Choose Kind: What I learned from deaf/hard of hearing students and the movie “Wonder”

Last Wednesday, I was honoured to join a group of over 100 Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) students, staff and parent volunteers at a special screening of the movie Wonder. Based on the New York Times bestselling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome who starts middle school for the first time. August encounters bullying, new friendships and ultimately teaches those around him that it’s ok to be different and that it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts.

The students attending were deaf/hard of hearing, so this version of the movie at North Barrie Cineplex was specially ordered to be open captioned for students. What’s the difference between open captioned and closed captioned? Open captions are always are in view and cannot be turned off, whereas closed captions can be turned on and off by the viewer.

I spoke with Rebecca Flowers, a Grade 5 student at Portage View Public School, about the book and the movie. I was able to communicate with Rebecca via her Interpreter, Kendall Salazar, who used American Sign Language to ask Rebecca questions.

Student holding "Wonder" movie poster
Rebecca shows off her “Wonder” movie poster

“I read the book as well, but liked the movie better,” said Rebecca. “My favourite part of the movie was at the end when Auggie got his award.”

Some of the SCSDB’s Hearing Resources Teachers (HRTs) accompanied students on this special field trip. HRTs are centrally-based special education staff that provide assistance to all schools and support students with hearing loss throughout the SCDSB. The Hearing Resource Team is available for consultation with students, parents and staff.

Melissa McKee is a Hearing Resources Teacher who helped organize the movie trip.

Before the movie began, Melissa encouraged the students to use captioning and advocate for it. She told students: “What makes us different is what makes us awesome, just like the characters in Wonder.”

The movie was heart-warming, inspirational and is a must-see for all humans. And bring the tissues – it will bring you to tears. Numerous times.

Choose kind. Embrace different. Be a wonder!

~ Melanie Rumley, Communications Officer

Commit to Character: Empathy

The SCDSB’s 10 values are a key part of our commitment to character education. We refer to our values as our character attributes. Each month our schools recognize and celebrate a different attribute. This month, we are highlighting ’empathy’.

Empathy: We strive to understand and appreciate the feelings and actions of others

Some examples of how we can show empathy are:

  • listen to what others are saying
  • look someone in the eye when they are communicating with you
  • if someone is feeling down or having a hard time, offer them a hug or other gesture of kindness
  • don’t judge people, gain a deeper understanding of the person and their perspective
  • offer help
  • volunteer

Some ways that students in our schools learn about and develop empathy include:

  • gaining a greater understanding about the importance of recognizing and considering the feelings of others and the impact that our actions can have on these feelings through role-playing
  • using community service hours and additional volunteer time to meet the needs of others who are going through difficult situations and experiences

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Learn more about character education in the SCDSB. 

“There’s math in that”: CCI combines math and tech in unique initiative

Grade 10 students at Collingwood Collegiate Institute (CCI) are currently participating in a TechnoMath initiative as part of the Ministry of Education’s Renewed Math Strategy.

The project combines learning from two courses: Applied Mathematics and Construction Technology. A collaborative hands-on approach connects student knowledge and understanding of mathematics to construction, and shows them how the two relate to one another.

Doug Czerny, technology teacher at CCI, explains, “in the TCJ20 construction course, students focus on using tools safely and effectively, reading drawings properly with accuracy and attention to detail and also on the environmental impact of residential construction through a variety of ‘real world’ projects like the garden shed project. Exploring both fields of study at the same time helps students understand the scope of the trades and the importance of their future roles in the field.”

“Students have the freedom to pursue special projects and work to connect math concepts to prove that there is indeed math in everything we do,” adds Erik Lehmann, mathematics teacher at CCI.

CCI is the only secondary school in the Simcoe County District School Board to have received this funding.





Talented Alliston Union student Jadyn Rylee is a rising pop star

Eleven-year-old Jadyn Rylee is on her way to becoming a famous pop star and household name in Canada as a new member of Mini Pop Kids. A Grade 6 student from Alliston Union Public School, Jadyn has been making an impact in the music scene and on social media for years with her incredible voice and talent.

Her mother, Tara, recorded her singing Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’ at the age of two, and was astounded with how well she could sing. It quickly became a passion of Jadyn’s and she knew that this was going to become a major part of her life.

Tara enrolled Jadyn in the Modern Music Conservatory at the age of six, where she began writing and singing her own songs. Some of these songs were recorded and shared on YouTube, which caught the attention of a Nashville producer. Jadyn and her parents travelled to Nashville to meet with him, and Jadyn started co-writing and recording songs with him immediately.

With her heart as big as her talent, she co-wrote, sang and recorded an anti-bullying song called ‘Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover’, which now has 1.4 million views on YouTube.

“We never thought it would impact so many people,” says Tara. “We were getting comments from teachers all across Canada and the U.S. letting us know that they were playing the video at their schools and using it in their programming as part of their anti-bullying campaigns. Within two months of posting the video, we had one million views.”

With her rapid following and growing confidence, Jadyn and her parents decided to travel to Toronto in January and audition for Mini Pops Kids, a group of youth that record current pop hits, music videos and tour across Canada. Out of 620 kids across Canada, the number was cut to 50 in Toronto and Jadyn made it to the top four. After singing and performing a total of six choreographed dances, she got the call of her life on Canada Day weekend.

“I was so excited!” says Jadyn. “It felt so good to be past the auditions and to find out that I was going to be a Mini Pop.”

Since July, Jadyn has been busy travelling to Toronto on weekends recording music for the upcoming release of the Mini Pops Kids CD (hitting the shelves at Walmart on Nov. 24), participating in photo shoots and music video shoots. She was also part of a live show in Toronto called ‘Girl Expo’, where the Mini Pops Kids performed two songs and took pictures with fans. As busy as her schedule is, she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I really like being a part of Mini Pop Kids,” says Jayden. “My family is really proud of me and my friends think it’s pretty cool. It’s so amazing to have fans.”

We are so #SCDSBproud of you too, Jadyn! We have no doubt that you will continue to shine and inspire other youth. Want to hear more of Jadyn’s music? Be sure to follow her on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Commit to Character: Courage

The SCDSB’s 10 values are a key part of our commitment to character education. We refer to our values as our character attributes. Each month our schools recognize and celebrate a different attribute. This month on the blog, we are highlighting ‘courage’.

Courage: We do the right thing even when it’s difficult

Some examples of how we can show courage are:

  • trying new things, even if you might fail
  • working to overcome your fears
  • admitting your mistakes and learning from them
  • refusing to give in to negative peer pressure
  • doing the right thing, even if others are not

Some ways that students in our schools can learn about and develop courage include:

  • helping students to connect being courageous with the goal of putting an end to bullying. Use role playing to help them rehearse situations where they need to stand up for what they know to be the right thing to do
  • prompting students to write a narrative about a character who was faced with a difficult decision, one in which a great deal of courage was required

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

Learn more about character education in the SCDSB. 

SCDSB Spotlight: Meet the Operations team!

At some point in your career at the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB), a member of the Operations team has supported your work. Whether it was getting your fob in your first week, a response to an emergency at a school or having your workspace cleaned by our dedicated custodial staff, these are all duties that fall under operations.

Some of the things that the Operations team manages include:

  • cleaning
  • pest control services
  • alarm response
  • emergency use of facilities
  • minor repairs
  • site and grounds maintenance, including: snowplowing, grass-cutting, sports fields and playground equipment

Along with the Manager, Susan Justus, Assistant Manager, Jaci Bowen and Central Operations Supervisor, Rick Mutuchky, the team also includes nine Regional Operations Supervisors (ROS) who are each responsible for a school area. The ROS team works mainly in school communities and are well-known by school staff.

“Our ROS staff are the ones that are first to be on site in an emergency situation,” says Jaci Bowen. “No matter what time of day, or the scale of the issue, everyone in our department is on call 24/7. Our custodial staff are also the first staff at schools in the morning to ensure they are ready for students and staff, and are the last ones as well to clean after the school day.”

All nine Regional Operations Supervisors, from left to right (back row): Jason Clatsoff, Dave Poole, Russell Sturmey, Karen Purdy, Suzanne Heidman and Rick Leal, (front row): Olimpia Cenerini, Steve Rehling and Phil Barratt

The Operations team also includes France Milne, Secretary and Barb Howey, Operations Clerk, who provide clerical support and support fob implementation for staff.

With cleaning as a major component of the Operations team’s responsibilities, they have worked diligently over the last few years to ensure that almost all of the cleaning products used are green and eco-certified.

They also focus on equipment and processes that are efficient, whether it’s low-noise vacuum cleaners (have you met ‘Henry’ yet!?), microfiber cloths, diamond polishing that eliminates the need for certain floor finishes and recycling of all paper products.

Members of the custodial team at the Education Centre, from left to right: Leeann Freeman, Winnie Stone, Margaret Sherd (Chief Custodian) and Jennifer Hook

What an amazing team! Thank you for all that you do to keep our schools and buildings safe and clean. Do you know how dedicated they are? At least three members of Operations have worked for the SCDSB for 30 years. What an accomplishment!

Inspiring deafblind volunteer at Goodfellow PS ensures students eat well

Terence Scott is a 37-year-old volunteer at Goodfellow Public School who makes a big impact in his community, in spite of his deafblind status. With the assistance of his intervener from DeafBlind Ontario Services and a parent volunteer, he bakes muffins for students every week for the school’s Eat Well to Excel breakfast program.

His initiative to help support local children in his community is truly inspiring and the students and staff at Goodfellow Public School are extremely happy to have him as a volunteer.

“Terence has been a wonderful addition to our school community,” says Jennifer Henderson, Vice-Principal, Goodfellow Public School. “Through this partnership and placement he has been supporting our Eat Well to Excel program, but also working on his independence. When he first started, he was really shy, but now he interacts with students and staff regularly. I’m really proud of his progress.”

The goal for this year is to have Terence bake with a student in the morning twice a week.

Terence enjoying a cup of tea at Goodfellow Public School with his intervenor from DeafBlind Ontario Services.
Jennifer Henderson, Vice-Principal, Goodfellow Public School presents Terence with a volunteer certificate.

For someone with the dual disability of deafblindness, finding employment and volunteer opportunities can be challenging. Terence’s interest in volunteering and helping youth matched perfectly with Goodfellow Public School’s volunteer needs, and now the students in the breakfast program have a great start to their school day, thanks to his healthy snacks.

Thank you for all that you, Terence! The students and staff at Goodfellow Public School are lucky to have you.