Bert Church follows remarkable year with student legacy
Last year was an amazing one for Bert Church High School.
The school won $100,000 for its athletic teams in a national Under Armour contest and the Passion for Excellence Program, which resulted in a visit from Olympian Melissa Hollingsworth.
Teachers were also honoured including an Excellence in Teaching Award for teacher Jennifer Williams and a 2013 Teacher Award complete with a $2,000 prize for Lindsay Rous from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta.
Phyllis McCallum-Hunter, a Bert Church parent and school council member, won the Parent of Distinction Award from the Alberta School Councils’ Association.
Students were selected to speak with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while he orbited the earth onboard the International Space Station.
“It was undoubtedly a remarkable year,” said Pam Davidson, principal for Bert Church High School.
Davidson said she doesn’t want to try and duplicate the outstanding achievements from the 2012 to 2013 school year, instead she wants to bring the focus closer to home by engaging the students in the curriculum and asking them what they want to leave behind as their legacy.
“I think things happen and there is that wonderful collision of events,” Davidson said.
“I don’t think we’ll want to try and replicate that again this year.”
The school is bringing the focus to engage students with a new initiative called the Link Crew that launched the first week back at school.
Davidson said, “The challenge I’ve issued (to students) is, ‘what is the legacy you’ll leave behind.’”
The program involves 49 senior students who spent two days of their summer break training to be Link Leaders.
As Link Leaders they were introduced to the new Grade 9 students at an assembly on Sept. 5, where they shared in some fun activities.
Davidson said the goal is to connect younger and older students and empower the senior students to share their school pride and instill that pride and excitement in the younger kids.
“It’s a cool experience for us to be involved in at school,” said Grade 11 student and Link Leader Danica MacDonald, 15.
“Grade 9 is a little intimidating so it’s good to get the tips and tricks,” she said, adding the program is a good idea and a lot of fun.
The Link Crew was formed after the school received a grant from Alberta Healthy School Community Wellness through the University of Alberta.
The grant totalled approximately $30,000 and enabled the school to send teachers to training, who then came back and trained the Link Leaders.
Davidson said the school is rolling out initiatives to engage students in the curriculum by asking Grade 9 students to bring personally owned devices such as tablets to aid in learning.
She said this will allow students to, “use the most contemporary tools, when appropriate, to be the most effective learners they can be.”
The principal adds the school is focusing on critical thinking, analysis, collaboration, problem solving and communication by asking students to complete project-based learning assignments that ask them to do investigative work surrounding the curriculum matter.
“Students will have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the curriculum and exercise the most skill while still interacting with the curriculum,” she said, adding the days of memorizing and repeating information are long gone.
Davidson is also rolling out the Charger Academy, a once-monthly meeting with students to explore topics and ideas not covered in the curriculum.
Topics will include: career and secondary education blueprinting, study and test taking skills, philanthropy, digital citizenship, wellness, and goal setting.
“We are trying to pull some of those things in that we always hope they’ll get but can’t expect them to get through osmosis,” she said.
The school will also celebrate its 30th anniversary this year. Davidson said she hopes to invite alumni back to the school to highlight their achievements and act as inspiration for current students.
In March, the school will host a celebration of learning, which will highlight current student’s work including the project-based learning assignments.
“I’m always so proud and astonished with what the kids can do. It’s humbling,” she said.
“I really do believe they can change the world.”