Close to 600 elementary students will be recognized over the next several weeks for outstanding achievements in academics, service and stewardship of creation.
The first of the award recipients visited the Father Kennedy Catholic Education Centre on May 1 for the annual presentation of the Director’s Awards, held in the first floor boardroom.
Indulging his inner teacher, Director of Education David Hansen took the opportunity to provide students and their family members with a quick lesson on school board governance.
“When you hear people talk about the board – the board’s building a new school, the board’s purchasing iPads – this is where those decisions are made.”
Gesturing to the trustee nameplates around the table, Hansen explained that trustees are elected to make those decisions on behalf of parents. Also seated at the table are the Director and Associate Director Paola Pace-Gubekjian who are hired by the trustees to carry out the work of the board.
“And how do we do that? There are only two of us,” probed Hansen. “Well, we have 4,000 people – EAs, teachers, principals, caretakers and others – who work with us to make that happen.”
“So if you missed Social Studies or Civics today, you just got the low down on how our system of government works at the school board level.”
Playing on the governance theme, in the absence of the Board Chairperson, the Director asked award recipient Thea to substitute and “gavel us into the official meeting this afternoon.”
With two quick raps, the group moved into the meeting’s main agenda – the presentation of the awards.
The ceremony recognized excellence in four categories, starting with the “Catholic School Mission/Vision” award, presented to a student who models the virtues of Catholic education, specifically, working for and promoting a more just, caring and peaceful school community. The next award – for “Excellent Effort in the Pursuit of Learning” – was given to a student who demonstrates personal responsibility in the pursuit of learning and strives for continuous improvement, while the “Stewardship of Creation/Environmental Award” acknowledged student efforts in creating a greener and more environmentally sustainable school community.
The final award category recognized academic proficiency in the subject areas of Arts, Religion & Family Life, Language, Science/Technology, Mathematics, Social Studies/History/Geography, Health & Physical Education, and French as a Second Language.
Twelve students from each school in total received awards.
Addressing the student award recipients, Hansen stressed that if there was one take-away from the day, it was that the awards are “an absolute big deal.”
“This isn’t just about coming here and having a nice afternoon off school and getting a certificate. This is your principals and teachers identifying you as examples of excellence at your schools. That’s why this is a big deal.”
Noting that it’s important to not only recognize excellence, but to have role models to look up to, the Director challenged the students to continue to model excellence at their schools.
“I said earlier that these awards are a big deal. So, if they’re a big deal, you have to go back to your school and be thankful to those who got you here – your teachers and your parents. Then you need to be an example to your classmates back at your school. Because that’s what excellence is.”
“You are models for the students back at your school and you have to deliver on that,” said Hansen. “And I know you absolutely will.”
In final comments to parents, he talked about the special promise of Catholic education.
Referencing the 1,700 students who begin Kindergarten each year, Hansen said that every one of their parents expect that their children will complete their educational journey, graduate high school and go off and be a success in the world. The majority of students do achieve that, he added, proudly citing the board’s 90% graduation rate.
“That’s a high academic achievement,” he noted.
“But we deliver something beyond that.”
He recounted the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who encountered a stranger. It was Jesus but the disciples didn’t recognize him until much later when, at dinner, he paused to break bread. “Were not our hearts burning within us on the road when he was opening the scripture to us,” said the men after his departure.
“So what we do promise as a school system is that even if our students don’t recognize Jesus, the encounter with him will be daily and their hearts will be burning inside them,” said Hansen.
“And isn’t that what you want from a Catholic school?”
He invited parents to share their input into the board’s multi-year strategic plan through an online survey that will launch on May 6.
“I hope you’ll participate in building our strategic plan that looks on us delivering that part,” said Hansen. “Because we’ll deliver the academics, but we for sure want to deliver on the encounter with Jesus.”