On the education and basketball circuit across Montreal, it’s difficult to meet someone who hasn’t met Alix Adrien. Today, as principal St. Lawrence Senior Academy in LaSalle students and staff benefit from his exceptional capacity as an educator and his engaging personality.
In the May 1, 2013 issue, the Verdun Messenger, David Abracen, former principal at Beurling Academy offered what might be the most apt description that encapsulates Adrien’s brilliant career as an educator/basketball coach. He was quoted as saying that although Adrien has worked as a coach, teacher, school administrator, and director of a summer school, the only term that can really define him is that of an educator.
“As Vice-Principal for cycle 2 at Beurling Academy for the past 4 years, Alix Adrien has modeled what it means to be committed to student success,” said Abracen. “There is not a student, past or present, Honor Roll or at-risk, who has not felt as if he (Adrien) was completely committed to listening to them and helping them find their way.”
But sitting with the lifelong educator for an hour or so, it’s easy to determine that he is not driven by accolades, passion yes. Especially for helping students that need his exceptional teaching skills, in the classroom or on the basketball court.
That’s why since 1985, he has dedicated every summer to the Quebec Board of Black Educators’ Da Costa Hall Summer School where he helped thousands of students upgrade their marks for their provincial exams annually.
That’s why also, for four years while he was at Beurling Academy, he gave up all his Saturday mornings to work with students who failed the Ministry of Education Math exams.
And why he is still at it today: serving as principal and teacher at DaCosta Hall, and tutor to students in the Park Extension district.
All of it, he says, stem from his philosophy on education.
“As educators, we advocate for the child. We’re part of the village, so if at home the family is broken, we become the extended family. If a student needs help, it’s our duty to help.”
“Also, I’m the child of my father.”
His dad, Pierre F. Adrien’s life revolved around education, beginning in Haiti when he taught at College Jose Marti before he ran away from the political instabilities of the then Duvalier regime.
In Montreal, the elder Adrien taught school in Joliette before moving to New Jersey and back to ensure that his five children secured a solid education.
While in Haiti, a young Alix was also amazed by his dad’s commitment.
“Almost every day he would come home after work and there would be people waiting for help with their school work. And he looked forward to doing it.”
He drew from his dad’s love for teaching and harbored an unwavering love for education matched only by his passion for basketball.
Adrien secured a degree in Mathematics from the University of Ottawa and a diploma in Education from UQAM then found his way into the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal in 1985.
He started as an animator in the French sector of the school board, but quickly found his way to the front of the classroom at Mount Royal High School putting in motion a career as a math and science teacher that spanned well over 20 years.
It established him as something of an urban legend among the hundreds of students whose lives he touched.
Denburk Berky Reid was in his Physics class.
“Mr. Adrien was a good teacher,” he remembers. “He was a good teacher because he cared… and because he took extra time with any student that needed his help.”
Also, it was at Mount Royal where Adrien, as coach, molded several basketball teams into almost unstoppable forces in the province.
It’s there that Reid’s basketball aspirations were put to the test.
“At first it was difficult getting on the team, but once I made it, I learned a lot from him,” says the former pro baller, who left as McGill University’s all-time leading scorer.
Reid went on to secure a degree in Economics and Management and summed it all up this way: “In the classroom and on the basketball court, Mr. Adrien made us all want to do better for him and for ourselves. He actually made learning fun.”
Adrien himself does not see too much separation between teaching in the classroom and coaching.
“One is an extension of the other,” he says. And some of the value systems are in place: like hard work and overcoming adversity.”
He says throughout his coaching career he has had the good fortune of working with several players who went on to make their mark on the game, including two highly regarded Montrealers, brothers Kris and Maurice Joseph.
Kris is a former Syracuse University standout who was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2012, and was moved to Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic. He is now playing in Europe.
Maurice, who played at Michigan State and went on to become an all-time leader at the University of Vermont, has built an exemplary coaching career at George Washington University.
In addition to his coaching career, Adrien maintains a strong connection to the community, one that dates back to the late 1970s when he volunteered as a youth worker with the Negro Community Centre, the primary Black organization at the time.
Along the way he also served on the board of directors of the Black Community Council of Quebec, the Cote des Neiges Community Association and the NDG Black Community Association, holding the post of chairman for a year.
“Like teaching and basketball, community work is very important to me because I too benefited from the influence of some of our leaders like Garvin Jeffers and the late Curtis George who encouraged me to become an administrator.”
At 52, Adrien is still as driven as he was three decades ago.
And even as he continues to meet all the obligations of his rammed schedule, he says he is busy preparing for the next stage of his life.
And what might that be?
“Well I might want to take my act to another part of the world where there might be need for a teacher… maybe the Caribbean or Africa?”
So he is currently at McGill University completing a Masters degree in Educational Leadership.