Schools ready to welcome students back

  • Sep. 2, 2009 1:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-With students heading back to school next Wednesday, island principals are looking forward to seeing new and returning faces, but students and teachers can expect some new things as well. At George M. Dawson in Masset, principal Lorrie Joron is excited about all the new grade 8s who will be roaming the halls. This year she’s asked the school’s student council to run the opening ceremonies where the new group will be introduced to the other classes. But the biggest change for the year is the school has finally hired a certified teacher for the Haida language program. Colleen Williams, a local woman, has just recently completed her certification and will work with elders and another teacher in the program, says Ms Joron. Also new, the maintenance department did a smash-up job of renovating the students’ lunch room over the summer, she said. “It looks amazing.” With carrots and other produce growing like crazy in the garden that teacher Daniel Schulbeck started with grade 9 students last spring, lunch times will have fresh appeal. In Port Clements, principal Claudette Lavoie says the huge influx of kindergarten students in the last two years means a new class configuration. She is expecting nine kindergarten students this year and with the eight from last year, that means the school will keep those two grades together, rather than mixing Ks with grade 1 and grade 2. “It’s a big change for us,” she says. New additions to the community have also brought the school’s numbers up in general, she says. Also new, the gym floor has also been resurfaced and the walls redone and painted and Ms Lavoie hopes to have the issue regarding space for the elementary school’s books in the library shared with the Vancouver Island Regional Library system resolved. At Agnes L. Mathers in Sandspit, the gym floor has also been redone. “So remember to wear your indoor runners,” she says. Two classrooms got new flooring as well, and the ratty old carpet in the staff room is gone. Otherwise all staff have been maintained. At Queen Charlotte Secondary School, students will have a new teacher. Suzanne Thibodeau, who worked in Masset last year, will be teaching physical education and French at QCSS this year. Principal Stephanie Hedley-Smith says Ms Thibodeau is also a certified salsa teacher and teaches yoga, which she is keen to offer as extra-curricular activities. Also new at QCSS is their website. Ms Hedley-Smith says she hopes that parents will use the site, which will show calendars with course assignments, test schedules and project due dates for each grade. The site will also have notes from teachers to parents and students and will hopefully become a great way to communicate, she says. The school also has a new handbook and student and teacher code of conduct, which vice-principal Kevin May worked on over the summer. Ms Hedley-Smith says all the school policies have also been updated into modern language. She’s excited to be starting her first full year as principal and as an admin team with Mr. May, since both of them started in October last year. Another change this year is the introduction of teacher advisory groups, which will see 10 students grouped into multi-level teams to meet once a week. She says the idea came from the teachers and they hope it will help students to feel part of a group that is not just their grade. Still to come at QCSS is a new logo and awards cabinet to be unveiled with much celebration at Christmas and the possibility of a collaboration with Northwest Community College on a culinary arts program in the New Year. At Sk’aadgaa Naay in Skidegate, principal Vonnie Hutchingson says there will be two new teachers thanks to higher enrollment – Marcie Watkins and Jessica Trudel. She’s also excited about using “smart boards” in the school this year. The teachers did a five-day workshop on using these multi-media tools in the classroom. She says the boards are like a large screen and can help teachers access videos and other leading edge curriculum tools and internet resources. “Education is in the midst of profound changes and those including the use of technologies to help our teachers,” she says. The Observer was not able to reach the principal of Tahayghen in Masset to find out what is new there, but we are sure it will be a great school year there as well.