Sentimental artifact is a lesson in teaching, or: Grandmotherhood and 30 and 60: still learning!

Today is the 30th birthday of my son, Beamer David Comfort. Beamer, facing his landmark date, mused on Facebook: “4 days left in my twenties! I guess I need to admit I am an adult,” to which someone else responded: “I think the baby gave you away.”

January 20 2013 037 January 20 2013 039

The shape of my life was certainly redefined at the birth of our grandson, Jack Eldon Comfort, not quite 10 weeks ago: I am a grandmother. I thought I was ready – I wasn’t. I’m not. Everything has changed. Today I am feeling sentimental and nostalgic – being on the verge of my 60th birthday is certainly part of that. And Beamer’s actual birth day was tumultuous and dramatic so I am always “verklempt” on this date. Happy birthday, Beamie!

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The art piece adjacent came to light at a Christmas purge/cleanup, at the behest of our kids. (Remarking on our decline into hoardership, they rolled up their sleeves and waded in, dragging us in with them.) Beamer said “I remember this.” I did also. It marked the beginning of the end of innocence about school, creativity and “the rules” for both of us.

The assignment, in Kindergarten, was to do a portrait of Dad; one that shows “who Dad is”. The unadulterated original was just the blue figure, sans gi-normous head. Underneath the later-added-on green blob at the right, was Beamer holding hands with his Pops, while the green blob on the left always represented the Christmas tree. Beamer’s dad and I thought it amazing and touching that part of “who Dad is”, for Beamer, was their relationship, their closeness. The teacher had a different reaction. The assignment was a picture of Dad, not Dad and child. She directed him to change the picture and follow the instructions. So the hydrocephalus head was appended and Beamer obscured. Most telling for me, was Beamer’s current take on this. While I lamented the imposed revision, Beamer said: “No, part of going to school is learning to follow instructions. I didn’t follow the instructions.” True enough…but educators need to be careful when trying to teach the lesson of self-discipline and rigour, not to achieve only compliance.

Lastly,  my New Year’s gift to you: take 20 minutes out to watch this TEDx talk by Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist.  Settle in with the libation of your choice and be prepared to be inspired and uplifted by this gentleman. Take particular notice of the homage he pays to the influence that the love and care received from teachers had on his life and career.

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Stop bullying – yes, you… Stop it.

This week November 12 – 17, 2012 is Bullying Awareness Week. There are various events taking place in our schools to acknowledge that we all need to combat this scourge to children’s lives. A recent survey of our Canadian Rockies Public Schools community showed that bullying is not seen to be prevalent. That is all well and good, but for the kids who ARE bullied, it is a terrible problem and blights their lives.

Please come out to hear speaker Bill Belsey at Canmore Collegiate Theatre in Canmore tonight at 7:00 p.m. TONIGHT.  “The cost is FREE and the presentation is priceless,” as the poster proclaims.

Bill is the founder of and is credited with coining the term “cyber-bullying”. Brian Wityshyn, Principal at Lawrence Grassi Middle School, invited him to speak.  It promises to be a very useful and interesting presentation. Please do consider joining us.

Craig and Marc Kielburger,  founders of We Day,  are getting on board with “The Pledge”and Bill Belsey:  “That’s why we’re signing on to support a Facebook initiative to take back social media and empower youth. It’s called Be Bold, Stop Bullying, and part of it is The Pledge which begins: ‘Here is my pledge: I will speak up — I will take a stand when I see kids humiliating or hurting each other.'”  I hope kids, parents and teachers will visit this page.

Do you know a caring kid who has stood up to bullying? Commend them for that behaviour and nominate them for this award – who doesn’t like pizza?

My grandson, Jack Eldon Comfort. His feet. That is all.

There’s so much I want to say on this topic. I do understand what it is to be a victim of bullying.  A diplomat’s brat, my whole early life was moving from place to place, with the result I was “the new kid” at school at least every third year. I resigned myself to some form of hazing lasting until Christmas, from mild teasing to cruel name-calling and physical harassment.  Back then, said the dinosaur, it was just “the way things are.” Suffice to say, some of that time was excruciatingly lonely and tough to get through. I am glad I made it and I want to be proactive about making a difference for today’s kids. And not just because I am now a grandmother…but that’s part of it too. I thought I understood that mama-grizzly-bear-protective-instinct from having my own kids…let me tell you, that is nothing compared to the same emotion as a grandmamma.

See you tonight at CCHS.

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Birthdays, babies, awards, issues, meetings…oh, and the transformation of education

Bought myself a new hat. The dog likes it too. Thanks Ambler!

September flew by without my managing more than one blog post. Now it’s the spook-tacular last day of the month. I am not dressing up but Rose the dog might. That’s her in the photo, wearing MY new Ambler hat…she needs to stop borrowing my clothes.

To follow up on previous posts:

  • my father-in-law, Eldon Comfort did indeed celebrate his 100th birthday on September 30th. He was surrounded by a multi-generational collection of relatives, friends and colleagues… and love. The MP from the constituency attended to bring greetings from PM Stephen Harper – an un-Comfort-able moment, since Eldon is an NDP supporter and deplores our PM. Ah politics. Greetings from the G-G and HRH were welcomed.

    Her majesty sends her best to our honoured centenarian.

    It was also a reunion. Many folks reconnected, some after long absences. There was cake:

It was Black Forest. It was homemade-delicious. It was all gone within 10 minutes of the first cut. Thank you, sis-in-law, Janet Bojti!

De rigeur at all such Comfort celebrations were the limericks.  Eldon was selling his latest edition of his collection, “The Satanic Verses”,  proceeds to charity.

and here’s my favourite, Eldon’s take on reaching 100:

October the 4th is when

 I turned a hundred , and then

                                                          There was a celebration

                                                         With considerable elation.

                                                    But I don’t think I can do it again!

The whole family hopes to have Eldon with us, hale and hearty and compos mentis for some time to come.

  • No grandbaby yet. Enough said. The due date was two days ago. My son, the grandbaby’s papa, has a well-deserved reputation for outrageous Halloween costumes. Wait one more day before you meet your dad. Please. What could one more day hurt?

    Sorry for the graphic imagery but too good to resist for my nurse daughter-in-law due NOW!

     On to school board business. With the advent of our new superintendent, Chris MacPhee, there’s change in the wind. Chris is taking the time to meet everyone in Canadian Rockies Public Schools – and beyond –  face-to-face. He is on a Listening Tour. Chris is a passionate advocate for teacher leadership excellence. He is instituting change where it is necessary.

    Superintendent MacPhee has also made a priority of bringing our technological capacity up to speed, by partnering with another school district in a pilot program that may one day serve as a model for the province. The main district website is now full of very current information on such diverse topics as Professional Development with a video of Sharon Friesen’s presentation to the work being done in two of our elementary schools on habits of mind. Please visit often to explore what’s going on in the division. Oh, and please, give us feedback!

    And a hip-hip-hooray to Deb McKibbin, who I think is the first teacher in CRPS to have a blog that is all pedagogy, all the time.  I look forward to following the deep learning that Deb is pursuing.

    The Canadian Rockies Public Schools international student program website is up and running. This is an important part of our school community. Aside from the much-needed revenue received, these foreign students add richness and diversity to our school population, broadening the minds and aspirations of our young people. That being said, this aspect of the district operations is under continuous close examination through the IHM filters to ensure it makes sense for this division.

    Getting our ducks in a row.

    At the September 11th Board Committee meeting, the discussion ranged over issues and opportunities arising from previous strategic planning sessions + Inspiring Hearts and Minds (IHM) work + the June 20th meeting of the Community Education Network (CEN). The strategic function of the board is developed through a generative process with staff, school councils, students (where appropriate), and other partners.  This process is both generative and iterative; it is useful at times to declare current priorities. These are not fixed in stone, but will be informed as further learning emerges in consultative collaboration.

    So these are the four key priorities for this 2012 – 2013 school year:

    1) EDUCATIONAL/LEARNING – The Board expects that the Superintendent commence division-wide work, going deeper with our three-year work/plan to bring IHM to life by “Nurturing a Culture of Excellence” by focusing on the two most important factors to improve student achievement:

    1. instructional excellence
    2. instructional leadership

    2) FINANCIAL PLANNING – To increase the effectiveness of our financial planning in relation to our key priorities. We are changing the way we review and monitor our ongoing financial management as well as the budget process.  Alberta Education undertook a review of our financial situation which confirmed what was already known. The board has formed a budget committee (board, superintendent, administrators) to deal with these challenges.

    3) COMMUNICATION  – To review and update our communications processes and systems so that we are timely and relevant in how we communicate with our public – parents, students, school councils, community and other audiences.  The goal is to improve the flow of information, knowledge and understanding to inform effective action and decision-making.  Last year’s 3-year Calendar and Superintendent hiring processes were examples of a more focused and intentional approach to communication. New this year is “Board Highlights”, a newsletter produced by trustee Carol Picard. Exactly as the title describes, it will bring to the forefront the issues and initiatives that the board is jazzed about, as well as concerns and issues seen over the horizon.  The board and superintendent will also provide information to politicians and other stakeholders, and advocate for the division with those parties.

    4) POLICY REVIEW–  To update our policies to reflect current practice and the new approaches developed through IHM, CEN and other processes. This is often dry work – housekeeping outdated documents, cleaning up redundant or moribund items. Anything of significance will be brought to public scrutiny.

    WHEW! The picture below is by way of an intermission, to break up the text before launching into the next section. It is just one day recently, up at the off-leash area above Canmore.

    There are days when the Rockies look like the Himalayas – this was one of them.

    So the Community Education Network (CEN) had a broad discussion about options to manage the issues of grade configuration and infrastructure within CRPS in order to address the twin issues of declining enrollment and the attendant reduction of funding.  The CEN group told CRPS: “Don’t fear making the tough decisions which need to be made for both fiscal and academic reasons. What does it do to the community if we don’t make decisions?” In addition CEN wishes to continue its involvement in the ongoing decision-making process. Moving forward, the model will be similar to the process used to determine the calendar: gather data from multiple sources, provide plenty of time for input and discussion, communicate. Elements of IHM will be used as a basis for discussion to zero in on the key issues:

    1. Academic: ensure there is sound pedagogical reasoning behind options
    2. Social
    3. Economic/fiscal
    4. Community needs

    And, overarching it all: what is best for students?

    Last couple of items:

    The Education Act, Bill 3, just passed the committee stage in the Alberta Legislature last night. Follow this as you can; Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) and other groups will be shedding light on the implications. As always, the devil is in the details, so it will be the regulations put in place to implement the laws that will inform what comes next.

    Tripartite talks: breaking news: October 31, 2012
    Parties agree to continue tripartite talks beyond Oct. 31 deadline
    Joint Statement – Government of Alberta, Alberta School Boards Association and the Alberta Teachers’ Association have been engaged in discussions on a new long-term framework to achieve workforce stability and transform Alberta’s education system.
    All three parties share a common interest in reaching an agreement. At this point, the parties have agreed to continue these discussions beyond our self-imposed deadline of Oct. 31, 2012.
    We remain committed to the transformation of the education system to ensure student success in the 21st century.                                                                                                  Stay tuned. This one is important, but may not be settled very soon.

    And finally, a brief shout out on the Canmore Collegiate High School Awards presentation. I know many pedagogues and parents who are against or ambivalent about such celebrations, but I find these ceremonies meaningful and uplifting, not just for the students and their parents, but for the whole community. The affection and respect between the students and the teachers is palpable.

    Huge props to Canmore Rotary. President Lawrence Nyman presented 18 cash prizes, four of which are new this year.  This organization does so much to support our schools with the foreign student exchange program and the “Adventures in...” courses for 15 to 18-year-old youth, as well as other behind-the-scenes efforts – the breakfast program and Science Fair in particular. Many thanks to this public-spirited group of doers.

    I did miss May Riva who passed away in June of this year at the age of 94. She always came and said something like “I’m back. Fooled you, didn’t I?” She told the kids to not only remember to thank those who gave them money but also to take the time to tell those sponsors and supporters what they were doing with their lives.  Principal Glenn Nelson called her to mind at the presentation of the Eileen Reid Fine Arts Bursary and we all smiled at the memory of her inimitable presence. In the Craig Douce photo here, May is at the dedication of the park named for her at Elizabeth Rummel School.                            Miss you, May.


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Back to business, back to work.

I wrote the title for this post on the Labour Day weekend, inspired by this poster. Then I got interrupted then here we are three weeks later…how does that happen? I have been busy doing.

Next time someone disses unions to me, I’ll be obnoxious, and remind them of the benefits for which union men and women fought – and sometimes died.















As a bit of an aside, the mountain ash seem to be more laden with berries than in previous years.  Birds are glutting themselves; I captured this robin from the parking lot at work.

I love robins, don’t you? They are looking fat and sassy right now. I just smile when I see one.

I am pleased to say that I reached my reward goal for quitting smoking: The Burgess Shale hike on September 9th with a Parks Canada guide, three good friends and nine strangers. At 22 kilometers distance and nearly 800 meters elevation, it was not your average Sunday stroll for this dowager duchess! And I sprained my ankle and road-rashed my knee on the Thursday just prior to going. Never mind. I had made up my mind to go. I did not get to the Quarry, but to the Discovery site about 100 meters below, where we found a treasure trove of fossils.

205 million years old, I believe we were told. Wow.

I learned again the sweet satisfaction of achieving an objective despite the odds. I never would have made it to the end without the encouragement of my pals. It was a very special weekend. Thanks all.

The pals who got me there. Did I mention it was sleeting and just a little breezy? Bless you ladies for your support and your laughter.

The school district is in full swing. The Board had its first committee meeting on the 11th of September and the first public meeting on the 19th. The agendas and minutes from those are on the CRPS website. Our budget is not entirely set yet, because the money is tied to our student numbers as at September 30th.  Meanwhile the work continues.

Kevan Funk answers questions from the audience at The Banff Centre: The Club, Sept. 14, 2012.

On Friday September 14th I was lucky enough to attend the community screening of four short movies produced by a Banff Community High School graduate Kevan Funk. So very interesting to see the work of this nascent filmmaker. I look forward to seeing his future work. Kevan has a lot of talent and his work already shows a clear level of professionalism; he will be one we hear from in the future.

This past Friday, I was privileged to be inspired by another brilliant speaker: Dr. Sharon Friesen. She was working with our teachers on instructional excellence and educational leadership. Fascinating absorbing material…and it will serve the teachers and principals well – and thereby, our students.  More on this later…it really is very exciting.

Nope this is not Canmore’s Duck Race: they put in 1,000 tiny ducks – I just like this graphic.

I am racing to finish as I leave for 10 days holiday,  but must add that our Superintendent Chris MacPhee, along with his many other attributes, also turns out to be lucky: he won first prize -$1,200 –  in the football team’s annual Duck Race fundraiser. I wonder how he will spend it?!

Oh and I learned this week that the slang term for a question mark followed by an exclamation mark, as at the end of the previous sentence is an “interro-bang”: lifelong learning.

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Sweet inspiration

Oscar Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man on no legs”, became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics at the 2012 London games. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles. Oscar is shown here with Ellie Challs, a quadruple amputee.

The theme of this blog post has been nagging at me for at least three weeks: Where and when do I find inspiration? How is my hope in humankind renewed in the face of daily reports of cruelty, incompetence and indifference? Who are my heroes, my mentors?

I think we have all been inspired by physical achievements: moments in sport, like the picture of Pistorius above. Both of our sons inspired me with their dedication and discipline in their chosen sports… and other exploits and adventures. They thus have both encouraged me in my endeavours. My husband has shown me what is possible by believing in a dream and working to achieve it; from climbing 75 mountains for Alberta’s 75 birthday to founding the Canmore Tennis Club to laying carpeting down in McMahon Stadium for the ’88 Olympics Opening Ceremonies…and beyond.

Then yesterday afternoon when I returned from my daughter-in-law’s baby shower in Calgary – baby’s due October 29 –  my husband told me a story of incredible act of bravery performed by a good pal of his. Here’s the story he told me:

“I ran into Christa Ratchford on the edge of the Bow River. She was feeling a little low and took the day off work. While playing on her lap top, she happened to glance out the window to see a hang glider soaring high above, doing lazy circles in the sky. A moment later and the same hang glider plummeted into the Bow river in front of her home! She called 911 and, clad only in her dressing gown, rushed to the river bank. Christa ran upstream and using her long forgotten skills as a life guard and clad only in her skivvies, she dove into the strong current to rescue the downed pilot. Amazingly she intercepted the downed glider; the pilot was face down in the water with a severe head injury. Christa applied mouth-to-mouth and the man began breathing on his own and threw up in Christa’s face. She then set about extracting the guy from his flying harness in order to get to shore. This must taken some time and the water is very cold and the current strong. Once untangled from the glider, Christa then swam with pilot in tow until she reached shallower water and pulled him to shore. After all this she was alone on the west bank by the boat launch with not a soul to help and the victim bleeding heavily from a head wound. . EMS didn’t show for another 10 minutes or so. Usually the river bank is full of hikers and dog walkers at this time of day but Christa was alone. Seeing as she found the man face down and lungs full of water, I would say she saved the guy’s life – no question. If she had not risked her personal safety, but only waited for help, a life would have been lost. Christa is a heroine of the first order and a lifesaver as well.”

Wow. Just wow. Such selfless courage…that’s inspiring. Coming just after Neil Armstrong’s passing, it nudged me into sharing some of the people, things and music that give me heart as we launch the school year, here at Canadian Rockies Public Schools District. Perhaps you’ll find something new to boost your spirits and re-energize.  Please share some yours in the comments section.

TED talks are often uniquely fascinating and motivational. Here is a list of the 20 most watched. The top three stayed with me; I have watched them each at least three times.

Ever since I heard Vin Garbutt do this poem – “If” by Rudyard Kipling –  in Canmore some 30 years ago, it has been my favourite version of this exhortation to “…be a man, my son.” A friend recently pointed out that it would be wonderful to have an inspirational poem like this for girls; any suggestions? Or could we just change the words slightly here?

Hiking in our wonderful mountains, where the air does fizz like champagne, the wonder of the views brings me joy…

Part of the territory around Mount Assiniboine. Taken July 2012.

and the tenacity of windblown plants to adapt and grow…

Taken at the top of West Wind Pass Trail, off  Spray Lakes road (Hwy 742), Kananaskis Country

…this is a persistent reminder of resilience and strength in harsh circumstances.

Twitter, that trivial-sounding social medium, inspires me profoundly on a daily basis. It also angers me, makes me laugh, introduces me to people I never would have met otherwise. Some of these folks are very brave. They state their views unvarnished and it can be hard to read because the truth is hard to swallow, sometimes. One of these is Laurie Penny or @PennyRed –  her twitter handle.  Her bio: Author, journalist, feminist, reprobate, tea-drinker, gentlewoman of fortune. Writes for The Independent and many others. Views my own. From the responses to her articles, Laurie provides inspiration, comfort and courage to many. If you visit her blog, be aware some of the content may contain foul language and adult subject matter.  It will also move you and make you think.

I  am very lucky to have family and friends who encourage and inspire me. I won’t embarrass them all by naming them here; I am pretty sure you know who you are. I do want to mention my sister, Judy Evans, and my father-in-law, Eldon Comfort.

L-R: Linda Evans, Judy Evans and Esmé Comfort (née Evans)

My sister Judy is 67. At age 21, she was diagnosed as suffering from catatonic schizophrenia. Judy has taught me about real day-to-day, duking-it-out courage. I just want to give her a shout-out for her toughness and her positivity. Some day I’ll do a post just about her life. Also shown in this picture is my sister-in-law, Linda Evans. She has been there for Judy for decades without any family obligation – she and my brother separated over 30 years ago. Linda gave me some of the best advice I got in my life and has inspired me with her honesty and affection.




Eldon Comfort will turn 100 in about six weeks. Sound of mind and (pretty) sound of body, he is an amazing individual. He has taught me about lifelong learning and activism. I admire him greatly. We are planning a dandy birthday celebration. Oh, and the Grey Cup is 100 in 2012 also; it is taking place in Toronto, Eldon’s home.  Seems like a no-brainer to me to put the two together, but so far #CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon has not seen the beauty of my logic.  Should any of you out there hold any sway with @canadiancommish, please use that influence for good.


I had better pull up now. I realize there is a multiplicity of inspirational influences which act on me: art, creativity and more music. I could be here all night. So this will do for now except…

…”the kids”, our students, inspire me. And our teachers, administration and staff. I feel privileged to serve as a trustee. I can’t wait to see the mountains we’ll climb and the vistas we’ll see. Welcome back.

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What a happy, lucky life I lead…

Hello blog – long time, no… well, you know. There has been a lot going on. Where to begin? My mind feels like a table at a jumble sale; random items, some valuable, shiny and unused mixed in with some that are cheap, cheesy and tattered. Let me catch you up on my doings since my most recent post on May 18.  I have been snapping pics to keep track of events so I’ll just download ’em all here with commentary. As I was scanning these images, I realize I am a very privileged individual, with a very happy life. I just wanted to say that I try never to take that for granted.

WESLEY, Eleasha Evangeline (Little One) “Ju Thin na”Eleasha Evangeline Wesley, (Little One) “Ju Thin na”, an Exshaw School student was killed in a car accident in early May. I was able to attend the funeral Services at Morley School Gymnasium, on Thursday, May 10. This was a devastating loss for the family and for the school community. Time was taken to recognize this young girl – at 10 years old, such a treasure, lost and taken too soon. Grief will turn to healing; we will continue to support each other as we did that day.  That evening I attended the Lawrence Grassi Middle School (LGMS) Grade 7  performance of The Loxleys and the War of 1812.  Alexander Finbow’s post explains the wonderful creative process of the production; history came alive for these kids.

May 11, a Friday, was a full-on Professional Development for the teachers in the LGMS. The Alberta School Improvement Initiative (AISI) project findings were shared across the division. It was fascinating to hear the teachers discuss what had worked for them and what hadn’t as they looked to improve their practice.

R-L: Joan Rose, MC & teacher; Pat Ritchie, Nancy Crosley, Jim Birnie – the three principals who served at ERS in the last 20 years

This was taken at École Elizabeth Rummel School  at the 20th anniversary celebration of the school’s opening. These staff members have all had a long-term association with the school. Both my boys attended ERS. It was an emotional day, as the school board had hired Mr. Christopher MacPhee as our new district superintendent, and Mr. Brian Callaghan’s last day was less than two weeks away.

When I took the picture below; I couldn’t help thinking: “Adieu Brian – bienvenue Chris!”

(L) Brian Callaghan, outgoing Superintendent after 22 years of honourable service and (R) incoming Superintendent Christopher MacPhee; look at the grins on those fellas!

The board was also making budget decisions during this time in a very lean and uncertain budget year: Alberta Education has already allocated the dollars for the next three years, but the current five-year agreement with the teachers expires August 31st. The hope is the Alberta School Boards’ Association, the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Government of Alberta will be able to reach another multi-year agreement. We’ll just have to wait and see.

So more to celebrate at Exshaw School – have you heard of the Snacketeria Lady? She helps teach the kids about nutrition. Her efforts were recognized by Alberta Milk in the $1,000 Nutrition Innovation Award.

The money goes to support the continuation of the nutrition program. So wonderful when staff goes above and beyond. Such benefit for the kids! She is very popular with the students. On June 15th, at the Grade 8 Farewell (all 16 students are going on to CCHS), she sent a video greeting – such cheering!

CCHS Commencement on May 25 was a very cheerful event. It was Mr. Glenn Nelson’s first one as principal; he seemed pleased to cede the role of MC. Families, teachers and staff looked pleased and proud. As I have said elsewhere, I am a grad ceremony junkie – I really got my fix that night. Congratulations to all.

For the beginning part of June (and indeed, for most of May) my attention was riveted on my “real” job – the one that pays the bills, continues to challenge and reward me – The Banff World Media Festival. We were on site June 9th and the weather looked like this:

June 9th, 2012. View from 3rd Floor Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel Conference Centre: Van Horne points the way through the snow.










And then two days later the Bow Falls looked like this:

It began to feel like spring. The event ran its course; it was as busy and successful as ever. School was really winding down with the annual milestones clicking past: Banff grad would be soon BUT before we got there… another meeting.




BUT – quick aside here – on June 19th a by-election was held in Canmore for a new mayor (Ron Casey had successfully sought the MLA vacancy – more on that later) and two council seats vacated by mayoral hopefuls. Trustee Vi Sandford  captured one of those council seats and stepped down from trusteeship. I’d like to give her a serious shout-out. She was a diligent trustee and a passionate advocate of public education – also a dandy hiking partner.

Vi Sandford and I hunker down to escape the wind in Ptarmigan Cirque in Kananaskis Country. Beautiful place, great day.

Many thanks to her for hard work and sincere fellowship. She’s offered to once again host the board’s Christmas pot luck dinner, so it’s not good-bye, merely au revoir. Now on to that meeting…

On June 20, anticipating what has to be tackled in the fall, we asked members of the Community Education Network (CEN) and our school council chairs (or designates) “How can we take informed action that builds our capacity for being vibrant and adaptable?” We considered:

  • Inspiring Hearts and Minds (IHM) and CEN first principles to help us reconnect with the visioning work already done.
  • An overview of our current situation – financial, programming, provincial context, world context, etc.
  • Kicked around some initial ideas about key and realistically achievable steps that will help us build capacity: drilling down into IHM to move towards actions steps, refreshing IHM with new ideas – again, to lead to action steps.
  • Lastly we discussed how we will proceed in the fall.

There will be a lot of important decisions to be made in the coming year; the board has pledged to consult community as our community works through some tough circumstances. We are in this together.

A whole new look for the big guy.

The next day was National Aboriginal Day; someone cleverly dressed up Canmore’s signature public art. It was a day of celebration at Exshaw School but I had to work. However it was solstice (well, almost) and time for midsummer’s bowling.








Sunrise was gorgeous –  I know because there we were there,

Midsummer, 2012

three foolhardy souls, five-pin bowling at the main intersection of downtown Canmore. Why? Because one can.

Wendy pays homage to Patty – the only strike of the day

Chowing down after some tough athletic competition.














I flew off to work, rubbing my bowling blisters and picking strawberry seeds out of my teeth – not really – and then zoomed home to change for the final event of the day –  a gathering to honour departing District Superintendent, Brian Callaghan.


I was so pleased to be there and so pleased to see so many folks come out to participate.

Kim Bater & Annaliisa Bracco-Callaghan in foreground, guests behind.

Brian, there are not enough words to begin to acknowledge all you have done. Thank you.

Helmi & Brian, the night Brian announced his retirement to the Canadian Rockies Public Schools Board.

And thank you to your wife, your partner, Helmi, for sharing you with us.

Just one more meeting before we are done. The Board and our (new) superintendent, Chris MacPhee, met with our new MLA, Ron Casey – former mayor of Canmore. Ron is head of the rural caucus, so he will hear that many districts face the same challenges as CRPS. It was an excellent session. Ron was generous with his time, and his astute questions showed he paid close attention to our presentation. We look forward to working with him.

MLA Casey on his Harley-Davidson in the Canada Day Parade, 2012

We think we may have an inside edge: he and our supe are Harley fans.

And finally: Banff Grad at the Fairmont Banff Springs Conference Centre – such a treat to be a guest where I had so recently been a worker bee! It was a beautiful evening: an amazing meal, moving speeches, and a feeling of belonging. How fantastic it felt to sit and join in the conversation, or just let it ebb and flow around me, and feel “This is my place; I am exactly where I should be.” Alas, I did not take any pictures, but I hold the images in my memory and the feeling in my heart. Blessings to you all.

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Lafarge Canada – a good neighbour and friend to Exshaw School

Grade 4 Exshaw School students and Principal Paula Hanson with Lafarge Canada Plant Manager, Heinz Knopfel, with employees: Janet Braeger, & Brad Watson.

I often use this blog to thank those who support our schools.  It’s little enough to do when the contributions are so valuable, so needed and do such good things for kids.  In this “grip and grin” photo above, the kids have a lot to smile about: Lafarge has donated $15,000 to the Exshaw school. These funds will go toward the emergency lunch program, literacy and numeracy initiatives and the very exciting new program using iPads to support learning.  Thank you for this, Lafarge! The board of Canadian Rockies Public Schools recognizes and appreciates the generosity of Lafarge Canada; we also acknowledge that the company’s largesse does not stop at the Exshaw town line, but extends into the Bow Valley and into many sectors. We are enriched not just monetarily, but also by the vote of confidence such a gift demonstrates. Your faith in us helps us to stand taller and do our work better.

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Retreat & beyond

Photo from Thank you, Canadian Mountain Holidays

This is a big-time catch up post – my first one since March 23rd! I did start a couple in April, but could not trust myself to steer clear of political commentary, so I remained in the confines of Twitter and Facebook. Now things have calmed down somewhat, I’ll fill in some of those blanks.

The board of Canadian Rockies Public Schools  District sequestered ourselves for our annual retreat, April 21 and 22 in the Banff School Board office boardroom. This time is our chance to focus on what’s going well and how to sustain and support those things, as well as to carefully examine our challenges.  The picture above seems a metaphor for me of our Board work. Each person finds their place and role on the Via Ferrata of Canadian Rockies Public Schools, but wherever we are on the hierarchy, on the journey, we are all linked by a common purpose, as these adventurers are by their climbing rope.

The seven trustees, Secretary-Treasurer Dave MacKenzie, Superintendent Callaghan and his “heir apparent”, Chris MacPhee, as well as Kate Belford, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services,  and Darren Dick, Coordinator of Instructional Technology met and tackled an ambitious agenda. The board had met with the Principals prior to retreat for, as the cliché goes, “a full and frank discussion”. I am glad that this group feels they can express themselves honestly and openly. They are consummate professionals who are passionate about their schools and students; the district is lucky to have them.

So those of us at retreat sought to define and then emphasize what the fundamental goals of teaching and learning are; this will then shape our decisions around budget.  Inspiring Hearts & Minds core principles were reaffirmed; that process, those definitions and aspirations are the screen through which our decisions will pass.

Yes, I know, easy for us to say.  Recently someone tweeted the link to a post from my blog from a year ago…it is a case of déja vu all over again. I asked the Alberta Government to supply predictable sufficient funding to Public Education; we also asked our stakeholders to let the government know what is needed. Many letters and emails were sent to Edmonton.

The government got the predictable part right, but it is predictably insufficient: the three-year allocation of 1%, 2%, 2% will be outstripped by inflation and the increase in staff wages and salaries…and CRPS still has a deficit to repay.  Our funds have shrunk so much that even our piggy-bank looks unhealthy!

I am also waiting with bated breath: who will be in Cabinet? Will tripartite talks (Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta School Boards Association, Government of Alberta) resume? Will @LukaszukMLA be Education Minister again? What of The School Act?

Meanwhile, I choose to embrace hope and keep on working toward the best outcomes for our students.  So despite sometimes feeling as though we are marching endlessly in place, I will continue to work with government to see how inequity in funding might be addressed.  In that vein, I share these spring flowers that I gave to my best pal in the world on her birthday yesterday.  Onwards and upwards.

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Science Fair 2012: A whole lotta learning going on!

Mr. Darren Dick assesses a project.

So pleased to be invited back to the Annual Canadian Rockies Public School District Science Fair. First and foremost, a big shout out to Shari Worobey, uber-organizer, and to Canmore Rotary. Shari once again had her ducks – and all the kids’ projects – lined up in a row. Canmore Rotary supported the project not just with dollars but with volunteers – close to 40, I believe. The judges came from many sectors. It all proves once again, the added value the community pumps into our schools.

High school student judges huddle: "Let's get it right."

Once again Shari gave the judges a combo training session and pep talk. She spoke of how the students had taught her, as they presented. She mentioned that although she teaches languages arts and not science, the use of the scientific method is germane to all curriculum, as well as practice doing presentations. She encouraged us to learn from the students as we used provided rubrics to grade the projects.

The two hours of judging flew by as I listened to the students, asked questions and parsed the results. There were miles of aisles and the gym was packed out with people.

Kudos to everyone involved. I’ll be back next year… if you’ll have me. I get a bit of a window into how difficult a teacher’s job is, and, as I mentioned last year,  I am grateful for the insight.

Miles of science project aisles!

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Artwork & Photo by Wendy Marie Bush

Yikes! My last post was over a month ago? I was going to post on the 21st of February or so, but hubby’s heart att-ack-ack-ack-ack (Jim’s a big Billy Joel fan) on the 20th changed my priorities somewhat. He is recuperating nicely. Calls himself “stentman”. So… I am reflecting: how do we move forward? How do we THRIVE? Change is not easy but we both have quite spectacular motivation now.

We all think we want to be “happy”, to find the secret of happiness. I believe what we really want is to thrive. “Failure to thrive” is a medical term for children and the elderly, a veterinary term for young animals and the term is also used in horticulture. It means wasting away, not growing and developing – the antithesis of what we want from our education system. We want our schools to thrive so our children can grow to blossom into the very best individuals they can be.

In order to thrive, all life needs to be more than just sustained by adequate resources. Want that Amaryllis to really burst into flower? Want those puppies to be fat, happy and sassy? Want your children to love life, to be healthy, strong and here –  in the now? Then  furnish more than just the “basics”; add concentrated  love and focused attention.

So as the provincial government passes this budget and then goes into the election, please inform yourselves so you can call on the politicians to ensure the whole education system thrives. Equity in funding is required to guarantee equity of access. Choking off adequate dollars will result in stunted and weak schools… and unsatisfactory student outcomes. It will be inevitable.

Unofficial Ribbon Cutting: Kim Bater, Brian Callaghan, Ken Riordon. So happy to see the new home for this facility.

There is a lot more news – the Board is only waiting on Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk‘s signature on the paperwork to announce the successful candidate to step into Mr. Callaghan’s big boots Update: Letter is signed! Announcement will be made today; the new Canmore Daycare had its unofficial opening at its new site –

Kids play in new empty daycare: "We can run!"

next door to the Canmore Middle School; the next three year-calendar cycle will be on the website tomorrow – the board passes it tonight. And I have a ton of reading and websites to share…

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