Art for Art’s Sake - Rob Vanderlee, Teacher and Air Cadets' Commanding Officer

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Rob VanderLee loves to teach his students practical skills.

He is the Career and Technology Studies, (CTS), and Woodworking teacher at CCHS. He has taught at LGMS and CCHS since 1996. He has a U of A Bachelor of Education in Industrial Arts.

“I’m loving the ability to teach students skills that they’ll use, practical skills like woodworking, computer skills and makerspace,” VanderLee said. “The real bonus to teaching is watching students get better and learn new skills. When students take home something that they’ve built with their own hands it is priceless. I’m a woodworker at my heart. It’s a passion.”

VanderLee was born in Calgary and he lived in Banff until Grade 4, then he moved to Canmore until graduation. He now lives in Cochrane with his wife Nadya VanderLee, (nee Malakoff), sons Luka and Joost and their Labradoodle Callie. He has seen a lot of changes to Canmore since growing up there.

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“Now that my connection is less living in Cochrane I feel much more distant,” VanderLee said. “Canmore has heritage that I hope isn’t lost with all the change. It’s a mountain town before it’s a tourist town and I think that’s an important distinction. If you choose to live in Canmore, you have to accept that and ultimately choose what’s best for you and your family.”

VanderLee has been working with the Canadian Air Cadets for many years.

“Currently, I’m the Commanding Officer of 781 Calgary Squadron. I left the 878 Banff/Canmore squadron almost three years ago at the request of the senior staff to take on a position in the city to help and mentor other Commanding Officers in the city area of Southern Alberta,” VanderLee said. “I’ve been involved since I graduated as a cadet in 1986 when I turned 19. I am also currently serving as a Military Aide de Camp for Her Honour Salma Lahkani, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. I have been and AdeC for three years.”

VanderLee is one of the longer serving members of the Cadet Instructor Cadre in this Region and likely in all of Canada, he said.

“There aren’t a lot of members who’ve served 35 plus years,” VanderLee said. “I have the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal and a Canadian Decoration (CD) with two clasps (12+10+10 years of service).”

He also worked, (24 Summers), in Cold Lake, Penhold, Winnipeg and Calgary supporting the summer training program in the cadet movement, he said.

“Probably the most senior position I held was the Deputy Commanding Officer at Penhold and at Cold Lake in the early 2000’s,” VanderLee said. “I’m working currently, (in summer), with the Virtual Training Centres, (COVID), and the J4 Movements Officer in Calgary when we’re moving cadets all over the country for training. I also travelled as an International Air Cadet Exchange Escort Officer for the program to the USA, (Texas), in 2009 and to Israel in 2011.”

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He is also involved with biathlon.

“Currently, I volunteer with the Cadet Program in the position of Chief of Competition(s) for Alberta Cadet Provincials and for Territorial Cadet Championships,” VanderLee said. “I’m an International Biathlon Union, (IBU), Technical Delegate (TD) and also have the Instructor Course for Biathlon Canada. I had a lot of volunteering with the Canmore Hosting Organization, pre-children, as Chief of Stadium in Canmore. I’m hoping to continue with the Civilian Program post-Covid as a Chief or TD. I’ve lost a bit since we moved.”

He coached cadets locally as well as the provincial cadet team to National Cadet Championships for about 14 years.

“There’s nothing better than seeing your athletes finish their races,” VanderLee said. “They don’t have to win – they have to TRY their hardest. A personal best is like an Olympic Medal for that individual or team. I love seeing their success. It means I’m doing my job.”

Covid-19 has affected the cadet program.

“Most people are aware of the challenges in the school world with how we’re managing classes, online learning, etc., but it’s the same in the Cadet world as well,” VanderLee said. “We’re managing a summer virtual training program and last summer trained about 10,000… Yes, 10K cadets across Canada. We’re not able to meet in person and it’s affecting how motivated our cadets are and our students too. We’re getting to the end I hope. Time to get back to normal.”
Communications have changed, he said.

“I hope that we can let technology take care of the unimportant stuff in our life and that we will appreciate BEING with people again,” VanderLee said.

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