Principal's Corner - Archives

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Emma Bannerman

I love September! It is all about new beginnings and a fresh start.  I am excited for all the possibilities that the year ahead holds to make it our best yet!

First of all I would like to welcome our new students.  I know you will love this caring and supportive school community as much as I do.  I hope you take advantage of the many resources available to you to maximize your learning, health and well-being.  

1.  Our new health nurse, Amanda Huxtable, will be available every Wednesday and three Thursdays every month in our Student Services department.  She is available to discuss your questions and concerns on diverse health and wellness topics, to provide counselling and can connect you to other local agencies as needed.  

2.  Jackie Parkin, from Choices for Change, is available for counselling every Tuesday and Friday in Student Services.  She can support you through personal struggles as well as provide advice to help you care for family and friends.  

3.  Dan Walker, from Youth Unlimited, has an extensive counselling background and runs the Youth Centre downtown.  He generously donates his time to counsel students, coach teams, and runs a Youth Unlimited lunch programme in the school.  Please contact Student Services or school administration to learn more.

4.  We welcome back Constable Jan Weeden, our school officer.  She is often an invited speaker in our classrooms, providing information on safe driving, digital citizenship and the law, and is available most days in Student Services to answer questions and address concerns.

5.  The Den is our Student Success support centre.  Teachers are available for further one-on-one support in any subject area but you may also find it a quiet place to read or complete your work.  Please see our Student Success teachers, Ms. Crawford and Ms. Hamilton, with any questions or concerns.  

6.  We know that these early school mornings are especially difficult in September.  Don't let the hunger distract you from your classes! Ms. Mohr runs our breakfast programme every morning from 8:15 - 8:45 in the Den.  Please join us if you need some extra breakfast or didn't get a chance to eat when you were running late for the bus.  Snacks and lunch items are also available throughout the day.  

7.  Homework help is available from 3 - 4 p.m. everyday after school. Please let Ms. Mohr or Mr. Young know if you would like a quiet place to work or if you would like to review assignments together.  

Finally, I also encourage you get involved in the many teams, clubs and activities our school has to offer.  Listen carefully to our morning announcements for more information.  If you miss the announcements, they are posted on the bulletin board across from the main office each morning.

I would also like to warmly welcome our new staff to MDHS.  Ashley Dickey joins us in the French department, Bob Gehan in Canadian & World Studies, Pam Hamilton in the COPE and Student Success programmes, Rob Krainz in Transportation Technology, Laura Mulder in the Library, Jennifer Porter in English, and Nicole Zandstra in Special Education.  We look forward to the ideas their new perspective brings to our school.

We would like to invite all parents and community members interested in education to join our School Council.  We meet 5-6 times each year to discuss academics, arts and athletics.  Please join us on Monday, September 21st at 7 p.m. in the library.  We look forward to seeing you!

Our Annual Secondary Awards Assembly is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, September 24, 2015.  We invite parents to join us to celebrate the academic, athletic and artistic achievements of our students.  Please visit our website,, in the coming week for more information or contact the school.

Finally, our grade 7&8 Meet the Teacher night is also scheduled for Thursday, September 24th at 5 p.m. in the gym.  We may need to postpone the evening so please visit our website for more information and updates.

MDHS is an amazing place to be! We are great because of the committed staff, students, community members and volunteers who are always working to make us even better.  Thank you for supporting our community school.  I look forward to another positive and productive year at MDHS!



Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Emma Bannerman

I would like to begin by thanking the amazing staff at Tim Horton’s for welcoming our volunteers during the Smile Cookie Campaign as well as all those who purchased a cookie in support.  We are so fortunate that the money raised will support the breakfast and snack programmes at Upper Thames Elementary School and Mitchell District High School.  Thank you to Jacquie Mohr who led these volunteer efforts and who runs the breakfast programme here at MDHS.  We’d also like to thank Deb Duval, Deputy Mayor Doug Eidt, Marna Jackson, Judy Jansen, Councillor Cheryl Matheson, Mayor Walter McKenzie, Brenda Menary, Paula Robinson, Teresa Sargent, Karen Shuker, Pam Torrance, Connie Van der Velde and all of the MDHS students who volunteered to decorate the cookies and work their magic at the window.  Thank you for ensuring that our students have access to enough nutritious food to support healthy and active participation in school.  What an essential component of their success!  

Last Thursday we celebrated the academic, athletic and artistic successes of our students at the MDHS Annual Awards Ceremony.  We are so proud of their hard work and resulting achievements during our last school year.  We are so thankful for our business, community and individual sponsors who join us in supporting our students by contributing generously with monetary awards.

What made these students successful last year? Will the same factors ensure success for them in the years ahead? When I was in high school I read a quote that stuck with me.  President Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933) said:  Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

These words are even more important today because it may be getting more difficult for all of us to do.  In this age of endless social media where we receive a constant barrage of messages from around the world, from around our country and from our friend in the next classroom (who really shouldn’t be on their cell phone), we are a world of instant information and communication, always available entertainment and many have become accustomed to instant gratification for their efforts.  The world is moving fast.  We are now used to fast.  We expect fast.  Think of how long our dial-up internet connection used to take and now we become frustrated if we need to wait more than a few seconds to load a web page.

But what’s that doing to our attention and ability to persist? Are students giving up when they think a math problem is too difficult or when redrafting their English paper is taking too long? We talk a lot about perseverance in education.  We know that students who persist at difficult tasks learn more, more deeply and that that skill will unfailingly serve them in every task they undertake.  Those who succeed in this inundation of quick everything really are the ones who slow down, persist and persevere in the face of difficulty.  We need to remind our youth that things will get tough in the years ahead but that if they work hard enough, for long enough, they will succeed.  That belief will be one of their greatest assets as they tackle challenges in their lives.

I look forward to seeing our students accomplish all that they set out to do!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

Can you believe that we are already through the first two months of school? Time seems to have passed at a record speed with so many athletic, artistic and academic events to keep us busy. We competed, we voted in a schoolwide mock election, we were vaccinated and became better aware of postsecondary options and programs. We also welcomed 12 new international students from Brazil, Spain, Japan, and France who have enriched our school and life experience.

First of all, we would like to congratulate our athletes for representing MDHS with determination and class throughout the fall. Noteworthy accomplishments include:

- Cassandra Hinz for qualifying for OFSAA Cross Country by finishing sixth in the Senior Girls’ Division at WOSSAA.

- The 7/8 Boys and Girls Soccer Teams for placing second in the regional championships.  Please visit the calendar for a schedule of upcoming athletic events. Please  come out to cheer on our teams!

Last week our Student Council ran a wonderful spirit week for Hallowe’en. Check out the photos on our website. It was great to see so much enthusiasm across the entire school. The creativity and artistic abilities of the students were exceptional. From a little gore to fairy tales,
from solo efforts to team costumes, laughs and “wow”s could be heard throughout the halls.  Thanks to Ms. Cumming and our student leadership for organizing a great week and finishing it off with yummy candygram treats. Our grade 7 & 8 students also finished off the week with
their first dance on Friday. Thanks to Ms. McDonald for organizing the event and MAVIS for DJing. Students had a blast dancing to Hallowe’en favourites such as Monster Mash and Thriller.

The families of Upper Thames Elementary School and Mitchell District High School are invited to four free fabulous evenings of family fun. Our School Councils ask that you please mark the following dates on your calendar: Tuesday, November 10th, Wednesday, January 27th, Tuesday, February 23rd and Wednesday, March 23rd. Our first event is fast approaching! We will welcome Cheri Hoggart for a family ZUMBA class and Sue Bird for a session on stressfree, healthy lunches. We will also prepare a lunch to take home. Please join us in the UTES gym from 6:45 - 7:30 PM! Stay tuned for updates on the topics of our future sessions.

We also invite parents and interested community members to join us at our Remembrance Day ceremony on Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 10:15 in the MDHS gymnasium. Students will lead the assembly through a variety of presentations of artwork, music, readings and poems.  On Friday, November 13, 2015, secondary midterm report cards go home with our school newsletter. Students and parents are asked to complete the reflection page together and return it to the school. Please contact the teacher if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s progress. Students are encouraged to see their teachers for extra help as needed.  Please also make use of the Student Success supports in the Den and/or homework help in room S105 any day after school.

Finally, as our snowy winter approaches, we remind families to please visit our or for updates on bus cancellations or delays due to inclement weather.  Information will also be tweeted early in the morning so please follow us @MitchellDHS.

It’s a beautiful week! I hope you are able to get out to enjoy these final warm days before winter. 

November 18, 2015
Shawn Allen

It seems we are always looking to, and hoping for, the future.  We can’t wait for faster, newer, or more.  Yet, even with all the ‘latest and greatest’, we are often discontent.  How often have you heard someone, perhaps even yourself, bemoan “The good old days”?  But, were they really THAT good?  Franklin Pierce Adams said “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”

The challenge in education is to balance the good of the old with the need of the new.  The world of today is different than it was even a few short years ago.  It is faster, more complex, and completely interconnected.  Employers expect employees to competently and confidently deal with unexpected and novel problems.  At least 40% of companies report that they require employees to be skilled in newly-developed abilities; these are skill sets previously unknown to employer or employee.  How does a school system prepare students for something NO ONE can anticipate?

School used to be a place where students were sorted and trained to do ‘A’ job, primarily one created through the industrial revolution: factory work.  Unfortunately, we see these stable and decent paying jobs disappearing quicker than workers can retire or retrain.  The school of today must do more than teach students to read, write, and add; machines do that much faster and more accurately than any human.  We are being replaced!

For our children to be successful, they must:

-                     Critically think, analyze, and reflect

-                     Creatively apply their knowledge

-                     Collaborate with others whether they be sitting in the same room or across the globe

-                     Communicate effectively

-                     Problem solve

To do this, our children’s learning experiences must differ from our own; we cannot solve the problems of today using the same thinking that created them.  Today, opportunities abound for students to critique, analyze, synthesize, and apply their learning in ways allowing them to be flexible in their approach to challenges. 

Some of the ways students have opportunities to learn include:

-                     Co-Op and workplace experiences

-                     Classroom challenges

-                     Specialist high skills courses and training

-                     Interdisciplinary courses combining essential learning in different fields

-                     Blended learning involving, a classroom teacher, industry experts, and electronic resources

-                     Focused individual pathway goal setting

-                     Tailored learning environments

-                     Community partnerships

-                     Character education

-                     Environmental awareness initiatives

-                     Excursions locally, regionally and world wide

-                     Extra-curricular involvement

-                     Volunteering

These experiences help our students develop essential skills, a learning mindset, confidence, and an understanding of their responsibility to improve the world one choice at a time.

We value our role in nurturing the next generation during these ‘good days’ so they will one day speak of  ‘great days’.



Principal’s Corner - Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Emma Bannerman

Only one week left until Christmas break! You can already feel the excitement in the building as students and staff show their school spirit during this season of giving.

This week we began our Dime Drive fundraiser.  Homerooms will compete to collect the most dimes and at the same time, try to deduct points from other homerooms by donating nickels, quarters, loonies and twoonies to their jars.  All proceeds will go to help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions through Make-a-Wish Canada.

Our Angel Tree is calling to all angels.  Members of our school community are invited to take an angel from the tree outside of Student Services and bring in a new toy or gift appropriate to the age and gender of the recipient.  We would like to thank Maggie McDonnell for once again leading this drive for children in need. 

We hope you will join us for our annual Christmas Music Concert on Friday, Dec. 11th at 7:30 p.m. in the gym to celebrate the talent and hard work of our talented music students. Everyone is welcome! Admission is by donation only. 

We have some fun activities planned for the festive season.  Show your school and seasonal spirit on our dress-up days during the final week before Christmas break; Monday - Red and Green, Tuesday - Christmas Vacation, Wednesday - Santa and Santa’s helpers, Thursday - Ugly Christmas Sweaters, Friday - ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Students may also choose to participate by dressing up their homeroom class door in our Door Decorating contest.  Judges will be coming by on Thursday, December 17th at lunch.  Make sure your classroom is dressed up and ready to go! Points for door dazzle and the Dime Drive will win the homeroom class a pizza lunch. 

Classes will run during the morning of our last day before the holiday.  However, we will also be holding our holiday assembly, once again showcasing the diverse talent of our students.  Following lunch, we will hold our afternoon festivities.  This year, Student Council has organized a staff-student bubble soccer game followed by a variety of options including road hockey, a Christmas movie, a games room and more bubble soccer.  We look forward to an afternoon of fun activity.

Elementary report cards go home this Friday, December 11, 2015.  Please complete the required portion on the second page and return it to the school.  Please do not hesitate to contact to your child’s teacher if you have any questions or concerns.

Following the break, secondary students will be moving into exam preparation.  Students are reminded to find a few hours during their holiday time to ensure they are up-to-date in their assignments and studying so that they are well positioned for success.  Don’t leave your final assessment preparations to the last minute! 

On behalf of the staff at MDHS, I would like to wish our students and their families a safe and happy holiday.  



Principal’s Corner -Wednesday, July 1, 2015

By: Emma Bannerman

The school is very quiet as I write this final column of the school year. The students and teachers have left for their summer break and our custodial staff is working hard as they do a thorough Spring cleaning of the rooms for September.

I want to begin by thanking the individuals, local organizations, businesses and school staff for their tremendous support of our grade 8 graduation and commencement ceremonies last Wednesday and Thursday nights respectively. They were extraordinary evenings of celebration and acknowledgment of the academic, athletic and artistic efforts of our students. We are so proud of their achievements and excited for their new endeavours. At each of these ceremonies, we attempt to send them on their way with advice to support them in their next step. I want to repeat an excerpt from those speeches here.

To our grade 8 graduates: Take some time to ask yourself who you are, what you believe and what you want to accomplish. What do you value? When the pressure to fit in hits and the fear sets in, ground yourself in the answers to these questions.

In your high school classrooms and school activities, put yourself out there. Risk being afraid, risk looking foolish, risk being wrong. You will learn far more, far faster and it will bring you to greater success.

Finally, don’t give up. When life gets hard, and it will, it’s never too late to start over. If you weren’t happy with yesterday, try something different today. Don’t stay stuck. Don’t just fit in. Do better. Stand out. You have to be odd to be number 1.

To our grade 12 graduates: Why do some people succeed in their dreams while others do not? What is the deciding factor of our success? Is it hard work? Is it clearly defined goals? Is it determination and perseverance? I know. It’s all of these things. But, the goals that we set, how hard we work, and how long we persevere all depend on one thing: our own mindset. The fact is, the limiting factor to our success is ourselves.

I can’t do math. I didn’t get the math gene so my kids don’t have the math gene. I couldn’t ever run a marathon. I can’t do it….I’m too afraid to do any public speaking. I’m a terrible writer. I knew I would fail - I’m just no good at history. Our limiting thoughts limit us.

Be aware of the little self-doubt man that sits on your shoulder. He disguises himself well as “I’m just being realistic.” He prevents us from seeing opportunity, from trying new things and from believing we can do better. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are probably right.”

I wish all of our graduates all the courage they will need to stay on the path of their dreams.

A huge thank you to our parents and the Mitchell community for giving so much to support our community school. We are great because you are here.

Finally, a reminder to MDHS families that we will once again be holding pre-registration and orientation sessions during the first week of September. 
Please join us on one of the dates below.

Grade 7 students: Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Grade 8&9 students: Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Grade 10-12 students: Thursday, September 3, 2015

Have a safe and happy summer! We look forward to seeing you in September!



May 27, 2015
By Emma Bannerman

Only five weeks left of classes before summer break and still so much to do!

Our annual MDHS Walk-a-Thon runs tomorrow.  We are hoping for sunshine as participating students will get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors as they make their way from the school to Dublin.  Thank you so much to our many volunteers and local residents for rest stations, food preparation, and game organization.  Classes will run for students who wish to remain at school.

Congratulations to the 17 Blue Devils who represented MDHS so well at the WOSSAA championship last week.  We are excited that Quaid Austin, Greg Bertens, Elisa Bolinger, Orlando Campbell, James Cooper, Lindsay Harmer, Cassandra Hinz, and Cody Pauli will continue onto OFSAA on June 4th - 6th in Toronto.  We wish you all the best!

June 1st is our grade 7 & 8 Track and Field day at MDHS.  The top finishers in each event will then compete in the Regional Track and Field Championships on June 9th hosted at MDHS.  District Championships take place on June 16th. We welcome spectators to cheer on our athletes.  

On June 3rd, Mr. Cowan accompanies a group of secondary girls to the ‘Jill of All Trades’ event at Conestoga College.  “The event includes an array of hands-on workshops led by female mentors to help young women develop a better understanding of the potential of skilled trades careers.”

Friday, June 5th is a Professional Development Day.  This is a great time for students to catch up on missed work, complete assignments and for secondary students to study for exams.  The last day of classes for grades 9-12 is Wednesday, June 17th.  Exams will run from June 18-24th.  The exam schedule will be posted in classrooms and on our website during the first week of June.  

We would like to invite interested students, parents and community members to join us Monday, June 8th at 7 p.m. in the MDHS library for our School Council meeting.  Our school can only continue to get even better with more voices at the table!

Grade 7&8 report cards go home with students on Tuesday, June 23rd.  Please return the parent/student signature and comment portion upon reviewing the report with your child(ren).  

We honour our graduating grade 8 students on Wednesday, June 24th in the MDHS gym (time to be announced) and return on Thursday, June 25th at 7 p.m. to celebrate Commencement with our grade 12 students who are excitedly moving on to their next step after high school.  

We look forward to you joining us over the next few weeks!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Emma Bannerman

Every time a student speaks openly at a staff meeting, PD day or event, I watch the educators, parents and other adults sit up a little straighter and listen more intently.   Have you noticed? Do you think they do? Do they know what their voice means to us and do we give them enough opportunities to share it?  It tells us a truth we sometimes cannot see, challenges and pushes our thinking to new ideas and perspectives, and hopefully opens our hearts to their hopes and needs.  At our Peace Tree ceremony last Thursday, I once again watched as Student Equity Team lead Shay Linton’s words had our full attention.  I was so inspired that I want to share them with you this week. 

“On behalf of the student body of Mitchell District High School, I would like to thank you all for coming today to our first ever peace tree celebration. When I went around to many local businesses either in person or contacted them through the telephone, I got a few strange looks, along with questions regarding the ceremony… “What is a peace tree?” “Where does this tradition stem from?” but perhaps most the significant and common inquiry was, “Why does M.D.H.S. need a peace tree and why should the community be a part of it?” Well, I am going to attempt to answer that seemingly simple question now.

With under 600 kids, MDHS is a fairly small school. On the surface, we are not very diverse. I don’t think anyone would argue that for the most part, we are a white, Christian, mainstream heteronormative student body. 

In the past year, the Student Equity Team has been formed whose focus revolves around educating fellow peers regarding the differences among us which must be acknowledged. Recently, the Equity Team led a classroom activity in which students were to create identity circles regarding aspects of their own true selves and hand in an anonymous statement which included an important part of their identity along with a stereotype associated with it. Some examples included:       

“I am deaf but I am not clueless.”

“I am straight but I am not homophobic.”  

"I am quiet but I am not opinionless"

“I am a Christian but I am not a judgemental person.”

“I am female but I am not less capable.”

"I am overweight but I don't like McDonald’s"

“I am a teenager but I am not a delinquent.”

"I am a male but I'm not sexist"

“I am bisexual but I am not confused or greedy.”

"I am part black but I am not a thief"

These statements clearly indicated we are more diverse than we may seem. You see, although the differences may not always be as clear as black or white, they are still unique distinctions. They are what sets us apart from the person sitting beside us; what makes us, us. We are all a beautiful blend of our personality, hobbies, preferences, race, culture, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

One of the high school’s main goals is to successfully prepare their students for the future. And the reality is that in years to come, students of our school are going to be surrounded by so much more diversity and individuality. As young adults, we will study along with, work beside, ride the subway, cross the road, befriend, or love people of different backgrounds than ourselves. We will form communities new to us with people who practise other faiths and have fleshtones that differ from our own. Although we cannot force visual diversity to be more of a physical part of our school, we can create conversation about it, strive for equality in all regards and not only acknowledge but embrace the diversity we do have.   

It is so important that MDHS and the community of Mitchell together be aware of the unseen diversities within our school and town and celebrate the beauty which unlikeness forms in the world. While the peace blossoms are being placed on the tree today, think about the strengths which your individuality brings to those around you. For as the Muslim origin phrase states:  “A lot of flowers make a bouquet”.”

Thank you to Shay, our Student Equity Team and to our students who strive to create an accepting and supportive school community everyday.  We are so thankful for your vision of the celebration of diversity and your leadership in our school.


Wednesday, April 16, 2015

By Emma Bannerman

As I write this column today, it is beautiful, warm and sunny outside. Spring has finally arrived! And with spring fever, it is sometimes difficult for students to remain focused on school work. So this is an even more important time for them to take a moment to reflect on their progress, review graduation requirements, check in with teachers for feedback and set a few goals for the final months of school.

Secondary midterm report cards go home next Thursday, April 23. Please contact the school with any questions or concerns.

All students should be completing a minimum of 10 hours of community involvement each year of their high school career. They should begin during the summer following their Grade 8 year. However, these hours must be dedicated to non-profit organizations or to our senior population who may benefit from support. Please feel free to contact school administration for pre-approval to ensure the service qualifies. We are also eager to connect students with community involvement opportunities. Both Mr. Allen and our Student Services department are here to help. Alternatively, check out the community involvement display outside of my office or

Our half credit courses in civics and careers change over today. Report card marks and comments represent a final grade in one of these courses. Students who still have assignments to complete should see their teachers as soon as possible before mark submission.

Our Grade 8 students will travel to RIM park for the Skills Canada Career Awareness Workshop on May 4, which will introduce students to careers in the trades and technology sectors. Students will enjoy hands-on activities and a face-to-face Career Exploration Showcase.

Mr. Allen supervised a recent student exchange over the March Break. While in St. Maarten, students lived with their exchange partner’s family, attended the Caribbean International Academy and participated in the regular events of their host partner life. Students were also involved in a variety of activity and excursions about the island. These included a grueling mountain hike, sailing aboard the Canada Two racing yacht, sea kayaking and visiting various towns, markets and historic sites. Of course, we know a trip to St. Maarten would not be complete without loads of beach time and ocean swimming. Students had an incredible trip! We will now reciprocate and welcome Emille from the Caribbean International Academy from April 21 to May 5. We look forward to sharing our school, customs and culture with Emille.

The 2015-2016 school year calendar is now posted on our school website. Please follow the link on the front page to plan for the school year holidays and professional development days. Our MDHS school calendar on the right side bar of our website will also give you current information about our school events. Please note that our annual walk-a-thon is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 28. We are so thankful to our School Council, parents and the community for supporting this event. Please join us in the physical exercise and fun!

Friday, April 24 is a PD day. MDHS will be hosting teachers and educational assistants from all over our district. Our learning will be focused on effectively leveraging technology to further engage students as we continually work to increase learning and achievement.

Finally, a reminder that Thursday, April 30 is our Peace Tree Day weather permitting. Our event kicks off at 1 p.m. in front of our school. We hope you are able to be a part of the celebration.

Enjoy the warm, sunny days ahead as we move into spring!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

By: Shawn Allen

At MDHS we pride ourselves on the level of compassion, care and concern we have for our students as we work to instil in each person the understanding of their innate value.  Sadly, our culture tends to beat us down, reminding us how we fall short and don’t measure up.  Women are bombarded with artificial media images of ‘the perfect body’, an emphasis on being sexual rather than confident and intelligent, and an expectation of being supportive and submissive rather than leading and confident.  Men are also challenged in different often-conflicting ways: be strong and rugged, but gentle, nurturing and sensitive; do housework, care for children, be chivalrous, and romantic, while working outdoors and don’t be emotional.  Discouragement results as we constantly compare ourselves to others.

School has never been any different.  In the past (we pray it doesn’t happen any more) teachers handed assignments back in numerical order, which is a great way to destroy confidence and self worth, while enforcing the boastful ego of another.  In fact, the original purpose of school was to sort students according to ability: work, trades, and academics.  Is it any wonder many lost interest in learning and left school?  The external rewards and punishments just don’t work in the long run to instil a love of learning.

How do we motivate and reinforce the value of each student?  We develop their intrinsic motivation, with the goal being for them to be confident in their ability to learn and improve.  This is empowering and very gratifying! 

How are we working toward this end?  Many classes moved to a feedback-based assessment model.  What does this mean?  It means that student work is no longer assigned a mark.  WHAT?!  How do they know if they know the material or are an honours student?  Well, in place of a mark, the teachers provide very specific and precise comments, allowing students to understand exactly what they did well (and why) as well as what needs to be done to improve and why.  Without a mark on the page, students actually read the feedback and implement the suggestions to bump up the quality of their work and incorporate the feedback into the next assignment.  Students focus on the process of learning, not the product.  


Do you remember when you received a project or assignment with a mark?  You likely looked at the mark and immediately did one of three things: a fist pump followed by an audible “Yes!”; made a ‘hmmm’ sound and nodded or shrugged your shoulders; or sighed, dropped your head and crumpled up the assignment.  That was the end of learning for that skill.  Oh, except for discovering who beat whom in the ranking. 

With feedback, students know precisely what they need to do for their personal improvement.  Everyone does.  There is no smarter or dumber, there are just people working to improve.  Students are motivated by their own needs.  Each is pleased with their own progress.

Why is this so important?  Our world needs confident, capable, and independent learning adults.  Our world is no longer the one we grew up in; they need a much broader and deeper skill set to be successful in multiple jobs that don’t currently exist. For them to be successful, our children must be self-motivated, confident, capable of independent learning and adaptable.  By removing the means for a learning ‘finish line’, an external control- a subjective number indicating how much they know or don’t know- students are thriving, learning more, working harder, and more independent than ever.  Our students are better equipped to overcome challenges and be successful in all their endeavours.  There is good reason to be proud and supportive of our community high school.  We are #AlwaysLearning.  At MDHS we care. #WeAccept because #YouMatter.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

By:  Shawn Allen & Emma Bannerman

“All we are saying is give peace a chance.”  John Lennon

Imagine a world of sameness. Pause.  Imagine.  The same food.  The same weather.  The same people.  Just. Like. You.  The same ideas.  The same beliefs.  The same actions.  The same likes. The same dislikes.  The same every day, day in, day out.  How quickly boredom would set in; as it did while reading this paragraph!

Imagine a world of difference.  This is exciting!  We value and treasure the unique.  The world is filled with difference, newness, and excitement.  When we engage with these we learn, grow, and are more aware.  We call this experience and the more of it we have, the wiser we become and the more we value the lessons and the learning.

Every culture, faith, community, and individual can provide insight, opportunity, and reason to value the other.  Notice the term value: worth, importance, appreciation.  It goes far beyond tolerating or ‘putting up with’.  To see the value of diversity is the cornerstone of peace and unity, strengthening any community.  When we devalue others and their differences we align ourselves with the mindset responsible for atrocities of historical proportions: The Inquisition, The Crusades, World War II, witch hunts, aboriginal residential schools, segregation, The Rwandan Genocide, racism, homophobia, and countless others.  Hate is usually demonstrated when people feel threatened due to increased contact with a marginalized group.  The weird thing is, we’ve always had close contact with ‘those people’ and society has carried on and thrived.  Instead of picking up stones, let’s pick up burdens and care.

We are guaranteed to disagree with others; we each have our ‘sacred cows’, biases, and comforts.  However, ‘us’, ‘them’, ‘those people’, and other divisive language serve only to build walls, breed contempt, and hurt.  It’s true that none of us are obligated to live according to another’s conscience, but working to build bridges and be a peacemaker is a far higher calling.

We are proud of our high educational and character standards in this province and our Board.  Public education is for all - meaning every single person must be safe, valued, cared for and empowered to build equitable, inclusive, and peaceful schools and communities.  As Peace Tree Week approaches, may we embrace each other’s humanity.

Peace Tree Day, founded by Mitra Sen, is intended to be a festival that shares the roots of every culture and faith to create a greater understanding and respect among all people.    Each year we celebrate all aspects of our diversity during our MDHS Peace Tree Day in the Spring.  Ms. Menheere and the art club created a beautiful piece of artwork two years ago; a tree made up quotations to honour the value of our differences.  It is proudly displayed in our front foyer.  Last year, Courtney Feeney and Sarah Linton led the “Get Over It!” campaign, which resulted in a fabulous video by Alex Walker and included many staff and students.   These students said enough, we are different, get over it! This year, the MDHS Equity Team will be hosting the building of a community Peace Tree.  We hope that local organizations and businesses will join us in the afternoon on Thursday, April 30th.  Please save the date! Invitations will be going out in March.

At MDHS #YouMatter.


Wednesday January 21, 2015

By:  Shawn Allen & Emma Bannerman

Welcome back and a very Happy New Year!  We trust you had a peaceful and meaningful time with family and friends during the holiday season.  It took us a week to get everyone into the building full time, but we all finally made it safely last Monday.  You would think that with all the snow days, our student body would be bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Perhaps sledding is more exhausting than imagined?  We are thankful to be back to our normal routine as curriculum needs and summative assessments require completion before the end of the semester for students in grades 9-12.  And to be honest, we all manage better with purposeful routine.

Our breakfast program, led by Ms. Mohr, has been a huge success!  It continues because of the generous donations and support from the Optimist Club, Mr. Kindler, Ms. Russell, Syd and Steph Mohr & family, Brenda’s Place & Bakery, the Mitchell Golf & Country Club, Delaney Beuermann & family, Casey Corcoran & family and Mr. Young.  Thank you kindly for all you do for kids!

Aside from secondary exams, please note the special evening set aside for students entering grades seven and nine in September 2015.  We extend a warm welcome to all grade six and eight students and their families.  Our Grade 6&8 Open House not only offers essential school and course information, but will also feature exciting activities, demonstrations, presentations and the culinary delights from our Food Technology program.  The evening will begin with a general information session in the gym at 6:30 p.m. with presentations from school administration, students, and parents.  You will be very pleased you attended this session.  The guided tours to experience the interactive sessions will follow.  We are excited to meet each of you and are thrilled you will join us in September!  At Mitchell High School, #YouMatter.

What’s happening at MDHS?

January 23rd to January 28th: Grade 9-12 Final Exams

January 28th: Grade 6 & 8 Open House and Information Evening- 6:30-8:30 p.m.

January 29th: PD Day for all students

January 30th: First day of Semester 2

February 4th: Reach for the Top Competition

February 6th: Grade 9-12 Semester 1 Final Reports distributed

February 9th: School Council Meeting, 7 p.m. in the MDHS Library

February 11th: Grade 9-12 2015-2016 Course Selections due date

                      Grade 12 Graduation Photo Retakes

February 16th: Family Day Holiday

February 19th: Grade 7/8 Term 1 Reports distributed


Remember to visit our website ( and follow us on twitter (@MitchellDHS).




Wednesday December 10, 2014

Shawn Allen

 “Together, we rock!”

This is the mantra of John Draper, an inspiring public speaker, advisor to and participant in, international, national and community research initiatives, who shares his insights, experiences, joys, and difficulties in a humorous and challenging manner.  John’s organization helps remove stigma, build community and relationships, and highlights the dignity of all members of society. 

We were privileged to have John present to our student body yesterday, as well as to the junior and intermediate students of North Heasthope PS.  His humour and openness kept us engaged, causing us to reflect on our own view of those with ‘disabilities’ and the value each person adds to our community.  Despite being confined to a wheelchair and being non-verbal, we saw John’s ability, not the disability.  

At MDHS we support John’s message of inclusion; ALL members of the community are valued and belong in our classes because we ALL learn from each other and valuing our differences enriches us.  We are proud of our student leaders and the work of the Equity and Safe School Teams as they build on past student/staff efforts to further develop a welcoming environment for each and every member regardless of … anything.

Together, we rock! 

There are four weeks until first semester exams begin.  I’m sure realizing this drastically raised the stress level for students and parents.  Preparations for exams should take place over several days, if not weeks, rather than the night before.  Good preparation is a learned skill, not an accident or indicator of ‘smartness’.  Begin reviewing, summarizing, and developing your own questions about the material as soon as possible.  This allows time to make sense of it all, store it in long-term memory, and seek clarification when needed.  Make study sessions brief - about an hour with a ten-minute break after 25 minutes so what has been relearned sticks.  Also, study in a setting free of distractions; access to social media, family interactions, TV, etc. usually make for an unproductive study session.

As the exam draws near, sleep is essential; it’s actually more important than late-night marathon cramming.  If stress or anxiety creep in, write out the reasons for feeling this way, then crumple the paper and throw it away.  It’s amazing how therapeutic this can be.

Lastly, believe in yourself: you’re smart, capable, and prepared.  Git’er  done! 

Finally, seize the opportunities this Christmas to rest, connect with friends and family, share of yourself, and enjoy life.  We are often unusually stressed at this time of year as we prepare for the big day: gifts, turkey, travel, etc.  The greatest gift we can give comes from within; spend time with one another to learn and grow together.  From our close-knit MDHS family to yours, “Merry Christmas and a Joyful New Year.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

As the old highly-quoted African proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child.  The provincial government’s vision for public schools is that they be “Community Hubs...where all people can gather to learn and participate in a range of activities offered by community organizations.”  Schools are not only places of academic learning, but socialization as well. As society becomes more complex, the job of raising and training our youth also becomes more complex.  The importance of our community partners in nurturing the next generation is clear - we value your contributions and see your impact on a daily basis.  We want to recognize and thank our local organizations, businesses, and individuals who contribute to make MDHS a great place to learn and grow:

 Everyone together is helping to develop and shape our community, enriching the lives of our students.  It is likely we have inadvertently omitted valued contributors to our school.  If we have not thanked you, please contact us so we can appropriately express our gratitude to you.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

By:  Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

Every year we ask our grade 9 students to write a practice literacy test to identify their needs and to determine how we can best support them over the year prior to their Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.  Our MDHS literacy team, made up of teachers in grades 7-12, also analyzes student writing samples every year and collaborates on the best approaches to build the reading and writing skills of individual students.  The areas of greatest need are consistently vocabulary, making connections and making inferences. offers sample questions for student practice.  Although we offer an outstanding literacy preparation course (ELS20) in grade 10 to address these areas of need, regular reading throughout the teenage years has the greatest long-term impact on student literacy.  

Reading leads to success.  It not only builds and expands student vocabulary in a range of subject areas, but it shows students how writers share their thoughts so they become better writers themselves. Reading also increases their knowledge of the world from multiple perspectives, allowing students to understand the world beyond our own backyard, informing them of world issues, personal struggles and stories of success.  Students begin to make connections to their own lives, furthering both their reading pleasure and their comprehension and analysis of complex issues.

We are pleased with the growth shown in our March 2014 literacy test results.  Students worked hard on their literacy skills and it certainly paid off.  However, we continue to reflect on the test and on the areas in which students struggle.  Literacy test questions are not simply English class questions.  The test includes diverse texts that we encounter everyday and content from across the subject areas. 

Every year on the test, a graphic text that you might find in your workplace, a local newspaper or magazine, shares a considerable amount of information.  Students are then required to answer a series of multiple choice questions to demonstrate their understanding of the graphic information and its implications.  You can support the development of your child’s skills in this area by collecting graphic texts that you find and discussing their meaning. 

The following links provide some samples of graphic texts that you may wish to review together. 




The last two links are from past literacy tests and the graphics may be found on pages 11 and 16 respectively.

In this information age, literacy skills are more important than ever before.   It’s not simply a matter of reading and understanding.  We also need to be able to interpret, synthesize and critically analyze the overwhelming amount of information available.  We will continue to build these skills in our students and encourage students to embrace diverse forms of text and communication both in and outside of school.  If we can be of any support to you in this endeavour, please contact us.

Finally, on another note, our drama and music students would like to invite all parents and community members to join us Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. in the MDHS gym for our Remembrance Day assembly.  We will observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

By:  Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen


MDHS is abuzz with activities keeping us busy, entertained, and productive.  We extend a warm welcome to all community members to support us.  Below is a rundown of the upcoming events and activities taking place over the next few weeks. 


MDHS Blue Buds Program

On Thursday, October 6, forty-eight MDHS students participated in a trip to the Edge Challenge Course in Walton (  The students, dubbed "The Blue Buds", completed many team building and trust exercises.  They challenged themselves on a mountain biking course, ropes course, high tower climb and team wall climb. 

On Thursday, October 23rd, select senior students will take part in a mentorship training session.  Students will be trained on topics of communication, boundaries and confidentiality.  Our peer mentorship program (the "Blue Buds") involves 48 students in grades 7-12 and will run for the duration of the school year.  The Blue Buds thank the Mitchell Kinsmen for donating the use of their hall for the training session.  Thank you for supporting our school community, Mitchell Kinsmen!



The Devil’s Senior Girls’ Basketball team has a 6-6 record and is in 5th place in Huron-Perth.  Good luck girls!

Our Intermediate Girls’ Soccer team had a beautiful day weather wise for their tournament.  The girls demonstrated amazing character and improved play throughout the day, but lost in the quarter finals.

The Junior Girls’ Basketball team played a hard-fought game last Wednesday in St. Marys.  The Devils were down 32-11 at half-time but tied the game to go into overtime.  The Devils persisted and persevered to win 52-50.  Congratulations to Megan Rohfritsch, the top scorer with 18 points; Myah Vingerhoeds for her amazing defence as she shut down St. Marys’ best player.  Great work girls!

Congratulations to our secondary cross-country runners for a fantastic season.  Three of our runners qualified for WOSSAA! Stay tuned…

Girls’ Ice hockey practices began Tuesday, October 21st at 7:30 a.m.  We wish all our athletes great success.


Exciting Events

October 23rd:  Gr. 10-12 students visit the St. Lawrence Market, China Town and Cirque du Soleil.

October 27th:  St. Clair College visits MDHS; Fall 2014 University Information event 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

October 28th:  Jr. & Sr. Boys’ Volleyball in St. Marys 2:15 p.m.

October 29th:  Jr. & Sr. Girls’ Basketball at MDHS 2:15 p.m.

October 30th:  Visits from Georgian and Fleming Colleges.  Please see Student Services if you are interested in attending. 

Secondary dance:  8:00 p.m.

October 31st:  Intermediate dance:  1:30 p.m.

November 3rd:  Elementary Progress Reports distributed (Parent-Teacher Interviews Nov. 6th in the evening and Nov. 7th in the morning.  More information to follow.)

Mohawk College visits.

Finally, please save the date! Our next Parent Council meeting is Monday, November 10th at 7 p.m. in the MDHS library.  We hope you are able to join us to share your voice in the MDHS community.  


Principal’s Corner – Wednesday, October 8, 2014
By:  Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

Our September PD day was all about the leading edge.  We couldn’t help but be excited by the energy and enthusiasm of our teachers to engage in leading edge instructional and assessment practices as we focus on preparing our students for success in the 21st century.  School has changed so very little in the past century while our world continues to develop at an unprecedented pace.  It is time to re-invent schooling to ensure we meet these changing demands.  

As you know, MDHS began a 1:1 iPad project last year and while we continue to challenge ourselves and our students to go further, we have seen tremendous gains in both student engagement and student learning.  Our math flipped classroom model has proven to be a considerable success.  All of our students passed the provincial assessment and in fact, all achieved level two or greater!  This is unheard of.  This approach to learning required a lot of time and effort by our teachers’ and a different mindset for our students, yet the benefits are tremendous.  

Like any organization looking to remain relevant and successful, schools cannot keep the status quo lest we become irrelevant and ineffective.  If we are committed to developing the 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity, we need to examine our current practices and push ourselves to change and adapt. 

One thing we have all done is receive an assignment with many comments written by the teacher, only to look for the mark and then toss the paper aside.  Research tells us this is normal since when a mark is on the paper students don’t use the feedback to improve.  The learning stopped the moment we handed it in.  The best learning was missed!  To ‘beef up’ student learning and make it continuous, many of our teachers will explore the markless classroom this year.  This doesn’t mean students won’t receive term or final course marks, it means that throughout the learning process students receive only feedback on the specific things they can to do improve their work; their next steps.   

Alfie Kohn (Educational Leadership, 2011) reminds us of the effect of grading student work.  Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they are learning, they create a preference for the easiest possible task, and they tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking.  Once they get a ‘good enough’ mark, they quit.  Just how effective is feedback?  Research indicates that effective feedback impacts learning more than step-by-step instruction, direct teaching, taking notes or even practice!

With only feedback describing what and why a student did well and what and how they can improve, student focus is off the final grade and on the learning and improving.  They remain motivated and focussed, produce higher-quality work, develop a growth mindset, and excel.  This type of environment supports reflective discussion about the learning, not the mark.  Students also develop strategies to use feedback, meaning they spend more time thinking about the material and their own learning.

We encourage you to continue the feedback dialogue at home.  We hope we can change the question from “How did you do? What was your mark?” to “What have you learned?”.  We will continue improving our approach to ensure our students can be successful in any path they pursue.  


Principal’s Corner – Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We enjoyed a fabulous start to our school year! There are already so many events and activities to share that I wanted to devote this column to highlighting them so that you might join us, volunteer your time, or simply cheer on our students. 

We welcome our new students and encourage them to visit school administration or Student Services with any questions or concerns.  We are here to support you in any way we can and to connect you with the many available resources.

We would like to congratulate Ms. Jackson on her new half-time role as a technology coach.  Thankfully we keep her for half the day and we are fortunate to have Mr. Schneider step into the half-time position.  A warm welcome to Ms. Woods who also joins our team in music as well as a variety of other intermediate subjects.

In secondary, we would like to welcome Ms. Bridge to our French, Student Success and English departments, Ms. Miller to our English and CWS departments, and we are so pleased that Ms. Berlett is joining us once again, now in our science department.  We welcome back Mr. Ellison as our new department head of Health and Physical Education and last but not least, we are pleased to have Ms. Crawford join the administrative team as vice-principal.   

Ms. Crawford wasn’t given very much time to ease into her role.  She joined Mr. Allen and me in the ALS ice bucket challenge in her first week at the school.  Photo evidence may be found on our school website,   Intermediate staff fulfilled their ice bucket nomination requirements last Friday and we look forward to continued participation in the coming week.

MDHS Athletics are holding practices for girls’ field hockey, junior & senior girls’ basketball, boys’ volleyball and tennis.  Please visit our school website for the dates and times of upcoming games.  We appreciate the cheering section and hope you are able to join us!

Please remind your child that Photo Day is this Friday, September 12th.  Order forms were included in your registration package or may be collected from the main office.  Smile!

School Council is hoping that new members will come out to our first meeting this year at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 15th in the library.  We welcome parents of students in grades 7 through 12 as well as community members who are interested in education.  We value your input and plan to invite many speakers of interest to meet our local needs.

On Thursday, September 18th from 5-7 p.m. we invite the parents of grade 7&8 students to meet their teachers.  School administration will also be available to answer questions.  We look forward to meeting you!

On Thursday, September 25th, we host our first grade 9-12 dance at 8 p.m. in the courtyard.  Student Council invites you to follow MDHSDevils for all their news and events on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Finally, on Friday, September 26th, students have their first PD day while staff continues to plan programs to meet individual needs. 

We look forward to another rewarding year at MDHS together!  We look forward to building strong, positive relationships with you.



Principal’s Corner – Wednesday, June 25, 2014

As our school year comes to a close I want to take this opportunity to thank the many community members and businesses who support our students and our school.  Weekly baked muffins, donations to our food programs, graduation and commencement bursaries, volunteer coaching, volunteer drivers, mentors, trip supervisors, newspaper coverage of events and classroom volunteers all show our students how much this community supports them in their endeavours.   We are great because all of you are here. 

We’ve been so fortunate to have many fabulous temporary teachers to MDHS step into new roles this year.  Their dedication and hard work have ensured a seamless transition to minimize the impact of change on our students.  We say goodbye to Mrs. Basisto, Mlle. Beaugrand, Mrs. Donaldson, Ms. Fairley, and Mr. Little.  The one thing they all have in common – enthusiasm and energy.  They demonstrate their commitment to the achievement and well-being of our students through outstanding curricular and extra-curricular programming. 

We also say goodbye to three permanent staff members.  Mrs. Klein is going on maternity leave.  We thank her for her work with our school band and the development of the intermediate instrumental program.  Mrs. Dietz returns to Elma Township Public School.  We will miss her kind and welcoming approach in the main office.  Finally, we extend a fond farewell to Vice-Principal Barry Brohman.  His gentle and supportive approach has been much appreciated by both staff and students.  We wish him all the best in his new role with e-learning and adult education.  To all of our departing staff, you will always have a home at MDHS! You will be missed! 

Tonight we celebrate the achievements of our grade 8 students at Grade 8 Graduation.  Please join us 7 p.m. in the MDHS gym.  The dance will immediately follow the ceremony.  I would like thank Mrs. Wilkinson for leading us in the planning of this exciting event.

Tomorrow at the same time our grade 12 students will cross the stage as we recognize their achievements and encourage them in their next steps following high school.  Mrs. Clarke-Ellison, Mrs. Schoonderwoerd, Mrs. Yausie and our commencement committee have been working hard to ensure a fabulous celebration.  Students are reminded to meet at 6:15 p.m. in the west hall.

Finally, looking ahead, we will hold our 2014-2015 registration session for all students during the last week of August.  Students may collect their timetables, complete registration & permission forms, and prepare their lockers for the first days of school.   Grade 8 & 9 students may register on Tuesday, August 26th from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., grade 10, 11 & 12 students on Wednesday, August 27th from 9 a.m. -12 p.m.    Incoming grade 7 students are invited to a barbeque lunch and orientation session on Thursday, August 28th.  Registration will begin at 10 a.m. with an orientation session at 11 a.m. in the gym.  The barbeque lunch will follow. 

We hope you have a fabulous summer! We look forward to seeing you in September.


Principal’s Corner – Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Only 5 weeks remaining until summer holidays! We have been wrapping up our year with a busy few weeks at MDHS with so many opportunities for our students.

On Friday, May 16, 2014, the Avon Maitland DSB, along with numerous partnerships, invited female students to attend a workshop at the Arden Park.  The workshop was titled "Young Women in Skilled Trades".   Topics included breaking the barriers in male-dominated workplaces as well as training and post-secondary options for students interested in a career in the skilled trades.  A panel of five local tradeswomen from Perth and Huron counties shared their experiences and fielded questions from the audience.  One of the tradeswomen was Mitchell resident Vicki Smith.  Vicki is a mason and part owner of S. Elliott Masonry.  Vicki's story was inspirational and motivating.  In addition, Hayley Wickenheiser, a five time Olympic medalist in hockey, spoke to the girls about perseverance, determination and the importance in following your dreams.

Also on Friday, our grade 7&8 student-athletes participated in our MDHSTrack and Field meet.  Each athlete participated to the best of their abilities and demonstrated excellent character and skill throughout the day.  The top athletes based on points per event were:  Riley Dietz - grade 7girl, Ryan Harmer - grade 7 boy, Elisa Bolinger - grade 8 girl, and QuaidAustin - grade 8 boy.  Congratulations!

Our secondary Track and Field team has also been training hard at practice which has resulted in some great results at recent meets.  At WOSSATrack and Field this week, MDHS qualified five of our eleven athletes to OFSSA.  Qualifying Athletes:  Cody Pauli (Jr. Boys 200 m, 300 m Hurdles, 400 m, Relay), James Cooper (Midget Boys 100 m, 200 m and Jr.Boys Relay), Cassandra Hinz (Jr. Girls 1500 m and 3000 m), Nick Jung (Jr. Boys Shot Put and Relay), Greg Bertens (Jr. Boys Relay).  OFSSA is next Friday and Saturday at the University of Windsor.   Congratulations to our entire Track team for their dedication this year and best of luck at OFSSA! Go Blue!

We hope friends and family will join us in honouring these and the many other MDHS athletes at our annual Athletic Banquet on Tuesday, June 10, 2014.  A huge thank you to Mrs. Donaldson and our students of Athletic and Spirit Society who put an enormous amount of time and energy intoplanning this celebration.  

 Mitchell District High School’s 10th Annual Walkathon is set for May 28th!  This much anticipated fund raising event involves walking from the school to the Dublin Lion’s Park where the students take part in many team building games, including the popular teacher-student baseball game.  The money raised by the students is used to fund various projects on which students vote.  Last year, among other things, a large screen television was installed in our cafeteria.  This was greatly appreciated this year as we cheered our Canadian hockey teams to victory at the Olympics. This event would not be possible without the hard work and help of many including: Doug Francis, Barb Jarmuth, Janice and Dave Hannon, I.D.A.,MDHS Staff, Student Council, Athletic and Spirit Society and Parent Council, Municipality of West Perth, O.P.P., Parmalat - Jennifer Keeler,Weston's, and Judy Wood.

 We would like to thank our students of Student Council for their hard work and leadership this year and congratulate our new leaders who will begin their positions in September.  We look forward to working with Co-Presidents - Lindsay Melanson, Zoey Pulles, Secretary - Allanah Ross,Treasurers - Mikayla McMann, Nicole Sykes, Social Convenor - AlyssaBublitz, Advertising - Hailie Groot, Student Senators - Katelyn Ludington, Jessica Shouwstra, Member at Large - Krista Rock.   These members of the 2014-2015 Student Council will be attending a Board wide symposium on Monday, May 27th in Seaforth to participate in a leadership workshop and hear keynote speaker Andy Thibideau.

 Once again, MDHS will host the annual AMDSB Friendship Games on Thursday, June 5, 2014.  MDHS student leaders, Courtney Feeney and Sarah Linton, and Ms. McDonald’s grade 8 class have been creating an exciting day of friendly competition for visiting athletes from around Perth County.   We thank the volunteers and sponsorship from West WawanoshMutual Insurance Company as well as over 170 MDHS students who made this event possible.

 Our last school dance will be held Thursday, June 12th in the courtyard.  The theme is the "Fiesta" and red chili mini-lights will decorate the trees, creating a unique atmosphere with bubbles and lasers.  All proceeds from the dance will support cancer research.  

 Finally, I would like to remind all students to take some time to complete assignments and study for final exams despite the beautiful weather and Spring fever that is clearly setting in.    Secondary exams begin on Friday, June 20, 2014.  Grade 8 Graduation will be held on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 and our Secondary Commencement ceremony begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 26, 2014.  We look forward to celebrating the successful efforts and hard work of our students.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
By:  Emma Bannerman & Joey Jackson

It has been just over three months since our intermediate students received their iPads in the AMDSB one-to-one iPad project.  At the onset, our students and teachers were excited and inquisitive about how this would change their classrooms.  I am sure that some wondered if the technology would hinder real learning as students would be distracted by their device.  However, we have seen some amazing gains in reading, writing and student thinking.  Our teachers and students have been growing together at an incredible pace, fully engaged in the learning process. 

The biggest challenge in supporting student reading is meeting the varied needs of our learners.  There may be a range of decoding ability from grade 3 to grade 12 in one classroom.  The iPads level the playing field.  Students who have challenges accessing grade level material are now reading using iPad technology and able to respond to grade level content, thereby developing their critical thinking skills alongside their peers.  Textbooks are typically written above grade level due to difficult subject vocabulary which puts up a roadblock for learning.  Using the accessibility features of the iPad allows students to define words as well as have difficult passages read to them.  Students tell us, “It helps with my reading a lot.  I can read way harder books.“  When responding to literature, there are more creative opportunities to show their comprehension of text.  We have budding young directors who are writing and acting in role through the use of apps like iMovie and iMovie trailer.

In writing, we have been overwhelmed by the dramatic improvements in student outlook on the revision process.  It is amazing the number of times that students write something they believe sounds fluent.  Like so many of us, when asked to revise it, they read what they want to hear.   The text-to-voice feature of the iPad allows students to easily hear what their writing actually sounds like to a reader.  As a result, students are far more aware of their strengths and areas for improvement.  They are finally critically thinking about their writing.  This is taken even one step further as the teacher provides written and voice memos on student writing submissions.  Students can access the feedback as often as they like to improve their writing in future work.  Students, who at one time only wrote a few sentences, are now confidently writing pages.

Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about iPads in school is that students would lose themselves in the device and collaboration would suffer.  However, we could not have been more wrong.  Students have been tackling challenging current events and asking thought provoking questions of one another, of their teacher and of their parents.  They are making more connections to the world, questioning the reliability of their internet sources, and as a result, have become more media savvy.  We are continually impressed by the ideas that are being expressed by these young minds.  When the world’s information is at their fingertips and the benefit of rich dialogue is supported, the sky is the limit.  Student learning and achievement are rising.  Excitement is growing.  Students who were previously quiet and uncomfortable participating are now speaking up and sharing their perspectives on current events.  Students are eagerly taking ownership of their own learning and independently researching additional information to share with the class.

Organizationally speaking, as Mr. Hlusiak puts it, “These iPads are grade 7 boy proof.”  Mrs. Jackson recently surveyed her classes to find out how students felt the iPads had impacted their learning.  Students overwhelming agreed that their organizational skills had vastly improved.  Gone are the days of messy binders, lost assignments and study notes.  Students are setting alarms to ensure they meet deadlines and checking the school calendar linked to their devices for important events. 

As if all of that wasn’t enough, we are seeing incredible gains in student engagement and other 21st century skill development.  Not only has student written communication improved but oral communication has become a popular method of sharing their understanding through iPad apps like Explain Everything.  Talk is so important.  Through their own articulation of concepts, a deeper understanding grows.  Student engagement and creativity have also blossomed through iMovies, game shows, and collages just to name a few.  One grade 7 student said, “We can make assignments fit our style of learning.  That’s way more fun!”  Another commented, “We’re able to do things we weren’t able to do before, like creative presentations.  We have a much wider margin of things that we’re able to do.”  There is no longer a limited number of ways to show their understanding.  Students are engaged as they have choice in their learning process and in their final product.  

Our teachers and students are so pleased with the gains they have made over the past few months.  We invite you to contact Mrs. Bannerman to arrange a classroom visit.  You will be amazed by the participation, engagement and skill development of your child.  We look forward to our continued growth as we learn more about how this technology can ensure accessibility and meaningful engagement for all students in all subject areas.

“After only 3 months into it, I would never want to teach any other way.  It would be like returning to before dial-up.”    ~ Mrs. Jackson


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How do you want to be remembered? Travis Brown had me thinking that a lot this week.  Over and over again, students and staff said the same words to me about him.  Kara Woodcock said it in her eulogy at his funeral last Tuesday.  We will all remember his smile, his strength, and his kind, gentle heart.  Travis managed to positively impact the lives of so many people in his too few years because he made us feel good just by being with us.  He was kind to everyone.  He was a leader both on and off the field, providing support to everyone he met.

When I think of Travis, I always see the slight tilt of his head when he gave that easy smile.  Always smiling even when in pain, I remember him teasing me when I struggled to push him up the hospital ramp in a wheelchair after he had injured himself in a soccer game.  I remember him laughing even more about his very smelly feet when the nurse asked that his principal remove his cleats.  He was soft spoken with a heart that was bigger and beyond his years and knew how to make every moment a positive one. 

Despite the high expectations and demands of parents, teachers, and of course, principals, I hope our children and students know how much we love them, how much we want their lives to be extraordinary, and how much of an impact it will have on our hearts when they leave us.  Tragic loss reminds us to hold our loved ones close and of the importance of cherishing every moment we have with one another.

Once again this week, I am in awe of our school and greater community.  We thank you for the many messages of condolence and support.  I am so appreciative of how our students and community come together to support one another, to listen, to offer a hug, to cry together, to share memories, or just to sit in silence together whenever we need it. 

So, how do you want to be remembered? Maya Angelou said that people don’t always remember what we say or even what we do, but they always remember how we made them feel.  So let’s remember to smile, to say a kind word, and to encourage those around us even when we are rushed, disappointed, frustrated, or angry.  Travis taught us by example to be kind and caring to those around us regardless of status, position, or difference.  I hope we learn from how he lived his life.  Travis, you will be so missed!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

By:  Shawn Allen

Finally, after six months of hibernating, the snow is gone, spring is here and we’ve burst out of our homes to enjoy the warmth and sounds of spring.  Spring, like New Years, is a time of change, renewal, and growth.  It reminds us that in life we constantly toil, grow, and overcome challenge.  Last week, at the Livery Theatre in Goderich, the AMDSB Parent Involvement Committee put on another fantastic Ignite Parents evening with the theme “What If…”  It reminded us of our humanity, our obligations to one another, the growth we’ve experienced as a society and as an education system, and also the work still to be done.

As a population, we grow and adapt as we learn and understand, allowing us to act out of knowledge rather than fear.  A former student of our Board commented on the cartoons he watched as a child, “I can’t believe how unbelievably racist they were.”  Indeed, the past stereotypical and demeaning characterizations of gender, other cultures and races, make us shudder today. Our understanding, compassion and adaptation have made life better for all.

How have we grown?  

Accessibility- Sloped curbs, door handles, ramped entrances, and other changes, though costing a little extra, have made life significantly easier for those with physical challenges. However, most of us have benefited when pushing a stroller, opening doors with hands full, and enjoying a stroll as a result of providing equity for all our community members.

Education- Differentiated teaching and testing, accommodations, and diverse course pathways allow students to learn deeper, demonstrate ‘how they are smart’, and provide flexibility in life pathways.  As a result, our graduates are ready and able to meet the needs of the ever-changing workplace.

Human nature- Schools not only teach ‘The Three Rs’, which on their own are grossly insufficient for today’s workplace, families, and culture, but use ‘The Three Rs’ to nurture character, understanding and community so each person knows he/she is valued and respected.  How does this happen? We include. We learn. We know better so we do better.  We accept people for who they are and their expression thereof, knowing they ARE born that way, whether it is skin colour, height, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc. We no longer accept ‘white only’ anything. We value the contributions of men and women, whether ‘traditional’ or not.  We know a person’s colour, height, accent, physical appearance, sexual orientation and gender identification don’t harm others.  What harms others is degrading them, limiting them, and inciting intolerance, as these have a long sordid history.  We know diversity is strength and it is never wrong to care. As a result, we live in the safest time in history.

So, as buds burst, bulbs bloom and lawns awaken, let us look inward to how we can grow to become the change we wish to see, doing and being for others what we want them to do and be for us.  As we examine ourselves, our biases, our needs, and hopes, we look at others differently.  What if...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Thankfully warmer weather is finally coming our way!  It seems like a good time to celebrate our recent successes and look forward to some exciting Spring events.

Forty-three students from Mitchell District High School took part in the second annual “Camp Out for Cancer” on March 21-22 from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.  Students from grades 7-12 participated in the all night event, raising a total of $1078 to benefit cancer research and survivors, almost double last year’s total. Students enjoyed various activities such as an amazing race challenge and a midnight Nerf battle. Special guest speaker, former MDHS teacher and cancer survivor, Deanne Deelstra, made a special presentation.  Thanks to all those who participated and donated generously.  Athletic and Spirit Society looks forward to raising that total again next year!

 Last Thursday, grade 10 students completed their Literacy Test and grade 9 students had the opportunity to practise their skills for next year.  Thanks to Jennifer Schroter, Linda Vivian, and Dan Walker for volunteering their time.  We are so appreciative of their support of our students!

On Monday, grade 8 teacher, Michelle McDonald, and the EcoTeam ran the annual Earth Hour event.  For one hour, we turned off all the lights, computers, and electronic devices.  For this hour we thought about the power that humans have to impact the environment, and what climate change may mean to the way we live.  The EcoTeam encouraged staff and students to think about how inconvenient it is to go without electricity for an hour and to consider the far more inconvenient consequences if we don’t protect our environment!

Our next School Council meeting will be held on Monday, April 7th at 7 p.m. in our library.  Our school librarian, Karen Haefling, and librarian from St. Marys DCVI, Sue Hushen, will show us how to access parent and student e-books on our electronic devices.  Please come in to see all the parent resources our lending library has to offer.  Mrs. Osgood, our technical resource assistant, will share key items at our book fair all day on April 7th from 8:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. and again on April 8th & 9th from 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 

The 3rd annual Ignite Parents event will run on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Livery Theatre in Goderich (35 South Street).  This year’s theme is What If? What If...Teachers didn’t give marks? …We flipped our classroom? …My classroom had no walls? …There was access for all? …Students really could change the world? So many interesting topics this year! Continuing with the “Enlighten us, but make it quick!” format of 5 minute speakers, parents, students and educators will share their stories and innovative ideas.  For more information on this year’s speakers and video footage of past events, please visit:

Save the date! Students look forward to sharing their talent and hard work in the MDHS production of Oklahoma on April 24, 25, & 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the gym.  Please join us!

Finally, MDHS now has a boys’ baseball team in the newly formed Huron-Perth league. Please cheer them on at their first game at St. Marys DCVI on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 1 p.m.  All subsequent games will be posted on the MDHS calendar at  

We thank the amazing Mitchell community for their ongoing support of our school.  We look forward to seeing you at so many great events this month.  Go Blue!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014
By:  Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Mark Twain

Every year we ask our grade 9 students to write a practice literacy test to identify their needs and to determine how we can best support them over the year prior to their Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.  Our MDHS literacy team, made up of teachers in grades 9-12, also analyzes student writing samples every year and collaborates on the best approaches to build the reading and writing skills of individual students.  The areas of greatest need are consistently vocabulary, making connections and making inferences. offers sample questions for student practice.  Although we offer an outstanding literacy preparation course (ELS20) in grade 10 to address these areas of need, regular reading throughout the teenage years has the greatest long-term impact on student literacy.  

Reading leads to success.  It not only builds and expands student vocabulary in a range of subject areas, but it shows students how writers share their thoughts so they become better writers themselves.  Reading also increases their knowledge of the world from multiple perspectives, allowing students to understand the world beyond our own backyard, informing them of world issues, personal struggles and stories of success.  Students begin to make connections to their own lives, furthering both their reading pleasure and their comprehension and analysis of complex issues.

We are constantly looking for ways to engage students in reading for pleasure.  We want to stock our library with books of interest to teens, not just those that support our curriculum.  We also want to encourage parents to use our resources and invite you and your child to provide us with titles or topics of interest so that we can stock our library appropriately.  MDHS library also has Kobos (e-book readers) to sign out so that students are able to take their reading into the 21st century.  Students can also access our e-books through their iPad and Smartphone using the “Destiny” app. Many devices have built in dictionaries to assist the reader if the vocabulary is challenging.  Our One-to-One iPad Project has already proven to be a success in this area since almost 80% of students are selecting e-books as their preferred method of reading.  Many are buying more books this way than they have for printed ones!

The MDHS library now has two growing collections of electronic books; over 25 titles available in the student library and a separate collection of 80 e-books for parents.  The electronic AMDSB Parent Resource Library is the result of work done by our librarian, Karen Haefling, and Sue Hushen, librarian at St. Marys DCVI.  There is a wide variety of books geared to parents with topics ranging from bullying, parenting a cyber generation, talking to tweens, coping with divorce and even boomerang kids who have returned home.  E-books are completely free to borrow and can be conveniently accessed anytime, anywhere on your tablet, iPad or Smartphone with the Follett Enlight app.  On Monday, April 7, 2014, you are invited to join us at Parent Council for a tech-based information session hosted by Karen and Sue.  Learn how to access the Parent Resource Library, download e-books, and how the iPads can be used by parents to support student learning. Judy Hoffmeyer, AMDSB technician, will also be there to provide tips and tricks for using iPads.  RuthAnne Osgood, MDHS Technical Resource Assistant, will be hosting a Scholastic Book Fair.  She has been showing the grade 7 and 8 students how to download library e-books onto their iPads and can help answer questions about using the school electronic library.  E-books continue to grow in popularity and will likely be the future of reading and learning in the 21st century.  Join us on April 7 at 7 p.m. to learn more.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This week we would like to thank Mlle Miller and Mlle Beaugrand for inviting Le Bonhomme de Carnaval to visit last Tuesday.  On February 25th, grade 5 and 6 students from Upper Thames Elementary School attended the first annual M.D.H.S. Carnaval.  All grade 8 and 9 French students worked hard to mirror events that would take place in the annual Carnaval de Quebec, a celebration of French culture. Students participated in events such as a toboggan pull, snow sculpting, snow shoeing, obstacle courses and of course, participated in turning local maple syrup into hard candy.  The Carnaval was successful in providing grade 8 and 9 students with great leadership opportunities while teaching the grade 5 and 6 students about this French celebration during a morning of fun with friends.   Bonhomme de Carnaval and the knuks look forward to hosting the Carnaval again next year.

On Friday, our grade 7 and grade 8 boys’ basketball teams enjoyed some friendly competition at their round-robin tournament at Stratford Northwestern, both teams winning their final games.  We wish our girls equal success and enjoyment as they head out this week. 

Secondary interim report cards go home Thursday, March 6th as this is our last day of classes before March Break.  The break may present some opportunity for students to catch up on assignments and to review course concepts covered to date.  There is still plenty of time for students to build their skills and improve their understanding before final assessments in June.  Please ask your son/daughter about parent-teacher interviews.  Interview night is Thursday, March 20th from 5-7 p.m. in the MDHS gym.  Interviews during semester 2 are by appointment only so you may wish to sign up on the form attached to your child’s report or contact teachers at the school. 

On Monday and Tuesday, March 24th and 25th grade 8 students will pose for their grade 8 graduation photographs.  Even if students are not interested in purchasing a graduation photo, please have your photo taken as we want to ensure all students are included in the class composite.  It will be a treasured keepsake in the years to come. 

Grade 10 students and their families are reminded that students all across the province will write the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test on Thursday, March 27, 2014.  Last Wednesday, the AMDSB Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) invited speakers to give parents tips on supporting their children through this test.  Tips included:  ensure students get enough sleep the night before the test, eat a good dinner and breakfast, arrive to school early to minimize stress, move onto the next question if you get stuck as you can return to it later, and proofread your answers carefully once you have completed the entire test.  Practice material may be found at under parent and student resources.  Students may wish to bring literacy material home over the break to review their strengths and needs from practice assessments.

We also hope students will take some time over March Break to relax and renew their minds and spirits before their return on Monday, March 17, 2014.  After some intense winter weather, we hope this will mark the beginning of warmer days.  Have a safe and happy holiday!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014 

Despite the challenging weather, we made it through exams and second semester began on time.   Semester 1 secondary report cards will go home this Friday, February 7th, along with a school newsletter and a request for parents to complete our online school climate survey.  We hope you will participate and appreciate your input.  Elementary report cards will go home on Tuesday, February 18th.

Yesterday, we said a sad farewell to teacher, department head and former student of MDHS, Doug Stewart.  After 30 years in education, Doug decided to retire.  He was one of the pioneers of the online cooperative education program that re-engaged students from all over Perth and Huron counties.  He has been the department head of COPE and cooperative education for many years, mentoring new young teachers in our profession.  With his easy and approachable nature, he made strong connections between our school and community, and helped our students find their personal paths to success.  Doug has asked me to thank our community leaders once again for their many years of support of MDHS cooperative education and youth apprenticeship programs.  Our community partners have had such a strong, positive impact on the lives of our students.  Doug looks forward to spending his retirement with his wife of 34 years and his two daughters.  We wish him all the best!

While we are thanking our community partners, we want to express our gratitude to the Mitchell Grizzles Slo-Pitch team, the Mitchell Optimist Club and the Mitchell Coyote Ball team for their generous donations to our Grade 7/8 uniform purchase.  Our students are so pleased and the uniforms look great! 

This semester, we would like to extend a very warm welcome to Bob Little who joins the English and Canadian & World Studies departments and to Sarah Fairley in our Health & Physical Education department.   Both will be assets to our instructional team and we know our students will really enjoy working with them.

We also have some exciting events coming up in second semester.  In February, students are looking forward to homeroom and lunchtime fun and friendly competition.  Student Council is running a fundraiser called “We Create Change” to raise money to help build 200 schools worldwide.  Look out for our model schoolhouse in the front foyer.  Every $20 raised will add another brick. 

As we head into April our efforts for social justice will continue through the collection of pledges for our silence.  Around the world, there are so many children without a voice.  They are the child labourers, the children who can’t go to school, and those without access to clean water or healthcare.  In Canada, they are the children who are hungry, who live in poverty, who are bullied at school and who are discriminated against.  On April 17th, we take a silent stand in support and raise money for change.

Finally this week, we would like Congratulate Emily Hinz who was one of only 50 participants who were accepted into the Theme of “Design” program at the University of Waterloo over March break.  Emily will spend the week exploring the theme of design through engineering, the environment, science fiction and virtual reality.  We are so proud of you, Emily! Have a wonderful learning experience!



Wednesday, January 22, 2014 
By:  Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

As the time for course selection for next year approaches, we encourage you to think about the benefits of our attending your local community school.  It is sometimes said that we are too small to offer wide-range programming.  However, we not only offer a full range of courses to meet the needs of students in all pathways, but we are constantly challenging the status quo, developing creative and effective programs to build the skills in our students that will ensure their success in the 21st century.

Our High Skills Major Programs in Agriculture and in Hospitality & Tourism provide sector-specific training, bring local and international experts into our building, and offer many local and international trips to ensure authentic learning experiences for our students.  Advanced Placement courses allow students in the university pathway to acquire university-recognized credits prior to graduation from high school.  Dual-credits offer these same advanced learning opportunities for students in the college pathway, allowing students to experience the college classroom environment in a variety of subject areas while earning credits for both high school and college.  

Our latest one-to-one iPad project is not simply the latest trend, but rather a paradigm shift, educating our students to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world with success.  No longer should the teacher be the guardian of all knowledge and learning when the sum of humankind's knowledge is literally at our fingertips. Teachers are learning alongside students, helping them learn how to learn.  We are now focusing on the development of the 21st century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication and problem solving, embedding these skills into our daily classroom practice.

The flipped classroom is yet another research-based approach that allows students to control their learning environment.  MDHS math students have the opportunity to view teacher-recorded lessons at their convenience and take teacher structured notes.  While in class, students practise what they’ve learned with the teacher present to offer direct support when struggles arise.  No more ‘incomplete homework’ checks!  The result: Student math scores are continually improving and their skills are growing.

As the current trend in people moving to large urban centres grows, it is at the expense of smaller communities that generations have called home.  With big cities come additional amenities and anonymity, but are they the heart of a community?  MDHS offers world-class learning opportunities within a supportive, nurturing, community environment.  Teachers, support staff, administrators and volunteers are community members who know our students well and are known by them.  We have a vested interest in seeing the community and our students flourish.  Working together through in-class, online, workplace, and co-operative education, we strive to strengthen the ties our students have to the community, which will draw them back to live, work, and raise their families.  They are the future of our community.

MDHS offers comprehensive programming in athletics, the arts, and academics with many leadership opportunities.  We encourage you to let us know if there is a course or program of interest that we can offer to meet your child’s learning needs.  Please join us at the MDHS Open House next Wednesday, January 29th at 6:30 p.m.  Families of grade 8 students will begin in our gym while families of grade 6 students will begin in our cafeteria.  Our staff has planned an informative and interactive evening to share many of the great opportunities available to MDHS students.  We look forward to seeing you!



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I hope that you have enjoyed your holidays with family and friends and trust that students are well rested and ready to return to their studies once again.

January is a busy month for our students.  Just over 2 weeks remain of semester 1 classes for secondary students.  They will be diligently completing assignments and preparing for final exams.  Mrs. Wolfe continues to provide academic support in the Den and our homework club meets daily after school from 3-4 p.m.  It would be an excellent idea to make use of these resources prior to writing final exams to ensure success.  The formal exam period begins on Friday, January 24th.  The exam schedule will be posted on our website this week as well as in every classroom.  Students are asked to review the schedule closely and let us know if they have any questions or concerns.  If students are unable to write an exam to due to illness, parents should contact school administration as soon as possible.  Grade 9 students will also be writing their EQAO math assessment on January 20th and 21st.

Graduating students are reminded that January 15th is the deadline for university applications.  College applications must be submitted by February 1st.  This is also an excellent time to review the community involvement component of your high school diploma.  Hours must be completed by June in order for students to graduate with their peers.  Parents and students may contact Mrs. Clarke Ellison in Student Services if they would like some support connecting with local agencies.  Additional information and a tracking form may be found on the front page of our website.

Our Grade 6 and Grade 8 Open House will be held on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  We invite all families to check out the fabulous programming and community spirit of MDHS.  We will begin in the gym at 6:30 p.m. for a brief presentation.  Teachers and students will then be available to share information, answer questions and escort families to the various displays, presentations and activities around the school.  We look forward to grade 6 and grade 8 day visits in early February to provide students with an even greater hands-on experience.

Course selection will also begin in early February.  Mrs. Clarke Ellison and I will be visiting classrooms to provide more information as well as some direction to ensure students receive their courses of choice. 

Finally, we are excited by the grade 7&8 student iPads which are due to arrive later this month.  Teachers have been training with Apple to ensure the effective use of these devices in student learning and achievement.  Mr. Havenga will be providing some introductory iPad training for parents at our School Council meeting on February 3, 2014.  Please join us in the library at 7 p.m.

On behalf of our MDHS family, I wish you all the best for 2014.  Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The holiday season is upon us and MDHS is getting into the spirit!

Our hallways are once again challenging one another for the highly-coveted Christmas Cup! Staff and students are asked to bring in non-perishable food items to donate to our food drive every day this week. If you would like to join our efforts, please drop off food items in our main office in support of the hallway of your choice. Go West Hall!

We hope you will join us for our annual Christmas Music Concert on Friday, Dec. 13th at 7:30 p.m. in the gym to celebrate the talent and hard work of our Junior Band, Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, choirs, as well as our solo performers. Everyone is welcome! Admission is by donation only.

We are also celebrating the hard work and accomplishments of our Grade 8 girls last week. We would like to congratulate our volleyball team who fought hard to make it to the championship game in their tournament on Dec. 3rd. The championship set, between Stratford Central and MDHS, was a real nail biter. The girls lost the first game of the championship set, came back to win the second game and then lost in the third and final game by only two points, ending in a score of 15-13. Elisa Bolinger led the team with consistent blocks, strategic returns and powerful spikes. The Grade 8 girls - Elisa Bolinger (team captain), Erica Babb, Kayla Bublitz, Jill Contois, Savanah Cook, Nicole Cosgrove, Lydia Duncan, Sarah Skinner, Myah Vingerhoeds and Kelly Ward represented Mitchell Blue Devils with athleticism, exceptional effort and enthusiasm.

Please continue to support our student athletes next week. Cheer on our boys basketball teams at 3 p.m. on Monday in Listowel. Our girls volleyball teams will take the court at MDHS on Tuesday at 1:40 p.m. and finally, all students will be heading to the Mitchell arena on Thursday, Dec. 19th at 1:15 p.m. to cheer on our girls hockey team. We hope you can join us!

And from the arts department…We look forward to this year's major Broadway musical, Oklahoma! which will be presented in the spring of 2014 - April 24, 25, 26. This is a great story of turn of the century America, as the new territory of Oklahoma is being fought over by the new settlers and the cowboys who roam the range. A few romances are also central to the plot with Curly vying for the affections of Laurey and Will Parker seeking the hand of Ado Annie. MDHS actors returning to play major parts are Jamie Parker as Curly, Sammi Duval as Laurey, Jacob Vorstenbosch as Jud Fry and Rachel Van Herk as Ado Annie. Rounding out the cast is Mikyla Walker as Aunt Eller and Bob Smith as Andrew Carnes. Bob Smith played the part of Curly in the original MDHS production in the 1980s. We are very excited to have Bob on board. Leslie Hodge is the choreographer and Gail Sinclair and Ed Havenga as the musical conductors. Everyone is excited! Stay tuned for more news about this production.

Over the last two weeks before the holidays, we remind students and families to check in with teachers about student progress. Although the holiday time is an important time to spend with friends and family, it also gives some students an opportunity to catch up on missed work before they begin to prepare for exams. Secondary exams begin on Jan. 24, 2014. Don’t leave your preparation to the last minute!


Principal's Corner - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By Emma Bannerman & Shawn Allen

We have some exciting news! The Grade 7&8 students at MDHS will be a part of one of our Board’s pilot projects.  Every student will receive an iPad for their personal use throughout their education with the Avon Maitland District School Board.  It will both change the way we teach and the way students learn.  It will level the playing field, providing all students with the advantages of this technology.  It will increase student engagement, allowing students to dig deeper, make more connections with their work, and explore global perspectives.  It has the potential to positively impact our environmental footprint as we move to a paperless practice.

It has often been said that education today must prepare students for an uncertain future. Many future jobs do not yet exist and our future job force will be required to use technologies that have yet to be invented to solve problems that haven’t yet emerged.  

When many of us were in school, it was about the acquisition of knowledge and its application.  Today, students are able to access any information from multiple perspectives in mere seconds. They are able to speak with classes in other countries and have their ideas translated into any language at the touch of a button.  They are able to speak with experts in any field, anywhere around the globe.  Technology has had a profound impact on education.  We are now focusing on the development of the 21st century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, communication and problem solving, embedding these skills into our daily classroom practice.

Students will have the opportunity to collaborate as they work across the desk from each other, across the country while on a family vacation or while lying at home too ill to be at school, but well enough to work a little, through text, voice, or video.  Student-created work can be instantly shared with peers, teachers, or the world to elicit feedback and demonstrate mastery of concepts. Student electronic learning portfolios can provide parents with real-time updates on their child’s work.  

The days of a bulging backpack may be gone forever!  Students can access assignments, lessons, reference materials, and class notes using one device, creating and completing their work on that same device.  It will be possible to have the knowledge contained in every textbook available instantly, anywhere.  Although, the excuse, “I couldn’t fit my math book into my backpack”, was a great one for not being able to get homework done, we’re sure students won’t mind a lighter load to carry.

An environment wherein all students use technology also removes the stigma some students currently feel who require the support of voice-to-text and text-to-voice to access curriculum and fully demonstrate their learning.  Many times, learning was a ‘Do it this way, this time’ situation, limiting how students could engage in their learning. Now, it is possible for all student learning methods to be valued and for students to fully engage in collaborative learning on a daily basis.

Teachers will be able to provide feedback, answers, and support students outside of the regular school day.  Parents will be able to see the feedback as well, since it cannot get lost in the black holes of lockers and backpacks.  

There will be celebrations and growing pains as we learn together how to best leverage the power of this learning tool.  Our commitment to our students is unwavering.  Students and teachers will be impacted and both will learn together as we prepare our students to confidently take their place in the world of tomorrow.  The potential is endless and only limited by our imagination as we ask, “What if…?”

As Daniel Pink wrote, “We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.”


Principal's Corner - Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life at MDHS continues at a great pace in and out of the classroom.  Improved student achievement and the classroom instruction which supports that learning remains our primary focus.  Last Friday's PD day served to reinforce that priority.   Staff had the opportunity to hear from educator, author and researcher, Dr. Sheila Bennett, who shared her wealth of experience on inclusion.  Secondary teachers also worked in departments to further our Student Achievement Plan goals.  Please visit our website to learn more.

Parent-Teacher interviews for both elementary and secondary school students finished up last week.  If your schedule did not permit your attendance, please feel free to contact your child's teachers at the school.  Secondary students will receive mid-term report cards this Friday.  We encourage students to reflect on their progress at this time and consider the next steps necessary to meet their academic goals.  We kindly ask that students and their parents complete the reflection portion of the report card and return it to the school.

Families are reminded that the Math Help room is available every week over the lunch hour and Homework Help runs from 3-4 p.m. everyday after school.  We encourage families to make use of these valuable resources to support the academic achievement of your child.  The Homework Help room may also be used as a quiet place to work after school even if students do not require support.  Sometimes it helps to avoid the inevitable distractions that come our way once we're home.

I should also mention that the gym and weight room are available for after school use.  Students will be supervised and may choose to practise their skills in a particular sport or simply workout to stay in shape.  Please let Mrs. Bannerman know if you are interested in participating.

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test will be written by all grade 10 students on Thursday, March 27, 2014.  Although this may seem early in the school year to mention it, this is the perfect time for students to begin their preparation for the test.  Students who took the grade 10 literacy preparation course this year will be receiving many of the necessary materials.  However, all students should visit to view sample test materials through the Student or Parent Resources Page.

I would like to invite you to our School Council meeting on Monday, November 25th at 7 p.m. in our library.  We will be hosting a panel of school support personnel.  Our school resource officer, Choices for Change counsellor, school nurse, Youth Unlimited Resource Worker and Student Services counsellor will be sharing their roles in the school and will be available to answer questions.  We hope to have many new faces join us on Council this year.

Finally, as we head into the winter months, we remind all families that in the event of inclement weather, please listen to your local radio stations for up-to-date reports.  Delays and cancellations are also posted on the Bus Service site at which can be access through our website.  Alternatively, we invite you to follow us on twitter.   


Principal's Corner - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We are so fortunate to live and work in a small and caring community.  We know all of our students and are able to provide individualized programs to meet student needs.  Although we are so proud of our students, their behaviour and the continued support they provide to one another, we are also always looking for areas to improve.  Our Safe School committee, made up of staff, students and school support services personnel, meets regularly to review our student survey results, to set annual goals, and to make plans to achieve them over the course of the school year.  We invite parents, community members, staff and especially students to join our team as we work to continually find ways to improve our school community.

We have benefitted from some amazing motivational speakers over the past couple of years.  Ian Tyson joined us last year to share his inspirational message on overcoming obstacles and making a difference in the lives of others.  Eighteen-year-old Molly Burke brought a message of hope as she discussed her many challenges, including a disease causing blindness and her experiences with bullying at school.  Eighty-seven-year-old Eva Ollson, concentration camp survivor, focused her talk around bullying and the importance of not being a bystander to injustice.  She encouraged all of us to stand up against forces of racism, bigotry and intolerance. 

Our team has also invited student panels to speak at staff meetings to provide an opportunity for students to share their unique perspectives on school climate.  Staff has been trained in Ross Greene's Collaborative Problem Solving approach to improve student-teacher-administrator communication in order to better understand the root of ongoing behavioural issues.  We joined our community officer in a Safe Use of Technology presentation to raise parent awareness of the cyber-issues facing our students and last year, we introduced the Bully Button on our website.  This allows students to report incidents of harassment, discrimination or bullying.  Students may provide their name but if they choose to report anonymously, they must provide enough detailed information that school administration is able to respond. 

This year we will continue to provide students and staff with many opportunities to build community, support a positive school climate, and hear the voices and perspectives of staff, students and parents.  Please find our Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan at  

This week, we will discuss the definition of bullying and discrimination with students in all classes and ensure students are aware of how to report.  Please help us by encouraging your child to discuss their understanding with you.  We are also excited to provide bystander intervention training to our student leaders which will take place before the Christmas break. 

Please let us know if you have any questions about our Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan by contacting me at the school.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Principal's Corner - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Since 1999 secondary students in Ontario have been required to complete 40 hours of community involvement in order to receive their secondary school diploma.  As stated in the Ministry of Education's document, Ontario Secondary Schools, Grades 9 to 12: Program and Diploma Requirements, 1999, the purpose of the community involvement requirement is to encourage students to develop awareness and understanding of civic responsibility and of the role they can play and the contributions they can make in supporting and strengthening their communities.  

We ask that students complete 10 hours in the summer following Grade 8 and 10 hours by the end of every subsequent summer so that their hours are complete prior to their Grade 12 year.  This will allow Grade 12 students to focus on academic achievement, their paying jobs, and on a successful transition into their post-secondary pathway of choice - workplace, university, apprenticeship, college. 

Each year, there are many questions and concerns raised around approved community involvement activities.  This year we will use our website, classroom visits, bulletin boards and community involvement fairs to lift the veil and continue to support students in this graduation requirement.  Please ensure that your child is seeking approval for their community involvement activity before completing the hours.  Students will not receive recognition for hours which do not qualify.  More information may be found on the bulletin board outside of Student Services and on the front page of our website:

The reverse side of our Community Involvement record sheet offers more information on approved activities:

Students can seek opportunities in the community by offering assistance to service clubs, community groups, charities, conservation groups, health agencies, schools and others.  For example:

-        Fundraising for non-profit organizations

-        Community sports - coaching where the regular coaches are not paid

-        Organization of community events - homecomings, winter carnival, summer fair

-        Environmental project support - community clean-up, flower or tree planting, recycling program

-        Assisting seniors - grocery shopping, reading, helping with crafts

-        Participating on committees - advisory boards or committees

-        Community projects - food banks, welcoming committees


Ineligible Activities:

-        Any activity for which you would normally be paid (e.g. babysitting, part-time job)

-        Job shadowing or work experience components of a course

-        Co-operative education experiences

-        Any required activities of a course or program in which you can earn a credit

-        Playing on a school or recreational sports team

-        Activities which are regular family responsibilities (e.g. farm chores, laundry)

-        Court-ordered community service programs

-        Any activity involving the handling of hazardous wastes

-        Any activity involving the operation of a vehicle or power tools

-        Any  activity that requires the knowledge of a tradesperson

-        Any activity involving banking, security or other valuables

-        Any activity involving an unsafe or unsupervised environment


We would like to help our students connect with approved community agencies or individuals.  We invite agencies interested in participating in our Spring Community Involvement Fair to contact Vice-Principal Allen at the school.  We look forward to hearing from you! Thank you kindly for your support!


Principal’s Corner – Wednesday, October 2, 2013

As we move into October students are now in the thick of their course work.  We encourage students to reflect on their academic achievement and discuss any difficulties with their teachers.  Homework help runs every day from 3-4 p.m., providing a quiet work location and the opportunity to receive support in assignment completion and test preparation.  Math help also runs each week over the lunch hour on a drop-in basis; however, teachers will request that students attend math help if work is not being completed or if students are struggling.

On Friday, October 18th, secondary students will receive their interim reports.  Please contact their teachers with any questions or concerns or join us on Thursday, October 24th from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the gym for parent-teacher interview night.  We encourage students to join their parents in the interview for a team approach to student success.

Students who plan on graduating this year are encouraged to attend college and university information sessions.  This week, representatives from Sault College, Ridgetown College, and Sir Sandford Fleming College are visiting MDHS.  Students may sign up in Student Services.

2012-2013 yearbooks are in! Mrs. Caldwell and the yearbook committee have once again produced a creative gem with a gameboard theme.  June 2013 graduates who ordered a yearbook may contact Student Services to pick up their copy.  There is a small number of extra books available for $35 if you missed out on the order last year.         

Staff and students would like every student in our 2013-2014 yearbook as they will cherish fond memories of all of you in the years to come.  If you missed photo day in September, please have your photograph taken on re-take day on Tuesday, October 15th.

Finally, this week we are asking community members to support MDHS with gently used instruments.  Mrs. Klein is excited to offer a new curricular and extra-curricular instrumental music program to our intermediate students.  These instruments will allow students to practise more often at home and provide greater instrument choice.  As always, we thank our community for their generosity and continued support.



Principal’s Corner – Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We’ve had an outstanding start to our school year!  We welcome the energy and excitement that our new grade 7 & 8 students bring to the building and wish to thank the parents, staff and students for making their transition to MDHS so successful.  

There are so many events and activities at MDHS this month that I wanted to devote this column to highlighting them so that you might join us, volunteer your time, or simply cheer on our students. 

Our grade 7 & 8 outdoor sports season is already well underway as our students may be seen at cross-country and soccer practice throughout the week.  All students are encouraged to join the intramural soccer that will be running shortly over our second recess.  It is time of relaxed team fun and exercise.  Our secondary athletics department is currently running junior and senior girls basketball, junior and senior boys volleyball, field hockey, golf, tennis and cross-country.  Please visit our calendar on for game dates and times.  Thank you to our staff and community coaches who so generously give of their time to provide these rich extra-curricular opportunities to our students! 

Many of our students will be seen on field trips at the International Plowing Match this week.  Please stop by to enjoy our band performance this Thursday, September 19th.  Please also visit the Avon Maitland District School Board booth this week to learn more about MDHS’s High Skills Major programs in Agriculture and Hospitality & Tourism.  These programs offer specialized training in their designated sector and award students with a sector-recognized seal on their high school diploma.  

Parents of students in grade 7 & 8 are invited to our Meet the Teacher evening this Thursday, September 19th from 5-7 p.m.  School administration will also be available to answer any questions.  We are looking forward to meeting you!

We would also like to invite parents and community members to our annual Awards Ceremony where we will celebrate the academic, athletic and artistic achievements of our secondary students in 2012-2013.  The generosity of our community sponsors makes these awards highly competitive and they represent a considerable achievement for the recipients.  We hope you are able to join us on Monday, September 23rd from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. in the MDHS gym. 

All grade 9 students will participate in Grade 9 Day on Tuesday, September 24th (rain date:  Friday, Sept. 28th).  Our school leaders from Athletic & Spirit Society are excited to provide a day of friendship, leadership training, and team challenges.  Students will enjoy a fabulous day outdoors at Galbraith Optimist Camp.  Bussing and lunch are provided.

Students in grades 9-12 are then invited to the first dance of the year.  Student Council plans to put on a fabulous display of lights and sound in the courtyard on Thursday, September 26th from 8-11 p.m.  Enjoy this beautiful area of our school before the air becomes too chilly and the snow falls.  

Our School Council is hoping that new members will come out to our first meeting this year at 7 p.m. on Monday, September 30th in the library.  We welcome parents of students in grades 7 through 12 as well as community members who are interested in education.  We value your input and plan to invite many speakers of interest to meet our local needs.

Finally, the beginning of the school year is also an important time to remind students to work on their community involvement hours.  This graduation requirement should not be left to the last minute! Our community offers many opportunities to get involved and we encourage students to begin in the summer following their grade 8 school year.  However, we cannot count community involvement hours that are completed for profit organizations so please have your work approved before completing the hours. 

We know this will be another rewarding year at MDHS together! We hope you will get involved and we look forward to building strong, positive relationships with our many new families.


Jump to: 2011 - 2012

Principal's Corner for March 20, 2013

Although the term had not yet been coined, the idea of the flipped classroom began well over a decade ago. The flipped classroom involves switching the lecture and homework portions of the traditional class so that teachers can spend more time directly interacting with students on learning goals. Students watch the instructor's lecture at home via internet video and engage in classroom discussions, hands-on activities, and homework problems during class time. Technology has come a long way fast and allows us to record video files with voice and annotations that may be distributed easily online. For those students who do not have internet access at home, teachers are providing CD or thumb drive versions of the videos.

Although this can be an enormous amount of work for teachers, the benefits to student learning make it worth the effort. The success of flipping is not in the video itself but in the time spent in the classroom following the video. Proponents of the approach see one of its greatest benefits as the increase in student-teacher and student-student interactions. Students are no longer sitting in silence watching the sage on the stage. They are able to collaborate in small groups and receive more immediate feedback from the teacher and their peers. There is far more individual guidance and an opportunity for the teacher to rearrange groups as needed to support students with similar questions. Students without resources outside of school to support homework completion now benefit from the flipped classroom as the teacher fills that role for all students equally. Another potential benefit of this approach is that students may miss a class due to illness, medical appointments, snow days or sporting events but need not miss the lecture or the class note. They are able to work at their own pace and may replay lectures, pausing the teacher in the middle of a math solution, for example, as they attempt the problem again. Students who have mastered the concept need not wait for the class as they would in the traditional setting.

Does flipping deliver results? Internationally, flipped classrooms and flipped schools have shown great gains in student achievement across all subject areas, particularly for students who have struggled in a specific subject in the past. We are also seeing the positive impact of the flipped classroom on student achievement at MDHS. We asked our students for their thoughts on the process with mostly positive reports:


"I don't enjoy learning on my own at home this way."

"I have never done so much homework for a course and none of it is done at night."

"I have never felt as prepared for an assessment as I did for this one."

"I don't have to sit through the teacher taking up problems with homework at the beginning of class. We get to work right away and the teacher addresses each student's specific problems. I hate sitting through homework questions when I already got them."

"I set aside an hour Sunday night and I almost get all the notes and videos watched for the week. It frees up more time at home."

However, the flipped classroom is not without its challenges. Students who traditionally may not have done homework will need to commit to this time at home in order for their class time to be used productively. In addition, students will need to get into the habit of thinking and learning this way. We are moving away from a focus on assignment completion to one entirely on student attainment of concepts. Students will need to actively involve themselves in class discussions to clarify concepts and ask questions. Please visit to learn more about Clintondale High School in Michigan, a completely flipped school. Three teachers are exploring this approach at MDHS and we look forward to learning more about its positive impact on student achievement.

Principal's Corner for March 6, 2013

Mid-year seems like a good time for a graduation requirements check point. The stress of semester 1 exams has passed, final report cards have been sent home, and students now have a fresh start in new courses. Please take a moment to verify the credit summary sheet that accompanies the report card and let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Please note the number of completed community involvement hours. Students should be completing a minimum of 10 hours of community involvement each year of their high school career. They may even begin during the summer following their grade 8 year. However, these hours must be dedicated to non-profit organizations or to our senior population who may benefit from support. Please feel free to contact school administration for pre-approval to ensure the service qualifies.

On Thursday, April 11, 2013, grade 10 students across the province will write the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). OSSLT results do not count toward students’ grades, but a successful test result is a requirement for their diploma. Students and parents may access test preparation materials Reading regularly and writing to the best of our ability in every class goes a long way in the development of strong literacy skills.

Linking up with a group of students from Alliston, Mrs. Haefling and Mr. Vousden are taking nine MDHS students on a tour of Eastern Europe this March Break. The group will arrive in Berlin on Friday morning, move to Prague after a couple of days where amongst other things they will see the actual crown of King Wenceslas. The next city they visit will be Krakow, Poland, stopping on the way to witness the horrors of Auschwitz. The tour ends in Budapest, Hungary where students are hoping to cruise the Danube followed by a traditional supper of Hungarian goulash before the long flight home to Canada.

There are many other extracurricular opportunities as we move into the spring season. Tryouts for soccer, track and field, and badminton begin shortly after March Break so students should listen carefully to morning announcements.

Our Arts department is also springing into action! MDHS Productions is rehearsing the one act play, Would You by Marthe Jocelyn for production April 25, 26 and 27 at 7:30 in the MDHS gym. Would You is a play written for and about teenage life in a small town. The story begins with a comedic touch but the action takes a decidedly tragic turn in the second half. The actors, crew and stage managers are Gr. 9, 10, 11 and 12 students. The dialogue is contemporary and sharply written. Marthe Jocelyn is a local award-winning writer of teen fiction. This will be the Canadian premiere of this play. Be a part of the excitement by joining us in April!

We look forward to welcoming Molly Burke to our stage this Friday at 9:30 a.m. Students in grades 5-8 at Upper Thames Elementary School will be joining us for this tremendous event. Parents and community members are welcome.

Finally, Interim Report Cards will go this Friday, March 8th and we look forward to discussing your son/daughter’s progress with you at Parents’ Night on Thursday, March 21st from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Principal's Corner for January 23, 2013

New technology is coming at us at such a rapid pace that keeping up can be a challenge. Although LOL is harmless and better known, texting, new phone apps, Kick, instant messaging, Facebook, and Twitter can leave you shocked (WYLEI).

WYLEI: When you least expect it
MoS: Mother over shoulder
POS: Parent over shoulder
ASL: age, sex, location?
PAW: Parents are watching
YOLO: You only live once
SLAP: Sounds like a plan
TTYS: Talk to you soon

Most of us did not grow up with the technology to which our children have access, nor did we anticipate the misuse we are observing at home and in our schools. Over the Christmas holidays, a blog post by Janell Burley Hofmann went viral. In "To My 13-Year-Old, An iPhone Contract From Your Mom, With Love", rules accompanying a gift of technology are brilliantly laid out - with consequences. Each of the problems she attempts to anticipate we have seen at school. I strongly encourage you to source this article online and review it with your children.

As a school community, we aim to teach students responsible use of all technology, particularly cell phones because they are becoming more and more intrusive. As Hofmann suggests, "Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public [to which I would add the classroom]. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that." Too many students are becoming addicted to 24/7 access to friends/family via their cell phones. Consequently, they believe it is their right to have constant use of their phone. This impacts their learning time, their meaningful social time, and even sleep patterns are being disrupted which has a further detrimental effect on learning.

Ms. Hofmann's suggestions are simple, sound and surely necessary. Of course, as educators and parents we are aware that rules must have consequences which are understood and consistently applied. I cannot overemphasize their importance to keep our children safe. This is not just about good manners and adequate sleep, some students are engaging in behaviour that is so inappropriate, it is dangerous. Additionally, they may underestimate how this current behaviour will follow them into their future. This electronic footprint is permanent and readily accessible to future employers, family, friends and even predators.

We are so pleased to be able to offer a sophisticated range of technology to our students (SmartBoards, iPads, iPods, e-readers, document cameras, and the use of an infinite number of applications which continues to grow exponentially) all of which are allowing our students to become literate in more ways than we could have imagined. However, we cannot afford to allow our excitement over the advantages of 21st century technology to obscure our grasp of its potential misuse.

To that end, in February, Constable Landers and I will be visiting classrooms to help educate students on the responsible use of technology. In addition, MDHS is excited to provide an information evening in late March (date to be confirmed) for parents and staff where Constable Landers, a technology safety expert, and school administration will raise our latest concerns and provide some possible solutions. Using laptops and netbooks, each participant will have the opportunity to observe and explore current technological trends. We hope you will join us! TTYS


Principal's Corner for January 9, 2013

I hope that you have enjoyed a peaceful holiday with family and friends and that our students are well rested and ready to focus on their studies once again.

We certainly received some good cheer at MDHS this Christmas. Santa delivered some new technology! 4 new SmartBoards, 10 new iPads and 15 new netbooks found their way into our classrooms. Students will certainly benefit from the continued use of technology to facilitate their learning. We also encourage students to make use of the new mini-kobos to enhance their reading pleasure.

Our fabulous custodial staff has been working hard over the break. Our old bleachers, in much need of replacement, were removed last week in preparation for the new ones to be installed in mid-January. Our stage floor was also refinished and is now ready to host the many speakers and plays to come. The school looks fabulous! On behalf of our students and staff, I thank our custodial team for their hard work and dedication to the continual improvement of our school.

We welcomed Diane Yausie to the role of head secretary this past Monday. She will be the new face greeting you in our main office. She comes to us with over 32 years experience and a wealth of knowledge. We are so pleased that she has joined our team!

Only 2 weeks remain of semester 2 classes. Our students will be diligently completing assignments and preparing for final exams. Mrs. Gibson continues to provide academic support in the Den and our homework club meets daily after school from 3-4 p.m. It would be an excellent idea to make use of these resources prior to writing final exams to ensure success.

We look forward to a positive and productive 2013. Happy New Year!

Principal's Corner for December 7, 2012

During this season of giving, our Student Council and Leadership Course students continue to run the penny drive to raise money for clean water in developing countries through the Free the Children organization. For every $25 collected, fresh water is provided to one person in a developing country for the rest of their life. Students have surpassed their initial goal of 5000 pennies and are now working toward a revised goal of 55 000. Currently at 40 000, they hope to reach their goal before the Christmas holiday. Our lunch hours have been active with their Minute to Win It penny games designed to encourage donations and raise awareness of the issue.

Locally, students are collecting non-perishable food items for the Mitchell and Area Food Bank through our hallway competition. Our Athletic and Spirit Society is awarding points to the homerooms in specific halls for bringing in food items that match the theme of the day. The hallway showing the most school spirit through their food donation will receive a special treat yet to be revealed.

We are also focussing on volunteerism this month. Students are required to complete 40 hours of community involvement with non-profit organizations in order to receive their high school diploma. All Grade 12 students have recently received a progress update and are asked to submit their log sheets as soon as possible. We encourage all students to get involved in the Mitchell community by completing 10 hours every school year, making it easy to reach their diploma goal. Please see me prior to completing your hours to ensure the activity will be approved.

Students are also completing personal goals using They have been encouraged to share this information with their parents and to continue to access this resource at home using their email account and password. This resource may be used to complete interest surveys, explore occupations, as well as post-secondary destinations. The interest survey may lead students to explore pathways that suit their passions and skills. This same tool will be used again in February for course selection. Please contact Mrs. Clarke-Ellison in Student Services with any questions.

Principal’s Corner for November 28, 2012

December is almost upon us and we now see evidence of the quickly approaching holiday season everywhere we look. Our concert band, jazz ensemble and choir are looking forward to performing at their Sounds of the Season concert on Friday, December 7, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the MDHS gymnasium. We look forward to welcoming the West Perth Community Singers as special guests. Please join us at $5 per person. There is no charge for children 12 years of age and under. All proceeds will go to support our music program.

Our culinary students had a special treat last week when Italian chef, Alain Rosica, visited Mrs. Finkelstein’s class, sharing recipes from his two restaurants in Rome. Students enjoyed a lesson in making homemade pasta and delicious pasta dishes. Alain presented a map of the agricultural regions in Italy and brought some delicacies from home. He endeared himself to me, of course, by giving me a signed copy of his latest cookbook. We thank him for this unique experience for our students and wish him a safe trip home.

Another treat for MHDS students will be the Christmas trip to Miracle on 34th Street at the Grand Theatre in London. Once again, Mrs. Judy Wood will be one of the chaperones, as she has been on many previous occasions. Sadly however, this will be Mrs. Wood’s last year as a staff chaperone. Hereafter, she will be a treasured guest and former colleague. Judy has been the kind and welcoming face of MDHS for the past 26 years. After 36 years with our Board, Judy has decided to retire as of December 31, 2012. Her dedication to our students, staff and school has been tireless and warm-hearted. Her time at Mitchell High School is not finished however, as we will be going to her for years in her unofficial capacity as school archivist, the person who knows our secrets and our history. What will we do without her? She will be missed!

Principal’s Corner for November 9, 2012

Our school has been a little emptier recently as a full bus load of students went to Ottawa for a few days for an action-packed history trip. It was particularly appropriate last week as they visited a war museum to gain a better understanding of the sacrifices made by our soldiers during various wars. On Friday, the remainder of our students hosted many guests, veterans and legion members at our annual Remembrance Day assembly. We thank retired Captain Thomas Gordon Jenkins for his presentation, and the choir, drama class and AV club for an outstanding and moving assembly. We ended the gathering standing proud as Canadians while one of our grade 12 students, Peter Maloney, played The Last Post.

MDHS' senior drama class continues to be active throughout November. The class is going to the Stratford Festival Studio theatre on Monday, November 19 to participate in the Shakespeare Player's Festival and present a scene from The Tempest. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to join other schools from across Ontario and the U.S. in a day of celebrating and performing the works of William Shakespeare. The drama class has been working with a guest artist, Laura Condlin, from the Stratford Festival, to build their understanding and the skills required to perform Shakespeare. Everyone is looking forward to this stimulating and rare chance to perform on one of Stratford's stages!

We would like to thank the advisory council of the new High Skills Major in Agriculture. We held our first meeting on the first of the month and know that student programming will now better reflect local needs. Many innovative ideas were shared that have the potential to provide our students with engaging and relevant training in the sector. I would like to thank Nick Keller and Lori Nesbit for their continued leadership in the program. They would welcome new participants to the council and may be contacted at the school.

Families should receive mid-term report cards this Friday accompanied by a school newsletter. The newsletter will also be posted on the school website, We encourage students to reflect on their progress at this time and consider the next steps necessary to meet their academic goals. We kindly ask that students and their parents complete the reflection portion of the report card and return it to the school. Finally, I would like to invite you to join us on Monday, November 26th at 7 p.m. in our library for our Parent Council meeting and again on Wednesday, November 28th at 7 p.m. for our second grade 7 and 8 transition meeting. We look forward to continuing the conversation for a positive and smooth transition.

Principal’s Corner for October 10, 2012

It has been a busy couple of weeks at MDHS. On September 25th, our teacher and student leaders provided a full day of exciting activities for our grade 9 students at Galbraith Optimist Camp. Our first dance of the year was also extremely successful, attracting over 150 students to the event. Our fall sports teams are now in full swing and our first season of MDHS Girls’ Hockey has their first practice this week. The Athletic & Spirit Society has put enormous effort into their annual Magazine Fundraiser to enhance our athletic equipment and programs. We continue to look for volunteer coaches to support our basketball and volleyball programs and ask that you please contact Mrs. Deelstra, our athletic director, if you are interested in joining our team. Our halls have also been filled with music every morning as our choir and bands practise for upcoming events, including our commencement ceremony. Life at MDHS has so much to offer. I continue to encourage students to get involved!

Our Student Council and their teacher advisor, Mrs. Cumming, attended the annual "We Day" celebration in Toronto last week. "We Day" is an initiative of Free the Children, an international charity, and brings together tens of thousands of youth and educators with celebrities and musicians who share their inspirational stories. Students who attend this event become involved in yearlong educational initiatives to support children and youth both locally and internationally. Headliners this year included the Canadian band Hedley, Nelly Furtado, rapper K’naan, and Jennifer Hudson, who ended the show with a powerful rendition of the song Alleluia. Celebrity speakers included Al Gore, Justin Trudeau and Martin Sheen, among others, all providing their own inspirational speeches on the power of youth in our communities. The most emotional speech of the day came from Molly Burke, a blind teen who had been bullied by her peers. Our students are now busy planning local activities to support this charitable organization and to raise awareness of a variety of social justice issues.

On Friday, October 5, 2012, we held our annual commencement ceremony to honour our 2011-2012 graduates. I would like to thank the many individuals, local businesses and organizations for their generosity and overwhelming support of our commencement awards. I am also so appreciative of the staff who put countless hours into planning this important event each year. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, we continued our celebration as we honoured our current students for their academic, athletic and artistic achievements over the past year in our annual Awards Assembly. Congratulations to our students and keep up the great work!

Interim Report Cards are going out Friday, October 12th and we would like to invite all parents to our Parent-Teacher Interview Night on Thursday, October 18th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Please ask your son/daughter to join you so that we are able to work as a team to support their success. In addition, you can expect Individual Education Plans to arrive shortly after October 15th. Please contact Mr. Kindler in the Special Education department if you have any questions or concerns.

Finally, we look forward to beginning conversations that support the positive transition of our grade 7 and 8's into MDHS at our first transition meeting on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the MDHS library. Anyone interested in helping with this transition are invited to attend. We hope you are able to join us!

Principal’s Corner for September 26, 2012

I am thankful to Jim Ryan for his work on this column last year. He will be missed! Although I do not write with his smooth fluency, I hope to provide you with important information and updates, and hope to continue his work in building positive school-community relationships and partnerships.

We've enjoyed a great start to the school year! Our Student Services department, Student Council and Athletic & Spirit Society did a fantastic job welcoming our students at our Grade 9 Orientation and with activities during the first week of school. Classes are now well underway and students are actively involved in clubs and sports teams. The Yearbook Committee is eager to begin this year's publication. Students are encouraged to purchase a yearbook as it will be a cherished keepsake of their time at MDHS in the coming years. Orders are needed as soon as possible for the 2012-2013 yearbook release in June.

We are pleased to offer advanced placement courses in English, Biology, Math and History to our senior students. These courses have the potential to offer students advanced standing in their post-secondary school. Please speak to the subject teacher or to Michelle Clarke in Student Services for more information, and look for these options in your 2013-2014 course calendar.

We are currently forming an advisory committee for our High Skills Major in Agriculture. We are looking for local community members with experience in the field to help us ensure an authentic and relevant program for our students and to support local needs. Please contact me or Nick Keller at the school for more information.

Distance Education (eLearning) continues to be a key element of programming in our board and across the province. Students may select this option for a variety of reasons: preference to work at home, increased timetable flexibility, health issues, or part-time jobs. Many of our students will know Susan Young, one of MDHS's teachers, who enjoys working with students in Accounting and Cooperative Education through eLearning. Interested students may wish to speak with Mrs. Young or Mrs. Clarke in Student Services.

The library is an important resource for students as well as a quiet location for them to work. We endeavour to keep the library open as often and for as long as possible. Due to our small staff size, we are currently looking for volunteers to support us to this end. Please contact Vice-Principal Brohman if you are interested.

We welcome our graduates and their families at our commencement ceremony on Friday, October 5, 2012 @ 7:30 p.m. in the school gymnasium. It will be a celebration of their accomplishments and their plans!

In closing, as I enter my second year at MDHS, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be a part of this caring and supportive community. Thank you for supporting your community school, for volunteering, for sponsorships, for providing Co-operative Education placements and for your feedback and encouragement. I look forward to meeting you and working with you again this year.


Principal’s Corner for June 20, 2012

The end of the school year is upon us; the last day of classes and final assembly are tomorrow with Final Exams starting on Friday, June 22. I trust most students will approach the exam period with diligence and balance; a decent night’s sleep and a good breakfast will serve one well on exam day. Cramming the night before an exam is not likely to yield impressive results compared with a systematic approach to review over the last few weeks built upon seeking help at any point in the semester when a concept or activity was not so easy to understand. I guess its just like everything else in life. Best wishes to all for a successful completion to the academic year and a particular word of encouragement to graduating students.

The closing weeks of every school year are chock full of important events and this year was no exception. I had the pleasure of attending the Athletic Banquet which celebrated our considerable success in sport and fitness in a number of areas. A fine meal, prepared by Mrs Finkelstein and our Culinary Arts students, was enjoyed by all. The keynote speaker for the event was MDHS grad Kaye McLagan, now showing her skill and leadership as goalie for the University of Guelph Field Hockey team; it was great to see her again and learn how she has flourished. The annual walk-a-thon was a success, blessed by favourable weather and good planning. Our Co-op Department held their recent Appreciation Breakfast for the individuals and businesses who host our students throughout the semester. It is so important for students to be able to gain first-hand experience in the workplace which can lead to a long term career path. On behalf of our co-op students I wish to add my sincere thanks to all those who took the time to mentor our students. This is such a difficult time for many young people to find a job at all; the experience with you improves their situation dramatically.

One of the most difficult features of this time of the year is preparing to say goodbye to staff who (at least as it currently stands) will not be with us in September; secondary school enrolment on a board-wide basis continues to shrink and with that the number of teachers assigned to each school declines. Experience has shown that in previous years the staffing picture has never complete until the new school year began. We thank every teacher for their skill and dedication in meeting the needs of our students and trust that the MDHS experience will serve them well in whatever their next assignment may be.

On a very personal note, I have enjoyed maintaining this link between MDHS and the community at large. Through more than 80 columns over four years I have been able to share my passion for life and learning at MDHS and the mission to prepare our young people for whatever lies ahead. Life is never simple but always worth living. To all the people who read these columns, let me know and enquire about my health, thanks a million! Writers often wonder if ‘there’s anybody out there’. While my path to improved heart health has been positive since my heart attack last September, it is still nowhere near where it should be. It is difficult to effectively combat genetic history. Despite an above average level of physical fitness and a range of medication targeted to regulate blood pressure and heart rate, it only takes a minor instance of ‘stress’ to send those numbers to potentially dangerous levels.

Fortunately the school has been in the good and steady hands of Mrs Bannerman and Mrs Deelstra. I understand the plan for September is for Mrs Deelstra to return to her role as Head of Physical Education at MDHS and Mr Barry Brohman has been named Vice-Principal. I have known Mr Brohman for a number of years (he has been VP at LDSS in Listowel) and have great confidence in his character and abilities. Thank you to everyone who works so hard to make MDHS a vital and vibrant community school year after year; to every student, parent and community member for your unwavering support in choosing your community school; together we are all stronger. Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable summer, good health and good fortune for the future. Take care of each other.

Principal’s Corner for May 7, 2012

First thought: don't miss the "Wellness Workshop" tonight at Upper Thanes Elementary School. It was good to see the posters around town and trust this series will find an appreciative audience among parents and community members.

This past Thursday I had the honour of accompanying the MDHS Choir to the Kiwanis Music Festival in Stratford. They sounded fantastic, earning high marks and high praise from the adjudicator. Under the capable leadership of Mrs Sinclair, supported by Mr Havenga's excellence at the Piano the choir combines musicality and spirit. Proof positive that we may be small but mighty. I understand that the Concert and Jazz Bands also performed admirably on the previous day.

The Interact Club at MDHS seeks to make the world a better place through their efforts. Over the years they have identified a number projects as the focus of their considerable skill at drawing the school together toward a common charitable goal. Their staff advisor, Mrs Schoonderwoerd, just told me of their latest endeavour. Most of you will be familiar with the "Make a Wish" foundation which makes dreams come true for children struggling with illness. Interact Club will be conducting a "Penny Drive" in the very near future to assist a local child get their wish to visit Disney World in Orlando. Following the recent announcement by the Federal Government to discontinue use of the penny, here is your opportunity to put your pennies to work for a great cause. Our school and community at large has an excellent track record for supporting those in need; I am certain that this effort will also be a big success. Details to follow. Please contact the school if you have any questions or want to know how you can help.

We have been fully immersed in the Badminton season these past few weeks and we trust that appropriate weather will arrive for Soccer and Rugby. A number of students took part in the annual Envirothon Competition at the Pinery near Grand Bend yesterday; we have a long history of success at this competition. Zombie Prom, the Musical is only a week away, April 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. See you there.

Principal’s Corner for April 4, 2012

The annual OSSLT (Literacy Test) is behind us; the calendar has flipped to April and spring has been in the air for weeks (at least most days) . . . if we could only herald spring without the dubious joy of seasonal allergies; it could be a long season this year. We look forward to a full slate of activities in the coming weeks and pause to celebrate recent successes in the classroom, on the playing field and on the stage.

Recent class excursions have included a visit to the Perth County Museum in Stratford, the ABA Hairshow in Toronto and Envirothon Workshops; perhaps a student or staff member will return from these experiences with an "historically significant hairstyle crafted only with environment friendly products"; time will tell. Last week's dance was well attended and a good time was reported for all.

School Council provides an important link for parents and community members to actively support the efforts of school staff. One of the significant mandates of each school council is to encourage as many parents as possible to participate. The Provincial Government has reinforced this through the PRO (Parents Reaching Out) program; MDHS and Upper Thames ES School Councils are presenting a series of one hour "Wellness Workships" in the coming weeks on topics which should be of interest to parents. The three sessions will will be held at UTES on April 18, April 24 and May 10. Each session begins at 6:30 p.m.; there is a choice of two topics each evening on subjects such as Nutrition, Internet Safety, Kids under Stress, Drugs and Alcohol, Brain Gym and Tasty Meals on a Budget. Parents and community members are encouraged to attend all or any of these valuable evenings. Snacks and child care are available. You are also welcome to attend the next MDHS School Council meeting on Wednesday April 11 at 7:00 in the MDHS Library. Please contact the school if you have any questions.

While you are in the process of marking these important dates on your calendar, note also the upcoming event in support of our Youth Centre. On Friday, May 11 at the Mitchell Golf Club, an evening of great food, fellowship, and silent auction . . . all in support of our Youth Centre. Similarly, mark the performance dates for this year's musical "Zombie Prom" on your calendar: April 26, 27 and 28.

Best wishes to you and your family this Easter Weekend; may safe travels and enjoyable time with family, friends and community be good for your body and soul. Until next time!

Principal’s Corner for March 7, 2012

It's March already! Time for interim reports which are the early indication of success to date in semester two courses. For many, the best feature of the month of March is the March Break Holiday. For those travelling we wish you safe and enjoyable travel and a positive learning experience; some will also seize the opportunity to get a good start on long term projects or just rest up for the busy months ahead.

Immediately after the break, a number of students will be taking part in the SEARS Drama Festival which will be held in Stratford. I understand that Ben Thomas, a Grade 10 student has been the driving force behind this production as this is also the year of the big musical "Zombie Prom" which will be staged in late April. As usual, there is much happening in the Arts at MDHS.

Congratulations to students and coaches for our recent Basketball successes; our program is building a very solid reputation. Well done. The rugby and badminton teams have begun to practice and it won't be long before Track and Field begins in earnest. I was also pleased to see all the volunteer organizers and coaches at the community sports sign-up last week; there is so much for our young people to do. Thanks to all who give their time to support minor sports.

Last week our students participated in a comprehensive survey about our school climate. This is a board wide (indeed province wide) initiative assessing the sense of safety in each school community. It is one of those areas where "perception is reality"; a student must not only be safe but feel that they are part of a safe and supportive community. By asking the questions, a possible positive outcome would include increased awareness of the level of behavioural expectations. When we did a similar survey a couple of years ago, our students reported a high degree of personal safety; I trust we will find something similar this time also. Results should be available later this spring.

That said, no community is immune from the oppressive comments and gestures which inconsiderate people direct at our most vulnerable students. Comments about body image, orientation, perceived intellectual capacity or athletic ability are not new . . . something about our modern "electronic" communications though has heightened the impact of these messages. The paradox of a highly public (social media; potential to share negative commentary with hundreds of others) and the intensely private (getting the taunt in the quiet of one's own room) can have deadly consequences. As adults, our example and expectations of those in our own household is of utmost importance. When the media seem to thrive, indeed celebrate "nasty" through myriad "reality" shows, we must make sure that the reality our children see is positive and reinforces good values and human dignity.

Don't forget to adjust your clock this weekend; until next time, take care!

Principal’s Corner for February 15, 2012

It seems that February is a big month for celebrations; from Groundhog�s Day through Valentine�s Day, Mardi Gras, Pancake Tuesday and on to next Monday�s Family Day holiday. Many Christians embrace the Lenten Season as a time for serious reflection and restraint as we acknowledge the gifts we have been given. To top it all off we even get to have a Leap Year with the bonus February 29th.

MDHS is happy to welcome Jenalyn Baker (CWS) and Merissa Thompson (Science) to our teaching staff and welcome back Robert Little (English). We wish to take this opportunity to thank Andrew Linley and Carly McLeod for their contribution to learning at MDHS and wish them well in their new assignments. Mr Wong is embarking on some serious travelling in the coming semester; his experience around the world makes us all richer on his return. We wish all who may travel in the coming months a safe and enjoyable experience and a timely return.

Thank you to those who sustain our Parent Council; last week�s meeting afforded an opportunity to keep the community up to date on what is happening in our school and board. Mrs Bannerman also represents our school and secondary principals on the board level Parent Involvement Committee which met last Wednesday.

Mrs Haefling in our Library has facilitated the collection of used electronics (computers, cell phones, cameras etc) for safe recycling. I note also that at the community level there are opportunities to ensure that batteries and other potentially hazardous materials are handled in an environmentally sensitive manner.

There are many activities which signal the vibrant nature of our school. The Winter Classic evening drew many who enjoy the excitement of well-played basketball. Grade 8 students and their parents came our for our open-house as an opportunity to get a feel for what we have to offer; special thanks to current students and staff who actively hosted our guests. Serious practice has begun for the spring musical �Zombie Prom� which promises to be quite enjoyable. Girls� Volleyball has an active schedule, Reach For the Top is in full swing and I�m sure our Curling Team has kept an eye on the high level of competition hosted by Stratford this past week. There is something for everyone; I�m sure I have missed specific reference to some. Congratulations to all who keep involved every day and take a moment to check out our �new look� website at

I trust that you have now had an opportunity to reflect on your Report Card from Semester 1, breathe a sigh of relief and commit to continuing to do your best as the current Semester unfolds. The achievement represented by those reports is certainly something to be proud of; the vast majority of our students earn every credit attempted and do so to a very high standard.

In closing, my sincere wish that Family Day brings you an opportunity to gather with those you love, maybe enjoy some outdoor exercise or the warmth of a shared meal while the demands of the outside world are kept beyond arms� length. Take care!

Principal’s Corner for February 1, 2012



The first semester is behind us, tomorrow the second half of the academic year gets underway. Teachers are busy marking exams and calculating grades for the upcoming report card; if the past is a reliable indicator, the vast majority of our students will have earned every credit and can be proud of their achievement. Best wishes for continued success.

Planning for success is very much part of the month of February. Early acceptance offers will start to roll in for those about to graduate and returning students will have the opportunity to select courses for the next year. I urge each student to take that process quite seriously as staffing allocation depends on it; while every effort is made to ensure that we offer the most complete program possible, there are bound to be some difficult decisions. Take your time to speak with Guidance and your classroom teachers to identify your best course of study.

What is your image of a school Library? Depending on your age and experience it may conjure up a quiet reading area, serious books and a Librarian reminding everyone that silence was expected. Modern libraries are vibrant hubs of activity, much of the information is accessed electronically and the librarian may be called upon more frequently to explain an electronic search process than how to ‘sign out a book’. The shift to electronic media does not diminish the critical role of literacy; indeed the focus on literacy as the ability to assess the reliability or bias of information is more important than ever.

I remember hearing that one of the key shifts of the internet age is that we must become our own ‘editors’. Historically, whether we read information from a textbook, a newspaper article, a professional journal or watched a documentary on TV, each of these presentations had ‘survived’ an editorial team who vetted the value of the article. Whether their motivation was academic, economic or intrinsic they were the ‘gatekeepers’ of information. Now that everyone can publish to the internet, we have no significant filter which prevents drivel from being presented alongside ‘diamonds’. An internet search does not necessarily sort for quality but rather generates possible sources based on key words in the tag lines. So, we need the skill to determine what information has value and realize that even commonly held views need to pass the test.

The Teacher-Librarian and/or TRA (Technical Resource Assistant) provide a vital link, supporting classroom and individual learning. They must keep up with technology (iPads, iMac, new software, etc), keep up to date with new on-line learning and research tools like Knowledge Ontario, and encourage the students to collaborate on-line using GoogleDocs and other modes of expression like Prezei. The Library is central to a balanced curriculum and must support our students who are digital learners by fostering the development of critical thinking skills needed for the 21st Century. Librarians also celebrate good literature and are often the inspiration for students and staff choosing to read purely for enjoyment. The MDHS library now has a Kindle eReader for sign out and houses over 10, 000 books and the Parent Lending Library. Drop in some day and look around. When the weather closes us in, reach for a good book and refresh the mind. Until next time, take care of yourself and those dear to you. 

Principal’s Corner for January 18, 2012

It has been a rather remarkable winter so far; some might go so far as to suggest that we are still waiting for it to start.  Life does go on and it has made travel somewhat less challenging than can be; we’ll just make the best of whatever comes our way.

Students and staff have settled back into the daily routine with an eye to successful completion of Semester 1.  Final projects are being carefully crafted in some classes while others prepare diligently for the final exams.  Grade 9 Mathematics students also write the EQAO test this month.

Sometimes winter can make us want to crawl under a blanket and wait for the warm weather to return; however, this is also an ideal time to consider physical fitness.  At the beginning of each new year, many set lofty goals around losing weight and getting in shape; almost as many ultimately abandon their quest as ‘real life’ gets in the way.  Fitness can be enhanced by specific programs but mostly it thrives as a coherent set of lifestyle choices, a balance of healthy eating and regular daily exercise.  We have to be careful, especially people my age, of intense exercise (think ‘once a week hockey’ or snow shovelling) when our day to day activities do not prepare our bodies for those extremes.  Most teams, whatever the sport, prepare for the rigours of competition through daily practice and related training, building to the level required for competition.  There are a couple of great opportunities and programs available in our community for adults to get in shape and stay that way all year round.  A number of people walk the halls of MDHS after school daily as a way to keep their fitness level up during the winter.  In general, find a way to work off the stress of day to day living through activities you enjoy; each of us has to deal with the genetic blueprint we inherited but it is in our long term interest to make the best of what we have available.

So far I’ve been talking about adult fitness; what about the young people?  These ideas  are linked; as adults we are the role models for what we eat and drink, how we manage stress and whether we value fitness for its own sake.  There are many opportunities for children and young adults to get involved.  Join a team, walk, learn to cross-country ski (if we get some snow?), avoid the super-sized sugary drinks and especially the so-called energy drinks; take the food courses at school and learn to prepare healthy food; keep taking physical education classes and focus on your personal fitness.  Find a sport you love and rediscover the fun of swimming, playing tennis, ball or soccer; rugby, track or cross-country. Shovel snow in the winter; ride your bike and cut grass in the summer.

There is a famous biblical reference (which inspired the song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’) which states ‘there is a season for every purpose under heaven’.  I would suggest that in each season we have to make time for all noble purposes (stay fit in the winter, read a book or two in the summer, keep in touch with family year round).  In short, my wish for you is a long and healthy life; blessed with love and happiness; the world a better place for your presence in it.  Take care.



Principal’s Corner for December 7, 2011

Have you had the opportunity (or the inclination) to thank a Math Teacher today?  I expect the answer for most of us, in or out of school, is “no”.  Now, why is that?  For the most part there are two key factors in play: first, it is easy miss the number of times we use (or need to use) math skills in everyday life and secondly, feelings of inadequacy regarding one’s own math skills are quite prevalent.  I think mathematical calculations inform almost everything we do, some by instinct and so routine that we may not even be aware of our deep understanding; maybe today some of us can take the first step in rebuilding our numeracy confidence.

Each generation has been called upon to demonstrate math skills in a manner which is most relevant to the time.  My Dad, who would be over 90 now if he were still with us, was a whiz at what we would now call ‘mental math’, doing arithmetic in his head quickly and accurately.  I knew many of his generation who could also estimate the weight of a cattle beast, the yield of a grain harvest, or the number of ‘board feet of lumber’ in a stand of trees with an uncanny degree of precision.  In each of these cases, those calculations would then translate to the dollar value of the transaction which would be fair to both parties.  In a similar way, if you have ever witnessed the skill of an experienced bulldozer operator who sculpts the landscape for drainage, you have watched a master mathematician apply what they so fundamentally understand.

Now that you are thinking in this line, of course the carpenter, home builder, dress designer, electrician and less obviously the musician, utilize mathematical computation and inherently must observe the rules of math to complete their work in a satisfactory way.  Mathematics helps us organize our thoughts and approach to problem solving; the calculator and computer generation not have cultivated the ‘mental math’ skills of their grandparents yet can manage data in very sophisticated ways; I am certain will be directly applicable to their social and working lives.  Ideally, we possess these skills in a balance which ensures we are never fully dependant on electronic devices nor are we opposed to their use when that is most expedient.  Understanding the simple distance, time and direction parameters of travel by car should keep the alert motorist from going to Campbellford instead of Campbellville at the behest of a poorly programmed GPS.

There is great satisfaction in having some confidence in one’s math abilities; most of mine fall in the ‘geometry’ corner which informed my interest in architecture and use of space.  I have been able to design and create scale drawings for major home renovations which remarkably turned out as planned.  Those who follow sports might want to read the book ‘Moneyball’ (or see the movie) which provides a very engaging look at which stats are truly valuable in baseball.

Mr Agar, reminds me that Grade 9 students will be writing the EQAO test in mid-January; there are also university sponsored contests written in February.  A number of students look forward to these for the chance to see how they fare in the provincial framework.  Most University and College Admission expects a level of competency in math specific to each program.  The Math or Student Services teachers can help make sure that the appropriate courses are selected for completion.  Finally, our ‘Math Help’ room is available regularly.  We are very fortunate to have such a capable Math Department; on your behalf I extend our sincere ‘thanks’.

Principal’s Corner for November 23

I was taking a moment to ponder the time of year, snowflakes in the air, leaves gone from the trees and recalled a picture from the past.  In my hometown of Markdale, the local ‘Variety’ store displayed the annual countdown of ‘shopping days until Christmas’ which was at the core of imagination for every child in the community.  Not that there was much shopping to be done but one could dream about the new pedal car or hockey sweater; I hope that some of that magic remains for kids today.  At this stage the memories of siblings coming home, special dinners, trudging to the back of the farm with your big brother to cut and drag a tree home, staying up late for church, and lots of music are what remains vivid.  So, for the young and young at heart, there are about thirty ‘dreaming days’ until Christmas.

While dreaming of a White Christmas, don’t forget to ‘think green’ (environmentally that is).  Mrs Haefling and the environment team would like us to be aware of and support a couple of key efforts.  Students, staff and community members are invited to bring their old electronics to the school as they are being collected for the ‘Think Recycle’ program; this diverts toxic waste from our landfill, ensures that the components are put to best use and generates modest revenue for the school.  Phones, laptops, ink cartridges, digital cameras, etc are accepted. A competition among classrooms is planned to encourage a successful collection. Think Recycle also plants a tree for every twenty four items donated.  Re-usable water bottles will be for sale sporting an excellent logo designed by Mr Yundt’s drafting class; available in a range of colours for only $10 they make excellent gifts and keep our environment cleaner.

Families should have received Mid-Term Report cards on Monday accompanied by a school newsletter.  The newsletter will also be posted on the school’s website.

The co-op program is so important to our students in ‘test driving’ career options and in many cases finding the path to permanent employment.  When co-op experience leads to an apprenticeship, there is cause for celebration.  Mr Stewart reports that at least three of our current students are in the process of signing up through the OYAP (Ontario Youth Apprentice Program) at local businesses. Our congratulations to Kory McKone starting his Autobody training at MCR, Jesse Rudolph as an Agricultural Equipment Technician with Christie Farms and Wyatt McFadden as a Welder with Jamie’s Custom Welding.  On behalf of these students we want to thank the businesses who welcome co-op assignments and especially those who take the big step to train apprentices.  That’s what community is all about.  Looking forward to the Co-op breakfast on December 16; Mr Stewart and his team will be bringing you the details.

Congrats to Nick and Amanda Keller on the safe arrival of their healthy baby boy.  Thanks to Mrs Cumming and the student leaders who attended the Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls on our behalf; by all reports an excellent experience.  Thanks also to coaches of all teams and the advisors of every club in the school who contribute daily to the excitement that makes our school vibrant.


Principal’s Corner for November 9, 2011

Life at MDHS continues at a great pace in and out of the classroom.  Improved student achievement and the classroom instruction which supports that learning remains our primary focus.  Last Friday’s PD Day served to reinforce that priority.  I trust a number of students made the most of the excellent weather for outdoor activities.  Kudos to our students who collected food in the ‘Hallowe’en for Hunger’ event again this year and to the many households who generously donated to this important community cause.   We have had occasion to test the ‘Inclement Weather’ system already this year with a recent ‘fog delay’.  Hopefully you were able to be advised in a timely way; those who are subscribing to the school Twitter account get the updates quite directly.  Click on the school’s website to subscribe.

As we move toward mid-term, I am pleased to note that the on-line ‘Math Help’ system is in place.  Most students in grades 7 through 10 will recall instructions given last year for getting connected; it was a great help for a number of students and parents.  If you are having any challenges getting on-line, please check with your Math teacher.

Mrs Russell recently brought me up to date on ‘what’s happening’ with the Arts Department.  Laura Condlin, an actor with the Stratford Festival is working with the senior drama students on Shakespeare activities - a scene from Macbeth -  as they prepare to participate in the Shakespeare Players' Festival at the Studio Theatre on November 21.  This will be an exciting and worthwhile event which brings our MDHS students in contact with many other students from other Ontario schools.   MDHS Dramatic Productions is preparing for this year's musical:  Zombie Prom - a 50's/60's rock and roll musical with a "nuclear" twist.  That promises to be great fun; more details in the spring.  The music department, under the capable direction of Gail Sinclair,  is working on the annual Christmas concert; Christmas music is echoing through our hallways as we speak.   The visual arts department is running an after school Arts Club under the direction and inspiration of Ms Mezei.  The Drama, Visual Arts and the Music Departments are getting ready for our annual Remembrance Day Assembly.  

I want to take this opportunity to invite any community members who may wish to join us for this important occasion.  Our Assembly should run from just before 10:30 to 11:00 am on Friday, November 11 in the MDHS Gym.  The day means to much to so many, young and old alike.  For me, Remembrance Day became very real during my tenure at F. E. Madill in Wingham when that community lost Corporal Matthew Dinning in Afghanistan.  Many families have that type of personal connection which underlines the sacrifice of so many that we may live in a free and peaceful country.   
Finally, I am delighted to report that the first iPads have arrived for student use; these devices were kindly donated by MCR (Mitchell Collision); I am sure we could make space of another set if any individual or business were able to help out. Welcome back from maternity leave to Kristin Schoonderwoerd; special thanks to Rachel Powers who has been covering her classes  Speaking of being involved in the life of the school, you are cordially invited to our next Parent Council meeting in the MDHS Library next Monday,  November 14th at 7 pm.


Principal’s Corner for October 19, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend was pretty much everything one could ask for; ideal weather for travelling or staying close to home, the fall colours starting to paint the landscape, an ideal opportunity to gather with friends and family.  In that light, our Commencement and In-school Awards Ceremony that weekend were a great success.  It was enjoyable to see so many grads back home for the weekend, lots of stories to share, dreams beginning to take shape.  Again, our community demonstrated generosity and commitment to learning through the many awards presented; indeed more than $25,000 in prizes were distributed.  On behalf of all grads I wish to extend thanks for your support of a vibrant community based school.  Congratulations to Pam Schoonderwoerd who coordinated the organizational effort this year.  One of the changes which is most noteworthy over the past decade is the recognition of the choices students have following highschool; they can enter the workplace directly, pursue an apprenticeship, or attend a community college or university.  Awards reflect this diversity of opportunity in a way that was unheard of not that long ago.
On the path toward graduation, we distributed the ‘interim report cards’ for Semester 1 last Friday.  While these reports do not contain great detail they do serve as an early indication of success or conversely of the need to give greater attention to one or more courses.  Parents are encouraged to review the reports with the students in your household and sign up for parent interviews which are being held tomorrow evening at the school . . . if you haven’t seen the report yet, or the interview sign-up sheet, its not too late.  Parent - Teacher interviews serve one main purpose, establishing the line of communication.  You are most welcome and encouraged to attend whether or not you have concerns at this time.  Call the school if you have questions or need to arrange an alternate time to visit,

Mrs Bannerman hosted the ‘Inclement Weather’ meeting at the MDHS last Wednesday.   While we are in no hurry for winter, you never know how early the challenging weather will arrive.  We have had some pretty foggy mornings already.  You might wish to know how the process works on those snowy mornings; Bus Operators will assess road conditions before 6:00 a.m. and make a recommendation based on student safety; Principals communicate that decision electronically to the news media, the AMDSB website and via Twitter.  You can sign up for our Twitter feed by visiting the MDHS school website.   It is a rather complex process as storms do not always track as predicted and a shift in path, intensity or speed can make a big difference in road conditions.  Our goal and sincere wish is to recognize the risk and reward of living in this great region and make the decisions which will keep everyone safe during the winter travel season.


Principal’s Corner for October 5, 2011

It did not take long for September to fly past; staff and students have achieved much in this short time.  Grade 9 students were treated to an excellent orientation day at Galbraith Park last week; congratulations to the many senior students who led activities and in general made the effort to create positive connections with our newest students.  Similarly, the opening dance was very  successful; initial plans to have the dance in the courtyard were scuttled by the cool and damp weather.  A number of teachers have offered educational excursions for their students exploring the full range of opportunities from the Environment to the Stratford Festival, from Agriculture to Character Development (Me to We).  Combine that with the number of teams well into their fall season as well as the choir and band preparing for Commencement and you can see clearly that our school is running at top speed.

Students may have had the opportunity to sleep in a little last Friday but teachers were on the job for a PD Day.  Those days have a very full schedule of activities designed to improve classroom instruction and by extension, student achievement.  Many of the initiatives are based on solid international research into ‘what works best for learning’; each school has the responsibility to work together to implement strategies which ensure the success of every child.  It is a tall order but fortunately we have a very capable staff with strong support from the Avon Maitland Board.

On Friday night, October 7, we get the opportunity to celebrate student achievement in a very tangible way.  Our annual Commencement Ceremonies will be held in the MDHS Gym honouring the recent graduates.  The Thanksgiving weekend was chosen for this great event the last few years as it ensures that the greatest number of grads are able to arrange to be home allowing ample time for family and friends while re-connecting with their classmates.  While it may not be ideal for everyone, our surveys have shown it makes the best use of everyone’s crowded schedule.  I want to take a minute to thank in advance the many local individuals and business who support our Awards through their generous donations.  I know each prize winner appreciates your thoughtful gift.  Similarly, a number of staff have coordinated their efforts to prepare for this big evening; thanks a million.  I look forward to seeing everyone together and hearing the stories of returning grads.

Just a few thoughts about Special Education.  A large number of our students receive support from our Special Education department under the careful direction of Fred Kindler.  He and Leah Challenger share the SERT (Special Education Resource Teacher) role at the school.  Among their duties are the preparation and monitoring of IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) for almost one hundred students, direct communication with parents and enuring that each student gets the support they need.  Educational Assistants within the department provide direct support for students in the classroom and the resource room.  The Special Education responsibilities of the board are quite onerous, yet ably handled by Superintendent of Education, Peggy Blair.  We are fortunate to have a number of board personnel whose expertise is made available to the schools on a ‘as needed’ basis.  As a parent, if you have questions about available services, timing of communication, planning for successful transitions or observations that something appears to be working well, please call and speak with Mr Kindler.

Finally, we are blessed to live in a democratic society; do not miss your chance to VOTE in the provincial election.  Participation buys the right to high expectations and good government.



Principal’s Corner for September 21, 2011

The first few weeks have brought some big changes to MDHS.  One week ago I was in the Cardiac Unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener following a heart attack. Initial recovery has been very positive but will take a long time.  Last spring when my older brother had a similar experience I commented on our good fortune to be in a country and region so well served by the medical community; now I can simply confirm that first hand.  I want to thank staff and students for their kind words and support; so many people willing and able to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

MDHS is in good hands during my absence; Superintendent Jodie Baker announced to staff today that Emma Bannerman will become the Acting Principal and Deanne Deelstra will be the Acting Vice-Principal.  Both are experienced and very able leaders; I have every confidence that MDHS will thrive under their guiding hands.  For my part, it is my plan to care for my health and be able to return; of course my Doctor will have something to say about that.

It is great to see so many sports teams underway, choir and band, plans for Grade 9 Day, Student Photos and of course the learning that takes place in class.  Mrs Bannerman and I visited a number of individual classes and it seems that most students have started the year with purpose.  There are so many great ways for students to take part in the full life of the school.  I have been honoured to work on behalf of so many excellent and students and staff at MDHS.

This is going to be a short message today; I look forward to rebuilding my health, making myself available to talk about school efforts and ideas and joining the school community for Commencement on Friday, October 7.  This year Thanksgiving will be very special for me; I urge everyone to care for your personal health, support those around you and show your family and friends how much they mean to you . . . you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  I hope to keep in touch with you through this column as long as it serves the school and community efforts to maintain connections.  Thank you for your support.


Principal’s Corner for September 7, 2011 

School start up is a very exciting time; the energy level on opening day should be enough to power up the entire community if we could find a way to store it.  The apprehension felt by new students and staff will soon translate into purposeful routine as the very full life of the school hits its stride.  Teams have already announced opening practices, clubs and other student activities cannot be far behind.

Our Guidance Department and student leaders did a great job in welcoming our Grade nines last Wednesday; staff gathered on September 1 for a PD Day which addressed a number of initiatives which will shape AMDSB Schools for the coming year.  In particular we appreciated a presentation from the Thames Valley Children’s Centre giving the staff a more thorough understanding of students with Asperger’s Syndrome.  We were also pleased to join with our AMDEC colleagues and Principal Ralf Mesenbrink for a portion of our morning meetings.  Distance Education is a key element of programming in our board and across the province.

I have a personal goal this year that you can help me achieve.  Through my role in our board’s Parent Involvement Committee, I have offered to pilot ‘De-mystifying school’.  Essentially, we wish to break down barriers which may make parents or community members feel disconnected from what we do in school.  In fully serving our community, we need everyone to sense that this is ‘their school’, all questions are reasonable and there are people willing and able to talk through what we are trying to accomplish.  Sometime educators get lost in terminology that may feel like a foreign language to folks on the ‘outside’; give me a chance to translate for you.  At this point, if you have questions or ideas that you would like me to address, please give me a call.

I was delighted to receive a call from Jeff McKone at Mitchell Collision.  He read last week’s column and has offered to get the ‘iPad fund’ started; wow!  Getting our students fully connected to the modern electronic world is an exciting challenge and we welcome and appreciate the support of community businesses and individuals.

As a local response to the tornado devastation in Goderich, our board has designated our schools as drop off points for donations.  At this point the most practical urgent requests are for easily portable gift cards (food and supplies - Zehrs; CTC) which can be readily distributed.

In closing, MDHS remains a vibrant part of this community; thank you to each family for choosing to support your community school.  I am looking forward to meeting with West Perth Council next Monday to discuss strengthening our connections.


Principal’s Corner for August 31, 2011

A new school year is always an exciting time; the promise of new opportunity coupled with the renewal of long established friendships.  Some students now enter the home stretch in their secondary education; set their sights on where they will be one year from now and take care to ensure that transition goes smoothly.   Others come to highschool for the first time or return to a familiar setting; for every student, each stage has its unique challenges and responsibilities.  Together we learn much from our successes and even more from those times we struggled.  Through the skilled efforts of our teaching and support staff, I have confidence that life and learning for all MDHS students will be a safe and positive experience.

I am pleased to introduce our new Vice Principal to the MDHS community; Mrs Emma Bannerman is an experienced Administrator, most recently at Stratford Central SS.  Her academic background is in Science (Chemistry).  She has a reputation for high standards, hard work and a kind and compassionate approach to caring for individual needs.  You will come to appreciate her fair approach, her sincere interest in your success and her expectation of your best effort and behaviour.  I know you will make her welcome.

We have relatively few staff changes to report.  Greg Daub will begin his retirement tomorrow; he and his team have ensured that our school is in great shape to begin the year.  We wish him all the best.  Our attendance secretary Karen Shuker is going to Upper Thames for the coming year; we welcome Bonnie Fawcett into the attendance secretarial post here.  Educational Assistant Alan Young is returning to our staff from F.E. Madill in Wingham; we look forward to working with him again.

Our students have been requesting wireless connections for our school and I am pleased to report that we have been able to get some of that up and running over the summer.  The Library, Cafeteria and a number of classrooms will be connected.  At this point we really need a set of Netbooks or iPads to capitalize on this opportunity but that is beyond our current budget.  I would love to hear from any individual or business who might see their way clear to sponsor such an investment. Just give me a call.

Co-op Education is vital to our ongoing success at MDHS offering practical experience to students, giving each student a chance to evaluate that placement as an appropriate career path while benefiting the hosting company with their enthusiasm and skill.  Granted that the placement is a learning experience, there is great satisfaction in helping get young people started on a stable path toward regular employment and responsible citizenship.  If you are considering offering a placement for a co-op student, please contact Doug Stewart, Head of Co-op, at MDHS or the Guidance Office.  Your willingness to be an active participant in learning is much appreciated.

As the Mitchell Fair approaches, I understand there are opportunities for volunteering. Those hours can count toward your Community Involvement.  Enjoy the remaining days of the summer break; see you September 6.