Sophie DiPaolo

Local schools roll out the welcome mat for prospective JK’s

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Both the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor-Essex District School Board rolled out the welcome mat for new students last Wednesday evening.

JK open houses were held by both school boards with local elementary schools joining in welcoming next year’s class of junior kindergarten students.

“We’ve had a strong turnout,” said Stella Maris School principal Sophie DiPaolo. “We’ve had a lot of kids turn out. It’s good to see.”

Not only were the kindergarten rooms open, but so was the gymnasium with demonstrations on robotics and other school programs available as well. Children also had the opportunity to make a craft.

“We want them to give us a shot,” said DiPaolo. “It’s just a warm, caring faith-filled place to be. I’m really proud to be a part of this fabulous school.”

Cole, Amelia and Brady Young attended the JK open house at Anderdon Public School last Wednesday night.

DiPaolo added that they want parents and children alike to know what Stella Maris offers. She said they are not only an academic school, but there are a number of extra-curricular programs available as well. Teachers are very active, she added, and help run many of the additional programs.

Pam Badiuk, principal at Anderdon Public School, said they are proud of their school and its history in the community. She said the educators are excellent, dedicated and know the community well.

“When you come here, it’s a well-rounded education,” said Badiuk.

Anderdon has a full-time music program, band and drum line, she added, and is also one of the few platinum eco-schools within the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“All kids, starting in kindergarten, have access to the library,” Badiuk added, noting they have a full-time librarian.

Badiuk also touted Anderdon’s extra-curricular programs and sports teams.

“We like to be competitive, but in a respectful mindset,” she said.

Technology is in every classroom, Badiuk stated, and that they are also proud of their math and reading programs. Regarding the latter, Anderdon uses Lexia and Empower programs.

Lauren Meloche helps Jaelyn Vigneux with a craft during the JK open house held Feb. 21 at Stella Maris School.

“It honestly has improved our reading programs tremendously,” said Badiuk.

Anderdon also offers the GAINS (Give Attention to Individual Needs) program, she added.

Badiuk added: “Children are welcome here and feel welcome here. It’s a large school with a small town feel.”

Both the public and Catholic boards are offering JK registration through March 2.

Spitfire player Michael DiPietro visits Stella Maris

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Amherstburg native and Spitfires player Michael DiPietro had a chance to visit his old grade school to speak with students about the importance of education.

Stella Maris students gave DiPietro a very warm welcome when he walked into their gymnasium. Principal Sophie DiPaolo said through the Adopt-A-School program, they get two batches of tickets that they use as incentive for the students. Any time they are a good friend, they show compassion, they’ve made improvements, anything good, the teacher recognizes them with Rockstar tickets. From those Rockstar tickets, the school draws three tickets from primary, three from Junior and three from senior, and they give out packages of four Spitfire tickets for them to go see the Spitfires home game.

Michael DiPietro made a grand entrance into the Stella Maris gymnasium, where students greeted him with cheers, Spitfire colored pompoms, and smiles.

“We’re really fortunate to have that here at Stella Maris and the kids love it, they love the Spitfires,” said DiPaolo. “We try to give back to the Spitfires because of what they do for us and then every year they send a Spitfire player here. This is the first year we’ve been able to have Michael DiPietro because his schedule would never allow it. In High School it’s a little bit harder but he’s in University now so we were excited to know he was coming back here and of course you want to do something special for him.”

In addition to speaking with the gymnasium full of students, DiPietro also had a pizza lunch with a handful of Rockstar students who had the ability to sit and chat with him over a pizza lunch.

“I went to this grade school, I had so many memories here, so many teachers. That’s something that I’ll always remember,” said DiPietro. “Hopefully I can keep coming back and visiting because every time I step in the door I just remember old memories. It’s definitely special.”

During his visit, he also pointed out his fifth grade teacher, Mike Mathieson and gifted a signed goalie stick to him. DiPaolo said no one can say enough good things about DiPietro and he is a great role model for the students.

“Kids always want to look up to someone and he was not only a great student here and does talk about how important education is but he’s a great role model in the community,” said DiPaolo. “He’s just a wonderful role model in general, a good person, good everything, with or without the Spitfire jersey.”

Stella Maris’ Grade 8’s clean up yard as legacy project

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Grade 8 students from the 2016-17 school year at Stella Maris School may now be gone, but they’ve left something for future students to remember them by.

The classes taught by Jenna Cole and Mike Mathieson completed a garden restoration project in front of the Girard St. school featuring trimmed hedges, the removal of dead plant materials, the placement of ground cover, edging and decorative stones and the display of memorial stones dedicated to teachers and principals that passed away.

“It took them two-and-a-half days,” explained principal Sophie DiPaolo.

Not only did the students perform physical labour, they also used their minds as they did the math to figure out how much ground materials they would need.

“Then they got to work,” said DiPaolo.

The Grade 8 classes at Stella Maris School completed a legacy project at the school by cleaning up the front gardens.

The Grade 8 classes at Stella Maris School completed a legacy project at the school by cleaning up the front gardens.

DiPaolo also pointed out there was involvement from the community as well.

“All the materials used in our landscaping clean up were generously donated to the school by Gyori Farms and Landscaping.  They provided the ground cover, edging and decorative stones for our project,” she said.

The memorial stones are dedicated to a former Stella Maris principal as well as another teacher, with the third stone having been brought over from St. Bernard School.

DiPaolo added it is still a bit of a “work in progress” and a bench and other components may be added. She praised the outgoing Grade 8’s, saying it’s a legacy project for them.

“It’s the first graduating class of two schools coming together,” she said, adding they were also recently designated as an eco-school.

The students were also happy with their work.

Memorial stones from both Stella Maris and St. Bernard School are part of the refurbished gardens at Stella Maris School.

Memorial stones from both Stella Maris and St. Bernard School are part of the refurbished gardens at Stella Maris School.

Nolan Crain said their front yard didn’t look that appealing, but after putting down some stones and cleaning up the plant material, it improved the school’s look.

“It looks better,” said Crain.

Owen Kempster said he was happy with how the project turned out.

“It looks good,” he said. “It makes our school look better from the outside.”

“I think we did a good job,” added Brianne Palenkas. “We worked as a team. It turned out really well.”

Stella Maris unveils buddy benches

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A bench, which was dedicated to Michelle Fischer, was brought to Stella Maris last week and was joined by new buddy bench.

In the spring of 2013, after the passing of a beloved teacher and friend at St. Bernard School, staff and students wanted to honor her memory with a special bench. Amy Williams, Fisher’s sister and current teacher at Stella Maris said without knowing what a buddy bench was yet, they simply wanted to honor her memory and represent her theory of inclusion.

Michelle Fischer’s bench was joined by a second buddy bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which illustrates Principal Sophia DiPaolo’s motto for the 2016-17 year after they amalgamated with St. Bernard’s.

Michelle Fischer’s bench was joined by a second buddy bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which illustrates Principal Sophia DiPaolo’s motto for the 2016-17 year after they amalgamated with St. Bernard’s.

“We had a nice celebration there, and then when St. Bernard’s closed and they came over the Stella Maris, we were of course hoping the bench would come and it finally came so we are so happy,” said Williams. “As a family we’re completely humbled and just really honored that her legacy is going to live on. She was a very strong woman. She truly fought a really hard fight, she worked through chemo, she never felt sorry for herself. She was someone who just went about her day and got the job done and the fact that they want to honor that to us, there really is no greater honor as a family.”
Fischer’s bench is joined by a second bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which is personalized for the school saying “I am smart, I am strong, I can do anything, I am a Stingray,” which principal Sophia DiPaolo said symbolizes no matter who you are, no matter how good you are at something or perhaps not as good as someone else, it’s ok. She said this is something that we have been saying all year long and the kids really took to it.

Michelle Fischer’s Bench was brought to Stella Maris where her colleagues and sister currently work, in order to continue her legacy and honor her memory.

Michelle Fischer’s Bench was brought to Stella Maris where her colleagues and sister currently work, in order to continue her legacy and honor her memory.

“Our two school communities came together so beautifully this year and what a fantastic way to end it, by having this dedication ceremony,” said DiPaolo. “I think it just kind of solidifies the positivity, as sad as it was that St. Bernard’s closed down, it’s turned out to be a very positive thing in that the two communities came together so well and that’s really a tribute to parents, staff, and kids because if they didn’t make it work, it wouldn’t have worked. Mrs. Fischer was a very loved educational assistant at St. Bernard’s school … When our two school communities came together, and because she was such an integral part of that school community it was only right that we bring that bench in her honor to our school community.”

Students performed lyrical dances to songs with friendship themes during their dedication ceremony June 19.

Students performed lyrical dances to songs with friendship themes during their dedication ceremony June 19.

The second bench, which was donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, is part of a tour Margaret Slack is taking around Windsor and Essex County. She is Windsor Chapel Funeral Home’s community education specialist, and she, along with her daughter Abbey Neves, have been sharing a very personal story on their 2017-18 Road Less Traveled Imagine Tour.

“Abbey was bullied and we decided that we wanted to take her message on the road and try and create communities within our area that focus on inclusiveness, empathy and compassion, both inside the school and outside,” said Slack. “We had come across this idea of a buddy bench and I asked Windsor Chapel Funeral Home if they would support providing buddy benches to the schools we visit on tour and they said yes. In the dedication ceremony today, they really came together as a school community to use the message of faith to bring their community together so that they can become champions.”

So far, they have visited 20 schools, and already have seven more set up to visit in the fall.

Local schools open their doors for prospective JK students

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Local elementary schools opened their doors recently to welcome prospective new students.

Open houses were held to showcase the schools and what they have to offer. For Amherstburg Public School, they are now accepting registration for the second year of its French Immersion program. Principal Mark Campbell said there has been a lot of interest again in the French Immersion program, but a lot of interest for the traditional English-stream as well.

Joshua Sutton pedals a tricycle around the gymnasium at Stella Maris School during the Catholic elementary school’s recent open house.

Joshua Sutton pedals a tricycle around the gymnasium at Stella Maris School during the Catholic elementary school’s recent open house.

The first year of the French Immersion program at Amherstburg Public School has gone well, he stated, with 21 students currently enrolled.

“We’re happy with where we’re at,” said Campbell. “We’re hopeful to have 20-25 kids in the program next year.”

Campbell estimated that roughly 15 families expressed interest in French Immersion during the open house. He said another 20-25 students would help keep the program sustainable. Eventually, the plan would see French Immersion run from JK-Grade 8 in addition to the English stream.

Students who choose to take French Immersion could write a French proficiency test once they arrive at high school, Campbell added.

Chloe Maziak tries her hand at some of the musical instruments at Amherstburg Public School’s recent open house.

Chloe Maziak tries her hand at some of the musical instruments at Amherstburg Public School’s recent open house.

“It opens a door for them if they follow through with it,” said Campbell.

There was interest split between the English and French Immersion streams, he said.

“It’s (the families’) choice and they can register for whichever they prefer,” said Campbell.

“Both are fantastic programs,” added vice principal Christina Pottie.

Stella Maris School also welcomed possible new students and principal Sophie DiPaolo reported it was a good turnout there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in and take packages,” said DiPaolo.

Now that students from the former St. Bernard School have integrated into Stella Maris, DiPaolo believes it led to a higher turnout.

Journey Laframboise creates some artwork during the recent JK open house at Amherstburg Public School.

Journey Laframboise creates some artwork during the recent JK open house at Amherstburg Public School.

“I would say it’s up from previous years,” she said.

DiPaolo said she loves seeing the children excited to come to school in the fall and said they enjoyed the activities and tour of the school, which is an indication they are doing something right.

“They liked being here and they liked the interactive activities,” said DiPaolo.