Saturday, May 5, 2012

A 21st Century School Rooted in Community

A few days ago, the Ministry of Education in British Columbia released two videos highlighting a few Catholic Independent Schools in the Lower Mainland.  The first video highlights how some schools are using technology to empower learning.   The other video illustrates how schools are personalizing learning for their diverse group of students.

Since the release of the video I have received many messages about being "the technology school", or the "technology principal".  I understand these labels and, I suppose on the surface, they are true.

And yet these videos (and my messages) are incomplete

The untold story of these videos, as it relates to my school community, is that our success lies in our sense of community, which is rooted in faith. 

Tom Hierck, who school visited our school, recently and wrote the following reflection:  
I was particularly impressed by the commitment to create meaningful relationships and a culture of caring. From my viewpoint that's the biggest reason the school has a 100% graduation rate….
Our school has a special faith-filled spirit that consistently celebrates and embraces community.  This is evident in the joy with which teachers, students and parents share their gifts in the many service opportunities available. 

We personalize and individualize teaching so that all students have the opportunity to meet learning outcomes across the curricula. The school is proud that it has worked hard for over 15 years to achieve 100% graduation. I believe that our graduates are fuelled by the desire to be lifelong learners, to serve creatively and humbly and to promote the power of community in the world.

I am grateful that we had the opportunity to share our story through these videos.  I proud of our students and staff and the hard work they put forth on a daily basis.  I also realize that there were many other schools that could have been highlighted.

The students and teachers of the 21st century version of our school reap the rewards of learning and teaching in community and know to respect that these are the  legacy of a previous century where our illustrious alumni, teachers and religious, fostered those seeds of community that endure so profoundly today. 


  1. Johnny & St.Pat's Community.
    When I saw these videos for the first time, it was as if I was transported back in time and my immediate reaction was the incredible power of the St.Pat's family. I've been searching for over a decade (since I left in 1999) in Canada and US for something similar...but alas nothing!

    I feel blessed and honoured for the 4 remarkable years I spent there. I carry with me and share stories of administrators willing to support a myriad of activities and initiatives like: an English/Religion teacher starting a world-class vocal choir, English teachers spending countless nights and prep periods correcting essays and imploring students to find their voice and write with passion, Yearbook advisors spending more time with paper and glue than any adult should have to (pre-digital), establishing a AV club when most recordings were on VHS, an Art teacher creating 25 foot banners for the visiting teams during tournaments, having a single fundraiser Walkathon (!i=1510981895&k=wdhG3P3) instead of all the smaller ones that involve unhealthy foods, overhauling the computer lab, the Play, Mass, Bingo, the Sports, Homeroom Coordinators, Advising, Counseling, disappearing Cabbage rolls (Hancock ate them), hanging out in the staff room and wondering when the Canucks will ever win the Cup, and everything that goes into making St.Pat's special. It still makes me laugh and wonder who was the last one not to get their bus license on the first try – Maricel or Christina?

    I echo your sentiment about how technology is just a pedagogical tool we use to support student learning and the attainment of educational objectives. As teachers we must continue to experiment with new tools and techniques and not be afraid to fail. By allowing students the freedom to try something and fail is a critical because success is not defined as doing something right on the first try. It is through reflective analysis on repeated failures that learning, innovation, and sustained growth occur.

    For me it never really felt like a JOB in the typical sense of work. I guess being a part of the community enabled us to do the things we knew would help the students at the time and into the future. This bond that connects you, also enriches you professionally and personally and in essence defines your values and beliefs.
    Teaching at the undergraduate level, I’ve been trying to duplicate what goes on there but I know that it is impossible to recreate the community and spirit that defines St.Pat’s. In my attempt to help grow a community of lifelong learners in the area of Physical Education and Health, I’ve created the Rockstar PE family ( where we inspire students to be powerful, passionate, and effective communicators for a healthier generation. As I move forward in my mission, know that that the St.Pat’s Spirit is Alive everywhere I go.

    Hail & Health,
    Stephen Yang
    (1995-1999 PE, Science, & French Teacher)

    1. Yanger,
      Wow what a comment/post! Thank you for taking the time to share your fond memories. Heartwarming to hear the school's lasting impact on students and former staff.

      Know that your contributions to the school still live on today.
      I will be sure to share your amazing comments with the staff :)

      Keep well

  2. Johnny, there is no doubt in my mind the reason your school is successful and innovative is that there is a culture of caring. Reading your posts and getting to know you it is clear that it is community first. Once there is strength in that, you can do anything. Keep up the great work. St. Pat's deserves the accolades.

    1. I appreciate it Darcy.
      The student really inspire all of us to do our best! They are the real source of inspiration.
      Hope to connect soon...

  3. Johnny and the rest of the St. Pat's community: What a story and well done to all of you for your continued work to build such a strong family! Johnny, you're right - it's not only about the technology - that's just a tool to support learning.

    I echo Stephen Yang's comments and although I only spent two years in this family from '95-'97 it remains a special place in my heart. I'll never forget how fitting that the first CD that the St. Pat's choir released was called Spirit Alive because this captures the exact essence of what St. Pat's Secondary is!

    I continue to be amazed at the great things that are happening in your school and each time I read about or see another celebration of success, the pride I have to have been part of that family only deepens. The commitment and dedication to lifelong learning and the education of the whole student is truly remarkable and inspiring.

    And yes - Hancock's posters for various events are truly the best I've seen yet! Congratulations Celtics!

    Denise Lamarche

    1. Thank you Denise
      It is great to see you and Stephen, as former teachers here, leave a comment. I feel blessed to be surrounded by such great teachers (past and present!).
      What should never be forgotten is how the students continue to inspire us teachers to give our best each and every day!
      I really appreciate your thoughtful comments Denise