Memorial award created for beloved music teacher who died shortly after heart transplant

Jamie Wilkinson, pictured here with wife Heather Lannon before his death in 2017, was an outspoken advocate for organ donors in Canada.

A music teacher who died in 2017 from complications stemming from a heart transplant has a new award bearing his name to honour his dedication to his job and students.

The annual Jamie Wilkinson Memorial Award will honour outstanding music teachers within the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. 

“It seemed sort of obvious. The next step would be to find a way to just remember Jamie and remember his impact on music, music education, the students that he taught, and the community,” said Becky Rendell, a communications officer with Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association (NLTA). 

“We wanted something that would be meaningful … this will go on for as long as we can imagine.”   

Wilkinson was from Flatrock but taught at St. Michael’s Regional High School on Bell Island.

While something positive came out of his death, it was truly “devastating,” said close friend and fellow teacher Kathy Conway. 

Jamie Wilkinson was a well-known musician and taught at St. Michael’s High School on Bell Island. (Facebook)

Wilkinson, who was 39, waited years for a heart transplant. He was born with a congenital heart defect, and spent much of his life in and out of hospitals.

When a match was found in May 2017, families and friends were hopeful. 

“It felt like he had finally had a new chance at a new start, this sort of thing. And it didn’t quite work out for him,” said Conway.

Since his death, his family and friends have continued to highlight the importance of organ donation. 

An outstanding teacher

Wilkinson will be remembered for having incredible relationship with his students.

“They loved him. He taught on Bell Island for many years and they loved him and he loved them,” said Conway.

“He had an incredible sense of humour and he just loved playing music.”

The Jamie Wilkinson Memorial Award will be given out at an annual conference for music teachers in N.L called “Resonate.” 

Heather Lannon says that her husband was kind, funny and a great person to be around. (Submitted.)

“It’s a teacher in Newfoundland and Labrador that exhibits a real passion for music …  and they take pride in their school music program,” said Rendell. 

“It’s not looking for a teacher or a program that’s the best, that wins awards, that travels across the country. But it’s looking for somebody who really inspires the students in their school and really makes them feel community and their culture through music.”

Applications for the 2019 award are now open and students, colleagues, parents, or community members can nominate a music teacher. The deadline for nominations is Sept. 30.

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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