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Alberta

First year teacher from Aspen Heights Elementary up for provincial award

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Building relationships key to successful first year Teacher Tosha Sim

Growing up, Tosha Sim always knew she wanted to be a teacher. One key role in her decision to pursue her passion was the relationships she formed with her own teachers along the way.

Tosha, a first year teacher at Aspen Heights Elementary, has been named Red Deer Public’s nominee for the prestigious Edwin Parr Teacher Award.

Each year the Alberta School Boards Association honours six outstanding first-year teachers with the Edwin Parr Teacher Award. School boards may nominate any first-year Kindergarten to Grade 12 teacher who has taught in an Alberta school jurisdiction which is a member of the ASBA.

Rob Moltzahn, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources for Red Deer Public, said Tosha was chosen as this year’s nominee because she is a reflective and creative teacher whose students are enthusiastically engaged in the classroom.

“Red Deer Public has fantastic teachers from our first years to our veterans, allowing students to benefit from this wealth and depth of knowledge,” he said. “Tosha is clearly passionate about teaching. Her interaction and connection with students was remarkable to see. Tosha took care of the needs of all students in her class without missing a beat.”

For Tosha, she said the nomination took her by surprise.

“The special part was that my principal, Bill Kwasny, said in his whole career that he’s never nominated a first year teacher before. It was really cool,” she said.

Tosha has had a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, and remembers Career Days in elementary school where she would dress up as a teacher.

“I truly love everything about being a teacher. There isn’t a day where I don’t want to get up and come to work,” said Tosha, who currently teaches a Grade 4/5 combined class. “It’s incredible to be part of each of my students’ lives at this time in their life and help mold them into the beautiful people they will be. It’s amazing – I can’t imagine not teaching.”

Growing up, relationships with teachers were an integral part of Tosha’s school years, and played a significant role in her decision to pursue teaching as a career.

“I can name off every single teacher in my life, and there are some that have been so special,” she said. “Being taught by phenomenal teachers has given me a solid platform as I begin my career and I’m very grateful for that.”

Since being in her classroom since last fall, Tosha said seeing her students learn and grow has been extremely fulfilling.

“It’s been amazing to see where they are now compared to where they were in the fall. Their growth in learning has been incredible to see.”

Last July, Tosha taught at Reading College, a program of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools, which helps Grade 2 students who are struggling readers become readers of potential. It was an experience she will never forget, and will always be grateful for.

“I will sing Reading College’s praises for my whole life,” she said. “It was an incredible experience. I think the biggest part was learning how to build those relationships in those four weeks – it really helped me in my classroom now. And helping kids develop a love of reading will play a part in the rest of my career as well!”

Bill Kwasny, Principal at Aspen Heights Elementary School, said Tosha has been an excellent addition to Aspen Heights Elementary.

“She has built a classroom that is caring, inclusive and safe,” he said. “Her students know that she cares deeply for them and she respects and values their differences.Her students have celebrated her nomination and feel pride that they are responsible, in part, for her success. Tosha’s passion for teaching is apparent for the time you first step foot in her classroom. It is a pleasure having the opportunity to work with Tosha.”

Alberta

Beehives and goat farms: Lacombe school shortlisted in global environmental contest

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Taylor Perez says she learned more about her passions while tending beehives, goats and fruit trees at her central Alberta high school than sitting through lessons in a classroom.

“These are all skills we don’t learn in regular classes,” says the 18-year-old student at Lacombe Composite High School.

“You’re not going to learn how to collaborate with community members by sitting in a classroom learning about E = mc2.”

Perez and her classmates are buzzing with excitement after their school’s student-led beekeeping program, goat farm, fruit orchard, tropical greenhouse and other environmental projects were recognized in a global sustainability contest among 10 other schools.

It’s the only North American school to be shortlisted by T4 Education, a global advocacy group, in its World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action contest.

“The projects are coming from the students’ own hearts and passion for taking care of the environment,” says Steven Schultz, an agriculture and environmental science teacher who has been teaching in Lacombe since 1996.

“They are going to be our community leaders — maybe even our politicians — and for them to know what the heartbeat of their generation is (is) extremely important.”

Schultz says the projects are pitched and designed by students in the school’s Ecovision Club, to which Perez belongs, and he then bases a curriculum around those ideas.

The school of about 900 students began reducing its environmental footprint in 2006 when a former student heard Schultz say during a lesson on renewable energy that “words were meaningless or worthless without action,” the 56-year-old teacher recalls.

“She took that to heart and a year later she came back and told me that she wanted to take the school off the grid.”

Schultz and students watched a fire burn down solar panels on the school’s roof in 2010, an event that further transformed his approach to teaching.

“As their school was burning, my students gathered in tears. That day I realized that students really care about the environment and they really care about the projects that they were involved in.”

Since then, 32 new solar panels have been installed, and they produce up to four per cent of the school’s electricity. After the fire, students also wanted to clean the air in their classrooms so they filled some with spider plants, including one in the teachers’ lounge.

More recently, students replaced an old portable classroom on school property with a greenhouse that operates solely with renewable energy. It’s growing tropical fruits, such as bananas, pineapples, and lemons, and also houses some tilapia fish.

Two acres of the school are also covered by a food forest made up of almost 200 fruit trees and 50 raised beds where organic food is grown.

The school also works with a local farm and raises baby goats inside a solar-powered barn that was built with recycled material.

“They breed and milk them at the farm because there are really tight regulations,” says Schultz.

“We take the excrement from the goats and the hay and use it as mulch and fertilizers for our garden. The goats also chew up the grass and allow us not to have to use lawn mowers and tractors”

Perez said her favourite class is the beekeeping program with 12 hives that produce more than 300 kilograms of honey every year.

“I love that they have different roles in their own little societies,” Perez says of the bees.

She says while working with local businesses and groups as a part of her curriculum, she learned she’s passionate about the environment and wants to become a pharmacist so she can continue giving back to her community.

James Finley, a formerly shy Grade 10 student, says the Ecovision Club and environment classes have helped get him out of his comfort zone.

“I made friends, which was a hard thing for me in the beginning. But now I have, like, hundreds,” says the 16-year-old, who enjoyed the lessons he took on harvesting.

“Taylor and Mr. Schultz were the main people that made me stay.”

Schultz says the winners of the contest are to be announced in the fall.

A prize of about $322,000 will be equally shared among five winners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sunday, July 3, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Missing 13-year-old Edmonton girl found alive in Oregon, 41-year-old man arrested

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EDMONTON — Police say a 13-year-old Edmonton girl missing for more than a week has been found alive in the United States.

She was located following a week-long search that began when she was seen arriving at her junior high school but didn’t show up for class.

Edmonton Police Insp. Brent Dahlseide says the girl, who was reported missing June 24, is currently in an Oregon hospital for a precautionary examination after being found safe in the state early Saturday morning.

Dahlseide says a 41-year-old Oregon man will be charged with child luring and is expected to face additional charges in Canada and the U.S.

He says Edmonton police received assistance from other agencies in Canada, as well as from the FBI and other police services in the U.S.

Dahlseide says it’s believed the suspect came to Edmonton, but it’s not yet clear how he initially made contact with the girl or how she crossed the U.S. border.

“We would be speculating to say they crossed the border together, but I do know that they were located together, again, in the U.S. once they gained entry,” Dahlseide told reporters during an online news conference Saturday, noting he believed the two had been communicating online.

“I don’t know how long they may have been in contact with one another. I do know that the reason we’re going with a child-luring charge at this point is that it’s one we can support because of some of the online history.”

Photos of the girl have appeared on billboards and posters across Alberta this past week asking people to be on the lookout for her and contact police with tips.

Dahlseide said an Amber Alert was not issued because investigators lacked a description of a suspect or a suspect vehicle. He said police got that information on Friday and were drafting the alert that afternoon when they learned from Canada Border Services the suspect had crossed into the U.S.

At that point the suspect was no longer in Canadian jurisdiction, Dahlseide explained, which is another criteria for an Amber Alert. He said they made a deduction about where the suspect was going and alerted authorities on the U.S. side.

Dahlseide said he believed the arrest was made outside Gladstone, Oregon, just south of Portland, away from the suspect’s residence. He said the suspect’s name would not be released until charges are formally laid.

He said the girl’s family were informed early Saturday she’d been found safe and they are making arrangements to bring her home.

“I’m sure we likely woke them up, showing up at their door so early,” Dahlseide said.

Canadian investigators have not had a chance to speak with the girl or the suspect yet, Dahlseide said, and other questions remain.

He said investigators believe the suspect was in Mission, B.C. for three to four days, so they’ll be asking RCMP there to speak to people who may have seen him or the girl during that time. The FBI will also be able to help supply bank or credit card information to piece together the suspect’s movements, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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