The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is handing out its yearly Exemplary Practice Awards to Toronto schools with programs that have reached above and beyond normal practice.
For instance, in East York, Emilio Perrone, principal of Canadian Martyrs Catholic School, says his winning program, A Community Approach to Bullying and Violence, teaches students about conflict resolution techniques.
Kathleen Wynne is provincial Minister of Education and Liberal MPP for the riding of Don Valley West.
“Each year the TCDSB recognizes innovative programs,” Wynne said. “There are terrific schools across East York and across the city, and I think it’s great that the TCDSB is recognizing that kind of excellence.”
At Canadian Martyrs, Perrone said, each teacher from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 has to teach one lesson per week on anti-bullying. The program involves the support of teachers, support staff and social and guidance workers.
He said bullying is a big issue for kids, especially with the advent of cyber-bullying via the Internet and cellphones, and he believes children need a reminder to be kind to one another.
“Bullying isn’t just hitting. Bullying is when you make someone uncomfortable, when you hurt their feelings,” Perrone said. “It could be verbal.”
Perrone became principal of the school four years ago and said that the school grounds and programs needed work then. He said money was spent on the playground and, two years ago, the school’s anti-bullying program was started.
He said the school has seen a drop in suspensions and bullying among the 375 children that attend the school.
“I started here four years ago, and in terms of the numbers, they concerned me. We had this vision two years ago and we tried to do all kinds of things to provide a school-wide approach to bullying prevention, which includes cyber-bullying,” Perrone said.
“I think that helping kids at developing life skills is something that will last forever for students,” said Wynne, the education minister. “Teaching kids how to deal with bullying when they’re early in their school years means that as they mature, they’ve got a set of skills they can apply to certain situations when they’re older.”
Meanwhile, over at another East York-area school, St. Patrick Secondary, the two-year-old mentoring program run in grades 9 and 10 has also won one of the board’s Exemplary Practice Awards.
Principal Tracey Parish said that one of the most difficult transitions for students is from Grade 8 to Grade 9. She said students have to deal with many factors when arriving at high school, including different school backgrounds and a new social environment. But the transition is especially tricky for recent immigrants.
So, Parish said, two people were added to the school staff as “settlement workers,” to help students who have recently moved to Canada transition better. She said the student-teacher relationship is also very important, and teachers try to bond with students new to Canada.
“Students remember their relationship with the teacher,” she said, and for new Canadian students, it’s all about having “someone to relate to.” She added that students are told which teacher or support worker to talk with about issues at the very beginning of Grade 9. She said the key is for students to walk away saying, ‘I know how the school works,’ and to cultivate an environment where they feel safe asking questions.
Another East York Catholic school, St. Anselm, also won the award, for its program called Mathematics: Scheduling and Technology.