Chef Rick Powless has over 20 years of experience who once worked at the Arlington Hotel in Paris, Ont.

Now, he commutes over two hours a day from Six Nations of the Grand River to teach the trade to a high school class at Grand River Collegiate Institute.

Powless started teaching at the school as a substitute teacher. He felt a real connection to his class and the school.

He left such an impression that, two years later, he was teaching their hospitality and tourism program full time.

 “My heart belongs here,” Powless says. “I’ve always felt this is home to me.”

His students say that he’s made a big impact.

“I feel like he tries to connect with every one of us,” says Grade 12 student Kivan Bamerni. “He’s always pushing you to do better, and wants to, like, teach you to learn more.”

Grade 11 student Dalia Mughamis, who competed in the Skills Ontario competition for culinary, says Powless helps to motivate her.

During the competition, she had botched a recipe several times, and was on the verge of giving up.

“You’re going to get it right, it doesn’t matter how many times you mess up,” Mughamis recalls him telling her.

For Powless, it all comes down to the students.

“Success is success; it doesn’t have to be major,” he says. “It means I’m reaching these students, it means I’m engaging them.”

The chef, while currently on a contract position with the school board, can see himself retiring at the school.