Sunday, June 25, 2006

T. J. Oshie and the Power of Peers

I have said a lot in previous posts and comments about the destructive effects that disruptive and apathetic kids can have on a classroom. In fact, I have said so much about it that I have the feeling that some people are getting a little tired of it. Okay, it's time for me to change my tune!

Just as poor students can have a negative effect on a school, motivated kids can have a very positive effect. Sometimes it's a group of students helping direct an individual student in the right direction, and sometimes it's an individual student having a profound effect on an entire class.

This is T. J. Oshie. The picture on the left shows him with his father, Tim, who is a member of our Indian Education Department and an assistant coach on our hockey staff, and the other picture shows T. J., who is not considered very big by hockey standards, running over a player from a foreign country who was unfortunate enough to get in his way when he played for our national junior team this past winter.

In 2005 our varsity hockey team at Warroad had a record of 29-0-2 and won the Minnesota State Class A Championship. T. J. was one of our captains, and he is the most talented hockey player I have ever coached. Because of his accomplishments at Warroad, he earned a full scholarship to the University of North Dakota, and he was a first round draft choice by the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League. This spring he finished a fantastic freshman season at UND. He earned a number of awards and honors, and it looks like he has a very bright future that could well include earning millions of dollars.

In addition to his wonderful talent, T. J. is one of the most enjoyable kids I've ever had the opportunity to work with. Many of our hockey practices at Warroad are grueling, but I've never seen anyone work so hard, yet have a smile on his face nearly all of the time while doing it. The spirit of joy that he brings to the game is contagious, and he boosts the morale of any team he plays on. But T. J. is also a classic example of what having peers who are good students can do for an individual.

T. J. moved with his dad to Warroad from the state of Washington at the beginning of his sophomore year. I had him in myAmerican history class, and he was not a good student. His effort was rarely better than mediocre, and I put him on our school's scholastic ineligibility list a number of times. If he'd have kept going the way he started at our school, I firmly believe that he'd have never been able to play hockey at a college.

But T. J. was very lucky because he came to our school at exactly the right time. T. J.'s number one love was hockey, and it would be the hockey players in his class--the class of 2005--who he would end up spending much of his time with. It just so happens that the this group of hockey players was the finest group of student-athletes that I've ever known.

Here is a picture that this group of hockey players had taken during their senior year. In order to avoid confusion and make my point, as well as to shorten things up a bit, I will only go through the players in the front row. I want to point out that if I say that a student was on the A honor roll, I mean that he was consistently on it, and not just for one or two marking periods.

On the far left is Kyle Hardwick. He was a defenseman, president of the senior class, and an A honor roll student. Next to him is Josh Brodeen, who was T. J.'s right wing, and a B honor roll student. Then, Eric Olimb, a defenseman, T. J.'s best friend, and an A honor roll student. Next is Mark Thiele, our goalie, and an A honor roll student. Next is T. J., then David Larson who was a defenseman and a B honor roll student. Next is Andy Brandt who was our third line center and a B honor roll student. Finally, on the far right is Ben Bengtson, T. J.'s left wing and an A honor roll student.

Believe me, our hockey players usually don't get grades like this (I wish they did!), but this was a very special class. These are the kids that T. J. would be hanging around with for three years, and when you hang around with kids like this, good things happen. So by the time this picture was taken in January of 2005, TJ, too, was a member of the A honor roll. Qualifying academically at UND never became an issue.

The one who deserves the most credit for T. J.'s success is T. J., himself. What talent, what personality, what a work ethic, and what character he has! But when you have big hopes and big dreams, it sure helps to have great friends to help you along. And that is something T. J. was definitely blessed with. And if you don't believe me, just ask T. J.!


Blogger Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

This is a wonderful story! It humanizes your recurring theme - put faces on it. It's great to begin my day with this inspiring story that demonstrates the positive impact peers can have on each other.

6/25/2006 7:06 AM  
Blogger Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

And kudos to you for making a decision that ultimately led to the successes of not just one student, but several!

6/25/2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Thanks, DCS. One thing I strongly believe in is trying to develop student leadership, and athletics is a great place to do this. That is one thing I think our coaching staff did very well with our 2005 team that was so successful. We knew we had kids with great leadership ability on our team, and we challenged them to lead. Obviously, they accepted the challenge. There is actually a much longer story to this, but I won't get into it now.

It seems like we are very reluctant to let kids lead today. When I was growing up, kids would get together and start their own baseball, football, and hockey games. We didn't need an adult to coach or to umpire. There might be a lot of arguing, but in the end, we worked it out ourselves. This allowed kids with natural leadership skills to become leaders. Now, it seems like adults have to be running everything, and everything is so organized. I think this makes it difficult for young people to develop the leadership skills that can be so important in later life.

6/25/2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger Deb Sistrunk Nelson said...

I don't purchased your book yet, but I plan to. I hope you have included the story on T. J. and a section on student leadership. I think both are important. Perhaps one day we'll see a post from you on student leadership.

6/26/2006 5:24 AM  
Blogger Timothy Oshie said...

I've had the incredible fortune to work along side and under the direction of Dennis Fermoyle. Perhaps the greatest memories in my education and coaching days include Mr. Fermoyle.

I'm T.J. Oshie' father, and I packed up my life, and left Everett, Washington along with T.J. in the summer of 2002. The transfer was to help him follow his aspirations of attending Warroad High School, like his grandparents did, and to play ice hockey for this town called "Hockeytown USA!"

T.J. without a doubt is blessed with God-given athletic talents, but Mr. Fermoyle gave his life direction in the classroom and on the ice. He is a players-coach, which simply means he listens to the athletes and guides them and if they're capable, to lead their respective peers. Coach Fermoyle and Coach Albert Hasbargen, allowed T.J.'s class of 2005 hockey team do just that.

The result.

The perfect season. The kids went 29-0-2 and captured the MN State Class A Championship. This same class was instrumental in winning the title in 2003 as well.

The previous blog post asks to see student leadership. The Warroad High School Class of 2005 was just that.

This collection of 106 graduating seniors will be very successful in all walks of life. In education, in their professional aspirations and becoming great family men and women. And I can tell you almost all of these kids were inspired and lead in some capacity by Mr. Fermoyle.

What stands out in my mind is on the night of the Class of 2005 graduation on June 3, 2005.

Immediately following the graduation commencement, T.J. left Warroad High School and entered almost immediately his adult life. He went home to bed because he had to catch a plane at 4:30 AM in Winnipeg, Canada (130 miles away).


The 2005 National Hockey League Combine Training Camp in Toronto, Canada. His first test would start promptly on 12:00 noon and would last the entire day and into the early evening.

The kicker.

T.J. went to this NHL event on his own less then six hours after ending one chapter of his life.

I mention this because one man helped prepare him for this special opportunity only 120 ice hockey players in the world were invited to attend.

That man is Dennis Fermoyle.

T.J., and my entire family, are stronger people because of Mr. and Coach Fermoyle.

When people tell you that teachers don't change lives, please remember the story of my son, T.J. Oshie, and his teacher/coach Dennis Fermoyle.

7/27/2006 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that TJ Oshie is the best hockey player in the college Hockey leage I am a huge fan of his and i would love to meet him someday. And this story is so true a teacher/coach can be a big difference in life.

7/31/2006 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am tj oshie's #1 fan!! i think this story is true! i would really really like to meet tj oshie someday even tho i have things signed by him...which my mom got signed for me...this story is like an inspiration

1/23/2007 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TJ's in St. Louis now, and you can be assured of a few things: He's very popular. I mean VERY popular among the younger fans. He's not disappointing all the other fans either, and I wish you could hear the ovations he gets from the crowds.

You'll not be disappointed to hear that he's involved at other levels, too. The annual youth hockey games were played on BLUES ice a couple of weeks ago and TJ was there to help energize the awards ceremony. He seems a bit awkward with all the celebrity status he's getting, but I assured him that he's earning it.

3/15/2009 9:11 PM  
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