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February is known as the month of love and friendship. There is no better model of this to look towards than Mary, the mother of Jesus, whom our school is named after.  Mary, like any mother, loved Jesus:  she cared for him, fed and clothed him, and worried about him when they lost Him for three days. We can choose to be like Mary by caring for others around us.  Each month students who complete Acts of Kindness have their name put in a draw.  Pink Shirt Day takes place on February 27 this year. This day came about because of an act of kindness done by a few teenage boys in Nova Scotia. They saw that a grade nine student was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt and so they purchased a bunch of pink tank tops. The story was featured on the news and it has now become an international day and the pink shirt is a symbol of kindness. For students and parents who need a shirt, we will be selling shirts for 15$ as the theme this year is Choose Kindness.

Pink Shirt Day 2019 Design

Another quality that Mary demonstrates is being a great friend.  When the angel Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant and needed help, Mary immediately left to help her.  Even though Mary was pregnant and the trip was about ninety miles on a rocky, hilly road, she didn’t hesitate to help out.  While there she for three months she helped with household chores and with the birth of the baby.  Not only does Mary model for us what to do, but the School Act also says that students shall contribute positively to the school and community and behave in a manner that is welcoming, caring, and respectful. To help instill those qualities in our students we are working with students in grades 3-5 to help develop their friendship skills.  Currently we have three groups running where students are learning about positive qualities in friends and skills to help with situations that come up in the course of a day like playing a game, joining in, sharing, apologizing or expressing feelings. We are trying to instill in students some of the qualities Mary demonstrated, such as, compassion, consideration, courage, and perseverance.

A third quality of Mary is that she is a problem solver and takes action when needed.  At the wedding feast of Cana Mary saw that the wine had run out and she went to Jesus and interceded on behalf of the newlyweds. She told the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do and Jesus worked his first public miracle by turning the water into wine.  We want our students to be a problem solver like Mary.  To assist with this, we are blessed to have Alison Luxe from Alberta Health Services presenting to all our students about how to be a problem solver.  Alison uses the acronym “APIE” for the process.  First students must Assess the problem, then they make a Plan to solve it, next they Implement the plan and finally they Evaluate how it went.  If it didn’t work then they go back to the Assess stage and try again.  Alison works through the model with the students by giving them some problems to solve and we are using the same model in our friendship skills groups. This is a model that you can use with your children at home too.

Mary the problem solver.

This month I’d like to challenge our community to follow Mary’s example by demonstrating kindness.  Random Acts of Kindness Day #RAKDay is celebrated on February 17. Personally I do not like the word “Random” when talking about acts of kindness as Merriam Webster defines it as “lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern”. Instead, they should to be “Planned” or “Intentional” as we put thought into being kind to others. During February, plan to Share your Bounty by planning and performing at least one act of kindness each week. #PAKMonth

Here are 10 ideas to get you started doing Planned Acts of Kindness during the month of February:

Hold the door open for someone.

Leave kind notes around the school or the house.

Pick up trash or litter.

Compliment someone.

Sit with someone new at lunch.

Collect books for the library.

Clean up without being asked.

Write inspirational chalk messages on the sidewalk.

If we get some, shovel snow for a neighbor.

Smile at everyone. It is contagious.

Mary our Model for OLA


Mary showed complete trust in God by agreeing to be used as an instrument in his plan of salvation. She trusted him in spite of her nothingness because she knew he who is mighty could do great things in her and through her. Once she said ‘yes’ to him, she never doubted. She was just a young woman, but she belonged to God and nothing nor anyone could separate her from him.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta

At our Professional Development Day on December 3 we spent some time looking at our code of conduct and have decided that, as we are Our Lady of the Assumption School, we should be looking towards Mary as our model of conduct.  The dogma of the Immaculate Conception tells of that Mary was born without sin and lived a life of holiness full of grace.  Who better to try to emulate than Mary, the first and best disciple. 

Mary’s life was not always easy but it was her faith and belief in God that allowed her to continue on, even when she was suffering. Mary was open to God’s will and said yes to being the mother of Jesus.  The angel Gabriel told her that her Son would be the Savior. Imagine not knowing what the child of God would be like?  How would Joseph react to the news? Would her parents and neighbors gossip about and scorn her, a pregnant and unmarried woman? How hard would it be raise a son knowing that he would be criticized and crucified for our salvation? It took courage for her to trust God even when things were uncertain.

Mothers are models of love and while Mary loved and looked after her own child, she also demonstrated love for others throughout her life.  When the angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was pregnant, even though Mary was pregnant herself, she quickly made the trip to go help her. During the wedding of Cana when the wine ran out it was Mary who went to Jesus and asked for His help. Mary follows Jesus’ command to love others as she selflessly loved her family, friends and neighbors.

As we start a new year, let us give thanks to Mary for without her there is no Jesus and no salvation for our sins. This year, let us try to follow in Mary’s footsteps by being open to God’s will, trusting in Him and loving God and others. Two things we can do each day are to take some time to thank God for the blessings he has given us and to continue to share our blessings with others. I am thankful for all our families who brought in socks to support our Advent campaign.  It is just another example of how generous our school community is in Sharing their Bounty with others. Your efforts will bring comfort to others throughout the coming year. The school community is already following Mary’s example and doing things for others without expecting something in return.  I challenge you to try to do this on a daily basis in the coming year. It is a huge task to strive for and we can pray to Mary our mother to intercede on our behalf. Have a blessed and safe holiday.  Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  • Mary, you obeyed the call of God. Teach us to listen.
  • Mary, you carried the sacred in your words. Teach us to respect life.
  • Mary, you loved and followed your Son, Jesus. Teach us to live in love as Jesus commands.
  • Mary, you called Jesus to help others at Cana. Teach us to reach out to others.
  • Mary, you stood at the foot of the cross. Teach us hope, even in darkness.

It’s hard to believe that we have reached December, Advent and a new liturgical year. I was amazed when I walked into the Dollar Store in late October to get those last minute parts of my Halloween costume to see the Christmas section already up and dwarfing the Halloween section. Advent is supposed to be a time of quiet, joyful preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We can get lost in all the hustle, bustle, and commercialization of the Christmas season, and are so busy preparing our homes and ourselves that we forget to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ. For all of the Christmas cheer and joyful celebrations, this time of the year can also be one of the loneliest. What if you do not have any family or friends around? What if you cannot afford even the tiniest gift? What if you do not have a home? We can prepare our hearts by following Jesus’ commandment to Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34). We can show our love to others through Sharing our Bounty.

This Advent season at OLA we are going to be witnesses to our faith through serving others by sharing our time, treasure and talents in a variety of ways. Staff is supporting Catholic Central’s Santa’s Anonymous program by donating toys for the families. Each week our students will be sharing their time and talent at our Advent celebrations. Please come join in our celebrations which take place the first day of the week at 9:00 am. We are also asking students to Share their Bounty this advent season by following the example of Ella Tyron and giving comfort to others. When Ella was hospitalized in 2016 she turned to one of her favorite activities: coloring.  She discovered that the hospital could not maintain a supply of crayons and coloring books due to cross-contamination concerns.  With the help of her mom, Ella started the Help Color Me a Rainbow project and has solicited donations and has donated thousands of crayons and hundreds of coloring books to hospitals. We are asking students to give comfort to others by creating Christmas cards for their family, neighbors and the elderly. Some of our cards will be going to Streets Alive Mission, our school neighbors and the elderly in homes.

Another way to witness and Share your Bounty is through our Sock Drive campaign that will run from November 28 – December 14.  We are collecting socks that will go to support the following local charities:  Harbour House, Salvation Army, Homeless Shelter and Woods Homes. I was amazed at the generosity of the school community for our Drive Away Hunger campaign and believe there are going to be similar results as on the kick off day, the students had already brought in over 200 hundred pairs of socks. At our Christmas Family Fun Night on the 13th from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. we will be having a Cake Walk.  People will have a chance to play a musical chairs type game and each round, someone will win a cake. An entry for a round will cost 25 cents and all the money collected will go towards our Sock campaign.  In order to make this game possible we would appreciate any cake donations that you could make for this event. You can send your cake to school on the 13th or bring it with you for the evening event. If you’ve never experienced a Cake Walk, make sure to pop into the gym as it is one of my favorite, fun events.  If I don’t see you at one of our activities this month, I would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

November is a special time of year for me as it brings back memories from my childhood.  As a member of the Melfort 171 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, Remembrance Day was not a holiday where I got to sleep in like my friends. Our squadron attended and participated in the celebrations in the surrounding areas. I also spent many cold Saturdays leading up to Remembrance Day selling poppies on behalf on the Royal Canadian Legion. Wearing a poppy is a way to honour and remember Canada’s Veterans.

The poppy is a symbol of Remembrance for our veterans from the First and Second poppyWorld Wars and the Korean War who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy today. To honour these men and women, wear your poppy from the last Friday in October until November 11. This year’s Poppy Campaign has a new digital poppy that can be found online at mypoppy.ca. Donations for all poppy sales go to support veterans and their families.  This month, we are asking students to share their time and what better way could they do this than by attending our local Remembrance Day Services at either the South Pavilion (9:30 – 11:30am) or the Cenotaph (12:00 – 12:30pm). On the 11th day on the 11th hour of the 11th month, let us remember those who have served,those who have died in service and those who are currently serving in our armed forces.

Another time during the month of November for remembrance is at the start of the month.  With all the candy and commercialism of Halloween, we can forget that “All Hallows Eve” is the eve of festival of All Saints Day. On November 1 the Church remembers every Saint known and unknown.  We ask the Saints to pray for us so that we might be with them someday. The next day, November 2, is All Souls Day where we are remembering all those who have died.  Please take a moment and say a prayer in memory of a friend or loved one.

 

O Lord, please grant eternal rest unto (name).

Let Perpetual light shine upon him/her.

May the soul of (name) and of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Amen.

 

 

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For me it is a toss up as to which season I prefer more –  spring or fall.  There is such beauty in the colors of the two seasons whether it be the new spring green or the fall shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. I live on the West-side and everyday that I drive to school I am struck by the beauty of the fall trees draping over 12th Avenue.  The variety of colors bring to mind our Faith Theme for this year, Sharing our Bounty. The faith focus is to serve God by serving others. In doing this we are sharing the bounty of gifts that God has given us whether it be our time, treasures and/or talents. Each month we are challenging the students to find ways to serve others. The challenge for October is to develop the talent of kindness through caring for others.  At the assembly we watched a video All About Kindness that gave a variety of examples:  lending a hand, helping someone carry books, sharing with others, picking up something that has fallen, smiling and thanking parents for dinner.  Hopefully you will receive many thanks throughout the month.

If you are looking at ways to become involved in the life of the school, all parents are welcome to come out to a School Council meeting on October 16th at 6:30 pm in the library. It is a great way to find out more about what is happening at the school and gives you a chance to give input into decisions that occur at the school.  Each month we will be highlighting an area of the school that parents may want to learn more about.  This month we will be talking about the school’s Continuous Improvement Plan and discussing the goals of the school.

While sharing our bounty, a heart filled with gratitude allows us to share our gifts with others. In looking ahead to the calendar for this month and reflecting on the previous month, there are many activities and things to be grateful for where time and talents are being shared.

  1. Catholic Central Faith in Action students who are putting in 40 hours of volunteering organizing the gym equipment and other jobs around the school.
  2. Science Sizzle Club put on by the University of Lethbridge.
  3. Volleyball teams for our grades 5 and 6 students coached by Miss Nadeau, Miss Ingham and Mr. Cahoon.
  4. Snack Shack for offering healthy treats which is organized by Mrs. Nemecek.
  5. Luigi’s for once again providing pasta lunch and parent volunteers who help serve it
  6. Pulse for providing a faith retreat.
  7. The variety of fieldtrips organized by our teachers: Corn Maze, Helen Schuler Centre and Galt Museum.
  8. 6N for organizing our FCC Drive Away Hunger project.
  9. Learning about and becoming more aware about dyspraxia.
  10. The creativity of our students (and parents) involved in Crazy Hat Day. I’m looking forward to seeing the creations for the Turkey Trot and Halloween Costumes.
  11. School Council members who organize and all families who help to support the fundraising efforts which enhance the activities offered at the school.
  12. The amazing attendance numbers from September: 67% of students are at 100% attendance and 17% are between 90 – 99%.
  13. Attending mass each month with the Assumption community.

Finally, thank you for sharing your treasures, your children, with us. I am enjoying getting to know them and am starting to recognize some of them by name.  I am also grateful for the welcome I have been given from the school community.  I look forward to continue getting to know each and every one of you.  Please stop by and say hello at any time.  I would like to wish you a blessed Thanksgiving and safe travels!

photo of pumpkins

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Attendance Awareness

While it may seem peculiar to be talking about attendance in the opening newsletter, it is actually the perfect time to bring awareness to the critical role it plays in student success. According to Alberta Education, students who attend under 90% are considered to be chronically absent.  While that may seem to be high, it means that with a school year of 180 days, students should miss no more than 18 days which equals out to 2 days per month.  Missing this many days puts student at risk of negative academic, economic, mental health and legal outcomes.

Matthew and I have previously done research and work in this area and are committed to continuing to work on improving attendance for all students. To that effect, our primary goal is to educate the school community about the importance of regular attendance. Our attendance awareness campaign kicks off with the following five facts courtesy of Attendance Works:

  1. Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the work place. It matters for school success, starting as early as prekindergarten and throughout elementary school, and helps students stay on the path to academic success. Absences represent lost opportunities to learn in the classroom.
  2. Attendance patterns matter in all grades, including Kindergarten. Preschoolers build skills and develop habits for showing up every day on time. Elementary students learn to read in the early grades.
  3. Students are at academic risk if they miss 10 percent or more of the school year, or about 18 days a year. Once too many absences occur, they can affect learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. Sporadic and consecutive absences negatively impact learning. Some absences are unavoidable, for example, due to serious or contagious illness but they should be prevented whenever possible.
  4. Chronic absence does not just affect the students who miss school. If too many students are chronically absent, it slows down instruction as teachers are likely to repeat material for students who have missed school. This makes it harder for students to learn and stay engaged, and for teachers to teach.
  5. Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when the whole community works together. We can all make a difference by encouraging good attendance both at home and at school.  We can also work together to help solve any attendance barriers.

Attendance Overall Summary 17 18

As attendance is a priority for us, we discussed it at our opening staff meeting. We shared attendance data from 2017 – 2018 with staff so that they could see the overall trends and know if they have students who were at risk last year.  The chart above summarize attendance trends for grades 1 – 5 students for the 2017 – 2018 school year. It is a celebration that 80.8% of students were at or above the 90% attendance rate. Through our awareness campaign, tracking and interventions we are hoping to improve upon the 80% this year.

As I sit down to write my final message for the Father Leonard Van Tighem School community the high school English teacher in me is coming out as all I can think of are quotes to express the moment. I am a huge fan of Shakespeare and one of the famous lines from Romeo and Juliet definitely fits how I am feeling: “Parting is such sweet sorrow”.  While I am sad to be leaving FLVT I am looking forward to my new adventure at Our Lady of the Assumption. For me, it really is the people that I met along the way that I am going to miss. Another line that describes my time here comes from a Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Over the past ten years we have experienced a gamut of emotions from the joys of new life to the sadness of loss. Things have not always gone smoothly, but the community truly is a family and families stick together through the good and bad times. I have been blessed that my educational career has taken me to FLVT and as I leave I want to reflect on and share my gratitude for the journey.

First I need to express gratitude to Mary Anne Murphy because without her, my journey would not have happened.  I remember seeing the Associate Principal posting for FLVT, but did not plan on applying for it as I was only in my second year at Our Lady of the Assumption school.  I cannot remember where or when the conversation took place, but I do remember Mary Anne telling me that I should think about applying for the position.  I am so grateful that I listened to her and went down that road. As Frost says, “and that has made all the difference”.

Secondly, I am so grateful that I got the chance to work with Terry Wilson, my mentor.  Although our time together was short I learned so many things from him.  Among the many things he taught me was the importance of humour and laughter.  Terry was always telling jokes and deflecting tense situations with a dose of humour.  He also taught me that the people in our lives are the most important thing.  The job is always going to be there, but the people may not be.  These are two lessons that I have tried to keep in the forefront everyday as a way of carrying on his legacy.

A third person that I am grateful for is Patti Pilsner, my admin partner for the past seven years.  We have faced many trials and challenges over the years, but have never lost our sense of humour. I am grateful for the many laughs we have shared. I am also grateful for your creative energy and when we would get on a roll with new possibilities our ideas would skyrocket to the moon, come back to earth and eventually come together.  Thank you for being there on this journey with me.

Another thing I am grateful for is the chance to work which such a professional and dedicated staff. While the people on staff may have changed, their professionalism has not.  I know it was quite a challenge to have two brand new administrators who knew nothing about the culture of the school.  The staff was welcoming and embraced the idea of change when we brought it up.  Many times the ideas and willingness to try new things comes not from the admin team, but from the staff themselves. I am grateful and blessed to have been able to support them in their goal of improving their practices.

I am so grateful for the morning gatherings in the staff room which has enhanced the sense of comradery and family.  I know it does not happen in every school and the laughter, tears and prayers we have shared every morning is something I am dearly going to miss. It is a blessing to be part of a Catholic school where the faith community can come together to support one another.  God was with us every day as Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

I have had the chance to meet many families and I am grateful to them for sharing their children with us. There is a saying that I found that says that “God doesn’t give you the people you want; he gives those you need.” I am so blessed to have met so many people and got to work with them through parent council and various activities and experiences. I know I have learned so much from my interactions with parents and students. Many substitute teachers or University consultants have told me over the years what a great atmosphere we have at FLVT and how good our students are.  I know this to be true as so many students come back to visit or do their Faith in Action hours at the school. The return visits are something I will truly miss as it is always nice to see our students when they come back.

As I know Wendy is anxiously awaiting my newsletter submission, I am going to wrap it up. I will leave you with a list of ten other things that I am grateful for experiencing at FLVT:

  1. For being able to have had my children attend FLVT.

  2. For an amazing office staff. Wendy, Sue and Tamara are so welcoming, positive and efficient. Thank you for keeping me on track with your gentle reminders and just getting things done.

  3. For a great last year with a fabulous team. Thanks Ken, Tracy, Matthew and Patti for all you work and support.

  4. For all the staff that I have had the opportunity to work with.

  5. For all the students I have had the privilege of knowing and teaching.

  6. For all the parents, guardian, aunts, uncles and grandparents that I have had the pleasure of meeting.

  7. For all the parents with whom I have worked with on parent council. Thank you for your dedication and work.

  8. For all the high fives and hugs from students.

  9. For the variety of clubs, activities and options that our students can experience: athletic, cultural, artistic, academic and spiritual.

  10. For the staff, parents and community members who have volunteered their time to help support the school and make it a great experience for our students.

Finally, to our families that are leaving us at the end of the year and to those who we are welcoming in the fall, we wish God’s blessings on you. I hope everyone has a blessed summer vacation. I know that the community will embrace and welcome the new administrators as was done when Terry and I arrived. I am not going to say good-bye but instead leave you with an Irish blessing and say farewell until we meet again.

irish blessing

 

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