For nine years the Avon Maitland District School Board has honoured individuals with the ‘Always Learning Awards’. The awards recognize outstanding contributions to the Board and education and were initiated by trustees as a way of acknowledging members of the whole school community: staff, students, parents, volunteers, community members.
The purpose of the awards is to honour those who make an outstanding contribution towards the achievement of one or more aspects of the Board’s Strategic Plan.
Recipients of the Always Learning Awards 2016 are:
Bill Shalinsky (Doctor Shalinsky) is an 87 year old retired university professor that has been devoting many hours every week for well over 10 years to the students in Goderich. He began volunteering at Victoria Public School and made the move with everyone else when it closed and became Goderich Public School. I currently teach grade 6 at Goderich Public School. Bill has been volunteering in my class for 5 years and has worked with many teachers before that. Bill walks across town almost every day to spend 3 periods helping the students in my class. Although his eye sight is diminishing, and he cannot drive, you will see him walking rain, snow or shine to school to offer help.
Bill and his late wife retired in Goderich many years ago. He brought with him a lifetime of experiences from world travel, teaching at several universities including the University of Waterloo as well as offering university courses abroad. His love for teaching has luckily filtered into our school system and he has become a valued member of our school community.
On a daily basis Bill works with a variety of children in my class. Students love to work with him and have formed lasting bonds. His insight into their learning styles, struggles and gifts has been invaluable to their success. Sometimes simply the one to one conversations and help he offers a student or the ear he is willing to lend, is exactly what they need, not only academically but emotionally and mentally as well. The students in my class have certainly benefitted from working in small groups with Bill. I’ve witnessed students with very little confidence, who struggle academically improve their outcomes dramatically with his continued help. In fact students love him so much, that they often plead to work with him and still like to see him well after they’ve left grade 6.
Throughout the years Bill has helped support teachers with their language, math, science and social studies programs and has even taught Hebrew to some of our Jewish students. Some days his support may be as simple as sitting with a student and playing a great game of chess. Regardless of the topic of study, Goderich Public School and the Avon Maitland Board of Education certainly benefitted the day Bill and his wife decided to make this community their home.
Bill is an inspiration to all of us at GPS. The students certainly benefit from the academic, emotional and social support Bill provides but they also benefit from seeing the joy that is gained by Bill himself as a volunteer who gives his time, knowledge, support and love to a community of children. Bill loves working with the students as much as they love working with him. He lost his wife last year, his eye sight is nearly gone, his home was severely damaged in the tornado, and he’s 87 years old. In spite of all this, his commitment to the students has never waivered. Bill Shalinsky is a shining example to our school community that we have great things to give of ourselves to others no matter who we are, or what the time, place or circumstance may be.
Bill is truly remarkable. He Engages, Inspires, Innovates, and is Always Learning. An absolute gift to AMDSB.
Felicia Featherstone Breckon and Jason Brodhagen
Felicia Featherstone Breckon (teacher) and Jason Brodhagen (educational assistant) exemplify the strategic Avon Maitland Board’s Plan priorities of creating a positive inclusive learning environment and maximizing student outcomes. Felicia and Jason focus on what students can do. They model and teach empathy and created a classroom environment that adopts attitudes of valuing and including others.
Jason, an educational assistant, has worked with a young student diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins for over five years. This child was non-verbal and had difficulty developmentally, physically and academically. This child is now in Felicia’s class and Jason is the EA assigned to the classroom. Felicia and Jason have created a cohesive team that puts the academic needs of all the children in the forefront of what they do. They have ensured that all class members are involved in helping to create a meaningful inclusive environment. They believe that all students can contribute to group collaboration and let the students lead the way.
Felicia keeps the expectations for student high and differentiates all lessons to ensure that students have access to curriculum appropriate to their individual needs. Felicia and Jason are amazing role models and openly advocate for inclusion. Felicia guides the professional team, seeking to improve inclusion practices. They ensure that all learning opportunities are accessible for all. When they were looking into Forest School excursions, Felicia and Jason went out to the site to ensure that everything was in place and to tailor the program to ensure success for all.
Our young student with Pitt Hopkins now talks, socializes with his friends, only uses his wheel chair for long trips and accesses curriculum to his fullest potential. Felicia and Jason are a dynamic team who continue to make things happen for all children.
Felicia and Jason are deserving of this award for so many reasons. The impact of their positive e attitude and dedication has far reaching and powerful effects on all of our staff and students. We are proud to nominate Felicia and Jason for this prestigious award.
Karri Anne Cameron and Teresa Farrell Becker
Karri Anne Cameron and Teresa Farrell Becker are co-chairs of an outstanding campaign—Building Bridges to our Future. This campaign is in support of three projects being shared by Maitland River Elementary School and F.E. Madill Secondary School. These projects when combined will create outstanding and accessible outdoor athletic, playground, and learning facilities for students in these schools, for sports teams and for individuals and groups in the community.
In order to accomplish their goal they have dedicated many hours to collaborating with many to build the vision, revise it as needed, to inspire others to commit their time, to plan fundraisers, to carry them out, to seek and apply for grants, to encourage community organizations and municipal councils to contribute financially, and to spread their message via social media.
On April 30, 2016 Building Bridges to the Future will be holding a gala and auction in support of this campaign. This project alone is award worthy. All 300 tickets have been sold. By forming sub-committees, and then overseeing each one, Karri Anne and Teresa have accomplished a lot. They have gathered sponsorships, live and silent auction items, and raffle baskets. Too dinner plans are in place, students helpers are organized, and guest speakers are set to go. The monies from this particular fundraiser will be used to enhance the track at F. E. Madill. One of the guest speakers will be Julie Sawchuk, F. E. Madill teacher and coach, who was hit while cycling last summer and is now learning to live life from a wheelchair. This project was unexpectedly injected with a huge dose of inspiration and passion when she could be pictured coaching from the new accessible track. The theme of the gala is “making connections”. It is so fitting.
Karri Anne and Teresa have inspired many, are innovative, and are creating positive and inclusive learning environments. The projects are not finished, but they have already enhanced two schools and an entire community by creating a web of deep and long lasting visionary relationships. Too all the awhile, they have demonstrated determination and optimism.
To learn more about their work please visit: http://www.bb2f.com
Mary Sanderson daily embodies the Mission Statement of the AMDSB. She creates an atmosphere in her classroom that is engaging and caring. She truly expects and believes that her students can meet her high expectations. She then supports her students so they are able to meet the expectations. She not only has high expectations for her students, but also for herself. She has continued to be excited about new learning, and her enthusiasm for learning inspires her students and fellow staff.
Mary has a deep appreciation for the arts and the natural environment and she uses her passion to create inquiries that are engaging and accessible to all students. One example is how she uses the study of slugs to support students as they learn how to write non-fiction reports. She brings slugs into a classroom aquarium so that the students can observe the slugs, confirming that what they read about slugs is true. She provides a rasp and wood so the students can make a connection to how slugs eat. Students move like slugs in gym. They research slugs and write a report. Finally, Mary integrates drama, art and language by having the students create a slug costume which they wear when they present their report. The children are excited to learn more about a creature they see in their world, all the while learning how to read and write non-fiction reports.
Mary loves to learn. She continues to search out new ways to introduce curriculum content to her class, even as she comes to the last months of her teaching career. This year, the Primary division has been exploring 3-part lessons and researching Marion Small’s work. Mary discovered a new way of teaching subtraction. She excitedly shared her new learning with her colleagues and then worked with her grade partner to develop a 3-part lesson around this strategy. Not only does she explore new strategies, she reflects and shares her learning. This collaboration allows the entire division, or staff group to add to their teaching knowledge.
We believe that Mary Sanderson embodies our Mission Statement. She is engaged, she inspires and she innovates…she is always learning. Please consider Mary Sanderson for the Always Learning Award. Her exemplary teaching career should be celebrated.
Please see the attached letters of support from Christine Wright, teacher at Howick, and Tamara Schumacher, parent at Howick Central Public School.
The first game of the season is always exciting for my players. There are nerves and much anticipated competition. Bus rides to games can cause nerves to build, but when you walk out to your bus and see that it’s Bryan as your driver, the nerves seem to dissipate. Bryan greets my players like he’s known them their whole lives. He knows their names, learns their positions and is helpful in many ways. I have had students forget snacks, mouth guards, umbrellas, sunscreen and other various items – all of which Bryan manages to find a way to get whatever was lost or forgotten.
Many players have parents who work full-time and cannot come see a single game all season. Bryan is the ‘parent’ on the sideline that is there for all of the players. Rain or shine, he’s there with positive encouragement. In recent years, he has been known to attend home games – these are days where his services as a bus driver are not necessary, but he makes time for what he calls ‘his teams’. Seeing him on the sidelines of a home game is really special. He truly values our students and the community. There are days when the competition can be more than expected. I’ve seen my players walk toward the bus with slumped shoulders. I’ve had a goalie who was on the verge of tears as they climbed those steps onto the bus, not wanting to face the teammates they feel they let down. At some point, on those three steps up, they come face to face with Bryan who offers them a humorous one-liner that eases the mood. Bryan helps put the game in perspective by reminding the players of their victory the week before, and that getting that bad game out of the way means there won’t be another one later in the season.
What students at Elma and LDSS say about Bryan: “He is happy, kind, very patient, funny and charismatic!”
“He has tarps and blankets when it is raining.” “He gives us donuts and oranges for our games.” “Bryan talks to us about the game – he is part of our TEAM.” He gets us there on time and safely.”
Bryan is a bus driver who teaches our students what it means to be a kind, thoughtful and respectful member of the community. He builds character in our students and inspires them to be good citizens. He goes above and beyond his call of duty and the students genuinely admire him.
Della Carroll-Smith is employed at Murphy Bus Lines’ Mitchell Location as Transportation Manager. Della is responsible for the home to school routes and drivers assigned to the Mitchell Location. In addition, Della commits to bring forth new training topics to engage and inspire our drivers. She collaborates with community partners to create a positive, innovative learning environment.
Most recently, the 8/36 School Bus Operators Association, which Murphy Bus Lines is a member of, was asked by the Huron Perth Student Services Transportation (HPSTS) to design a training program. This training program was to include a ‘mock’ emergency evacuation for Specialized Education Route Drivers and education on ‘inclusion’. Without hesitation, Della committed to create, design, and instruct this program on behalf of the Association.
The program was designed with the community in mind. Della reached out to the Local Fire Department, Emergency Management Services, Community Emergency Management Coordinators, and Action Health Care to collaborate their involvement in the training. Todd McKone, Fire Prevention Officer, presented Fire Safety and Training on Fire Extinguishers. Each driver was able to practice putting out a fire with an extinguisher. EMS and EMC spoke about their services and everyone’s role in emergency situations involving school vehicles. Action Health provided the 5-6 different styles of wheelchairs so the drivers could practice how to safely evacuate a person out of each wheelchair. Along with the community members, Della brought in used seat belts and seat belt cutters for drivers to practice cutting. An in class section included information on safely, professionally, and correctly transporting students with specialized needs. Various seat harnesses, booster seats, and seat belt safety locks were discussed and tested. To conclude the program, a ‘Rescue Randy’ life size (180lb) training ‘dummy’ was brought in so that drivers could practice lifting and moving him in an emergency evacuation mock setting. Della instructed this program (1:20) to the drivers of all the bus companies that service HPSTS.
Della also provided the training program to the Educational Assistants of the AMDSB during their P.A. Activity Day. Educational Assistants can be employed as a Monitor on school vehicles and assist with loading and unloading students. As well, the program was expanded to include all drivers of all routes. Drivers of Full-Size Buses now support inclusion of students with specialized needs. Some routes are assigned Full Size Buses with Wheelchair access and routes stop to include students with wheelchairs.
Della supports the AMDSB Strategic Plan through commitment to safe, student inclusion. She designs training programs for school bus drivers and educational assistants based on the Mission, Priorities and Core Principles of AMDSB. Della takes into account the value this program has on the community and the families being transport by ensuring drivers support inclusion and have the tools to handle emergency situations. Della’s innovative, hands on training program supports the Boards Strategic Plan by inspiring and engaging all participants.
Please visit https://youtu.be/h_pS6dl_p0k to view a clip of the training program
Cathy has been a teacher at Downie Central Public School until a sudden, and life threatening, illness forced her to suspend her career. As a colleague of hers, I always marvelled at how she could mould her students into responsible and caring individuals through her innovative teaching methods, as well as her personal example. I would often keep an eye open on events in her classroom to witness what was transpiring there, and I was proud to consider her my mentor.
Cathy and her grade 8 students could always be counted on to spearhead events that took place at Downie Central, which helped create a positive atmosphere in the entire school community. Spirit Days, Remembrance Services, Spring Festivals, and elaborate Graduation Celebrations were organized under her expert guidance, and always engaged, inspired, and maximized students outcomes in the process. During Spirit Days, which were organized in the first few weeks of September when school team building was essential, Cathy would ask each of her Grade Eight students to take a leadership role in the planning and running of their particular fun filled event. The students felt valued and respected, and that certainly showed as they accepted each team to their event, ranging from kindergarten age to grade seven. This was not just a fun, afternoon off from their studies however. Cathy produced creative learning environments in everything she did, in and outside of the classroom. It was always done in a way that maximized student outcomes no matter what the student’s intellectual ability was. She would value each child, and wouldn’t accept anything less than their full potential, and they became aware of that quickly. Cathy was a leader among the staff, as well as the entire school community, and she would fiercely stand up to any injustice that would affect the well-being of her students. When her graduates moved on to higher education at the end of June, we all knew that they had a step up on others, due in a large part to Cathy and her efforts during their last year of elementary school.
I’m sure the children miss Cathy just as much as she misses them, and I can’t think of a better Person to receive an Always Learning Award than her.
Ron Burt and Bob Pike
All school boards in Ontario are required to have an Audit Committee (AC), which is a standing committee of the Board of Trustees. ACs were mandated by the Ministry of Education in September 2010 with the primary purpose of assisting the Board of Trustees in fulfilling its duties related to financial governance and oversight. ACs consist of Trustee members as well as external, community volunteers with financial training and expertise.
Avon Maitland DSB has included external members in its AC structure in 2004, long before mandated by the Ministry of Education. Since this time, we have had the good fortune of having two, long-standing volunteer AC members: Mr. Ron Burt and Mr. Bob Pike.
Ron, a public practice accountant from Goderich Ontario, first joined the Avon Maitland AC in September 2006. Bob, a retired accountant from Wingham, Ontario, joined the committee in June 2009. Among other things, over the years these gentlemen, without compensation, have:
Been part of the local implementation of the provincial AC mandate
- Attended Ministry provided training and numerous meetings each year
- Supported the AC during the implementation of the Internal Audit structure
- Continually provided financial expertise during the review of external audit plans and financial statements
- Provided valuable insight into the role of the AC, from the broader community’s perspective
- Supported yet professionally challenged committee members colleagues and board staff
We value the financial expertise and “real-world” perspective that Ron and Bob bring to our AC. Their ongoing commitment to Avon Maitland DSB supports the AC members, board staff and the Board of Trustees as we endeavor to meet our fiduciary responsibilities. We believe that the important work that Ron and Bob take part in, help us achieve our Principle to “Create a culture of sustainability in support of our strategic priorities through the alignment of environment, social and financial resources”.
Fred Valdez is an exemplary teacher who has created positive, inclusive learning environments for the students of the NEXUS program over the past decade at LDSS (“an alternative education program which helps you discover your potential and build a bright future“.) He establishes an inclusive environment in class with help from Choices For Change, the Perth District Health Unit, Community Constable Dekoning and the Huron-Perth Centre. With their help he has developed a safe learning environment for students that may deal with many life issues. Fred developed a NEXUS App. He innovatively worked with the owner and president of Appsmakers Canada to develop the App, and he is also involved with the NEXUS website maintenance and development.
In valuing our community, Fred has worked with community volunteers such as the North Perth Hospice, to further understand some mental health disorders. He has developed an excellent relationship with Partners For Employment to help students learn course expectations from budgeting, customer service and “Yes I Can Workshop”. Fred always tries to include young moms in the program and works with community members (Early Years Centre, Youth For Christ), to develop and deliver parenting life skills courses.
Mr. Valdez truly values the students in his programs and beyond, as well as staff, families and the community. He has a passion for coaching and refereeing soccer, futsal, and tennis, at school and in the Wingham community. Mr. Valdez is an extraordinary coach being very committed and dedicated to both students and athletes. He inspires us to maintain our academic goals, be good citizens, and become the best athletes that we can be, thereby maximizing student outcomes. He sacrifices both time and money to ensure that we thrive both on and off the soccer field. Mr. Valdez teaches us life lessons that can be applied to both sportsmanship and future careers. He prioritizes his team and time by always attending and being committed to early morning soccer practices (he arrives at 6 am for the 6:30 am practice). Mr. Valdez is very inclusive as he allows anyone to tryout, and he is very encouraging by always trying to improve the team and individuals. Outside of the school soccer season, he goes above and beyond to be engaged year round with the students. We believe Mr. Valdez would be an excellent choice for the Always Learning award.
Paula is a much-loved member of the St. Marys DCVI community. She is an integral part of the behavior and growth plan for several students with complex needs. Her genuine care, compassion and concern for all students, especially those who benefit from a caring adult in their lives, is always apparent in her kind and encouraging words to them.
Paula always makes the effort to learn all students’ names and make connections with those students who have special needs so that she can contribute to their development. She will often take the time to sit and talk with a student who may often eat alone in the cafeteria. Paula models respect for all and will often share her own personal finances to help students who many not have enough to eat. She is an important supporter of the DCVI Breakfast of Champions, which is a celebration of students who demonstrate excellent citizenship in their classes.
Paula works closely with the Administration, Learning and Student Services teams to communicate concerns that may arise for students in need. She models the principles of character and equity that are highlighted in the AMDSB Strategic Plan every day she works at St. Marys DCVI.
As the student leader of St. Marys DCVI Inclusion team, Bailey Wiffen works tirelessly toward making her school a more inclusive place to learn. She has been an effective leader, who has mobilized her peers and teachers towards impressive change in the DCVI learning community.
Her team created two influential videos that have garnered international acclaim for Avon Maitland District School Board and St. Marys DCVI and more importantly, the challenging work of moving schools to becoming more inclusive. The work of her team has been recognized by Premier Wynne. Several leading advocacy groups follow her Twitter feed that highlights her work and learning.
Bailey has also spearheaded a 30 Day Challenge campaign, through presenting at student assemblies which include the AMDSB Learning Together Student Symposium, Little Falls Public School, South Perth Centennial School and St. Marys DCVI. The campaign where Bailey asked her peers, teachers and community leaders “to make one small or one big change towards making their community more inclusive”, lead her to be asked to speak to the Town of St. Marys Accessibility committee, the St. Marys Industry Group, and the Board of Directors of the company that she has a part time job.
Bailey has chosen a cooperative learning placement at St. Marys DCVI where she supports students with complex needs in mainstream classes as a peer mentor. She models for her fellow students and teachers, an inclusive mindset and respect for all individuals in her community. Each day, Bailey inspires others through her impressive commitment to the values and efforts needed to build a positive, inclusive school.
I am thrilled to nominate Ian Dekker for the Always Learning Award. Ian teaches Grade 5 at Exeter Elementary School, and he has quickly developed an exemplary rapport with his students.
Mr. Dekker seeks opportunities to be innovative in his approach to learning. He uses the latest technology and hands on learning opportunities to engage all students and enhance their learning. Students with diverse social and learning needs thrive in his classroom. He willingly supports fellow teachers in new areas of technology and works closely with the Educational Assistant in his classroom to implement the best practices possible.
Ian has been instrumental in creating an inclusive and engaging community within his classroom. Thinking beyond the scope of the curriculum, Ian ensures each of his students feel empowered and valued. This in turn has created a classroom community where students feel genuinely concerned for each other and want the best for one another. Students in Mr. Dekker’s classroom rallied together to support one of their fellow classmates. Hunter, who has Cerebral Palsy, has a dream of throwing the first pitch at a Blue Jays baseball game. Ian acted as a catalyst in supporting his students’ innovative ideas to help Hunter achieve his goal. From writing persuasive letters, to tweeting the Blue Jays and even being on CTV news, Mr. Dekker and his students were determined to make this dream a reality! All of their hard work paid off, and Mr. Dekker was thrilled to announce to his class that Hunter has been invited to throw the first pitch at a game in June. Hunter, his family, all students in 5D along with the rest of the junior division at EES, will get an opportunity to watch one of their own live his dream. In addition, Hunter and his classmates will also get an opportunity to take part in the Blue Jays Hall of Fame induction in St. Mary’s.
Thanks to Mr. Dekker, his students have learned an invaluable lesson that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. They feel confident that they can do anything they put their minds to and that they have the ability to empower people and make a difference in the lives of others. Ian Dekker is an outstanding example of how one person can leave a lasting imprint in the lives of students.
Service Recognition Awards
Each year at the Awards Presentation the Board also recognizes employees for their years of service. Celebrating these milestones in service by staff was initiated by trustees in 2007.
Employees at every 5 years of service, 5, 10 and 15 years, are recognized at the school level, while those who have served 20+ years are recognized at the district level at this event. It is the Board’s way of showing how much it values the long term commitment and contribution of our staff.
40 Years of Service
- Nancy Aitchison, FE Madill SS
35 Years of Service
- Nancy Skinner, Listowel Eastdale PS (pictured below)
- Sylvia Richardson, South Perth Centennial PS
- Linda Wray, Goderich PS
- Diane Yausie, Mitchell District HS
30 Years of Service
- David Allely, Hamlet PS
- Tracy Bean, Goderich PS
- Wendy Case, Education Centre
- Cheryl Chapman, Hamlet PS
- Jo-Dee DesJardine
- Sandra Fremlin-Skinner, South Huron District HS
- Leah Anne Goody, Listowel District SS
- Mary Ann Hogan, Goderich PS
- Lloyd Renecker, Avon PS
- Mary Sanderson, Howick Central PS
- Joan Shapton, Bluewater Coast ES
- Mary Vink, Upper Thames ES
25 Years of Service
- Wendy Armstrong-Gibson, North Woods PS
- Kimberley Boon, Romeo PS
- Laurel Carroll-Walls, Downie Central PS
- Ruth Claessens, Listowel District SS
- Lesley Clarke, Goderich PS
- Michelle Clarke Ellison, Mitchell District HS
- Mary Lynn Cook-McEwen, Learning Services, Ed Centre
- Katharina Coolman, South Huron District HS
- Gary Coursey, Exeter PS
- Steven Curtis, Shakespeare PS
- Sheila Dietrich, Goderich District CI
- Joanne Elliott, St. Marys District CVI
- Karen Frayne, Goderich PS
- Darlene Fisk, Howick Central PS
- Lynn Gibson, Milverton PS
- Diane Grail, Goderich PS
- Larry Grail, Brookside PS
- Lynda Hemming, Stratford Northwestern SS
- John Herbert, St. Marys District CVI
- Judy Hoffmeyer, Learning Resources Centre
- Denise Kane, Romeo PS
- Sara Kinsman, Maitland River ES
- Elizabeth Lagerwerf, Stratford Central SS
- Graham Leitch, Stratford Central SS
- Kimberley Littleton, South Perth Centennial PS
- Michael Lobb, Seaforth PS
- Ruth Lovell, Sprucedale PS
- Janet MacIntyre, Bluewater Coast ES
- Victoria McDonald, Listowel District SS
- Cheryl McPhee, Elma Twp PS
- Elaine Merner, Huron-Perth Transportation Services
- Scott Mitchell, Listowel District SS
- Helen Orr, Bedford PS
- Barbara Pepper, Huron Centennial PS
- John Power, Bluewater Coast ES
- Marilyn Purcell, Listowel District SS
- Marsha Purvis, South Perth Centennail PS
- Julie Pyke, FE Madill SS
- Susanne Ramsay, Mornington Central PS
- Christine Ritsma, Stratford Northwestern SS
- Lori-Ann Shurgold, Stratford Northwestern SS
- Jennifer Smith, Learning Resources Centre
- Patricia Taylor, Sprucedale PS
- Denise Tedesco, Maitland River ES
- Kimberly Thomas, Avon PS
- Marcia Tweddle, Downie Central PS
- Loretta Wagler, Hamlet PS
- Morag Watt, Hullett Cental PS
- Kimberly Wagner, Hamlet PS
- Christine Wilkinson, North Easthope PS
- Christine Wright, Howick Central PS
- Andrea Yantzi, Sprucedale PS
- Frederick, Yundt, Mitchell District HS
Please see the Recognition Programme for a complete list of names. We wish all our retirees all the very best in their retirement.