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.




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


As spring is finally trying to make itself known, we are coming upon a busy time at the school.  As I look at our calendar, I realize that we only have nine weeks of school remaining and the year is going to finish up quickly. For me it will go much quicker as I be taking a three-week medical leave after my ankle surgery on the 18th.

To kick off May we are pleased to present our annual Musical Production, SWITCHED, which was written by grade eight student Laura B. SWITCHED is an adaptation of the Freaky Friday movie where two fraternal twins switch bodies. Students have been busy rehearsing and getting everything ready since January.  This year’s production features original music written by our director, Miss Barr, and the students. The music is catchy and every time I hear the opening song, it makes me want to join in the dancing! Our first performances are free matinees for our Holy Spirit Schools on Wednesday May 2 and Thursday May 3 and evening shows are open to the public.  Cast 2 performs Wednesday evening and Cast 1 performs on Thursday evening at 7:00 pm at the University of Lethbridge Theatre.  Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $5 for FLVT students.  Tickets can be purchased through School Cash Online for FLVT students, on our website (https://www.holyspirit.ab.ca/flvt/whatsNew.cfm?whatID=83), at the school office or at the door. I look forward to seeing the performances and to seeing you at our production.

Switched Poster

The rest of May is going to fly by as it is filled with a variety of activities.  The week after the production is over, our grade six and nine students will write Part A of their Language Arts Provincial Achievement Test. We will also be administering the Canadian Achievement Test for our grades 4-9 students and when we have the results at the end of the year, we will be using them to help inform our teaching practices. We honour the achievement of our junior high First Nations Metis and Inuit students with an awards evening at 5:30 pm at Catholic Central on May 17. The Edwin Parr nominees from the South Zone will be honored at a banquet on May 9th and I’d like to wish Miss Barr luck as she represents not only Van Tighem, but also the Holy Spirit School Division.

Other events going on in May are Jr. Hawks basketball for Grades 1-3, Track and Field meets for Grades 6-9, and our fabulous Marathon club for Grades 1-6. I have no doubt that we have the best club in the city due to our detailed training schedule and breakfast program.  The club finishes on the 30th with the Little Souls Marathon run at 6:30 pm at Chinook High School.  There are also book club meetings and numerous field trips going on all throughout the month. May culminates with the Grade 6 Camp at Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp.  Our Grade 6 classes will enjoy 4 days of fun-filled (and hopefully sun-filled) days of activities.  We hope that spring will have truly arrived so our campers enjoy beautiful weather.

At Convention in February I attended a session presented by Rocky View Schools titled Combating Student Absenteeism: Enhancing Systems to Improve Educational Outcomes. It was of particular interest to me as we had recently had conversations about attendance at our Learning Leadership meetings. At this session I learned about their Attendance Innovation Campaign and the practices they undertook to improve attendance at pilot schools and across their division. Their campaign focused on three main areas:  Educate, Empower, and Eliminate. You may have noticed over the past month a variety of messages from the school on Facebook and Remind as our Education Campaign on attendance kicked off.

Attendance is critical for success in school.  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. Here are some attendance facts from the presentation by Rocky View Schools:

  • Absences are a problem if they are excused or unexcused.
  • Sporadic and consecutive absences negatively impact learning.
  • Parents signing off on school absences does not minimize the impact.
  • Attendance patterns matter in all grades, including Kindergarten.
  • Children find it difficult to catch up on missed work.
  • Parents underestimate their child’s absences by 50%.

The second phase of the attendance campaign is Empower and we have been working through the data using PowerSchool to find out what the attendance trends are for FLVT. What are the attendance facts for our school community?  One piece of data we have access to shows the attendance rate for each day of the week. The following chart illustrates the attendance rate for the students from September to March for all students. It is interesting to note the lower attendance rate for Friday and how close it is to being under 90%. A goal for the next couple of months would be to try to bring the Friday attendance rate a little closer to the rest of the averages

weekday attendance

Another piece of data shows student attendance broken down into percentages. The chart below summarizes attendance trends for this school year up to the end of March.  I think it is great to celebrate that 460 or 85% of our students are on track to be at or above the 90% attendance rate.

attendance pie chart

We still have work to do as 83 or 15% of our students are at risk for negative outcomes. As a result, we are currently piloting phase three Eliminate with a small group of students.  We have developed plans to target individual students and identify their attendance barriers. At our PD Day in April, we will be looking at developing an recognition program for the coming school year. We all want our students to be successful which goes hand in hand with good attendance. Let’s finish the year strong and aim for at least 90% attendance after the Easter break. 

Attendance Facts courtesy of Attendance Works

It seems that we just finished the Christmas season and it is hard to believe that we are now approaching the Lenten season. Throughout the forty days of Lent we are mimicking Jesus’ journey through the desert and are focusing on the three pillars of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.  Most of us sacrifice and give something up as a form of fasting which allows us to grow spiritually through discipline. Years ago I had a conversation with Terry Wilson regarding Lent where he talked about how he would do extra things for others. Doing charitable acts and paying attention to the needs of others falls under the pillar of almsgiving.  Last year Mrs. Hoveling introduced me to 40 Acts organized by the Stewardship group from the UK.  Each day during Lent I received an email that had a reflection on a specific word and then there were three choices of action you could take that related to the reflection. I really enjoyed the challenge and learned about myself and grew spiritually from the experience.  I am all signed up and excited to see what the new challenges will bring. If you are interested in learning more or signing up for the 40 Acts Challenge you can find them on the Web, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can do the challenge as an individual or a group so it might be a nice family activity to try.

40 Acts

Thank you to Parent Council for organizing our Shrove Tuesday pancake meal on the 13th and to all the parents who have volunteered to help make this day a success.  We will start the Lenten season by celebrating Ash Wednesday on the 14th at St. Martha’s Church.   Each week we will come together as a community to pray and celebrate during the Lenten season. All our celebrations are marked on the FLVT Events Calendar on the website and are on the calendar pages in the newsletter. I invite you all to come pray and celebrate with us.

February is also survey season and parents may already have received information on completing the Alberta Education Accountability Pillar Survey. Students in grades 4 and 7 and all teachers will also be completing their surveys online at school.  All surveys are anonymous and ask questions about experiences with the school.  In addition to English and French, the parent survey is available in Chinese, Punjabi, Arabic, Blackfoot, Cree, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog.  Your participation in the survey provides important information on the quality of education your child is receiving, so we encourage you to complete your survey promptly.

If you want to find out more information and get more involved in your child’s education, come out to our Parent Council Meeting on February 6th at 7:00. Our Superintendent Chris Smeaton and Director of Religious Education, Joann Bartley, will be at the meeting to discuss Bill 24. I encourage you to come out and become informed on the impact the bill. The meetings generally last an hour and I look forward to seeing you there.

%d bloggers like this: