Bill Hogg gets students in front of trees, not screens

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Bill Hogg, one of PEI's Senior Islanders of the Year, plants trees alongside Eliot River students

In his 30 years as an elementary school teacher, Bill Hogg was always looking for a more meaningful ways to reach his students. Sometimes it was just a matter of getting them away from the ever-present technology and into the great outdoors.

“Kids who are connected to the natural environment perform better academically and socially,” said Hogg during a break from planting trees with grade 6 students at his former workplace, Eliot River Elementary in Cornwall.

The retired teacher was recently selected as a 2016 Senior Islander of the Year, partly for his work leading a team to build an educational trail system at the Terry Fox Complex adjacent to the school.

Nominated for his remarkable talent to galvanize others into action, Hogg – along with the late Gordon Hermann – conceived the trail idea, and with the support of many community partners the dream of the Terry Fox Trail Enhancement Group became a reality.

Hogg says the seeds of the idea were planted at what he calls his monthly “Old Geezer’s Club” coffee summit, where he and some friends decided to “plant a few trees”. Two years and 2,000 trees later, the 50-acre plot is now growing 27 species of trees native to PEI.

“Imagine this place in 30 years,” Bill Hogg said, gesturing toward the sea of saplings taking root before him. “Parents will be able to take their kids to soccer practice and walk the trails along the perimeter. This property will be a very unique educational showcase.”

He wasn’t ready to give up working with children and youth just because he retired. He says he’s been volunteering since his twenties and can’t imagine life without it.

 “I do it because I can,” he said. “I’m a busybody. I have to stay involved and active. I cannot sit.”

Whether volunteering with school breakfast programs, teaching skiing, cooking, entertaining or gardening, Hogg tries to find ways to make things better for everyone.

“There is an intrinsic reward in looking to the future,” he says.

Visit PEI Senior Islanders of the Year to learn more about this award.

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