James Kostuchuk is a teacher at Portage Collegiate Institute and recently won the Lieutenant Governor's Award and received it last week at the Government House in Winnipeg.

It was an award for historic preservation and promotion, and was created by both the Lieutenant Governor and the Manitoba Historical Society around 10 years ago, and the purpose of the award is to acknowledge citizens of Manitoba who have made a significant contribution to the preservation and promotion of the province's history.

Kostuchuk shares the criteria that caused him to be selected.

"It would be a long service in a variety of different areas," notes Kostuchuk. "Since I moved to Portage of Prairie, now 30 years ago, I've been involved with the local Heritage Committee, I think, for over 20 years, and I've been involved in making videos, writing articles, putting up signs, advising council -- just a whole host of different activities that happen in the course of your career."

He says there were also several things that he accomplished in that field while working with history as a teacher.

Kostuchuk explains what it felt like to be notified of the award.

"I was really surprised," continues Kostuchuk. "I found out about a month ago and I had to keep it under wraps. Change doesn't happen without opportunity and support. And I've had both of those things in Portage la Prairie. The school division has always assisted me to do the things that I enjoy doing. The municipal governments have always found opportunities for me to do things related to heritage. So, I'm very fortunate that I live in Portage la Prairie, and I think that's probably one of the main reasons that I was able to do so many things that I've been able to do."

Kostuchuk says he received the call about the award over the summer and notes the ceremony was very small due to COVID restrictions, which was actually very meaningful to him.

"It was basically just family and Her Honour Janice Filmon and, of course, her husband Gary Filmon. They were terrific hosts. One of the things that she did that's different to some of the other awards, is that there isn't a medal associated with it. She will be coming to Portage la Prairie at some point to plant a tree. And I like that metaphor -- to put down roots and build something that will last and endure long after we're gone. I really find that a powerful metaphor."

He says the tree-planting location is currently being determined with both the city and Lieutenant Governor's office.

"The tree, interestingly, is actually a Portage la Prairie tree," notes Kostuchuk. "It was designed here. The Unity Maple tree. It was the first maple tree that was designed to grow in all 10 provinces, so it's kind of a special tree for Canada. But it's also really special for people in Portage la Prairie, because it's a tree that was developed right in our city."

He says he wants it to be planted in a site where people could enjoy it, and it also has to be on public space.

Kostuchuk adds the ceremony took place in the Government House, one of the only resident royal residences in Canada that are actually lived in.

He notes many of them had become something like a museum, but the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba actually lives in it.