By Donna Keene Rousseau

Sun Journal Staff

With all the enthusiasm for professional hockey coming to Lewiston-Auburn, it is important to remember that many of the Lewiston MAINEiacs’ players are still in the midst of completing their educations.

In preparation for aiding the players’ in their continuing studies, area educators worked with Vice President and Governor Matt McKnight, General Manager Norm Gosselin and Coach Mario Durocher to establish a workable curriculum that would meet the players’ individual needs while accommodating a rigorous hockey schedule.

Paul Boucher, an educator for 27 years and a guidance counselor for Edward Little High School, accepted the role of education coordinator for the players and attended meetings in Montreal beginning in April to ready a workable classroom experience for the players for September.

“In the months leading up to now, I’ve learned so much more about the Canadian educational system,” says Boucher. “I’ve received great support from my contact, Sandy Moreau, in Montreal, who has been walking me through the process of establishing an educational program for the players, and the QMJL’s education advisors have been very helpful with their guidance.”

Additionally, Boucher has conferred with colleagues in the U.S. regarding the unique situation presented by this group of elite athletes.

“Most agree that the traditional U.S. educational experience would not be suitable for these professional athletes. They would miss too much classroom instruction, and it would be difficult to make up the work,” Boucher explains. “In the past, when the team was located in Sherbrooke, the college was across from the rink and there was a high school in Sherbrooke. Long term, I think, the plan would be to see players attend high school in the districts where the billet families reside while utilizing Lewiston-Auburn College and Central Maine Community College for players studying at that level. However, we determined that corresponwdence classes are what would work best and are most feasible for this year.”

To obtain the appropriate correspondence packages for each player, Boucher and Jean Gastonguay, a retired French teacher, worked with the players, completing paperwork to be forwarded to Quebec, Montreal, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, depending on where each player is from and what level of study he requires. For instance, the province of Quebec oversees the high school (George Vanier) through the equivalent of U.S. Gade 11. From there, Montreal handles what is referred to as the prep school, Ecole Sport-Etuds (School of Sports Studies). The two years of prep school, or the Cégep program, precedes university.

Classes began on Sept. 8 at the Multi-Purpose Center across from the rink. For two hours, the players study, using their individualized lesson packets and working at their own pace. Gastonguay serves as their bilingual tutor, there to assist with any questions that may arise. The players have four months in which to complete the classes they are taking. Upon completion of the lessons, Boucher administers exams, which are then forwarded to Montreal or the appropriate academic site for the course of study.

Boucher wishes he could be more involved with the tutoring but, as a full-time guidance counselor at Edward Little High School in Auburn, his schedule doesn’t permit.

“This is very experimental for all of us. It’s quite an adventure, and it’s been a great learning experience,” confirms Boucher.

Expressing confidence in the correspondence education system, he adds, “They have had very successful athletes in the league who studied through correspondence and have gone on to medical school. The key is that the players must be as disciplined in the classroom as they are on the ice.”

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