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Greater Essex County District School Board
Building Tomorrow Together
2015 Champions for Education

Bill Conely

016.JPGBill Conely at Long & McQuade Musical Instruments is the strings on our guitar…he is the reed in our clarinet and the slide to our trombone.

Without Bill and his team at Long & McQuade, it would take a great deal more work and cost much more to put on a major musical event. Over the past 6 years they have become important partners with our Board in the promotion and celebration of music education.

“This is for the kids, right?” is the standard question when Bill gets a request for support. When the answer is invariably “Yes” he does what it takes to make it happen.

Long & McQuade has been the corporate sponsor of the Board’s Massive Music Monday celebration. They have not only provided the sound system and any other equipment that might be required to put on a good show, but they have covered the cost of t-shirts for hundreds of students to help mark this notable occasion.

Our Special Olympics gala is always a little more special because of the support of Bill and Long & McQuade, who quietly contribute necessary equipment that helps makes this event a winner.

And since the inception of our annual arts showcase, Stars of the GECDSB, Long & McQuade has been an indispensable partner. This exhibition of the best and most dedicated singers, dancers and musicians from throughout the Board usually attracts hundreds of parents, community partners and the general public. It’s a big deal and a large event, requiring a lot of equipment, which has, of course, been donated by Long & McQuade. This includes thousands of dollars’ worth of instruments which are loaned to us for the night to make the organization of the event easier and it provides students a chance to play a really high quality instrument on the night of the big performance.
For helping us shine a big spotlight, literally and figuratively, on the arts in the GECDSB, Bill Conely of Long & McQuade is a Champion for Education. 

Margaret Gallagher

018.JPGThere are some families at Tecumseh Vista Academy who doubted, for a time, that Margaret Gallagher even existed. Children would come home from school talking about this wonderful woman who wore a green coat, had a bun on the top of her head and made dresses every day. It was easy to assume that this was some fictional story book character… like the Grimm fairy tale of the shoemaker and the elves.

The reality is though, that like the cobbler in that classic fable, there was actually a magical character who arrived at the school each day and made an incredible difference in the lives of the students.

A particular interest in fashion of one early years student became the pattern for this all too true story. The child’s fascination with fabric and glitter and making clothes spread like an unraveled ball of yarn throughout the classroom and soon some expert intervention was required.

In rolled Margaret Gallagher with 2 sewing machines, fabric, scissors and thread. She immediately became a daily member of the teaching team as more and more students wanted to design and make their own piece of clothing.

Four months, miles of thread and an immeasurable amount of imagination later, 52 students had created their own dresses or sports jerseys and modelled them for classmates and families at a special fashion show.

Besides the basic skills of measuring, cutting and sewing, Margaret taught the students about different fabrics and the parts of a sewing machine. She also modelled important qualities of patience, cooperation and compassion.
The testimonials from children and families were uniform in their gratitude for “guidance on a project that was personal to each child”, “allowing a student to show her creative side” and for making “52 children very happy”.
But unlike the magical elves in the fairy tale, Margaret has not disappeared after this life-changing experience. She continues to volunteer in the classroom on a daily basis and she’s now considering a quilting project.
Margaret Gallagher is a real life Champion for Education.          

J & J Marine

Fighting Island Visit Oct2012 011.jpgIs there a better way to begin an adventure than a boat ride?

J & J Marine has been providing that thrill since 2003 to more than 25 thousand students and several thousand more parents and community members on their way to experience our outdoor education program on Fighting Island, hosted by BASF.

But their involvement is much more than some exciting, although brief, transportation.

Jude Mead and the staff of J & J Marine go to great lengths to make everyone feel safe and comfortable. The first time they encountered a visiting class with a student requiring wheelchair access, they not only made the necessary accommodations for the boat but ensured the appropriate measures were taken to provide access to the island’s classrooms and testing areas.

It’s not just a grasp of the basic needs of visitors that the J & J staff have acquired. They truly have come to appreciate the learning that happens on the island. For instance, students had been doing some water quality testing and wanted to see if they could recreate a wetland. It seemed like a reasonable idea to the guys from J & J, so they dug out a pond, which allowed the students to do some planting and successive groups of students have been studying that man-made wetland for 8 years.

J & J is truly a part of the overall Fighting Island experience. They have interest, enthusiasm and a great deal of expertise that they share with their visitors, whether its information about new sightings or specimens or the activities of the eagles, deer, pheasants and coyotes that also call the island home.

A trip to Fighting Island wouldn’t be the same without them. The professionalism, kindness and willingness of the J & J Marine staff to go above and beyond what it takes to make each student’s experience the best that it can be assures them of the title, Champion for Education.

Lakepoint Homes

020.JPGBuilding a house to be someone’s home is a serious responsibility. To allow a group of students to participate in the construction is a tremendous commitment and requires a great deal of confidence, if not courage.

For a number of years, Jeff Sylvestre of Lakepoint Homes has displayed that incredible spirit to the benefit of dozens of GECDSB students and he has modelled a pathway for the construction industry. His investment in and dedication to young people will have a positive impact on long-term prosperity.

The GECDSB Home Building Program was launched in 2008 to provide practical, on-the-job learning for students interested in the construction trades. A unique partnership among the GECDSB, Lakepoint Homes and Brentwood Recovery Home has sustained this arrangement since 2009. Students, under the direction of a construction technology teacher and the supervision of Jeff Sylvestre of Lakepoint Homes, have built the Dream Home, the top prize in Brentwood’s annual lottery.

It’s a high profile community project and the students take part in all aspects of the construction: framing, roofing, plumbing, electrical, drywall and painting. They participate actively but they also watch, listen and learn from skilled tradespeople on the job site.

Jeff Sylvestre’s role is far from a passive supervisor. He’s available during information sessions for parents and students to promote the program and the skilled trades in general. He is also a tremendous resource in the direction and the development of the learning. Lakepoint Homes has also supported and hired students right out of the program.

Jeff Sylvestre and Lakepoint Homes have given young people a unique opportunity to be successful. The words of one student hits the nail on the head, “Twenty years from now I can bring my family here and say, with pride, ‘that is what I did in High School!’” That is a point of pride for Lakepoint Homes, a Champion for Education.

Lillian Othmer

Lillian.jpgPride of place, sense of community and dedication to country are the highest ideals of citizenship and they are qualities overtly and indirectly demonstrated by Mrs. Lillian Othmer to the students, staff and families of David Maxwell Public School.

Lillian has been an industrious volunteer at the school for 15 years, never seeking praise or recognition for her efforts. She has been the Chair and remains a member of the School Council. A fixture in all the vital school fundraising ventures, she is there for the book fairs and read-a-thons, the bake sales and food days, she is always involved in the planning and on deck for the delivery.

In recent years she has guided and help implement the transition of the school’s healthy snack program, leading the volunteers and high school co-op students in making sure that all Maxwell students get nutritious munchies every day. Her foremost concern is always in making sure that students feel safe, appreciated and respected.

Lillian is a respected leader in the school community. Her ability to be in and around the school on a daily basis makes her a valuable resource for other parents, and she works with administration to ensure that there is always a welcoming environment for families. She also works with the students to beautify the halls and the school grounds to make the school visitors’ first impression a lasting one. 

A devout Windsor Spitfires fan, each year Lillian organizes students and accompanies them to a game for the singing of “O Canada”. It’s an exciting event for the youngsters, but it’s also a reflection of Lillian’s love of country. Her husband is a member of Canada’s Armed Forces and he is annually enlisted to help make the school’s Remembrance Day ceremony meaningful and memorable.

David Maxwell Public School is a strong, loyal, committed community, a reflection of the city’s work ethic and civic pride. Lillian Othmer has done more than her share to cultivate and nurture those qualities by being a true Champion for Education. 

RBC After School Project

024.JPGBanks aren’t often thought of as “warm and fuzzy” but we are happy to throw our arms around RBC and give them a great big hug.

For 5 years, the RBC After School Project has been making a difference in the lives of young people in Windsor’s west side neighbourhood.

The After School Project supplies grants which provide “a safe place to go after school where (students) can get homework help... Learn new skills and increase their self-esteem”. But RBC has done much more than that- they’ve made friends.

A single grant application has been renewed each of the last 4 years and RBC has invested $144,000 in the young people of the community served first by Dr. H.D. Taylor Public School and now by West Gate Public School.

Students from Grade 1 to Grade 8 have all benefitted from the After School Project. This year special consideration was given to the older students in Grades 6 – 8. This is a particularly challenging time for many pre-teens and teenagers, with lots of social dilemmas. Activities were designed to meet the unique needs of this age group. Students have participated in martial arts, learned to cook for themselves and others, practiced yoga and discovered that it’s important to give back to their community.

With the support and guidance of the After School Project counsellors, the students decided to support a local charity. They came up with a plan and did the marketing, which included signs, announcements and a word-of-mouth campaign. Their bake sale exceeded their $100 goal by more than two and a half times.

The young people in the After School Project have had fun, learned new things and developed skills which can help them throughout their lives. The experience has expanded their minds and their horizons and has had an enormous impact on the entire school community.

RBC has made a wise investment, earning lots of interest in becoming a Champion for Education.

Reko International Group

026.JPGIt’s easy to complain. It’s bold to respond and remain committed to a course of action and the rewards are often far greater than the risks.

Our region is facing a shortage of skilled trades workers. The lament has been well publicized, the pro-active responses have been less fashionable.

For the past 25 years, Reko International has been accepting co-operative education and OYAP students from the Greater Essex County District School Board at their facilities, providing real-world learning and mentoring students interested in a precision metal cutting, tool and die or mould making career pathway.

Facing a pressing need for trained employees, Reko International, led by Human Resources Manager Joe Sirianni, took a chance by enhancing and expanding their partnership with our Board. In the fall of 2014, Reko committed to registering up to 8 apprentices annually from Belle River District High School in the precision metal cutting trade. The students learn and earn a wage, while at the same time completing the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma and accruing hours towards an apprenticeship.

Joe Sirianni believes that a stronger community is built upon making solid connections between industry and education and providing students with opportunities they may have never previously considered.

Reko contributes to the classroom as well, supplying students with surplus equipment and supplies as well as regular visits from their mentors who share their wealth of knowledge in the trade and experience in the workplace.

Reko International is a manufacturer, supplier and designer on the world stage. The students benefit from being members of a vital and innovative team, certainly more than just spectators to the process. A number of the staff at Reko are products of the OYAP program and they understand the importance of mentoring and leadership on the shop floor.

This community-based model that supports industry and education simultaneously has been an overwhelming success. Joe Sirianni has promoted his experience to industry peers in the hopes of providing even more opportunities for students in the trades.

Reko International is an iron-clad Champion for Education.

Wendy Taylor

027.JPGWendy Taylor has been a fixture at Centennial Central Public School for 10 years. Her daughter is currently in Grade 8 and her son, who also attended Centennial Central is in Grade 12 at Belle River District High School. So, in a sense, Wendy will be graduating from elementary school at the end of June.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone that Wendy is at the top of her class, with straight Cs on her report card.

Wendy is Committed to the best interests of every student; she is Consistent is her support of the entire school community; and she is Cooperative with staff and administration in making sure that everyone has a rich and fulfilling experience.

She also gets high marks, as you will learn, in her electives:  Cooking and Counting.

Wendy is an energetic and enthusiastic volunteer. One of her chief roles is chef for hot food days at the school. At school barbeques, she is a consummate griller, always adorned in her costume of choice, an apron with the word “TROUBLE” embroidered on the front. However, her contribution is not limited to just cuisine. Wendy also picks up all the necessary comestibles and condiments and conveys them, once cooking is complete, to the eager consumers.

It’s also customary to see Wendy assisting with the school’s daily milk program, track and field days, the Terry Fox run and the school’s “We Help Locally” event.

One word you will never hear in conversation about Wendy is the word “can’t”. She is always eager to help, whatever she is called upon to do and she is conscientious through to its conclusion. This may concern, at times, the counting of a colossal collection of coins.

Our conclusion, Wendy Taylor’s case is beyond comparison.

Congratulations, you are a Centennial Central Champion for Education.