Sturgeon Creek earns prestigious education award

Peggy Revell

Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office has given a nod to Sturgeon Creek School and the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program by presenting them with the Dr. Bette Stephenson Recognition of Achievement.
“It was a pleasant surprise because I know how hard our teachers work, and how our school community works together, over the last number of years,” Sturgeon Creek principal Kendall Olson told the Rainy River District School Board during its Dec. 7 meeting, at which time he spoke about the recognition the school received along with 19 other elementary schools in the province.
In honour of this recognition, the local public board also bestowed its monthly “Recognition of Excellence” on Sturgeon Creek at the meeting.
Earlier this year, Olson noted they had been contacted by the EQAO­­­­—the agency which oversees provincial testing for students—because they had been designated as a “school on a journey.”
As part of this, the EQAO wanted to collect Sturgeon Creek’s “school story,” explained Olson, including what the school had been doing with its EQAO data to help student achievement, as well as strategies and what things the school is doing “in terms of being successful with [our] EQAO results.”
This profile of the school then was organized alongside 19 others as part of a publication available on the EQAO website.
Later, Olson learned that as part of this, the schools would be presented with the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement.
The recognition is presented to schools across the province that have “made effective use of EQAO data, and evidence from other sources, to enhance and support student achievement,” according to the EQAO website.
“These schools are at various stages in their journey of learning and continuous improvement,” it noted.
“All are notable for their demonstration of leadership, proactive initiatives, and sincere effort to help every child succeed,” the website added.
“These are schools that have adopted an action plan based on their unique circumstances and are working toward improved student outcomes.”
Olson, along with two parents and two teachers, travelled to Toronto early in November to represent the school and receive the award.
“Attending the symposium and banquet was a pretty neat experience,” Sturgeon Creek teacher Elisabeth Husser told the board at last week’s meeting.
She said three items about the event stood out in her mind.
“First of all, it was an honour to receive the award knowing that there were 20 schools in the entire province that were recognized and we were one of them,” Husser recounted.
“We’re just a small school, and that shows that great things happen in small schools, too.”
Having their hard work recognized felt good, Husser said, although she added it was humbling because she knows there are many other teachers who deserve the same award because of their hard work.
Getting to know some people behind the EQAO also was something that stood out for Husser.
“EQAO has really changed the way we teach and to see some personal faces, to have some conversations with the board members, with the chair, made me realize that . . . their goal is to see education improve.
“And they were really keenly interested in what we’re doing in our schools,” she added. “They also were really willing to support us in our efforts and ask questions about how they could support us.”
The third part that stood out to Husser was the professional development offered, including various sessions and speakers talking on various strategies to use in classrooms and schools.
“We’re discussing these in our PLCs [professional learning communities] already and we’re implementing quite a few things throughout the entire schools,” she noted.
“So overall it was a pretty good experience.”
Also taking time to speak to the board about the experience was Dave McKelvie, a parent and also the school council chair.
“We’re a big province, and there’s a lot of schools, so it’s really good to see what our teachers can do,” he said about the recognition given to Sturgeon Creek.
And as one of the parents who attended the award ceremony in Toronto, McKelvie noted it was a chance to learn from a parental standpoint what exactly the EQAO is.
“I found the symposium to be good,” he told trustees. “I attended a couple of seminars that ‘demystified’ EQAO, and it gives you a good knowledge and understanding of what they do.”
McKelvie said another seminar he was able to attend talked about how the education system is “gearing towards the electronic age.”
Olson also presented the board with a video clip acceptance “speech” which was recorded at the awards ceremony—which thanked the numerous people and groups which helped the school earn the recognition.
These included the school board committee, administration, and support team, Sturgeon’s Creek’s program support team, teachers, support staff, parents and school community, as well as students.
The recognition is named after Dr. Stephenson, who was minister of both education and colleges and universities from 1978-85, and also was an original member of the EQAO’s board of directors.