Award.

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Article contentThe recognition went to Said El Mejdani and Jeff Landry for significantly impacting their former student’s growth.

Article content“Receiving the Loran Award means that we are helping build the leaders of tomorrow,” said Mejdani.

The two teachers were nominated by Dhruv Patel, a 2019 Rebanks Family Loran Scholar.

Patel, who graduated from Westwood in 2018, went on to found AfterSell, which builds software that helps independent eCommerce merchants compete on a global scale.

“I still have a paper from Dhruv telling me ‘I would never do anything in technology if it weren’t for you,’ from there to becoming a CEO and a co-founder of a successful multi-million valued tech startup,” said Mejdani. “For me, that means a lot.”

A note
The note from Dhruv Patel to his teacher Said El Mejdani. SUBMITTED.

Mejdani said Patel’s success, along with that of other students who went on to work for companies such as Tesla and Apple, speaks for the strength of Westwood’s computer science and robotics programs, which Mejdani helped build with a zero-dollar budget and four broken computers that were fixed with parts salvaged from a dumpster.

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Article contentLandry, who also received the award alongside Mejdani, said it’s rewarding to work with some of the brightest minds in education.

“Both students and teachers,” he said. “It takes a community to build such success.”

Patel said he could never thank Mejdani and Landry enough for the impact they had on his life.

He said in Grade 10, he went to an after-school computer science club meeting, run by Mejdani, which was new to Fort McMurray at the time.

“He introduced me to core concepts one-on-one, and he was tremendously helpful,” said Patel, who as he learned more went with Mejdani to teach computer science at other schools in the area.

“I quickly realized that what Mr. Said was doing was going to be unsustainable in the long term and he was spending too much of his own time, money, and energy. So, I asked him how I could help,” said Patel, who, with Mejdani’s help, went on to co-found YouthComputing, a non-profit organization to help connect youth to the tech world.

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Article content“This really helped me build better leadership skills and serve my community and it wouldn’t have been possible without him,” said Patel.

When he was in Grade 12, Mejdani went on to connect Patel with senior technologists at Syncrude so he could take on an ambitious science fair project—to build a driver drowsiness detection system since there were a lot of high-risk events in trucks at the oil sands in Fort McMurray.

Mejdani’s support helped Patel’s project win gold at the Science Fair and Bronze at the National Science Fair.

“But, more importantly, it showed how I could use technology to change the world for the better,” said Patel.

Landry did not teach Patel directly, but instead was his badminton coach who offered him valuable life lessons.

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Article content“He went above and beyond to mentor me, providing valuable insights and encouragement that helped me become a better leader,” said Landry. “His guidance was instrumental in honing my leadership skills, not just in the realm of sports but also in various aspects of my life which I carry to this day.”

He said Landry’s faith in my abilities empowered him to step into leadership roles with confidence and grace.

Patel recalled how he lost the first set of an important match to the defending provincial badminton champions.

Despite the loss, Landry told Patel he had no doubt he had the skills to win. His teacher’s calm assuredness inspired him to make a comeback in a nail-biter of a third set and eventually win gold at the provincial championships.

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Article content“That win gave me so much . . . faith in myself and belief that I could do anything,” said Patel, who continues to carry this certitude with him to this day.

For his part, Landry said it was an honour to cross paths with Patel.

“(It) brings everything we work so hard for to fruition. It takes a community to build such success.”

“I pride myself in looking beyond the learning to help students see success in every aspect of their lives,” said Landry.

Mejdani and Landry received certificates of recognition on October 20.

The Loran Scholars Foundation administers the award, which was established in 2014 and supported by the McCall MacBain Foundation.

Each year, graduating Loran Scholars nominate teachers who played a significant role in their development for this award.

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