Cranbrook’s Irene Bischler has been awarded a Medal of Good Citizenship for her contributions to students and staff at Amy Woodland Elementary school and the wider community.
“This important honour recognizes people who have gone above and beyond to offer help and kindness to others during these exceptionally challenging times,” said Premier John Horgan. “The latest recipients of the Medal of Good Citizenship make our province a better place through their contributions and provide an example we can all aspire to meet in our communities.”
The B.C. Government said the medal is awarded to residents who show selfless generosity, service, acts of selflessness and contributions to community life.
Bischler serves as the youth care worker at Amy Woodland, she is often the first person in the building, preparing for the breakfast club. The program feeds between 30 to 40 children at the school.
“With the pandemic going on, we’ve had to completely revamp what we’re doing. So now we do individual platters for every classroom, so we don’t stigmatize anybody by bringing them in a brown paper bag,” explained Bischler. “It’s amazing how well this has gone over. It’s a little more work, since there’s 13 classrooms, and I do 13 trays every morning.”
Bischler added that the school receives donations for the breakfast program from a number of local businesses, such as Cobs Bakery and Farm Kitchen.
After breakfast, Bischler starts emotional support groups, where students have a chance to take part in a number of activities.
“We’ve done little box gardens one year with the kids. We’ve also done carpentry work, my husband is a carpenter, so he cut out a bunch of kits for us. We do lots of different hands-on things that some of the kids do at home, and others don’t get the chance to do it at home. This way everybody gets involved,” explained Bischler.
Children are also taught how to cook, so they can prepare a meal for themselves or their family.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bischler said the 6th-grade students would prepare brunch for the staff once a year.
“We prepare a meal for the whole staff, so the kids learn that they have to give back. It’s an appreciation brunch, we call it,” said Bischler.
Bischler said she enjoys working with the students in the way she does.
“It’s going to be very hard to leave these sorts of things when I retire, because it’s just so heartwarming to see all the kids take part and they’re so excited about doing it.”
As well, she mentors young teachers and education assistants, and has experience with Alternate Programs with School District #5’s
In the past, Bischler spent time as a figure skating coach, and later she taught power skating.
“It didn’t matter if kids could afford lessons or not, they were still going to get lessons,” said Bischler. “I had two boys who were hockey players, so I took a power skating course and became the instructor here in town. Carol Niedermayer and I sort of developed our own program and we ran that for probably 10 years.”
Bischler has also worked with individuals with special needs, and has given respite care to kids to help out families in crisis.
On top of that, Bischler serves as the president of the CUPE Union, and works to ensure its members are supported through any high-stress situation they may find themselves working in.
“Irene’s mission is to ensure the people around her have a better day, greater opportunity, feel empowered and valued and have a deeper purposeful connection with their community. The lives of students, staff, families and coworkers are richer and more fulfilling due to her endless energy and efforts,” said Bischler’s biography from the B.C. Government.
Nine other B.C. residents also received a Medal of Good Citizenship, a list may be found below:
- Andrew Beckerman, Victoria
- Irene Bischler, Cranbrook
- Kristi Blakeway, Maple Ridge
- Zeeshan Hayat, Vancouver
- Fawzan Hussain, Surrey
- Cole Izsak, Surrey
- Donna Kane, Rolla
- Imogene Lim, Nanaimo
- Farouq Manji, Richmond
- Robert McMinn, Highlands (Victoria)
- Stephanie Quon, Vancouver
- George Reifel, Vancouver
- Cara Sinclair, Vancouver
- Gale Stewart, New Westminster
More: Medial Recipient Biographies (B.C. Government)