I think back over 7 years and wonder at all of the changes we have experienced together.
Seven years ago, we had 8 classes of every grade from Kindergarten to Grade 3. There were children everywhere in the building with teachers working in collaborative groups with support staff around every location. Alfred, Brent and Mark worked diligently to keep one step ahead of the daily evidence of innovative design thinking and creative expression by staff and students alike.
Then Eric Harvie School opened and we were thrilled to share the same space with two complete schools, together under one roof. The students were not always clear if they belonged to Eric Harvie School or Tuscany School. They simply knew they belonged. The Sisterhood was formed between Tuscany School, Eric Harvie School and Twelve Mile Coulee School.
Tuscany School expanded to include Grade 4 students once again and we were thrilled to share space at Twelve Mile Coulee School. We met and started our work with Ryan Jason Allen Willert, a Blackfoot Artist from Red Deer. Ryan worked with our students to lift the history and culture of the Blackfoot People as the students created murals for our outdoor classroom. Ryan’s signature Bison Head stands tall above the entryway.
Brandie Cormier, artist extraordinaire, guided our grade 4 students to recreate her painting of the coulee during 4 seasons and different times of day onto the garage door. This mural celebrates another connection to the land and our relationship with the coulee.
reGenerate Design helped us to create a way of water capture through plants native to the area. Their expertise mixed with Morgan’s and Andrea’s energy, enthusiasm and muscle, turned our property into a microcosm of the coulee.
Stephanie Bartlett and our Elder Saa’kokoto invited Tuscany School into a school-wide opportunity to record and create books on Elder Saa’kokoto’s stories as he shared them with us in the coulee. This experience was imagined and developed into our Blackfoot Opera “Na’a’s Heartbeat”. This included artists Kris Demeanor, Darcy Turning Robe, Winton and Thunder, Rebecca Reese and, Lauren, our director from Calgary Opera. This experience shared by students, staff, Saa’kokoto, Stephanie and the duo from Calgary Opera, made that year pivotal in our work within our Indigenous Strategy.
We welcomed our Early Childhood Development Centre (EDC) and learned so much from these beautiful preschool aged children and the staff that came to provide a great educational environment. Through the expertise of these individuals the children flourished.
French Immersion arrived at Tuscany School. It was amazing to see the staff and students adjust to their new learning environment, build relationships and add to the multi-linguistic approach to learning at Tuscany School.
We said farewell to the EDC and welcomed 2 classes of Enhanced Educational Supports (EES). The staff and students have brought such an incredible opportunity for us all to listen, learn and understand many ways of learning. Our students in the EES program enrich our lives in so many ways and we love having them with us.
Throughout all seven years, I have had the honour of working with the most extraordinary School Council. This council has continuously placed all of the children in the Tuscany community, along with Royal Oak and Rocky Ridge at the centre of every decision they have made. Their courage and strength to hold every child in their hearts and minds has created a strong village full of caring, hope and joy. The dedication to the school and its staff over the past seven years has been nothing short of awe inspiring.
The community of families with extended family members within our boundaries and beyond has brought such a gift to me over these years. I have often said to people, “I work in heaven”. I came to a place so filled with light and love it has been tremendously difficult to consider leaving. I told everyone seven years ago; I change every five years. Knowing this is the completion of my seventh year, you know how difficult it is for me to move on. With each year of change, I wanted to stay and be enriched by each moment. I wanted to provide consistency, guidance, reassurance and joy to each new experience.
Covid hit and one of the biggest silver linings I witnessed was the incredible strength of this community. The comradery of people coming together to lift each other up, to ensure everyone had a chance to support each other in the difficult dark days and those with joy and laughter. This is a village of strong, courageous, generous people, dedicated to education. It has been an honor to get to know you and spend the past seven years surrounded by all of you.
So it is with such mixed emotions that I announce my retirement effective June 30, 2021.
Based on Saa’kokoto’s wisdom, I know we have the right people in the right places to lift our work forward through multi-aging and concept based instruction. Our Indigenous strategy will continue through the expertise of Stephanie Bartlett, Elder Saa’kokoto and the leadership team at Tuscany School. Laura Devitt has already proven herself to be a strong, capable caring member of our community and is more than equipped to help ease a new Principal into our school. The staff are all dedicated and focused on lifting students and will be eager to share their story with a new Principal. The Council and community is so generous and open to having new people come into the community, the new Principal will be so grateful to spend time in such an extraordinary school.
Please know you have lifted me up and filled my heart with such light and love that it will carry me forward into new adventures. You have gifted me with such incredible stories to relive and share with others. I know you will embrace a new Principal coming to work with all of you to discover the incredible beauty of Tuscany School.
Principal, Tuscany School