Category Archives: Alumni

A Time For Endings And Beginnings

June is a time of both endings and beginnings.

I was at my oldest daughter’s convocation in Halifax on the weekend; having your first child graduate from university makes you very sentimental. Even though she has been on her own for the better part of four years, I finally saw that she was an adult. She showed us the place where she got her entry-level job and talked about the pros and cons of the non-student apartment she is getting in September. Despite all of this mature conversation, however, I still saw my little girl from Mentor. The same four-year-old who hid under one of Miss Kane’s tables in JK (and wouldn’t even come out when Mrs. Philbrook was called in for the extraction!) still likes her alone time. The Grade 4 student who beamed for two months straight while she was playing “Wendy” in the Primary Campus production of “Peter Pan” had that same smile as she strode across the Dalhousie stage to receive her diploma. The Grade 7 student whose poems were kept by her teacher as samples for future classes to read was the editor/publisher of the arts journal this past year and the HS student who was asked to compose some songs for the spring play still takes out her guitar and uploads originals and covers to her YouTube channel (not to be “discovered”…just because her friends and family love to hear her). In her Grade 12 yearbook (photo above), she wrote

It’s odd to think that next year will be the first year of my life that I cannot call myself a Mentor student. I’ve been through a lot in these buildings and I know in some way it will always be a part of my story. Thank you to all my teachers and friends; even when I’m not walking down these halls every day, these years will always be with me. I love you all! DFTBA

She has gone through a number of endings already and is starting another one of her beginnings.

Just as she is still going through endings and beginnings, so too do our students still here at the school. The ending part is pretty obvious as young students go on their last field trip, elementary students have their final rotary class, and high school students have their last day of classes. These next two weeks are particularly meaningful to the “graduates” (Mentor Grade 4s and the Grade 8 and 12 students of Mentor/TEAM/TSS) as they spend their last few days as the senior students of the division. The year is capped off with a diploma and/or report card. In that report card, it says that a year of academic accomplishment has been completed and that the student is ready for the beginning of the next year of their academic life. For most students, it is simply moving up one grade but for others (like the Grade 12s heading to post-secondary education) it means a new school entirely. No matter what the situation, each student has a great set of academic tools and a wonderful year of memories to equip them for whatever the future holds.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

Friends

friends-tv-show-1I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you (like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you (‘cause you’re there for me too)
I’ll Be There For You (Theme from ‘Friends’) – by The Rembrandts

When I was attending Wilfrid Laurier University, some friends and I spent the afternoon of Super Bowl 20 (Patriots vs. Bears) playing tackle football in the snow and afterwards, we watched the game together. Little did we know at that time but we were starting a tradition and over this past weekend, I participated in the 31st Annual Snow Bowl. We migrated to touch football about a decade ago, we may have lost a step since that first game, and there are a couple of guys who need to sit out of the game because of the limitations of 50-year-old-bodies but playing and watching football has become secondary in importance. 8 of the 14 guys on Sunday were there at the first Snow Bowl 31 years ago and we always take the time to reminisce about the old times and to catch up on each others’ lives.

I keep in touch with many former Mentor/TEAM students through Facebook and I can tell you that the friendships your kids are making are ones that will last a lifetime, too. When I see alumni wedding photos, there is at least one (usually more) bridesmaid or groomsman from our school and alumni who post photos always get comments from friends made during their time here. Some have gone into business together and some have even married their high school sweethearts! They very often find themselves as roommates in 2nd year when they need to find an off-campus residence and just last week, I was talking to a mom who said that her daughter (now 19) was quite excited to be sharing a house next year with a friend she made here in junior kindergarten!

Parents, I know this from my own experience as a Mentor/TEAM Dad. Your child’s friends and acquaintances will come and go over the years but you will see some of the same kids who were at the kindergarten birthday party at the Grade 8 graduation. You will see many of the Grade 8 grads at the Grade 12 commencement ceremony and once more again if your kids get married. As parents, we can’t be there for our kids once they head off to post-secondary school but it sure is nice to know that they can have made friends who can help each other out when it hasn’t been their day, their week, their month, or even their year…

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

Parlez-vous français?

wertman-r-2When I first decided in Grade 6 that I wanted to be a teacher, my Mom (a teacher) told me that I would always have a job in the field of education if I was qualified to teach French. I heeded her advice and got a minor in French at university and even though I have never used it, I am qualified to teach French and have always had a job in education. You will, however, want to move your kids to a different school if I am ever transferred into a French teaching position at Mentor as I was barely able to order a sandwich at a Mr. Sub in Lévis the last time I was driving through Quebec! The old saying …”if you don’t use it, you lose it” is true about languages.

This past week, there was an article in the Globe and Mail about the French Immersion programme at nearby Mineola Public School (or, to be more precise, about the English programme there). The Peel District School Board starts French Immersion (or “FI”) in Grade 1 at selected schools and at Mineola, only 2 of the 62 students are in the English stream. The Board is hinting that in schools like Mineola might need to become solely French Immersion and that the English stream students will need to be accommodated elsewhere.

I knew FI was getting more popular but I did not know that in the Peel Board, close to 25% of all Grade 1 students are in the programme! At last Saturday’s Open House, I spoke to two families with students in FI who are looking for a change so I got more curious about it. I admittedly do not know much about French immersion (I thought it was when someone fell into the Seine River!) so I spoke with Rebecca Wertman. Mme Wertman is a French teacher at the Primary Campus, is a Mentor College graduate, and spent the first 4 years of her teaching career in French Immersion.

Starkey: The article suggests that parents are looking for a “competitive advantage” in French Immersion. What do you think the competitive advantage is?

Wertman: Many of my students were first or second generation Canadians and the parents didn’t know the extent of the bilinguality of Canada. They believed that job prospects would be better with both languages and for some people (like my sister, a unilingual research scientist) this is true but FI is not for everyone…particularly those for whom French may actually be a third language. There is also a perception that FI is like private school with small classes and specialized programming so just like our parents say “my son goes to Mentor/TEAM”, there might be some saying “my son is in French Immersion”. I also think that the term “competitive advantage” refers to a programme that has a higher perceived level of difficulty.

Starkey: So is French Immersion more difficult?

Wertman: In Grade 1, 90% of the instruction was in French so the students were getting most of their other lessons (science, social studies, etc.) in a language they were just learning. That is hard. Then in Grade 2, the split was 50/50. We had literature stories that we studied in both French and English so you never knew as a teacher if the student knew the material in French or not. We had to make the French/English switchover either every other day or at lunchtime so that was difficult. For students who are not hard-wired for languages and are not independent learners, it can be difficult to the point of frustration. If the student does succeed, the ultimate goal of FI is the “certificate of bilingualism” but so very few students actually earn it.

Starkey: If that is the goal, why don’t more students stay in French Immersion?

Wertman: Lots of reasons! Grade 3 (after the EQAO) tests was usually the first big drop-off as parents realized that their child might need more work on literacy and numeracy. FI was pretty new to the Board when I was there and parents got frustrated with the programme bouncing from school to school. I taught at 3 different schools in 4 years! I think the perception was out there that more resources were devoted to FI but I remember that we would only get the phonics textbook every 3rd day because we were sharing with other classes in the grade. I think some parents saw that it was a challenge to teach the two languages without some amendments to science, math, and all the other subjects as well. Most students just kind of faded away. The certificate of bilingualism isn’t awarded until after Grade 12 and I know that some parents realized after a few years that they weren’t prepared to make that long-term commitment all the way through high school anymore.

Starkey: Are you considering French Immersion for your own children?

Wertman: No, they will be Mentor kids. I wouldn’t put my own kids in French Immersion, which is ironic because we live right across the street from an FI school! Not only does Mentor give our students the academic advantage of starting French at JK, Mentor has amazing French teachers that make the language FUN. We are allowed to use music and drama and we have the freedom to explore themes that the kids love both in and out of the curriculum. When it comes time to audition for the school musical and I hear students say they are too shy to try, I tell them they have already been in so many French plays in front of students and parents already!

Starkey: So because you went to Mentor, does that mean you are not bilingual?

Wertman: I did not get a certificate in Grade 12 but I would still say that Mentor is the reason I am bilingual. I loved my French teachers here and as I got older, I gained confidence in the language. Without them, I wouldn’t have chosen French for my university major and would certainly not been brave enough to spend a summer living and working in rural Quebec. That’s also why I know my kids can be bilingual (if they choose to be) without French Immersion.

Starkey: Speaking only as a teacher, what is the biggest difference at Mentor?

Wertman: When I was in a school with FI and English streams, there were some teachers who wouldn’t even talk to each other because they didn’t view each other as being part of the same school. What I love most about Mentor is that the entire staff works together to help each other out. Whether the staff member is teaching French, a homeroom, science, or working as a supply, the atmosphere is just so positive!

Starkey: Well you are definitely a part of that positivity! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Connections

mamas-papas-california_dreamin“All the Leaves Are Brown and the Sky is Grey”

While the inspiration for the headline could have been the weather on Friday the actual inspiration for this week’s blog comes from Mrs. Pengelly, one of our junior kindergarten teachers. She mentioned to me that the Primary Campus Choir is learning “California Dreamin'” this year. She noted how cool it was that they were singing a song made popular by The Mamas and the Papas, a band featuring singer Denny Doherty. Doherty lived in Mississauga after his active stage career and was a “Mentor/TEAM Dad” with a son and daughter attending in the 1990s.

The degrees of separation don’t end there. Denny’s son, John followed in his Dad’s musical footsteps and was a founding member of the band illScarlett. Their first demo album was recorded at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, a place co-founded by Rik Emmett of the famous Canadian band, Triumph. Emmett’s three children also attended the school in the 1990s and the musical connections continued when jazz great Oscar Peterson’s grandchild attended the school in the 2000s.

We also have some political connections with our parents here at the school. Longtime Conservative member Tony Clement is also a longtime Mentor/TEAM Dad and Mississauga politicians Steve and Katie Mahoney enrolled their children at our school, including current councillor Matt Mahoney. Every single one of the Mississauga mayors in the past 40 years have a connection to the school, too! Hazel McCallion’s granddaughter was a Grade 8 graduate and Bonnie Crombie was a regular at the MTPA Volunteer Breakfast with her kids’ connection to the school.

For me, personally, the most memorable “famous” Mentor parent was here only in my first year at the school. I was a huge hockey fan as a young boy and my favourite line in hockey was from the Buffalo Sabres. “The French Connection” consisted of Gilbert Perrault, Richard Martin and René Robert and I was a right winger in hockey so Robert was my favourite. He had finished up his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs (the year that the Leafs traded Darryl Sittler and broke my heart forever) and was still living in the area. I found out that his son Mike was in his graduating year here and even though René did not come to very many school functions, I did get a handshake from him before the end of the year.

We are still a fairly young school but it is probably only a matter of time before it is not our former parents but our former students who will be the celebrities. Come to think of it, there is so much musical, athletic and academic talent within our walls that I am sure it will be the case.

Close Encounters of the Alumni Kind

img_0699When I was a student, I would see my teachers outside of school quite a bit. The fact that I was from a small town with one mall and two grocery stores was the main reason; there were relatively few places to go so you were bound to see people you knew. During my first summer of university, I would frequently serve former teachers when they were looking to cool off as I was the proprietor of the “Tin Roof Ice Cream Hut” and also worked part-time at the Brewers’ Retail.

I have enjoyed several alumni encounters and heard of others recently. Myna was my waitress at a local restaurant (earning money to pay off student loans accrued while getting her MBA). Virginia popped into the school today to tell us that she is the head coach of the U of T cheerleading team. I congratulated Shahir on his new gig as a co-host of the CBC show “The Goods” when he tweeted a photo of himself with Peter Mansbridge (who was a part of our school for a few hours as a participant in our “Speaker Series”. While I was umpiring this summer, I re-connected with alumni-turned-slopitch-players Shawn (now a lawyer) and Mitch (who at 28 years old is the senior staff member of an online app company with almost 100 employees!).

It wasn’t just me; three of our high school teacher had this happen to them as well. Mrs. McRae enjoyed a night with some members of the high school Class of 2006 in August, Mrs. Zorec ran into the three Paterson sisters at a restaurant in Niagara and Mr. Miller, while participating in a Tough Mudder race on the weekend, found himself being helped over a wall obstacle by his former student/wrestler, Gianni.

In each case, the former students remember their time with us fondly and always ask about their “old” teachers. We encourage them to return to the schools for a visit and in some cases, they stay for more than a quick chat. The teachers in the photo (Ms. Towey, Ms. Benak and Ms. Brownridge) are just the latest in a growing list (nine) of former students who now work here!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School