RUMFORD — Whenever John Bernard accepted additional responsibilities, his main objective was to do the best job possible. After wearing various hats, Bernard will retire at the end of the school year after 35 years in education.

Bernard, 60, spent the past seven years as the athletic director at Mountain Valley High School. It has been extremely rewarding, but decided to look ahead to other ventures.

“When I first started the job, I was often asked questions that I didn’t have immediate answers for,” Bernard said. “By the second year, I had most of the answers. By the third year, I was anticipating the questions. It’s something all ADs go through.”

Bernard’s transition was eased by the guidance from the other athletic directors in the Mountain Valley Conference and around the state. He found that there were people out there more than willing to help.

“I have been very lucky to work in a community that is passionate about athletics and appreciates its value in the educational process,” Bernard said from his corner office in Puiia Gymnasium. “People take pride in their athletic teams, and it really bonds the community. They also will do what it takes to give the kids the best opportunity for success.”

Bernard said events such as wrestling and ski meets could not take place without the help of the parents.

As athletic director, Bernard had the privilege of seeing both the wrestling and football teams win their first state championships. The boys’ basketball and ski teams have also won state championships during his tenure.

“Seeing our student-athletes work hard and have success is very gratifying for me,” said Bernard, who also cherishes his relationship with the coaching staff.

“We have a very dedicated group of men and women who put in endless hours because they love kids and the sports they coach. To them, I say, “Thank you.”

Throughout his life, Bernard has been attached to the River Valley. He graduated from Mexico High School in 1969 and the University of Maine in 1973 with a degree in physical education and health.  He student-taught phys ed in 1973 under Jerry Perkins at Rumford High School.

Playing Pine Tree League baseball, Bernard was on the 1974 Mexico Sombreros championship team and later played the Dixfield Dixies.

His first real job was as a teacher assistant at the former Abbott School. In 1978, he started as the physical education teacher at Mexico High School, replacing Frank Stoutamyer.

He coached both baseball and basketball, initially as a volunteer assistant to Tom Maines’ basketball team at Mexico 1976-77. The 1981-82 Pintos girls’ team enjoyed an unbeaten regular season, but lost in the state finals by two points to a Central Aroostook, coached by the legendary Dick Barstow.

“I have been very fortunate over the years to have several job changes in our district, which has helped to keep me fresh,” Bernard said, who coached 15 years at both Mexico and Mountain Valley. “I have also been fortunate to work under principals and superintendents who value athletic. Bruce Lindberg, Charlie Lever, Matt Gilbert, Ryan Casey, Jim Hodgkin, and Dr. Tom Ward have always been there to support our athletic programs.”

Bernard and wife Andrea (Nasatowicz) have two children, Jared, who is presently teaching phys ed in Daegu, South Korea, and Kaly, who is completing her degree in physical therapy at Springfield College this spring.

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