Archived—Meet the Teachers

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Grant Etchegary

Grant Etchegary

Holy Heart High School
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Daily life for Grant Etchegary involves working with performing instrumental groups within the school's renowned music program, including a concert band, a jazz band, a saxophone quartet, a flute choir, a jazz combo and a brass quintet.

All these opportunities for student participation in music are the manifestation of Etchegary's firm belief in the importance of music education as part of a child's education.

"The connection to academic success and participation in music is well documented," he says. "Music is a performing medium that allows students to express themselves in a manner unlike any other medium. It truly touches the depth of our souls."

Etchegary, himself, is an outstanding musician, having been the principal bassoonist for the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra for more than a decade. He was instrumental in launching the Rotary Music Festival in St. John's and has been actively involved in this nation-wide celebration of music for more than 10 years. He has also led school district honour bands, acted as music director for community festivals, taught at music camps, and has been part of the music faculty at Memorial University.

Get in touch!

Holy Heart High School
55 Bonaventure Avenue
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador A1C 3Z3R3

Telephone: 709-754-1600
Fax: 709-754-0855
Email: getchegary@nf.sympatico.ca




Andrew Hickey

Andrew Hickey

Holy Heart High School
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Andrew Hickey has taught for all of his 20-year career at Holy Heart High School, including his student internship. The teacher who acted as a mentor during his internship told the principal: "Don't let this one get away."

Hickey may have wondered what he had gotten himself into. He felt that he had to cover every detail of the curriculum. "I was all about the content, but I quickly felt I was losing my focus and getting frustrated." Fortunately, a fellow teacher noticed this and gave Hickey some good advice. "He said that students don't remember what you taught; they remember who you are and what you taught them as a person. From that moment, my whole philosophy on teaching changed."

Now, having interesting activities and connecting with students is a high priority. Interestingly, the content flows naturally out of those efforts. And this suits the majority of students Hickey is currently working with. He says that this is very much "my place in the school system."

Hickey has an active volunteer life within and outside of school. In addition to his classroom duties, Hickey regularly leads field trips to locations near and far for learning and recreation. He has also coached many school sports teams, including provincial champions. In his community, he is a volunteer fireman and a kindergarten basketball coach.

Get in touch!

Holy Heart High School
55 Bonaventure Avenue
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador A1C 3Z3

Telephone: 709-754-1600
Fax: 709-754-0855
Email: andrewhickey@esdnl.ca




Michael Gange

Michael Gange

Fredericton High School
Fredericton, New Brunswick

As Marshall MacLuhan once said, "On spaceship earth there are no passengers; we are all crew." Michael Gange lives this message each day for his journalism and creative writing students.

Gange worked five years as a journalist and broadcaster in Winnipeg, Toronto and New Brunswick before becoming a teacher. Now, he passes on the skills of the trade to his students, but he didn't put his pen and notebook away.

"The drive to write never leaves a writer," says Gange by way of explanation of his ongoing journalism career. Since 2000, he has written better than one book review each month for the local paper and had four major articles published each year on pop culture and understanding the mass media.

He is a play-by-play commentator for University of New Brunswick basketball and hockey games; approximately 50 games carried on both cable and the Internet each year.

"I believe you have to lead by example and I always get several of my students out to help with these productions. I looked around the press box the other day and, of the 20 or so people working there, 12 of them were my current or former students."

Fredericton High School has a campus-wide radio station that Gange manages with student on-air and production talent. He is currently trying to get a small television station going.

Gange is also active in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards for outdoor training and leadership program, having held almost every position in the provincial organization.

Get in touch!

Fredericton High School
300 Priestman Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 6J8

Telephone: 506-453-5435
Fax: 506-453-3050
Email: michael.gange@nbed.nb.ca




Rachel McCabe

Rachel McCabe

Trafalgar School for Girls
Montreal, Quebec

If you asked the 18-year-old Rachel McCabe what she would be doing in 10 years, she probably wouldn't have guessed that she would be a teacher - and not just a teacher but a teacher at a small private girls' school in Montreal.

A product of the public school system in southern Ontario, McCabe didn't know what she wanted to do when faced with having to pick a major at McGill. Looking through the course calendar, she stumbled upon education and thought, "I could do this. This sounds perfect!". In fact, the more she thought about it the more she realized that teaching was a good fit for her skills and interests.

After graduation, she accepted a job at the Trafalgar School for Girls and has never looked back. The school is small - just 210 students who range in age from 11 to 17 years old - so she knows them all. "I love teenagers," she says. "I think they're wonderfully complicated, fragile, melodramatic, and exciting all at the same time."

McCabe's summer job before she started teaching was working on a media literacy project for the Quebec ministry of education; looking at the introduction of technology in three inner-city elementary schools. This got her thinking a lot about integrating technology into the classroom. "Even though my concentrations were English and history, I started my career teaching multimedia in the junior grades. This is a very important part of the language arts curriculum. My strongest pedagogical beliefs are grounded in what I do with these kids."

Get in touch!

Trafalgar School for Girls
3495 Simpson Street
Montreal, Quebec H3G 2J7

Telephone: 514-935-2644
Fax: 514-935-2359
Email: rm@trafalgar.qc.ca




David deBelle

David deBelle

Joyce Public School
Toronto, Ontario

The commute from the suburbs to the small inner-city school where David deBelle teaches is long and tiring. And even though he says every year that this will be the year he leaves the school and takes a job closer to home, he never does. He has taught there for all of his nearly 20-year career. Why?

Although most of his students are of generally low social-economic status and about 70 percent come from families that do not speak English as their first language, the student and parent community have very strong respect for education and teachers are very much appreciated.

deBelle often teaches every member of a family. He marvels at the fact that students that he met when they were in grade 2 and couldn't speak a word of English, now have graduated from university and are back in the community working.

A hallmark of the school is its integration of technology throughout the curriculum. deBelle is currently writing his master's thesis as a case study of the work that he and his fellow teachers did in that regard.

Thanks in part to the technology, the school is also a centre of activity for the local community. deBelle is actively involved in many extra-curricular activities and programs, such as getting children and their parents to learn music together in the school's digital music lab after school.

He also started an environmental club at the school. In trying to get the recycling retrieved from the school rather than just heaved into the dumpster, he became a member of the regional waste management committee and helped it launch an education program in the schools. This led him to a couple of forays into the political arena, running for the Green Party federally in 2000 and municipally in 2004.

Get in touch!

Joyce Public School
26 Joyce Parkway
Toronto, Ontario M6B 2S9

Telephone: 416-395-2600
Fax: 416-395-2609
Email: david.debelle@tel.tdsb.on.ca




Steven Hammel

Steven Hammel

Woodview Children's Centre
Burlington, Ontario

Steven Hammel's philosophy is "If it doesn't exist, create it."

As a talented artist and a captivating storyteller, Hammel creates unique teaching tools to work with the emotionally and socially challenged kids he, a social worker, and a childcare worker have under their charge for 20 weeks as part of the Early Identification Early Intervention Outreach program (yes, EIEIO).

He uses simple props and cutout figures with moveable parts to animate original stories that will "stick to their lives."

"These kids have talked about feelings - the other f-word - over and over again with people who are trying to help. We try to take the kids outside themselves a little bit and give them a story they might be able to attach to themselves and say, 'This is sort of like me, or this guy is sort of like my dad.'"

The children also do some creating of their own, making what Hammel calls "educational souvenirs" that relate to the stories. For one story about a skilled but angry and lonely stone thrower, and his friend the helper, students get to take home a pouch containing a stone and seed to remind them of the lessons in the story when they are at home.

"What these kids need when they come to me, is finding out that they can learn. They are not successful at home; they're not successful in the classroom. I try to figure out what kind of stuff I can give them that is going to make them feel that they can learn."

Get in touch!

Woodview Children's Centre
69 Flatt Road
Burlington, Ontario L7R 3X5

Telephone: 905-689-4727
Fax: 905-689-2474
Email: steevver@hotmail.com




Mary McBride

Mary McBride

Banting Memorial High School
Alliston, Ontario

Mary McBride fully admits that if she were ever to find herself without any Latin students, she would have no one to blame but herself.

"I have to teach absolutely effectively and do an excellent job. If I don't do a good job of teaching this year, nobody will take my course next year, nor will they tell their younger sisters and brothers or friends to join the course."

Growing up in Toronto, McBride attended an academic high school. She opted to go in an hour early each day to study Ancient Greek and completed all the requirements on the fast track, three years for four. She followed that up by studying Latin, French and Greek at university.

After university, she connected her subject-matter expertise with her love of working with young people. "The logical thing was to teach," she says, "since I had been a camp counsellor for seven summers. I'd been training by teaching boating, nature appreciation, and crafts. I reluctantly left camping behind to start teaching."

More than 35 years later, McBride's program is one of the cornerstones of Classical education in Ontario and her students beg her not to retire.

"People say if you love your job you never work a day of your life. And I have indeed loved my job. I have been able to retire for the last five and a half years, but how could I be an important person in a young person's life if I were not a teacher?"

Get in touch!

Banting Memorial High School
Box 3000, 203 Victoria Street East
Alliston, Ontario L9R 1W7

Telephone: 705-435-6288
Fax: 705-435-3868
Email: mcbride@ionsys.com




Mark Robbins

Mark Robbins

Madawaska Valley District High School
Barry's Bay, Ontario

Mark Robbins started learning to play the cornet at age 7 from his father, a Salvation Army bandmaster. Shortly after that, he began piano lessons and became totally passionate about music. Throughout his teens he became involved in as many orchestras, bands, choirs and small ensembles as he could through his church, community and school.

After teachers' college, a short stint teaching in Toronto, and professional studies with Larry Weeks, former principal trumpet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Fred Mills of the Canadian Brass, Robbins moved to the Upper Ottawa Valley to be head of the music department at Madawaska Valley. He has been there since 1986.

For a very small community and a small school population (slightly more than 500 students and a teaching staff of 30), Madawaska Valley is a well-equipped school built around a central cafetorium. Robbins calls this facility, "our town's little arts centre." In the same breath, he also notes that the goal for his music program is to "be big in a small community." The music department, itself, is housed in a converted electrical shop, which offers facilities, including six practice rooms, that would be the envy of music teachers in much larger centres.

All that being said, Robbins is very clear that although all the equipment and facilities are nice, he sees the music program as much more than a skills-building program.

"At MV, we're not merely involved in music education but in life education - learning how to work together, how to respect one another, how to overcome selfdoubt, explore leadership opportunities, and how to grow as people. They're all part of the MV music department experience."

Get in touch!

Madawaska Valley District High School
341 John Street South
Highway 62, RR 1
Barry's Bay, Ontario K0J 1B0

Telephone: 613-756-3048
Fax: 613-756-1783
Email: mark_robbins@fc.renfrew.edu.on.ca




Bruce White

Bruce White

Vincent Massey Secondary School
Windsor, Ontario

After university, Bruce White applied for a job in the computer field at Hydro Ontario. There was only one problem, "The job I wanted didn't exist yet; it was on their books for two years from then.".

Figuring that maybe he could teach for a couple of years, while waiting for the job he really wanted, he approached high school principals about joining the staff. A couple of interviews and a six-week wonder course over the summer later (those were the days), White returned in September a newly minted teacher.

He arrived to a class of 38 students and only 36 desks. (Two kids took turns sitting on the window ledge each day.) Then there was the matter of actually teaching the material he had to cover. "After two weeks I figured that I was doing such a rotten job that I went to the math head and asked whether I could start over." Fortunately, for students in the subsequent nearly 40 years of White's career, the department head agreed. "He said, 'Okay, tomorrow walk in with a garbage pail in your hand and have them rip their notes out and throw them in the garbage pail.'"

Since that inauspicious beginning, White has gone on to success after success, developing classroom and extracurricular programs that turn some of his students into math titans. Many of his students are regularly in the top rankings at local, national and international contests, and others, who thought they'd never have a hope of passing math, have become confident learners.

Get in touch!

Vincent Massey Secondary School
1800 Liberty Street
Windsor, Ontario N9E 1J2

Telephone: 519-969-2530
Fax: 519-969-1907
Email: math1@cogeco.ca




Carolyn Wilson

Carolyn Wilson

St. Michael Catholic Secondary School
Stratford, Ontario

Carolyn Wilson's teaching philosophy stems from a strong belief in fostering a sense of respect and community with students both within the walls of the classroom and beyond. It is based on the principles of justice, solidarity and inclusion. "I see the classroom as a community of learners - a community that is connected to the world and not separate from it," she says.

She sees her work in media studies and world issues as a kind of gateway to helping students understand a number of issues central to their lives as global citizens today.

"One thing I hope students take away from my courses is the lesson that the world is full of heroes. There are people out there who are involved in their communities, who are working hard every day, and who really effect change. I hope that my students realize that this is possible for them, too. I hope they learn that whether it's in the classroom or beyond, they have a contribution to make; they can make a difference in this world.

Wilson is the president of the Association for Media Literacy in Ontario and has organized and delivered professional development sessions for teachers in Ontario and across Canada. She has been an invited speaker at UNESCO, UNICEF and World Council of Media Education conferences around the world. She is the co-author of the best-selling textbook Mass Media and Popular Culture, Version 2.

Get in touch!

St. Michael Catholic Secondary School
240 Oakdale Avenue
Stratford, Ontario N5A 7W2

Telephone: 519-271-0890
Fax: 519-271-8250
Email: carolyn_wilson@hpcdsb.edu.on.ca




Virginia Winfield

Virginia Winfield

St. Joseph High School
Ottawa, Ontario

After a few years on the job, Virginia Winfield got some wise advice from a fellow teacher about developing a teaching philosophy. And now she has it written out on a coloured piece of paper that sits above her desk.

"And every year I retype it," she says. "It sometimes changes. I re-laminate it and it goes back over the desk. It's something I try to think of every time I plan a lesson."

I am here to inspire. I am here to be inspired. is how her philosophy currently reads. "And I am constantly surprised how often I am actually inspired by the students."

In the morning, Winfield works with a class of special education students, most of whom won't go into the work force. She started a catering company (Someone's in the Kitchen) that the students now run to give them plenty of authentic learning experiences. "They came up with the name, the logo, do all the shopping, all the cooking, and they actually create some of the recipes. They do all of the advertising; they keep all of the accounts. The money we make, we use."

In the afternoon, she teaches Grade 12 English and creative writing. As the department head of English and creative arts at the school, she works with a lot of new teachers. "I get so much energy from them and their enthusiasm. It's the best part of my job," says Winfield.

Winfield is also an enthusiastic supporter and leader of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards for outdoor leadership program.

Get in touch!

St. Joseph High School
3333 Greenbank Road
Ottawa, Ontario K2J 4J1

Telephone: 613-823-4797
Fax: 613-823-9573
Email: virginia_winfield@occdsb.on.ca




Sarah Varghese

Sarah Varghese

Keenooshayo Elementary School
St. Albert, Alberta

Sarah Varghese says that her passion for teaching is a gift from her family. "I come from a family of educators, mainly my grandfather and father. As well, I chose this career in teaching because I wanted to make an impact and a difference in the lives of children as some of my past teachers have affected my life."

An elementary teacher for eight years in Ontario and Alberta, Varghese completed her master's in education in 2002 while teaching full-time. Her focus on special education and adaptive instruction flows naturally from her work on diversity and inclusiveness in her classroom. She hopes eventually to move into administration to continue her work in these areas and to get her PhD.

Being a young teacher herself, she remembers what it was like, not all that long ago, to be starting out in the classroom. To this end, she is an active participant in the student-teacher program at the University of Alberta. She has led seminars and workshops for teachers in areas such as materials and resources for tracking language arts, has promoted the concept and application of teaching diversity within the classroom, and has provided tools to respond to other issues facing elementary teachers.

Get in touch!

Keenooshayo Elementary School
40 Woodlands Road
St. Albert, Alberta T8N 3X3

Telephone: 780-459-3114
Fax: 780-460-7752
Email: sarahbendale@hotmail.com




Loretta Van Brabant

Loretta Van Brabant

St. Teresa Catholic School
Edmonton, Alberta

Loretta Van Brabant's mom always wanted to be a teacher but never had the opportunity. She obviously passed along her passion for the idea, since Van Brabant and three of her siblings are teachers.

Van Brabant has an education degree with distinction from the University of Alberta and she is a role model for hard work.

A teacher for more than 30 years, she most recently taught all subjects in Grade 3, except music. As a result, she has had to become an expert in the curriculum to make sure she covers everything in a year and to stay on top of new developments. "I spend a lot of time staying current with the curriculum."

She translates that detailed knowledge into a steady stream of activities and projects that keep her students happy and engaged in their learning. As one of her former students put it, "Our projects were so interesting that we hardly noticed we were learning anything at all." "This kind of total involvement is the best kind of learning," says Van Brabant in response.

Van Brabant has written exam questions for provincial achievement tests for grade 3 math and designed tests and activities for a math diagnostic kit for grades 1 to 3. These materials continue to be used by teachers throughout Alberta. She also helped design assessment rubrics for creative writing in grade 3. These are available to download from the Alberta Learning website.

After 31 years of teaching, Van Brabant retired in 2005.

Get in touch!

Loretta Van Brabant
16715-83 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5R 3W2

Telephone: 780-484-1837
Email: lmbvanb@shaw.ca




Susan Chow

Susan Chow

North Surrey Secondary School
Surrey, British Columbia

Susan Chow was asked during her first teaching job interview whether, as a petite woman, she could manage a class and keep the students in line, even if the students were much bigger than her. "With confidence, I replied that I try to instill a sense of mutual respect. I earn my students' respect and they earn mine," says Chow.

What that principal didn't know, and a group of unruly grade 8 boys found out one day, is that Chow can bench press 150 lbs. This group of boys was arm-wrestling at the back of the room. Chow challenged any one of them to arm-wrestle, on the condition that if Chow won they had to co-operate. Needless to say, Chow won and the rest of the class ran smoothly. "There are times when one must focus on one's strengths and this was one of them."

All joking aside, preparation is the key to accomplishing anything worthwhile, Chow says. Becoming her school's computer facilitator was the ultimate challenge. Having only taken one computer science course in university, eons ago, she felt intimidated. "Now I had to network computers, fix them, instruct teachers how to use them, help teachers integrate technology within their subject areas and much, much more. To prepare I tried to read every available book on computers. It was this challenge that opened more doors to doing unique projects."

Chow also looks at the very big picture of technology in education. For example, she developed an Internet driver's licence, which became a mandatory item for students across the school district. She also tracks computer literacy at her school and, with that data in hand, has been instrumental in determining the scope and sequence for technology delivery at her school. She has also led technology in-service training at the school and district levels for more than 15 years.

Get in touch!

North Surrey Secondary School
15945 96 Avenue
Surrey, British Columbia V4N 2R8

Telephone: 604-581-4433
Fax: 604-581-1150
Email: chows@fc.sd36.bc.ca




Donna Neilson

Donna Neilson

Rockridge Secondary School
West Vancouver, British Columbia

Donna Neilson has taught every grade from kindergarten to grade 12. She has taken 90 grade 3 and 4 students to an outdoor pioneer school for a week and she has taken high school students to New York for 10 days. "And, believe me, there is no difference between the two. It's exactly the same."

Neilson acknowledges how fortunate she has been to have such a broad base of experience to work from, particularly her work in the elementary system. "My elementary experience has been the backbone of my teacher education. It has definitely informed my best practice, influenced my high school teaching, and influenced the direction our high school is taking."

Rockridge Secondary is a beautiful school (it looks like a ski chalet) but it is also a well functioning one - thanks in no small part to the efforts of Neilson to build a cooperating team of teachers. And it's not that the school hasn't faced its share of challenges. It went from a middle school to a junior high to a secondary school in six years; and on six months' notice each time. Each change also brought new administration and much staff turnover. In addition, the school has a very diverse population, including about 200 fee-paying international students.

Neilson stands for teacher leadership and modelling. "If we believe that the primary goal of education is to socialize our young as they are going to be our leaders in the future, then I think that we have to model for them what leadership is all about, model the behaviours that we expect from them and put in place structures and strategies so that they can be productive citizens of our world."

Get in touch!

Rockridge Secondary School
5350 Headland Drive
West Vancouver, British Columbia V7W 3H2

Telephone: 604-981-1300
Fax: 604-981-1301
Email: donnaneilson@shaw.ca