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TDSB Teacher/Coach Has Professional Sport Jersey Retired


 Article featuring Jim Veltman, Agincourt CI  by David Grossman

Read the full article below or click here

“What I do as a teacher, affecting lives more positively,

is more important than what I accomplished in lacrosse.”

- TDSB teacher/coach has professional sport jersey retired -

By David Grossman

Jim Veltman remembers the many highlight goals, the spine-shaking hits, and the defining moments of his illustrious professional lacrosse career.

But, there was also another day - one tucked away in his memory, that refreshes itself.

It was back in his Grade 12 year in a school portable in Woodbridge, and Veltman had finished a student presentation to his classmates. He was “Teacher of the Day” – and his assignment was to highlight the benefits of competing, and learning, a new sport.

Veltman chose bowling.

At the time, he recalled not exactly being comfortable whether he accomplished his goal, or how he would be graded. Focussed and determined to accentuate the merits of a physical activity that goes back to the Egyptian proto-dynastic period, and is now played by more than 100 million people in 90 countries, Veltman’s performance must have been quite impressive.

Turns out, it was enough to go beyond a good grade, but his delivery also impressed his teacher. Evelyn Dengerink would go on to write a personal note that encouraged Veltman to consider a future in education.

“She put a spark in my life,” recalled Veltman, now closing in on the quarter century mark as a science, physical education and guidance teacher – and 21 of those years teaching at Agincourt Collegiate. “I wasn’t one for getting the best grades, usually did enough to get by, but that day…I loved it, and I knew my future was in teaching.”

Veltman would go on to live a double life – having a huge impact on the classroom success of students and their career development. The other, as a pro athlete in lacrosse – a game many forget is Canada’s National Summer sport.

Whether it was at the arena, hearing the hype from fans, or popular with his students and peers, Veltman caught the attention of many. With no interest in retirement from teaching, the competitive lacrosse days are over for the 53-year old and his illustrious 16-year pro career (10 with Toronto) is captured in memoirs – including something quite rare.

Number 32 was the jersey Veltman wore with the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) where he won a Sportsmanship Award in 2002, named League MVP in 2004, was on five championship teams, and a year after he retired in 2008, was inducted into the prestigious NLL Hall of Fame.

In April 2019, holding back emotions while surrounded by his family, friends and colleagues, a modest and humble Veltman, always talking about the importance of teammates over individual performances, watched the pinnacle of his lacrosse life take place: his game sweater, retired and hoisted for display with those of other legends in sports.

“It’s flattering and truly is special, a moment I will always remember,” said Veltman, who may very well be the only Toronto high school teacher to have a pro sports jersey retired. “To be honest, I have issues with individual recognition. It’s great to have extraordinary feelings, but in a team sport you have to remain committed, focussed and do the best you can, so everyone benefits.

“I grew up in Brampton, which has a rich history in lacrosse, and my parents wanted me in sports and enrolled me, at age five, in a minor lacrosse league,” he said. “I never thought I could play pro – and also get paid.”

Turns out 1992 was a huge year for Veltman – his first year as a teacher at a private school in Bowmanville. It was also the same year that the he launched his pro career with Buffalo and would win three league titles with the Bandits. Passionate, youthful and loaded with energy, it wasn’t an issue commuting, three hours each way, down the Queen Elizabeth Way.

With two careers growing, Veltman, some would say, did something unusual. He put them both on hold for 17 months and went to Uganda, with his wife, to do volunteer work and start-up a secondary school resource centre.

“We are so fortunate in Canada,” said Veltman. “My wife and I, wanted to help others who don’t have the same gifts that we often take for granted. We would hope for the best when we returned.”

In 1998, he returned from Africa, and joined the expansion Ontario Raiders. A year later, the franchise moved to Toronto. That same year, he joined the Agincourt Collegiate staff.

“I had a new challenge – this time it was to get students to try something,” said Veltman, who is also the recipient of two Toronto District Secondary Schools Athletic Association awards. “Slowly, word got out about my lacrosse career – and it was time to get the sport going at the school. The emphasis was not on winning or losing, but to get them learning and stay committed.”

Things have changed from the days when Veltman went to school.

“What I do as a teacher, affecting lives more positively, is more important than what I accomplished in lacrosse,” he said. “One of the greatest feelings in the world is when a student that you thought struggled to graduate, returns to share a successful career.”


David Grossman is a multi award-winning communicator and storyteller with a distinguished career in Broadcasting, Journalism and Public Relations in Sport and Government Relations

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