The Prince Albert community is mourning the loss of a popular educator.

Victor Thunderchild passed away early Saturday morning after a battle with COVID-19.

He was 55-years-old.

Thunderchild was well known in the Prince Albert area for his commitment to students, his Indigenous heritage and the Cree language.

He taught at Prince Albert’s Carlton Comprehensive High School for close to 30 years.

Sheryl Kimbley, a close family friend, said Thunderchild touched many students during his three decades as a teacher.

“Victor has a string of people behind him that you can’t even imagine,” she said. “That he just smiled at. That he just put a hand on their shoulder and said, ‘You’re going to be okay. What do you need?’ He was that person for these students wandering the big halls of Carlton.”

She added Thunderchild always found ways to include his Indigenous heritage as part of his teaching.

“His traditional values, his culture was so important to him. He was really involved heavily in making something that Carlton was focusing on as well with the powwow that they did. And with his grandchildren also. Putting that (culture) into their lives was important to him.”

Last fall, Thunderchild spearheaded a project to teach Cree to kindergarten students at John Diefenbaker Public School in Prince Albert.

In an emailed statement, the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division said, ” SRPSD was stricken to learn of the passing of Victor Thunderchild. Our condolences go out to Victor’s family, friends and the many, many people he has influenced throughout his life. Victor was a much-loved teacher and counsellor at Carlton Comprehensive Public High School for 29 years; he was a leader and supporter of many division-wide efforts and was an integral part of the wider community as well. He will be deeply missed.”

On Monday and Tuesday, Carlton Comprehensive asked community members to wear a ribbon skirt, shirt or hockey jersey as a way of honouring Thunderchild, who was a Montreal Canadiens fan.

After contracting COVID-19 from what he believed was the workplace, Thunderchild was critical of Premier Scott Moe and the provincial government for not considering teachers as front-line workers and not prioritizing the profession for vaccinations.

While in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital earlier this month, he called out the government over the matter on Twitter.

The family has returned to his home community of the Thunderchild First Nation for wake and funeral services and another service is expected in Prince Albert sometime this coming weekend.

Victor Thunderchild is survived by his wife Violet, children Jeremy, Renee and Ryanda and mother Mary Thunderchild.

(PHOTO: Victor Thunderchild. File photo.)