Terry Fox Public School in Ajax is proud to be the
recipient of the most recent
"Harmony School of the Year Award"
at the Harmony Gala at the Metro Reference Library.
"At Terry Fox, we have prioritized the importance of supporting and valuing student voice. One of the highlights of working with Harmony this year has been to empower students to use their voices to create social change and develop their own identity in a positive way. We feel strongly that students and parents need to feel pride and valued in their culture and heritage and that as a school family, the more we learn about each other, the stronger we are," says Principal Deirdre Morgenstern who attended the award presentation with students who participated in the various programs.
|"It was a huge jump to become one of the biggest and best school environments for this district and we are hoping that this
social change can influence other schools as well."
Shaan, Terry Fox PS student
Terry Fox PS has done a lot of work to break down stereotypes and build knowledge. Leadership students plan and deliver classroom activities, readings, or skits to continue the discussion of equity and diversity in all classrooms. The school has found the impact of having older students speak openly and positively with younger grades about equity and diversity is tremendous and lasts long after the classroom visits are over. These visits have included Pink Shirt Day, bullying prevention, Black History, Islamic History, Aboriginal Heritage month, Down syndrome and Autism Awareness.
Students play a key role in the whole school approach as their voices and leadership are embraced around the school. Each day begins with students leading morning announcements for their "Terry Fox Family" beginning with music from our diversity of cultures and celebrations of religious, cultural and historical events. Terry Fox Public School is also lucky to benefit from the inclusion of two small Special Education classes for students with Multiple Exceptionalities. These students are regularly part of the announcement crew and through integration with same-grade peers and student-led classroom and whole school presentations, all of the student body benefits from inclusion and is stronger together.
"I am very happy that the school has built up to this achievement, we have worked very hard and I am very proud to not only say that I was able to help, but there are others that are continuing on that path of respect, kindness and inclusion," says Terry Fox student Kayana.
"Partnering with Harmony and the work we have done in school has provided our students with enthusiasm and empowered them with a new skill set that allows them to view themselves and interact with peers and others with empathy and compassion," says teacher Vlynn McBride.
Teacher Nikki Soliman agrees, "Terry Fox has come a long way. I'm incredibly proud of the hard work of staff, students and parents in making our school a safe place to discuss difficult topics. We have seen incredible growth as a community and I look forward to watching growth mindsets continue to develop."
Each staff meeting at Terry Fox begins with professional development and reflection of the school's Culturally Responsive and Relevant practices. Staff has completed school "equity walkthroughs" from the perspective of a certain student and family identity, unpacked and explored the invisible backpack and the notion of privilege and have analyzed data to identify trends in areas of student achievement and community engagement. Weekly memos include samples to model for all staff of great inclusive and equitable practices and diversity being embraced and celebrated around the school.
As you enter the school you will see the Terry Fox Family Values wall. Parents and students are invited to share cultural and historical artifacts and information to display to help the school community learn from each other and to create a purposeful entranceway to the school that celebrates diverse identities and cultures. Parents and family members are also regularly invited to "share their story" and come into their child's class to speak to students about the journey that brought their family to Terry Fox. Students benefit from learning about the diversity of their histories and also finding the commonalities that bring them each together.
"From the beginning of last year we have come so far. Our vocabulary has changed. Students have moved from being held back by anger and frustration to looking forward and planning for social change. Our students have presented at the board, participated in conferences, been nominated for courageous leadership awards, applied for grants, created inclusive art together, organized community events and their efforts and achievements have been covered by local media," says Principal Morgenstern.
Students, staff and parents are empowered to share their voices in every aspect of our school. The barriers that prevented them from doing it before are gone and as a school with an amazing diversity of identities and cultures, our students talk, plan and mobilize ideas as they respect and celebrate each other's.
The Harmony School of the Year Award is presented annually to an elementary or secondary school from across Ontario that has completed one or more of Harmony's student leadership programs in the last school year. The award recognizes their exemplary achievements in going above and beyond the training to promote diversity, equity and inclusivity in both their schools and their communities.
Terry Fox PS is proud to have partnered with Harmony to run a two-day "Social Change Makers Leadership" conference for intermediate students and half-day staff workshop. The additional resource and support of the Harmony movement was a perfect complement to the student leadership, and staff and community engagement initiatives happening at Terry Fox PS.