Award Winners

Inspirational PAC Award

South Park Parent Advisory Council

It is not news within the School District that South Park exemplifies parent engagement and volunteerism. They works diligently hard to organize and facilitate, in order to foster community building and engagement of all families.

This year, South Park PAC led in-school and out-of-school initiatives to support their school community and neighborhood.  Advocating at the district, they voiced their concerns about the rental increase and how it would affect their families and Outof- School Care partner.  They successfully advocated to the City of Victoria for the establishment of a crosswalk on Douglas Street and moving the speed limit signage that provided better visibility and advance notice to motorists, improving student safety. 

The Garden Committee has done an excellent job showing environmental leadership to the school community. In collaboration with the Habitat Acquisition Trust, a member of the committee led the restoration of the Garry Oak Meadow in the school’s playground/field area. This project engaged and educated students and parents about the significance of restoring natural areas on school grounds by removing invasive species and replanting with native wildflowers. \The Garden Committee also took the initiative of replanting fruit trees and butterfly-attracting plants within the school premises, seeking community grants and support from local businesses and organizations to make the garden initiatives sustainable over time, beyond PAC financial support.

Within the school, the PAC has successfully implemented a Parent Education Speaker Series that gives an opportunity for parents to attend educational workshops, completely free of charge.   They do a variety of initiatives throughout the year  that covers a wide range of interests from entertainment, community building, educational and artistic activities, and many more. There are opportunities to help out in the school that are not limited to daytime hours and for those who are able to, teachers welcome parent participation during school hours at any time.  They have also  streamlined their communications strategy. In addition to timely and standardized posters and emails, they have also designed and created their own PAC website separate from the school website, along with a closely-monitored and moderated Facebook group that serves as a tool for information dissemination and a venue for discussions on important topics that parents find critical to seek input and opinion from fellow parents. 

Gail Edwards Memorial Award

Joanna Verano (South Park)

Joanna Verano has been a driving force of inclusion, committees and event planning, volunteerism, and fundraising.  Joanna has planned and collaborated and overseen several Valentines dances at school, right down to the playlist of music, and removed admission fees to these PAC run school dances to make them open to all families. She has undertaken the re-vamping of the South Park Spring Fling when it was probably not going to be put on again due to lack of enthusiasm and general volunteer exhaustion. She recognized this event as a favourite for the students and made it more open to public community participation and more inclusive of participants of all ages. This included such initiatives as bringing in hamster balls and archery through Games2U for older students who are too big for the bouncy castle and face painting, and welcomed outside vendors so the pressure was taken off of parents to supply things like food and sale items. She also organized the corresponding talent show which showcased student, parent, and teacher talents both individually and collaboratively.

Joanne has organized Parent Speakers to come and present at info nights to the parents on a variety of topics of interest and arranged for childcare on these evening as well as during PAC General Meetings to allow more families to attend and be involved. She attends every PAC meeting, every family (classroom) meeting, any meeting she is ever invited to in order to help and listen and grow and support our kids and our school in any ways she can. She has put out online surveys to parents to gauge where and how they prefer to get information from the PAC and on what subjects or events are most important to them and their children.

Joanne worked with the playground committee to canvas the students on what components were most important to them when planning the playground replacement last year. She is currently overseeing the review of our constitution and bylaws, and actively mentoring the person who has expressed interest in taking over as Chair when she steps down in two years. Joanna will respond to texts and emails sometimes as late as 2:00 in the morning because she is still up planning a school event or filling out grant applications or sending emails requesting donations for our auction fundraiser. She is humble to a fault, always downplaying the amount of time and level of work she has personally invested into all of these endeavours. Joanna is exceptionally organized, open minded, level headed, easy to talk to, a thorough planner and boost of energy. She is an exemplary example of someone who inspires volunteerism by modeling it to the extreme.

Parents' Choice Award

Louisa Elkin (South Park)

Louisa has been teaching at South Park Family School for the last ten years. She is currently teaching Grade 3 this year but has taught all grade levels during her time at South Park. Louisa is an exemplary teacher. She helps students optimize their performance through skilled and patient guidance and is such a gem of a resource. South Park is incredibly fortunate to have her as a member of the teaching staff and part of our school community.

Louisa has an amazingly rich and wide range of teaching experience and skills. She would tailor her lesson and teaching strategy to meet individual students' needs and never hesitates to spend extra time outside of regular class time to work with parents and students individually through different situations. She has been a great mentor not only to students but to parents as well.

Louisa is passionate about art and physical education. As an artist herself, Louisa inspires students by regularly and consistently incorporating art into her teaching, and really encouraging students to tap into their creativity. She coaches students during track & field season and encourages participation from all students without the pressure of competition. She does a fantastic job instilling sportsmanship and the love of the sport. When you see South Park students participate in District track meets, you will see that they run with confidence and a full heart, regardless of whether they win or not. Nothing can better illustrate Louisa’s coaching skills than her passion and involvement in art and sports.

Louisa encourages student development in all aspects. She teaches in a balanced way that provides a safe environment to nurture every student’s ability and inclination. She sees potential in students and works closely with parents about cultivating it. She sees the trends in student development as reflected in the environment that they are in -- such as use of electronics and influences of popular culture. Louisa has designed and delivered workshops to help parents come up with strategies to cope and manage the development of education within individual families, which has earned Louisa the respect and appreciation of parents and educators at school and in the community.

Arkell Award

Niki Neff (Rockheights)

Niki models community values, gives unconditionally to our students and believes in the essence of community. She exemplifies community support in schools.  I have had the great privilege of working with Niki as an active member of our Rockheights Breakfast Program. I, like others in my school, am overwhelmed by the unwavering commitment and enthusiasm that Niki has in coming to our school every Wednesday morning at 745 am to volunteer. Over the two years that Niki has been at Rockheights as a volunteer, she has moved from helping to prepare and serve simple breakfast foods, to having the idea to make and serve 60 smoothies on her volunteer day. Not only is Niki’s effort creative, it provides a unique healthy option to our students that has become the favoured breakfast item at Rockheights.

Niki has been generous at Rockheights, often brining in extra fruit for the breakfast program, always thinking with healthy options in mind. When our one toaster discontinued working, Niki came to the school the next week with two high quality donated toasters so that students did not go without toast. Niki has a big heart and makes things happen. In Niki’s role as volunteer, she has also become a trusted and friendly face in the school for both students and staff. Our students know her and she knows many students by name. Students enjoy Niki’s company as she always has a compliment to give, generous words of kindness or a story that elicits laughter or meaning. She genuinely has a deep care for people and is a delightful presence in Rockheights.

Niki’s commitment of personal time, energy and resources for the betterment of Rockheights Middle School demonstrates a selflessness seldom observed. Niki is an outstanding and exceptional citizen who is having a positive influence on our students, our breakfast program and our school overall. Community volunteers like Niki make our schools better places. 

Michael Mazza and Jennifer Hill

Creates opportunities for more students to be involved in fine arts

  • The music program offers a wide range of opportunities with 10 different programs offered; Concert band (grade 6, 7, 8), Avalanche Band, Summit Jazz Band, Junior Strings, Intermediate Strings, Senior Strings, Choir and Vocal Jazz.  
  • The music program supports up to 90% of the grade 6 students and up to 65% of the grade 8 students maintain their interest in the concert band program.  
  • The choir has over 100 students from grade 6 through to grade 8.

Through their actions create equity and access for students that may not otherwise be able to participate

  • Mr. Mazza and Ms. Hill fundraise to make sure all students, no matter family income, can rent or play an instrument if they choose.
  • All students are offered the opportunity to play musical instruments and take part in drama during the middle school exploratory program.  These classes are taught by Mr. Mazza and Ms. Hill

Actively supports music programs in our school district

  • AGMS is actively involved in the District Music Program, taking part in Victoria Sings, the Victoria Band Festival and the Capital City Jazz Festival.  
  • Frank Hobbs Elementary and Campus View Elementary students have the opportunity to experience the middle school music program when the Summit Jazz Band and Choir visit the schools in February.  

"I never ceased to be impressed by their dedication to their students, from staying in during lunch periods and coming to school an hour early every day and to hold rehearsals, to organizing more than a hundred students efficiently during concerts and challenging us all to be the best musicians we can be."

"I will forever cherish the inspiration and opportunities that my music teachers provided me with from the first day of grade six to the last day of grade eight."

"Mr. Mazza and Ms. Hill are such wonderful music teachers and have worked so hard that Arbutus Middle School has become famous for its music program. When I tell someone that I go to Arbutus, the first thing that they ask is if I play an instrument. They would ask how I like the music program and I would tell them that it’s great. Nothing compares to it."

John Young Advocacy Award

Beverly Ross (Strawberry Vale)

Ms. Bev Ross exemplifies the criteria and honour associated with the John Young Advocacy Award. A teacher whose gift for educating both the hearts and minds of her family is unparalleled. I refer to Bev’s students as her family because that is who they are. She shares all of herself with the students. The depth of Bev’s connection with her students is illustrated by her unrelenting support during their times of struggle and her genuine enthusiasm for their triumphant moments, no matter how small. I often find myself in awe of the immensity of what Bev offers people in all facets of her life, especially her students, who clearly hold a very special place in her heart. 

In everything that Bev does, first and foremost she is an advocate in every sense of the word. She is a tireless advocate for her students. Through teachable moments students in her class learn how to not only advocate for themselves, but the importance of advocating for others. Bev understands that at the most foundational level, children need to feel safe and valued before learning can begin.  Bev empowers every student in her class to believe in themselves and ensures they know that she believes in them. Students do not give up on themselves because they know that they have a teacher who believes in them. In turn, the students believe in themselves and they realize their potential. She encourages students to discover their strengths and she validates their individuality, feelings and creativity.

What makes Bev unique is her natural ability to delicately integrate important life lessons into her classroom. Bev is a role model for social responsibility and familiarizes the students with a variety of other role models from several disciplines. Students learn not only about other adults that have made positive, lasting changes to our world, such as Terry Fox and David Suzuki, she also empowers students with stories about children the same age as themselves, such as Hannah Taylor, Craig Kielburger, Ryan Hreljac, and Emily Rose, one of Bev's former students. Children in Bev’s class learn that through identifying their own passion they can instil positive change in their world. Currently, Bev’s students are working on social initiative projects. For this project, students were tasked with identifying a positive change they wanted to make in their community based on a personal passion or interest. Students then formed groups and created action plans. The projects and action plans are as unique as the students in Bev’s class. Bev has been fostering the skills needed for this project since the day they walked into her classroom. Through this project, and many others like it, she not only advocates for our community, she enables her students to be advocates. The children learn not only about making positive changes in their local community, they learn about citizenship on a global-scale through projects like Toonies for Tanzania and the Garage sale for Haiti, which Bev organizes for the school.

Bev is an advocate for environmental stewardship. She incorporates nature based education into all aspects of the curriculum, including daily physical activity, language arts, mathematics, arts education, health, physical education, science and social studies. Students can often be found outside writing a story, drawing a picture, taking a walk, or conducting a scientific experiment. These activities help the students foster a relationship with their environment. Students become mindful of their surroundings and the complex interplay at work. For some of her students, their role as nature stewards is a part of their identity. Not only do the students come to see the environment as a place that permits them freedom to explore and create, it is also a part of them. They study about their impact, both positive and negative on the environment, and in turn learn ways to protect our natural resources, such as our local Garry Oak meadow or Colquitz watershed.

Bev inspires others around her. However, being an advocate is not always easy. Sometimes being an advocate, can mean bringing to light what others do not want to see. Being an advocate can be lonely at times, especially when it means taking the hard and long-road. Being an advocate for students means making decisions based on what is best for the student, even if it places you in a difficult position with a parent, colleague, administrator, district, or community. Bev does not shy away from these challenges – instead she chooses to do something. Over the years, Bev has inspired colleagues to adopt this challenging, yet rewarding role as a student advocate. She motivates and inspires people to invest extra time into what is important. Leading by example, she is purposeful and deliberate in her choices. She recognizes that every action has a consequence and that you have the power to make a difference. As many others will attest,

She embraces opportunities to advocate for students, her school, our environment, First Nation’s People, and our society, both at the local and global level. She empowers her students, colleagues, and members of society (including random strangers) to self-advocate and to become advocates for others. Bev epitomizes what it means to be an advocate and our family is forever grateful and forever changed because we met Bev. For these reasons, and more, I cannot think of a person more deserving of this award. I can only hope that the words contained within this letter give justice to Bev’s relentless advocacy efforts. In closing, I think it is most appropriate to leave you with some words from the nominee herself:

“I strongly believe that children have the potential to create positive change in the world. Through daily outdoor experiences it is my goal that children will be curious about appreciate and be protective of nature. We help our local and global neighbours through community service projects. I encourage my students to believe in themselves and to realize their power to make a difference. I encourage students to believe in themselves and to realise their power to make a difference, not despite their youth, but because of it.”  ~ Bev Ross