Trust, Learning & Innovation

It was a double bill.  In the first feature at the CRPS public board meeting on December 7th, two teachers and two students from Canmore Collegiate HS presented pictures and stories about their days spent aboard a tall ship. They shared with us insightful and reflective commentary on the experience. My colleague and board chair, Kim Bater, has covered it in an excellent post, We need to Leap into the Future. It was obviously a significant and transformational time for the kids and the teachers.

Next up: two teachers, Ken Symington (CCHS) and Lee Luders (LGMS), and a student, Emily Bolton (CCHS), talked to us about a new initiative in the division: APECS Actively Promoting Environmental & Civic Stewardship. Their WIG (Wildly Important Goal; laudably, I believe it is a WAG – Wildly Ambitious Goal) is to create an environmental ethic and culture in our schools and communities that expands and builds on current projects. The group intends to embed environmental stewardship into the practices and learning of Canadian Rockies Public Schools. They described how the idea was sparked and how they plan to continue this initiative. Other members of APECS are teachers Nancy Pollard (LGMS) and Sara Alarie (ERS); Ken Riordon, our Facilities Manager, rounds out the pack. Some great ideas were highlighted. Here are the next steps:


  1. Develop Professional Learning workshops for other CRPS teachers
  2. Celebrate great practices that are happening in CRPS
  3. Begin work on creating an online information portal about LEEDS buildings and other environmental practices
  4. Invite other staff to contribute ideas
  5. Contact community resources and create an assets map
  6. Partner with Alberta Parks, Parks Canada etc.
  7. Work with Bow Valley Waste Commission
  8. Share information that can be distributed widely
  9. Continue to dialogue with Rocky View Schools team that are on the same track

The presenters used Inspiring Hearts & Minds (IHM), as well as school board policy, as background for this work. As with the first exposition on the tall ships, it contained all of the elements of IHM:


Emily graced us with part of a speech she gave in May 2010 at an environmental conference – GEOEC. Her words inspired us all:

“In classrooms we need to work with each other, not beside each other; we need to help each other along and grow together. You’ve got certain people rocketing off towards sustainability leaving the people around them scrambling to find the way in their dust.   Some people just can’t keep up.  Transition that fast becomes overwhelming …That’s why we need to look to one another and move forward together.

We’ve got to get to this point of environmental and social responsibility together. We’ve got to work side by side and support each other…

Citizenship… it’s about everyone doing their part so we achieve success as a collective. After family, schools are the first community we are really involved in. It’s the place where these values of community and responsibility to others need to develop. If we can’t feel responsibility to help the people who sit next to us succeed, how can we feel responsibility to help people a world away …?

…we need to foster community at home first. Then small-scale will transfer to a large-scale, one step at a time. Schools need to be the infrastructure and foundation of citizenship in youth. What we need are schools full of communities not classrooms.


The outreach and collaboration, from the school level into the community – across and beyond the boundaries of the district – are hallmarks of IHM.

And, most clearly evident, is this:


  • Support and develop teachers as facilitators of learning
  • Knowing that teachers make a significant difference in a child’s life, create conditions that strengthen student-teacher relationships.

I found this quote on a Red Deer teacher’s blog. Let’s hope all CRPS teachers and staff will soon feel this way about working in our school division:

“In my school, I truly do feel my opinion is valued and true innovation is approved and endorsed.  Once a teacher truly feels trusted that he/she is allowed to endeavor on new educational roads, without criticism and reproach, we will start to see … practices that are … validated.”

(Thanks to Dave Martin – and ellipses are mine)

About Esmé Comfort

My husband Jim and I moved to the Bow Valley in 1980, settling in Canmore in 1983. Both my children were born in Canmore and attended K -12 in Canadian Rockies Public Schools District (CRPS), French Immersion. For the past six years I served as vice-chair of the board. Alberta Government support to the CRPS Inspiring Hearts & Minds initiative created opportunities for provincial, national and international outreach. In the past I held positions on the Canmore Daycare Board, the preschool board, and various school councils/PACs; I served as president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French for five years and sat on the provincial board for two. I currently sit on the board of the Canmore Folk Music Festival, work full time at an events management firm and edit, copy-edit and proofread on contract. My husband and I ran a small main street business for 18 years: supply and install floor wall and window coverings.
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