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Our schools are filled with inspiring students and staff that are making a positive impact on the world around them. These stories highlight some of the wonderful things that are happening in Ottawa Catholic schools every day. If you have a story you would like to share, Tweet the link to us @OttCatholicSB or send us an email at connect@ocsb.ca
Feb
07

All Saints artists honour Chanie Wenjack

When All Saints High School art teacher Graham Mastersmith first heard the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, he was deeply moved and decided to share it with his Grade 9 students.

Fifty years ago, Chanie Wenjack, a young First Nations boy, died cold and alone beside a railroad track in northern Ontario after running away from an Indian Residential School. His story is recounted in a series of videos and songs by Canadian musician Gord Downie and a graphic novel by artist Jeff Lemire entitled "The Secret Path."

After watching the Secret Path, Mastersmith and his class decided to undertake a collaborative art project to remember and honour Chanie Wenjack and the thousands of other Indigenous children who never came home from residential schools.

Graham Mastersmith (far right), his Grade 9 art class, and Kirk Brant (right of portrait) pose with their collaborative art piece outside in the cold, to stand in solidarity with Chanie Wenjack and recount how he died.

Working in collaboration with Mohawk artist Kirk Brant, students learned about the history and legacy of the residential school system and its devastating effects on generations of Indigenous people across Canada. Brant explained his role with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and introduced the 94 recommendations put forth in the commission's final report. One of the recommendations called upon Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process. This call to action inspired the project.

Students were tasked to read and condense the recommendations and write them within the body outline of Chanie Wenjack.Then, Mastersmith and a few of his students added the final details and shading. In addition to assisting with the mixed media painting, Brant helped create 20 hand-screened shirts for everyone involved in the project. Additional shirts have since been created and sold to OCSB staff to raise money for the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.

"I hope that this collaborative project helps foster reconciliation, but more importantly contributes to the responsibility of ensuring that the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack never happens again."

Graham Mastersmith

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines art as "something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings." What an appropriate way to describe this empathetic project and restorative journey Mastersmith has guided his students through. This mixed media painting has invited the artists, and now the the viewer, to ponder "how can we honour the life and tragic death of Chanie Wenjack?"

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Feb
02

OCSB artists shine at Artistic Fusion

On January 23rd, the Ottawa Catholic School Board hosted Artistic Fusion, a fun and inspiring evening dedicated to celebrating all the incredibly talented artists in the OCSB family. Organized by Katie Lewis-Prieur and Kristen Charles, the annual event showcases the beautiful art of OCSB employees, art teachers, and students.

Dozens of participants from all across the Board came out to proudly display their creations. Their work took many forms: sculptures, photographs, stained glass, water paintings, jewelry, acrylic on canvas, pottery, and much more. OCSB Director of Education Denise Andre and OCSB Chair Elaine McMahon were on hand to offer congratulations and enjoy the artwork.

The night also featured the annual gallery-style showcase of student art called Art Days. This year, Anishinabe elder Albert Dumont from Kitigan Zibi taught the young artists about the 13 moons of the Indigenous calendar. Using celebrated Métis dot painting artists Christi Belcourt, Leah Dorion, and Jaime Koebel's works as inspiration, students were tasked with making a painting based on one of the moons. The finished pieces were personal, powerful, and reflective.

All in all, it was a lovely evening and a chance for artists and admirers to gather and appreciate art in all its forms. Check out pictures and samples of the artwork from the event in our Facebook album, and join us next year!

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Jan
31

Denise Gotell is one of “Canada’s Outstanding Principals”

Denise Gotell, Principal of St. Thomas More School

St. Thomas More's Denise Gotell has been named one of Canada's Outstanding Principals for 2017. Denise is among 40 exceptional educators, from every province and territory in Canada, who is being celebrated by The Learning Partnership (TLP) for demonstrating innovation, having an entrepreneurial spirit, and for employing creativity in finding solutions and opportunities. Denise will now become a member of the National Academy of Canada's Outstanding principals, which offers principals ongoing networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities in order to continually enhance their leadership skills. 

A profile of an outstanding principal

Denise's advocacy for special education and equity, and the belief that all students can learn, thrive and achieve, has led her to champion assistive technology. Denise is an innovator, promotes student voice and choice, and explores avenues, including social media, for collaboration and engagement. Denise mentors and coaches other leaders, builds community, keeps current with research, and is a positive agent for change. Denise's style of leadership creates a culture of trust where staff feel empowered, further supporting the school-wide effort to change the world, to "Dream Large and Be Awesome." 

"Every person here wants to be their best self. There are no barriers if you develop trusting relationships with staff, students, and parents." - Denise Gotell, Principal of St. Thomas More School 

Denise has a unique ability to engage the minds and hearts of the school community as they embark on new initiatives. Denise once wrote the word "yet…" on the walls throughout the school to pique the interest of staff and students, as they searched for its meaning. The entire community became engaged in the notion that if you add the word "yet" to any phrase, the brain switches from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. In the Fall of 2015, the OCSB was selected from among 35 boards across Canada to be recognized by the Canadian Education Association (CEA) for its exemplary and visionary practices in transforming its classrooms into 21st century environment that meet the needs of all learners. Denise's school served as a leader in implementing this vision. 

"Denise Gotell's leadership has brought her school to the forefront when it comes to innovative learning and helping students build global competencies. Denise ensures students are engaged in inclusive and welcoming community and establishes a culture of high expectations for all members of her school community." Denise Andre, OCSB Director of Education 

"We are delighted to be celebrating these exceptional principals for their contributions to their schools and communities. Their dedication to building and leading teams of great teachers plays a vital role in positively impacting student achievement and success and we are elated to recognize these dynamic leaders in the Canadian public education system." Rod Thompson, Director of Executive Leadership Programs of The Learning Partnership

Denise began her career in education as a teacher in Nova Scotia 20 years ago. She joined the Ottawa Catholic School Board 18 years ago and has held a variety of leadership roles. She has acted as Principal for the past seven years. The entire Ottawa Catholic School Board community is proud to support Denise and this prestigious accomplishment.

For more information, visit The Learning Partnership's website

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Jan
18

OCSB helps kick off #Ottawa2017 celebrations

Celebrations for Canada's 150th birthday have officially kicked off here in the nation's capital. Throughout the year, Ottawans will be coming together to commemorate our country's amazing people, history, and heritage. The opening ceremony was held on New Year's Eve, as over 400 youth from our city (including more than 70 OCSB students) formed a human chain that brought the fire from the #Ottawa2017 Cauldron all the way to the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill. The OCSB will be working with the city on a number of events and contests throughout the year. Check out our Facebook Album to see photos from the #Ottawa2017 Celebrations Kick-Off. There's also an awe-inspiring video from the night's festivities.

Photo courtesy of Prabhakar Street (pjtstreet.com)
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Jan
16

Notre Dame students win Cardboard Boat Race

A talented team of students from Notre Dame High School took home first prize in the Ottawa region at Skills Ontario's annual Cardboard Boat Race in December. The event is an opportunity for students to use teamwork, creativity, and problem solving in a fun and competitive environment. In teams of four, students have two hours to build the fastest and strongest boat they can, using a limited amount of cardboard and duct tape. Their boats are then tested to see how fast they complete a race, and how much weight they can hold.

Notre Dame's team of Jackson, Ethan, Jason, and Ralf worked together beautifully to construct their prize-winning boat. It finished the race in 21.5 seconds and successfully held 772 pounds. With their first-place finish (out of 28 teams), they have qualified for provincials in March. Good luck!

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