Stories of Simcoe – Al and Nick

Every journey starts with something small. This past summer, wrestler Jasmine Mian represented Canada at the Rio Olympics. Her wrestling journey began at Innisdale Secondary School and the Kempenfelt Bay Athletic Club with two coaches who saw something special in her. We agree, and we also see something special in these teachers.

Meet Al and Nick.

Al is a teacher at Innisdale Secondary School, and Nick teaches at Bear Creek Secondary School. Together, and with the help of others along the way, they fostered an environment that helped Jasmine get to Rio, and is helping other young wrestlers reach great heights in Canada and around the world.

When Nick began coaching wrestling at Barrie Central, he saw an opportunity to take a team approach to athlete development in Barrie and the surrounding area. With only four students on the Barrie Central team, all in different weight classes, Nick connected with Al at Innisdale. The two schools partnered up for practices to provide their athletes with a better training experience.

With the students wrestling together in school practices, Al and Nick formed the Kempenfelt Bay Athletic Club to let the athletes compete together. Athletes from the club have gone on to compete at the national and international level. One example is Jasmine Mian.

Al first saw Jasmine when she was on his flag football team. He saw an athleticism in her that he thought would be well suited to wrestling, and asked her to join the team.

“It is incredible to see where Jasmine began and how far she has come,” said Al. “Watching her walk in during the Opening Ceremonies made a tear come to my eye. It is pretty impactful.”

Al and Nick encourage their students and athletes to explore and follow their dreams, just like Jasmine. “Just follow a passion. There are many opportunities for success, and not all students take advantage of it. In wrestling, everyone makes the team. There are no cuts, and you can participate right through university,” says Nick.

Al adds, “I remember my experiences from outside of class the most. I tell my Grade 9 students to get out and experience the social aspect of school. Experience a team, a sport, a club. Don’t look back and say you could’ve or should’ve.”

Great words of advice for all of us.

Stories of Simcoe is a place to share the stories of our staff and students, past and present. Do you know someone with a story to tell? Let us know! Contact us at

Ideas include: students or staff with a passion, comeback stories, people with a cause, success stories, exchange student experiences, what I want to be when I grow up and more. Subjects can include students, parents, staff, volunteers, graduates and other members of the school community.

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. 

Nottawa ES Hits #1 in BrightBites Hall of Fame!

Bright Bites logo

Looking for ways to improve healthy eating at your school? A new provincial program called BrightBites might be just what you need! That was the advice that the health unit’s Registered Dietitian Jody Dawson shared with Nottawa Elementary School last year when they identified healthy eating as a focus for their school learning plan.

Nottawa ES is top of the list in the Bright Bites Hall of Fame

Nottawa formed a nutrition sub-committee with support from students, staff, parents and the health unit and earned seven BrightBites badges, placing them at #1 on the BrightBites Hall of Fame! They engaged students for support and ideas for the breakfast program (they asked for more veggies!!!), and switched to healthy classroom celebrations, rewards, incentives and healthier fundraising options. They also successfully hosted their fun fair sans candy sales and sold fruit kabobs instead. To top it all off, Nottawa is now an order and pick-up site for the Good Food Box programs to make it easy for families to participate.

BrightBites is a free, easy to use, online program that offers tools and resources to help school leaders create a healthier school nutrition environment. Getting started is easy!

Bright Bites First Bite iconSchools can earn digital badges and compete with other teams for a spot on the BrightBites Hall of Fame. Badges are available on a variety of healthy eating topics, such as: packing healthy lunches, classroom celebrations, rewards and incentives, promoting water and reducing sugar sweetened beverages and making curriculum connections to healthy eating.

Think you’re ready to start earning badges for your school? Check out the website and follow the steps listed for the badge you’re interested in. Engage students and start to transform your school with small steps and share your stories and successes. Share your badges on social media or on your school website and claim your spot on the BrightBites Hall of Fame!

Looking for support? Public Health dietitians and nurses from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit are available to assist your school with implementing BrightBites. Contact your school public health nurse or visit to get started.

~ Stephanie Ross RN
Follow the Healthy Schools team on Twitter @SMHealthySchool

5 ways parents can help their teen succeed on the Literacy Test

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) will take place on Oct. 20 this year. Most Grade 10 students will write it. For the first time, the test will be completed online. It will take place at school on school computers. Students have three hours to complete it. Only the students writing the OSSLT will be at school during the test—we have modified the school day.

The test evaluates students’ ability to read, understand, and communicate their thoughts. Teachers are helping students prepare for the test by providing regular activities and feedback.

There are things parents can do to help too. Here are five tips to help your teen prepare to write the literacy test:

  1. Encourage your teen to complete the practice test on the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) website. Why not try the test out yourself? Then you and your teen can talk about it.
  1. Suggest your teen practices the areas of the test that require a written response. There are sample question and answer booklets available on the EQAO website.
  1. Encourage your teen to practice regularly. The test evaluates their literacy skills across the Ontario Curriculum of all subjects up until the end of grade 9, so the work they have been doing in all classes has been preparing them for the test. The additional practice will help them feel confident on test day.
  1. Encourage your teen to talk to a teacher if they’re feel unsure about the test or have questions about what to expect. Keeping open lines of communication will help school staff address any issues before test day.
  1. Do what you can to make sure your teen sleeps well the night before the test. A nutritious breakfast will also help prepare their mind and body for the three-hour task. And your words of encouragement and support will help too.

The OSSLT is a graduation requirement. Like you, we want your teen to be successful on their first attempt. By working together with the school and your teen, you can help increase the chance of success.

But—don’t worry—if your teen isn’t successful, there are more opportunities. Students who are not successful in October can write the test again on March 30, 2017 either online or on paper. The October test will not count as a failed attempt. This is because the Oct. 20 date was added this year since it’s the first time the test will be completed online, rather than with a paper booklet.

List of Dos & Don'ts for the OSSLT

Commit to Character: Cooperation

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 ‘cooperation’.

Cooperation: We work together towards shared goals and purposes

Some examples of how we can be cooperative are:

  • listening to others
  • sharing with others
  • taking turns when more than one person wants something
  • compromise when there is a conflict
  • be supportive of other people’s ideas

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

  • using newspaper or magazine articles to find examples of individuals working together towards a common goal
  • after reading a recent book, have students discuss or write about examples of cooperative effort. Are there any places in the book where cooperation might have made a difference?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Learn more about character education in the SCDSB.