So much to be thankful for

Guest post by Kathi Wallace, Director of Education

PumpkinThanksgiving is a time to celebrate and be grateful for what we have.

I love this time of year.

Having grown up in a farming family from the Alliston area, I’m used to large family dinners. That tradition continues with my children and their kids too. There’s always a lot of laughter and great food.

I heard recently that gratitude is closely connected to happiness, which might explain the abundance of laughter and joy my family experiences at Thanksgiving. It’s truly a time to be grateful for what we have—our love for each other, the successful farming season, the health of our family and friends, and the safety, support and security we enjoy in our lives.

All we need to do is turn on the news or open a paper to find stories of others who aren’t as fortunate. Even in our own communities there are children and families who are facing unimaginable challenges.

We often look for ways to help others—through charitable causes, volunteerism or simple acts of kindness. For some of us, our jobs also provide opportunities to serve others. I consider myself very fortunate that my job revolves around helping people.

Thanksgiving comes just over a month after the start of a new school year. It’s this time of year that I’m starting to hear the success stories that regularly flow from our schools. I’m also witnessing the collaboration and commitment of our staff.

At this time of year I find myself reflecting on my life’s work and purpose. My heart feels warm. My inspiration is at a high. I feel tremendous gratitude.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

Surrounded by people who care

Just like a home during Thanksgiving dinner, our schools are full of people who care deeply about each other. We support nearly 50,000 students and each child has their own cheering squad. For most of our students, the regular level of support available in our schools will be enough. They will thrive. For others, we may need to do more—and we’re willing to do that.

I’m grateful for the extra efforts our staff members make to help children and families. A great example is our PASS program. We have two teachers whose job it is to reconnect with teens who have left our system—dropped out—to bring them back and help them earn their diploma.

So many options to choose from

It’s been my experience that most people are stuffed following Thanksgiving dinner. That full feeling may be closely tied to the variety of dishes we have to choose from.

As students get to high school, they may find the choices to be a lot like the Thanksgiving menu. There’s something for everyone, and so much opportunity for students to design their own experience. Like I encouraged my kids to give the parsnips a taste, we also encourage our students to try new things. In high school, students make choices that impact their futures. Our Student Success Programs provide a range of unique options. I’m certainly grateful for the opportunities our students have.

Helping hands

During the Thanksgiving season, we often hear of food drives, meals served and other efforts to support those around us. These types of activities are regular occurrences in our schools. We also benefit tremendously from the support of community members and parents who volunteer to help our students. Did you know we have nearly 10,000 volunteers in our database? Some volunteer regularly and others more sporadically, but all have shown a commitment to kids’ futures and that’s something I’m tremendously grateful for.

World-class

I’m not trying to boast, but I make a pretty great apple crisp—my husband says it’s world class. I’ve had a lot of practice mind you. Now I don’t think my apple crisp is actually world class, but I do believe our education system is, and there have been international studies  to prove it. Of course, there are always areas where we can improve. Our work is never done. But I am certainly grateful that our children in Ontario have access to such high-quality, publicly funded education. It’s a source of pride for me.

There is so much to be thankful for—this year, and every year—in our families, our communities and our county. I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on all the positives in your life and to cherish them. After all, gratitude can impact happiness, and don’t we all strive to be happy?

In fact, I’m feeling so good after writing this that I want to do something for you… so here’s my apple crisp recipe:

  1. Peel and slice 10 apples and place in a 9×13 buttered baking pan
  2. Sprinkled a ¼ cup of sugar on top of the apples
  3. In a separate bowl mix:
    • 1 cup of brown sugar
    • ¾ cup of flour
    • 3 tbsps. of softened butter or margarine
  4. Top the apples with the crumble mixture
  5. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until apples are well cooked

Enjoy!

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