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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.

For us as Catholics, the new liturgical year started with advent and the preparations for Jesus’ arrival. God sent His only son in human form to earth and did this knowing that we would eventually persecute and crucify Him.  Jesus’ willingly sacrificed Himself for us knowing how His life here on earth would end. As if this wasn’t hard enough, Jesus faced many hardships throughout his life.

He was born in a stable after his parents were rejected at the Inn. Not long after Jesus was born, the family had to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s paranoia and massacre of innocent children. During his ministry, Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of the day, the scribes and Pharisees and was ultimately betrayed by one of his followers. What relevance does this have for our world today?  Are not people rejected by others and made to feel not to belong?  Are not people persecuted and have to flee their countries of birth?  Are not people criticized and ridiculed by the “in crowd”? Are not people betrayed by their friends?  With the advent of social media, it has become so much easier to criticize and reject others.

How do we combat our human condition? We follow the example of God and Jesus:  with Love. God wants us to be His hands and feet today on earth and treat one another with Love. According to Pope Francis, our mission is to obey God and give Joy to others: “Love and joy are gifts we must ask the Lord for.”  We spread Joy when we express gratitude for the blessings that God has given to us.  We spread Love when do things for others without expecting something in return.  For this calendar year, take a moment each day to spread some Love and/or Joy.  This is a huge task and we will not always be successful but it is a goal to strive towards each and every day.

pope on love

Christmas Wishes

In the early weeks of December, it sure did not feel like we were approaching the holidays, but with the snow that has arrived the last couple of days that sure has changed.  I’m hoping that it wasn’t my “Let it Snow” earrings that I wore at the start of the week that brought on the snowfall.  Today, on red and green day, I decided not to wear them just in case as I didn’t want to add to the poor road conditions with families preparing to travel to be with family to celebrate Christmas.
We have been preparing for the Christmas season through our weekly Advent celebrations, prayer, and giving of ourselves by doing good works. Staff has been performing acts of kindness for others during the month of December. Our school community has also been doing activities to raise funds for charity: $1050 for Mission Mexico and $695 for Streets Alive Mission. Thank you so much to everyone who helped to make our social justice projects successful. While the focus can be so much on what we are getting for Christmas, remember that St. Francis said that “it is in giving that we receive.” God gave us the gift of Jesus. What can you do for others this Christmas season? I challenge you to perform one act of kindness over the Christmas break.
Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May you have a blessed, relaxing and safe holiday season surrounded by friends and family. We will see you back here on January 8th.

mery-christmas-1

God Bless
Denise Kobza

As adults we are always taking care of others and can ignore taking care of ourselves.  In reality, we are better equipped to help others when we have taken the time to help ourselves.  We can take our health for granted until we do not have it anymore.  This is found out as I suffered from vestibular neuritis for the past couple of weeks and was dependent on others to drive me around.  It is a viral infection of the inner ear which inflames the nerve and affects balance and concentration. Being sick forced me to slow down, take care of myself, and allow others to take care of me. It is a little ironic though as my professional development for the past month focused on wellness.

emotional wellness site

One of our school’s Health and Wellness goals is to reduce the incidence of student anxiety. We are trying to promote learning by ensuring that students are emotionally regulated and that their brains are ready to learn.  One of our student nursing teams worked with Tracy Rocca our FSLC to develop resources for both home and school.  They presented their website to the parent council and to staff. Please take a look at it under the Resources and Publication/Counselling/Student Wellness Website section of our website. The site has many resources for parents on Understanding Emotions, Self Awareness and Social Awareness. In a similar vein, a school team attended training for the Mind Up program on November 8th. This is a research based program that teaches activities around topics such as gratitude and mindfulness.  The four pillars of the program are neuroscience, positive psychology, mindful awareness and social-emotional learning.  Students are taught about how their brain works and what is happening that allows them to learn and what can stop them from learning.  It goes along well with our zones of regulation that we have already been implementing as it gives us a practice to help students calm their brains from coming in after running around at recess time so they are ready to learn. A few teachers are incorporating some of the program’s practices into their classrooms and we tried out the core breathing exercise with staff.

mind up

Another goal for the school is to continue to promote and build student leadership for comprehensive school health. We started a new option class this year: Health and Wellness Leadership. The students in this option class created a website with activities covering the following four areas of wellness:  mental, nutritional, physical and spiritual. When you click on FLVT Health and Wellness under the Resources and Publications tab, you are taken directly to the site. Students also organized different wellness activities throughout the first quarter. The wellness team is also continuing with Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right program that promotes healthy eating.  Students can bring in a healthy yellow food in December and complete the form in the canteen for a chance to win a prize. The next project for the team is the development of school garden boxes in the new year and possibly a school wide wellness day.

student website

As astaff, we had a wellness retreat day last Friday so that we are better equipped to handle the challenges of the coming month.  We started the day focusing on Spiritual Wellness with Taizé prayer led by Peggy from L’Arche LethbridgeTaizé is short, chanting prayers that were sung and repeated many times with scripture readings, psalms, intercessions and a ten-minute silence in the middle of the service.  It was a beautiful service that was calming in its simplicity.  Next staff participated in a variety of wellness activities ranging from going for a workout to creating crafts to playing card games to listening to music and, above all, building community by visiting with one another.  We closed the day off with the fellowship of a beautiful meal.  It was a relaxing day as we prepare for the business of the coming Advent season.

At the Inter-Jurisdictional Health Champion Wellness Day on November 29, I learned about Intellectual Wellness.  Social connections are one way to support good brain health and wellness so I invite you to join us for our various activities this month. Music is another great way to support brain health so you could come out to one of our musical events. Our elementary choir will be singing at December 6 at City Hall from 12:00 – 12:30, and the grade 2 and 3 classes will be singing at the Evening of Christmas as St. Basil’s Church on December 19 at 7:00 pm.  Our Christmas Family Fun Night will be at the school this year on the 14th from 5:30 – 7:30. It is a wonderful event filled with many activities to promote brain health, such as, coloring, story telling, cake walk, cookie decorating and an obstacle course. Help boost your Spiritual Wellness by joining us for a Monday Advent Celebration. Finally, we invite you to come into the school on the last day of December as the staff serves hot chocolate and candy canes to parents and students. It has become one of my favorite traditions here at the school.  If I don’t see you at one of our events this month, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

More Information on Wellness Education:

Alberta Education Wellness Education

Alberta Education Wellness Framework 

 

Rembrance: Lest we Forget

According to Mirriam-Webster for students, remembrance is the act of remembering or something remembered, such as a souvenir, that serves to bring mind. November is a month where we turn to remembrance and that is what we are doing here at FLVT.

We start the month with the Solemnity of All Saints Day on November 1. It is celebrated by Catholics all around the world and connects us to the communion of saints.  We look to the Saints, we celebrate their lives and ask them to pray for us. On All Saints day take a moment to pray to St. Kateri, our FLVT patron saint to intercede on our behalf.

St. Kateri@1x

The next day, November 2, is All Souls Day where we remember all those who have died but may not yet be in heaven.  We pray for them and ask God to take them to heaven.  Students will be creating “In Loving Memory” poems for those loved ones who have died and they will be displayed on the prayer board in the gathering space. On November 2 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

On November 5th, we celebrate Catholic Education Sunday in Alberta.  We need to remember to celebrate the fact that we are one of three provinces that have publically funded Catholic education. With the recent controversy in the news regarding the health and wellness curriculum, it is important that we as Catholic school supporters become informed about the issues. Our Catholic schools are a gift to be celebrated.

On November 11th we remember our veterans from the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War who sacrificed for us so we could enjoy our freedoms and live in peace. To honour these men and women, we wear poppies as a symbol of remembrance and freedom. As we pause in our minute of remembrance on the 11th day of the 11th hour of the 11th month, let us not forget to pray for the men and women who have served, those who have died in service and those who are currently serving in our armed forces.  Please come join us for our Remembrance Day Celebration on the 8th at 10:45 in the gym.

remembrance day

During the month of November there are also events going on where people can take part as their way of honoring or remembering someone.  All of our male staff members are participating in Movember to raise awareness of men’s health and to help raise money for our advent project Mission Mexico.  We have a dedicated FLVTMen page where donations can be made. Students will also vote for the best or worst mustache and at the end of the month, we will draw names from those who have voted or donated for the opportunity to win a prize and/or shave some staff members’ heads. For some of our staff members, they are participating in Movember as a way to remember a loved one. For me, I am going to honor my Uncle Don who passed away this Saturday by participating in World Kindness Day on the 13th and Random Acts of Kindness Day on the 24th. My Uncle Don was the kindest man I know and this is the perfect way to remember him.  How are you going to honor your loved ones this month?

Thanksgiving Blessings

Last week I was going across the bridge on Whoop Up Drive and was struck by the beauty of the array of fall colors. It was a moment where I wish I had my camera out so I could capture the shades or orange, yellow and red leaves. The changing of the leaves is a signal for our thoughts to turn towards Thanksgiving.  The roots of the holiday are in being thankful for an abundant harvest, and I would like to focus on the abundance of gifts that blesses our school community.  We are blessed at FLVT that we have many things to be thankful for.

First and foremost, the community is made up of people.  Thank you to all the parents and students who make up our Van Tighem community.  We are blessed that you have chosen to become part of our community and that you share your gifts and talents with us. Our students truly feel a part of the school community which is evidenced by the number of Catholic Central grade twelve students who come back to do their Faith in Action hours with us – currently we have ten former students. I am also grateful that we have such a committed and dedicated staff who give of their time to ensure that our students have the opportunity to develop their talents. Whether it is putting many hours into preparing lessons; helping to supervise a tournament or dance; organizing field trips; running a student club in the morning, at lunch time or after school; volunteering at the book fair; creating opportunities for prayer or spending time on learning new and innovative practices, our staff is always willing to put in the time for our school community. The following list is a few of the activities going on during the month of October:

  • Fieldtrips to Helen Schuler, Save on Foods, Water Treatment Plant, cross country zones, curling rink, soup kitchen and the Gardens.
  • Junior high book club, scrapbooking club, and after school skating
  • Father Salvador visiting
  • Thanksgiving prayer service
  • Parent teacher interviews
  • Fire Prevention safety presentations
  • Awards Night for our junior high students
  • Junior high volleyball games and practices
  • Weekly teacher professional learning time
  • Teacher professional learning on Catholic Leadership in Alberta Schools, Faith Formation, Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment, Guided Math, Fountas and Pinnell Levelled Literacy Intervention,
  • Staff professional learning on Residential Schools

Parents are also encouraged to become involved in the life of the school.  All parents are welcome to come out to a Parent Council meeting where they are able to give parental input into decisions that occur at the school.  Each month we will be presenting about an area of the school that parents may want to learn more about.  This month we will be talking about the supports, programs and services that are offered at the school. This year we are thankful that we have Tracy Rocca as our full time Family School Liaison Counsellor.  She will be talking to parents on Tuesday October 24th at 7pm about the counselling services. In November, we will be learning about the programs that our student nursing cohort have been working on during their fall practicum at FLVT.  All parents are welcome to come out to any meeting and I would like to thank all our parents who work to keep our Parent Council running.

To ALL of you in our community THANK YOU for being a part of our FLVT family and I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving bless us o lord

Welcome Back

It was exciting to see the enthusiasm in our students, staff and parents as they renewed and made new friendships on the first day. I would like to extend a warm welcome to our new and returning families and staff members. Our caretaking staff deserves a huge round of applause as they did an amazing job of getting our school ready. My favorite part of a new school year is checking out the shiny floors!  Thanks so much to Mr. Wensveen and Mrs. Wallace and the relief caretaking staff who helped to make our school opening special. Those floors, among other things, look fabulous. If you see a caretaker in the halls, please express your gratitude for all the things they do to keep our school clean.

On September 21st I look forward to seeing everyone out at our Welcome Back BBQ and Family Blessing.  The evening starts with a family blessing by Father Salvador at 5:45 followed by hamburgers. Following the supper at 6:45, teachers will be available in their classrooms to meet with parents until 7:30.  Jennifer will have information on Sacramental preparation and our Parent Council members will also be available to meet people.  Please come out and join us for a wonderful evening of fellowship and community building.

We are in Year 2 of Growing in Faith Together and this year our theme is Growing in Spirit.  We will nurture our faith this year through Pope Francis’ teaching that “all human persons, all of us, are important in God’s eyes.”  Keeping this in mind, we will recognize the gift of others: that we are all children of God and to embrace this and recognize it in others.  This teaching fits in well with our Van Tighem Virtues of Honest, Accepting, Wise, Kind and Spiritual which we will continue to develop and imbed into our school culture. Our call to action for this year is to deepen our experience with prayer. To help facilitate this, staff members received the Vatican approved book The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass by Mary De Turris Poust. Staff and students will receive prayer journals and a blessing from school administration. Each month we will introduce staff and students to different forms of prayer. To start the year, we prayed for our FLVT and Holy Spirit School Communities with a sweet prayer that uses M &M’s or Skittles. As you eat a candy piece, you pray the prayers according to the color of candy.  I have included the prayer in the newsletter so that your family can pray for the school community.

Sweet Prayer ver 3

Our speaker David Wells talked to us about prayer and this was one of the things that really stuck with me: “Pray as you can, not as you ought.”  He went on to say that praying in different ways will enrich you and will enrich your community.  It will help in the journey towards being more missionary.  I invite you to follow along with us in our journey to deepen our prayer life, try out different forms of prayer grow in our spirit as children of God. God Bless and have a wonderful year.

June Farewells

June is always a busy month as we are marking the end of another school year and planning for the coming one. On the 7th we celebrate mass together at St. Martha’s Church: thanking God for a successful year and saying farewell to those who will not be with us next year. We have staff members who will be leaving us at the end of the school year and would like to acknowledge them.  After getting married this summer, our grade three teacher, Miss Tessier, will be off with her husband on an exciting venture in France.  We wish her the best of luck in her travels and look forward to seeing her when she comes back to Lethbridge. Ms. Scout, our First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Support Worker, is off to the University of Lethbridge to study nursing. We wish her the best of luck in her studies and look forward to when she again is a part of our community in a parent role. We are currently in the process of hiring replacements for Miss Tessier and Ms. Scout. We also have staff members who are on a temporary contract that finish at the end of June. Miss Balaksi filled in our junior high drama and elementary French role, Mrs. Kambeitz filled Mrs. Alvarez’s maternity leave in grade five, and Mrs. Daniels and Mrs. O have filled educational assistant leaves in both elementary and junior high classes.  All of them have become a part of our Van Tighem community and I’d like to thank them for sharing their gifts and talents with us.   Our Early Learning and Kindergarten PUF assistants are also on term contracts and we may or may not see them with us again: Ms. Copan, Mrs. Nigro, Mrs. Roccatti, Mrs. Clarke, and Mrs. Harper. I’d like to wish a fond farewell to our departing staff members and thank them for their contributions to our Van Tighem community.

Every year at this time, we also celebrate our grade nine class as they are moving on to CCH in the fall. On Thursday June 8th we say farewell during our Farewell Celebration.  We start with mass at 6:30 then move back to the school gym for light refreshments and a couple video presentations made by the students which will celebrate their theme: “We’ve Come a Long Way From Where We Began”. We wish them the best of luck and hope that they carry the Van Tighem Virtues with them as they continue on their next path.HAWKS cropped

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. We pray that our school community has a blessed summer vacation, and we look forward to seeing you in September.

mother teresa love

May is the month of Mary, a woman of not only grace and love, but also of patience and charity. Our virtue focus for May and June, Spiritual, is tied to Charity and asks us to follow the example Jesus taught us in the way we think, speak, and act.  What better example to look to than His mother, Mary? Her life was full of difficulties and uncertainty, but she bore them with patience and faith in God’s will.  She had to face her betrothed when she was found to be pregnant then, after Jesus was born, she fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. The fear of every mother is losing a child and Mary must have been anxious when Jesus went missing for three days and was then found in the Temple.  What must she have had to endure as she stood by the cross while Jesus was crucified?

The three fruits of Charity are joy, peace and mercy. Patience isn’t easy to practice as it involves the pursuit of peace. In practicing patience, we must resolve conflicts peacefully, without resorting to violence.  When you have a disagreement with a classmate try to resolve it peacefully by talking to one another. We can practice mercy by forgiving others. Holding grudges is not the way Jesus taught us to live so try your best to forgive others in the school community. Going to confession is another great way to ask God to forgive us for our trespasses. Probably the most difficult aspect is the fruit of joy: waiting without becoming upset or annoyed and continuing on in the face of difficulty.  There always seems to be one person in class who annoys you or gets under your skin, but try to follow Jesus’ command of “loving one another as I have loved you”.

Charity is about friendship and communion. This month, let us try to imitate and honor Mary who was the embodiment of patience and charity. Pope Francis tells us that “charity, patience and tenderness are very beautiful gifts.  If you have them, you want to share them with others”. Share your gifts by bearing your crosses without becoming upset or annoyed, forgive those who wrong you and solve your conflicts peacefully.

charity pope francis

Celebrations Abound

I have been checking out my flower bed every day for the past couple of week to see if the tulips that I planted in the fall, have sprouted.  Today I finally saw some green peeking out of the ground.  I’m pretty excited because these tulips were specially created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and are white with a red maple leaf design.  canada tulipTo celebrate at FLVT some of our classes are participating in the Canada Games Activity Challenge where students complete a variety of activities.  Speaking of activities, our elementary marathon club kicked off last week and will continue to train and put in the required 40 kilometers so that students can complete the Little Souls Kids Marathon on May 31.

There are lots of other events to celebrate this month at FLVT.  Our grade 9 students will culminate their three years of studying French by heading off to Quebec for five days.  This is a great experience for our students to see another part of Canada and to put their French skills into practice.

Badminton is winding down and students in grades 6-9 will head off the City Championships in early April.  Good luck to all our teams. After the Easter break, our grade two students will take part in a First Communion retreat at the Church. Our students receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time is a definite milestone to celebrate. We are blessed to have such a wonderful partnership with St. Martha’s Parish.

I’d like to highlight the work and achievements of our Health and Wellness Advisory Team.  After attending the Healthy Active Schools Symposia in the fall, the students identified four priorities with a focus on mental health. Students decided to create calm down kits to help reduce student stress and anxiety.  They spent time researching items to go in each kit, and they have created kits for the rooms in the office and are in the process of creating a kit for each classroom.  One item for the kits are fidgets which help to improve concentration and attention to classroom tasks.  green foodsStudents spent time repainting the canteen and the canteen now plays calming music at lunch time. Their “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” program is currently in place.  Students can earn entries for weekly prizes by showing they are eating a healthy food item of a specific color. March was red and now green is the focus for April. The students still have a goal of creating a quiet room in the school before the school year ends.  Congratulations on a job well done Team!

Finally, I’d like to celebrate the work that our teachers have been doing in their weekly Learning Team meetings.  One of our goals in our Continuous Improvement Plan this year, is to improve basic fact fluency.  Basic facts are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts from 0 – 9 and students should be able to give a quick response in about three seconds. Teachers have been working with the resource teaching math develElementary and Middle School Mathematics Teaching Developmentally by Van de Walle, Karp, Bay-William, McGarvey, and Folk (2015). Teachers have been working on specific strategies that can improve number sense and basic fact fluency. One important skill for students is to anchor numbers to 5 and 10 where students can easily recall which numbers make a 5 and once they have that they should move on to making 10. Teachers have also been working on finding engaging games that allow students to practice their skills.  We shared what we learned with one another at our PD Day in March.  Teachers each brought a game they used in their classroom and played it with their group and then the group discussed ways the game could be adapted for their grade level. It was an amazing day of learning from one another and we had some fantastic dialogue on teaching strategies.  We are blessed to have a staff who are not only committed to, but are also role models for lifelong learning.

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