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.

We want to see you/your team in the SCDSB Spotlight!

Next month, we are launching a new feature on the Sharing Simcoe blog, called SCDSB Spotlight. Once a month, we will highlight a team or individual who may:

  • work behind the scenes;
  • go above and beyond in their role;
  • make an impact at SCDSB for students and staff;
  • have implemented a new, successful initiative or program;
  • or who is just a great person/team to work with!

Remember this awesome ASD team from Terry Fox Elementary School? We would like to highlight other teams from across the SCDSB doing great things like they are!


If you would like to get yourself, your team or a colleague in the SCDSB Spotlight, please contact:

Rachael Ogorek, Communications Officer at rogorek@scdsb.on.ca.

Please provide details regarding the employee or team and send a photo (or photos) of the team or individual. A photo can be arranged and taken for you at the Education Centre if necessary.

Along with being featured on the Sharing Simcoe blog, the story will also be shared on SCDSB social media channels.

We’re looking forward to showcasing the amazing work that our staff does across the SCDSB. Hope to see you in the SCDSB Spotlight!

PS: Remember that we also have the SCDSB Stars staff recognition program, available for the public or staff to nominate an outstanding SCDSB employee for going above and beyond!

Zach officially makes tracks and starts his journey to Ottawa

The day finally arrived on Sunday, August 13 when 13-year-old Zach Hofer took his first steps on his journey to Ottawa with a Big Send-Off event. Zach has been raising funds for youth mental health and the RVH Foundation since the beginning of the year, and what a journey it’s been.

With the entire community of Barrie behind him, including the mayor and government officials, his friends and staff from Codrington Public School and the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB), media near and far, and numerous organizations and businesses supporting as donors and sponsors, it’s been an incredible ride. He shattered his initial goal of raising $10,000 and funds raised have skyrocketed to $55,000 and counting.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is aware of and impressed by Zach’s accomplishments!

“I have been touched by the engagement of young people like Zach on the issue of mental health,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “I look forward hopefully to meeting with Zach when he comes to Ottawa and I certainly know he will be very well received by my government because the issue he is championing is one that matters not just to our government but to all Canadians.”

The Big Send-off featured both Rock 95 and Kool FM on site, cheque presentations for the Zach Makes Tracks campaign, photo opportunities with Zach and his now-iconic tour bus, and speeches from Zach’s mother Shelley Hofer, media personalities and community supporters. Also present for the day and part of the speech presentations was Annaleise Carr, one of Zach’s inspirations who had a successful campaign of her own in 2012.

Annaleise became the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario in 2012 at the age of 14. She began her swim in Niagara-on-the-Lake and finished in Toronto. Over $100,000 was raised on that swim alone, with all proceeds benefiting children and families at Camp Trillium, a camp created for children with cancer. She set out on another swim in 2014, this time across Lake Erie and raised $230,000 for Camp Trillium.

“I just want to say to Zach, you got this!”, said Carr. “You’re amazing, I’m so proud of you and I’m so happy to be here. You’re already a winner in my eyes, just for having a big dream, a big heart and for trying your hardest. You’ve reached your goal, you’ve worked so hard and you’re already a winner.”

We are so #SCDSBproud of Zach and look forward to following the rest of his journey. We’ll be watching the news and on social media for his big arrival in Ottawa on September 10! For more information and updates, visit www.zachmakestracks.ca 

Welcome to Holland, SCDSB

You may have seen the hashtag #SCDSBHolland used a few times on Twitter with photos of Special Education staff or heard mentions of SCDSB Holland around your office or school, but do you know what it’s really about? You will be amazed and inspired when you do.

Stephen McClelland, Principal, Special Education Services has implemented a special way of recognizing the needs of special education students and the staff that work so hard to support them. The ‘Welcome to Holland’ concept stems from the following video, which features a poem from Emily Perl Kingsley.

The video is shown at the beginning of every Special Education department meeting with the goal for all schools to embrace the ‘Holland’ concept: to embrace life’s unexplained detours. That being different than others is not only ok, but makes others learn to see the world differently and the beautiful things it offers.

“Our special education staff go above and beyond to support our students with special needs,” says McClelland. “The work that they do is very difficult at times, and it’s exhausting. At the end of the day, they don’t always see the successes they achieve or consider what they do to be extraordinary.”

Over the past year, there have been many stand-out moments within the department which they refer to as ‘golden buzzer’ (think America’s Got Talent) achievements. These include a blind student having a lead in a school theatre production and a student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) participating in track and field for the first time. The schools and the staff in these cases are embracing Holland to the fullest degree.

To celebrate these achievements, Holland Awards are given out each month to recognize the staff who are so dedicated to students and the Holland initiative. The certificate includes a Holland lapel pin and the ‘Welcome to Holland’ poem on the back.

This past spring, each staff member in the Special Education department received a hand-written note from the management team to thank them for their hard work and dedication to ‘Holland’. Along with the note were two blank thank you cards for the staff members to pay it forward and give thanks to someone they would like to recognize for their hard work within SCDSB. They were also asked to take a photo of the experience and include the hashtag #SCDSBHolland.

To the staff in the Special Education department: we appreciate the work that you do, and we are inspired by the Holland initiative and the way you have embraced it. Thank you for paying it forward, recognizing the amazing work our staff across the SCDSB does and for taking us to ‘Holland’.

ASD educators at Terry Fox Elementary School go the extra mile for their students

Written by: Sue Ducau, ASD teacher, Terry Fox Elementary School

Meet the Awe-some-tism Titans team

We are a team of educators who teach and support students in a county class for students deeply affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The students in our class come from across Simcoe County for individualized instruction in the focus areas of communication, social skills and self-regulation. Reading, writing, technology, gross motor and fine motor skills are also a focus of learning for the students, as the class features robust literacy and numeracy programs.

To create real-life connections for our students, field trips are a key element of our classroom experience.  When you only have six students in your class, the cost of a field trip can become unrealistic when transportation and admission fees are factored in.

This year we have set out to make field trips a reality for our students.  As a team we have hosted six lunches for Terry Fox staff.  We have had lunches with the themes of tacos, pancakes, spaghetti, sandwiches and more.  To make the lunch successful as a fundraiser, each team member donates the food items and prepares the meal the night before. We offer the lunch for all staff members at a cost of $5, and all funds collected go towards field trips for our ASD students.

By the end of the school year, we will have taken two field trips to Vertical Zone Trampoline Centre.  This location and activity allows us to practice our sensory diets, turn taking, communication and meet some of our physical education learning expectations.

Thank you to the Awe-some-tism Titans team in Room 139 at Terry Fox Elementary School who make our classroom an amazing place in which anything is achievable!

“Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Innisdale becomes Canada’s 16th Fair Trade School

Fairtrade Canada recently named Innisdale Secondary School in Barrie as the 16th Fair Trade School in the country. Fairtrade Canada is an organization that works with businesses, schools and consumers to make trade fair for farmers and workers. The Fair Trade School program is focused on educating Canada’s youth about the connection between our food supply and the people that grow our food on a daily basis.

The idea to work towards the designation at Innisdale started two years ago with Grade 12 equity and social justice teacher Eleanor Alexander and her students. The project has continued with the current Grade 12 students and the Social Justice Club.

“There are many initiatives that the students have incorporated to ensure fair trade products are represented at Innisdale,” says Tracey Aylesworth, advisor, Social Justice Club. “Initiatives include everything from serving fair trade coffee, hot chocolate and tea in the cafeteria and at banquets, to students wearing banana costumes to promote fair trade at school events.”


Bruce Morton, Fair Trade Barrie, worked closely with the students and mentored them about the importance of incorporating fair trade products into the school. He introduced fair trade Cadbury chocolate bars, which have proven very popular for the school community!

“What a pleasure to be able to congratulate Innisdale Secondary School on becoming a Fair Trade School two days ahead of World Fair Trade Day!” says Mélissa Dubé, Outreach and Marketing Manager, Fairtrade Canada. “The school joins an ever growing movement as Canada’s 16th Fair Trade School but more importantly they are now part of a big international family.”

Congratulations to Innisdale Secondary School and its social justice students and staff!

Getting the ‘Royal’ treatment at Twin Lakes SS

Walk into the cafeteria at Twin Lakes Secondary School on any given day and you’ll be treated to the comforting aroma of soup simmering and pastries baking. These enticing scents are courtesy of the school’s cooking and baking classes. Students in these programs are preparing for careers in the culinary arts every day. Not only do they cook and bake for themselves and to learn new techniques and recipes, they also run the school’s cafeteria and a staff ‘soup kitchen’.

Recently, four students in the baking program entered the Royal High School Chef competition. Run by the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in partnership with Foodshare Toronto , the competition invited high school teams from across Ontario to submit recipes featuring local ingredients that could work as a menu item in a school cafeteria. Noelani Cline-Kitchener, Cory Lawrence, Nick Mason and Jason MacTiernan formed the team from Twin Lakes. Of the 27 schools that entered by submitting a recipe and photo of their creation, they were selected as one of three teams to compete at the Royal and recreate their recipe in the finals.

Students from team at the Royal

“We were trying not to think about (what a big deal it was) but when we got there we realized it was really big,” said Jason.

The team and their teacher, Kathryn Payne, took their Three Sisters Burrito recipe and wowed the judges with their innovative approach to the classic North American soup. Their creativity and skills in the kitchen (they made their own tortillas from scratch!) resulted in them winning the grand prize and bringing the 2016 Royal High School Chef championship home to Orillia.

Each member of the winning team is part of the Hospitality and Tourism Specialist High Skills Major at Twin Lakes, and have aspirations to continue in the culinary field after they graduate. In the meantime, members of the community can place special orders for food created by the students; contact Kathryn Payne at kapayne@scdsb.on.ca for details.

Great things are cooking at Twin Lakes!