May 03
What is 'Being Human'?

Ultimately, What It Means to Be Human is less an answer than it is an invitation to a series of questions; questions about who and what we are as a species, as souls, and as nodes in a larger complex ecosystem of sentient beings.  For centuries humans have queried and written many articles and books on the topic of 'Being Human.'  Philosophers, Neuroscientists and Evolutionary Biologists have shared their perspectives on this insoluble and most fundamental inquiry of existence.  Whether the lens applies to animals or social stereotypes, one thing is certain: At a time when the need to celebrate both our shared humanity and our meaningful differences, the question of what makes us human, becomes not one of philosophy alone but also of politics, justice, identity, and every fiber of existence that lies between.

At West Dalhousie School our perspective on 'What It Means to Be Human' is centered around our Three Pillars of Care; Care for Yourself; Care for Others and Care For This Place. 

We see teaching as a human act rather than a technical one, and remember the importance of the relationships we nurture. Believing that children need to feel safe and cared for, we cultivate a sense of community. Believing that we often do our best learning when we have someone who will talk it over with us; we support dialogue in our classrooms and engage children in thoughtful conversation. We know that children also need to have voice in decisions about their learning and choice in how they will take it up.

We enable children to explore a topic in depth, to return to earlier topics, and to make connections in their learning in our classrooms and in their lives beyond our walls. We encourage our students to critically question their world. Remembering that as teachers and parents we offer models of adulthood to children, we show them that we, too are lifelong learners who still have many questions to ask. We recognize and model the importance of wonder and imagination.

Our Wellness, Weekly challenge the last month have been focused on caring for others and accepting their differences.  We have challenged students to be unique as individuals in their choices of who they want to be as a person, in their clothing, preferences, talents/gifts, perspectives, likes and dislikes.  We want students to think about thinking, to ponder on the past, present, and future and to make better decisions than our predecessors.  To fit in different racial, cultural, religious, and political groups but to be unique and special as a species. To accept others for who they are without judgement.  To treat others with respect.

At WDS we care for our students and staff by teaching and modelling respect, acceptance and care.  We provide intervention as needed for those that cannot understand these traits and at times administer consequences as required. In closing, I wish you a month of acceptance for all and thinking about what 'Being Human' means to you!

Maria Spagnolo
Principal
West Dalhousie School
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Mar 01
Lift Each Other Up!

​On February 24th WDS staff and students participated in ‘Pink Shirt Day.  Pink Shirt Day is a day where we acknowledge the efforts we put forth to stop bullyingThis year the province of Alberta’s focus was: …"on working together and treating others with dignity and respect. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all and shown the importance of helping one another and advocating for those who need it. Help us “lift each other up” and support programs that encourage healthy self-esteem and teach empathy, compassion, and kindness. 

At West Dalhousie School (WDS) we feel a huge responsibility in creating a safe and healthy environment for our students; one that protects every student from bullying. This means we not only identify and address bullying on a consistent basis, but we also create a culture of respect and dignity by honouring diversity through our language, role modeling, daily lessons, and celebrationsBullying takes many forms; physical, verbal, and emotional and can have lasting effects on an educational environment. As a result, preventing school bullying is extremely important to usAt WDS we have a low tolerance policy for Bullying that is supported by progressive measures of education and discipline.   

We are immensely proud that WDS is a safe place to be, however, at times bullying does happen.  We are very aware of bullying indicators and as such have a wrap-around model to ensure that we are supporting our studentsSome things that we do are: 

  1. We talk about BullyingWe let our students know how people are affected by bullying. We work with them daily to instill empathy and emotional intelligence.  We ensure students emotional needs are met by ensuring that they are loved while in school. We teach them to identify and share their feelings; to explore other people’s perspectives and how they may feel; to participate in problem solving where both parties reach an agreed upon solution and we always talk about the impact one has on others by using our Three Pillars of CareWe also ensure that students are aware of the consequences that may be enforced for bullying others at school. WDS students understand that bullying is not tolerated and will be addressed. 
     

  1. We are always Visible to our students Throughout the Day and during non-structured times; bussing, lunchtime; recess etc. We have heightened supervision and staggered recess breaks so that there are more adults around for support and relationship building opportunities with students. 

  1. We Watch for Bullying Indicators: teachers and other staff can recognize the most common types of bullying as well as cyberbullying indicators. We are aware that children often bully differently. For instance, boys often resort to physical bullying and girls are more likely to use relational bullying like ostracizing another student. We look for what is called "gateway indicators." These are initial behaviors that students display that are often gateways for more intentional types of bullying. (Some gateway indicators include rolling eyes, laughing under their breath, making jokes, turning their backs on others, and using sarcasm) 
     

  1. A crucial part of our anti-bullying culture is that we Empower Student Bystanders to have a voice.  Through our inclusive teaching practices and role modeling we teach students to stand up against bullying behavior or to report it to an adult. WDS students know that bullying ends when one person takes a stand. We provide safe and confidential ways that our students can report bullying incidents.  They tell a teacher or another trusted adult; they can write us a note or email us; they can meet with us in personWDS staff Keep Their Ears to the Ground.  We listen, observe and interact with our students.  We get to know each of our students and as such can usually identify if there is a concern or if a situation is arising that needs our intervention.  We can confidently state that students feel it is safe for them to alert us of potential issues. No student wants to be considered a snitch.  
     

  1. We Maintain Open Communication as we strive to build a rapport with all your students. We get to know them as individuals. We greet each student every day and ask how things are going. We dour best to find out about their interests and goals. And if they are struggling, offer support or direct them to school resources where their specific needs can be metWe work closely with parents so that together we can create success plans for children and provide support for their learning. 
     

  1. We also work closely with our parent communityOur School council annually offers parents webinars or guest speaker sessions where parents are engaged in Bully Awareness sessions. We encourage parents to support school rules and bullying intervention strategies. If a parent reports a bullying incident, we are sure to investigate it right away. Parents are our partners in offering a safe, caring, and inclusive learning experience.  They are partners in the strategies we follow to ensure bullying behaviors are minimized and correctedAt WDS we foster a sense of community and facilitate healing for anyone who has been impacted by bullying 

 

We cannot do this work alone and as we all know it takes a village to raise a childAs WDS community members we all have a responsibility to stop bullying by keeping our ears to the ground and our eyes on our students.  Taking steps to prevent bullying will go a long way in improving students’ learning, their daily lived experience and their impact on this world.  I challenge you today to ‘Lift Each Other Up’ by engaging in one act of kindness. 

Maria Spagnolo
Principal  ​

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Feb 02
Differently You!

​February marks the beginning of Term 2 in our school year as well as the beginning of new curricular learnings, celebrations and events!  Valentine's Day is a big event that is celebrated in February in most cultures.  Its roots can be traced back to 700 BC when the Ancient Greeks believed that Eros (Desire) the son of Aphrodite was a very powerful man that caused people to fall in love and thus create mayhem.  In later years when the Roman era began, because Greeks were seen as culturally sophisticated, much of this Greek mythology was adopted by the new ruling classes. And when the Romans conscripted the Eros mythology, they chose to bring over the more recent iteration of the god as a cute little kid. They named him Cupid, a synonym for Eros that also translates to “Desire." His mother was likewise Venus, the Roman version of the Greek Aphrodite.  For the Romans, the character of Cupid was always a cherubic little boy who followed his mother's wishes to make people fall in love. For some people, Valentine's Day holds a religious significance; it commemorates February 14th as a day to honour St. Valentine who was a martyr.  The day was honoured by a huge feast where boys and girls would select names out of a box to determine who would be their potential love. 

In today's day and age we celebrate Valentine's Day as a day of love and care for our fellow humans.  Valentine's Day in school, is a day where we celebrate the care and respect we have towards others.  For the month of February and March, we will be challenging our students and staff to practice Empathy and to allow oneself to be different. 'Different Just Like Me' is our Wellness slogan. It will be incorporated into our music program. Ms. Ho will be teaching the students the following song 'Everyone Belongs':  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ1QEE_RXP8   which will then be incorporated into a school video. A bulletin board will also be created with a musical staff complete with musical notes that each student creates with information about their unique self.  The musical notes will come together depicting how we are all different but still part of one song.  

The celebration of diversity through our weekly challenges will hopefully build our skills in being empathic.  Empathy is about accepting others for who they are. It is the ability to see that others have a right to be their own unique person. That means having a right to their own feelings, thoughts and opinions. When you accept people for who they are, you let go of your desire to change them. You let them feel the way they want to feel, you let them be different and think differently from you.

Diversity is a good thing as it makes the world a much more fascinating place. Mixing with those that are different from us means we get a sense of connection with them. We learn more about the world and ourselves in the process, which helps us grow intellectually and spiritually.

Respecting both similarities and differences in others, opens doors to many opportunities. You'll learn new things and make better decisions, which in turn will help improve your self-confidence. Others notice our openness, which can lead to new friendships, exciting travel opportunities, or simply makes us more interesting because of our broader worldview. 

Something to remember is that by accepting other people's differences does not mean agreement with their beliefs or behaviors. It means they do their thing and you do yours without feeling any need to change another person.

6 Ways To Accept Others As They Are

  • Watch your thoughts. Think about what you're thinking about. Avoid thinking things about other people, judging them, without even realizing it. Pay more attention to your thoughts and do your best to push them in a non-judgmental, more accepting direction.  
  • Look for the positive. Focus on why someone is different.  Ask yourself “What's good about this person and his/her choices and actions?"   Our way is not always the best one. 
  • Avoid right/wrong dichotomies. It's very tempting to see the world in black and white with a right and wrong way to do things.  That's just not how it is. Things don't have to be right or wrong.  Choose to accept people as they are. Stop labeling your own ways as "right." 
  • Stop judging yourself. Our judgments of others and ourselves is critical.  Stop putting pressure on yourself to do things the "right" way.  In turn you will also stop putting pressure on others.   Not judging one's self or others is a crucial step to acceptance.​
  • Focus on the now. A lack of acceptance can be generated from comparing things to the past. Comparing things to the past always hinders an acceptance of what is.  

Imagine how boring life would be if everyone was exactly the same as everyone else in the world? If everyone looked the same, had the same personality, the same interests and the same experiences, we would lose interest in other people pretty quickly. Luckily, each of us has a unique set of qualities and characteristics that make us different. So I challenge you to be empathic and to have an open mind and accept other people's unique differences. The next time you are around someone who appears to be your polar opposite, challenge yourself to get to know that person better. Find out more about him or her and you'll come out of the conversation feeling that you're not as different as perhaps you first thought. You'll feel closer to the person, and as a result, you will be that much better able to empathize with them.

Wishing you a great month of Love, Care and being Differently You!

Mrs. Spagnolo
Principal​

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Jan 26
The Golden Rule and The Three Pillars of Care

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The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in most religions and cultures. It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although different religions treat it differently.  The Golden Rule is a moral principle which denotes that you should treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. For example, the golden rule suggests that if you would like people to treat you with respect, then you should make sure to treat them with respect too.

At West Dalhousie School the Golden Rule is something we learned about this month and practiced its intention under the umbrella of our Three Pillars of Care; Care for Others; Care for Yourself and Care for This Place.  Students and staff were given a weekly challenge for the whole month of January that centered on Respect.  A bulletin board of 'Respect and our Three Pillars of Care' was created.  Students and staff shared their ideas of how they action respect on a red paper heart and stapled it on the bulletin board.  The goal was for our Bulletin Board to be filled with our respectful heart messages.

Respect is the first positive step in building a relationship.  It is also an essential element for conflict transformation.  William Ury writes in his book The Third Side: "Human beings have a host of emotional needs for love and recognition, for belonging and identity, for purpose and meaning. If all these needs had to be subsumed in one word, it might be respect."

At WDS we want to be respectful citizens and as such are challenged to create respect in our school and our community. 

Respect is created in many ways. We learned that we need to:

  1. Treat others as we would want to be treated. Events in life and relationships are connected.  So the growth of respect nourishes itself from its own process and dynamics.  Show respect and in turn you get respect.

  2. Accept others for who they are and being open to their differences. Having an open mind is very important. Understanding other cultures or another person's perspective is a positive life attitude and belief.

  3. Be courteous and listen to what others have to say and treat people fairly so that trust can be nourished.   

  4. Remember that when in conflict; the issue is the problem not the person. 

Our intentions for reviewing the Golden Rule with our students was to teach them that in the presence of 'Respect', humanity can live in 'Peace'.  We have the power to transform conflict.  We can allow for opportunities to grow and negotiations to be resolved if we are respectful.  If we treat individuals with dignity, we will receive a more sustainable response; We will develop lasting  relationships that are based on mutual trust and respect.  The secret to Peace is Respect.   I wish you a month filled with Care, Respect and Peace!

Maria Spagnolo
WDS Principal


Jan 05
Face the New Year with Renewed Motivation!

Experts state that when we set goals we improve our well-being.  As we enter 2021 we all need to start the New Year with motivation.  In the book 'Tiny Habits', B.J. Fogg states that when it comes to change, tiny is mighty. Fogg states that, “Change can be easy—once it starts, it grows." Fogg says that if we make our goals easy, make them fit our life and make them rewarding, we are more inclined to succeed in achieving them.  An example he uses is exercise; Start with two push-ups a day, not a two-hour workout; or five deep breaths each morning rather than an hour of meditation. 

Some ways of thinking about achieving goals may be to strengthen our willpower or self liberation.  Willpower is strengthened when we believe deeply that we can change.  Positive thinking is the key to change; Believing, Behaving, and Changing.  Albert Ellis states that we do well to recognize our fallibilities, therefore, when they get in the way of our goals, we are to do something positive to get past them. Do what makes you happiest, so long as you don't needlessly and intentionally harm another person.   Good, bad, or ugly, how you interpret your experiences, influences how you feel and what you do.  Language adds shades of gray to the meanings that we ascribe to events.  Always use positive language.  Language affects how you interpret events in your brain.  Keep rational thoughts in your head.  Our perception of life affects our mental processes or beliefs, our emotions and hence our actions.  Accept others and events as they are without upsetting yourself. 

Another way to increase our motivation to achieve our goals is to reward ourselves for ongoing success.  Harvard University researcher Teresa Amabile found that progress is actually the greatest motivator. That means achieving a lot in a day is actually a greater motivator than a fancy meal or tropical vacation. To maximize this motivation, find ways to recognize and celebrate your progress.  Achieve tiny steps to a bigger goal each day; focus on what went “right" in your day; reward yourself in healthy ways; involve loved ones. Invite your family, friends and colleagues to join you in your celebrations, even if it is a small event.

A bad mood makes you tired, which makes you less motivated and eventually disengaged. Interrupt negative thoughts with a break: take a walk, eat a healthy snack, or chat with a co-worker.  Expect something wondrous; A negative attitude will cause you to notice more problems, most of which are out of your control. Focus on the future with a sense of wonder and make yourself aware of all the great possibilities around you.  The next time you are feeling a lack of motivation, remember the fate of your day can be turned around with the power of positive thinking. Before you know it, you could be happier than before.

At WDS we are motivated for the New Year ahead and have planned many exciting learning events for the students.  Our hope is that we can accomplish all of these goals one day at a time.  Join us in these goals by staying informed; follow us on Twitter and subscribing to our school calendar. 

Wishing you a wonderful New Year surrounded by those that mean the most to you and by being as motivated as ever to achieve your goals!

Maria Spagnolo
Principal

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Dec 08
My Wish to You: Resiliency for the Holiday Season!

Dear WDS Families

I can't believe that  we are almost into the Winter Holidays!  I am very proud of the students and staff at WDS and their resilience to the challenges that the pandemic has offered us.  We have stayed on track with teaching and learning and students are achieving to their potential.  Students have shown great resiliency to the challenges set in front of them with the pandemic.  Children never cease to astonish me with the level of courage and resiliency that they have!  WDS students practice safety measures and are adhering to the new rules of social distancing and sanitization.  In spite of the restrictions set forth by the pandemic, students continue finding the joy in life and in learning.  Interacting and sharing may look different in the classroom and on the playground however the feeling is the same.  Students are still connecting with their peers and their teachers.  School spirit lives in our hallways and fun permeates our days.  A deep sense of community and unity is developed and felt as we are all in this together. 

Teachers are planning and have become even more creative and resourceful in designing their in-person and online classrooms.  We have all been given a task that requires us to come together even more in every way possible.  Teacher collaboration, sharing of expertise and planning has never been more pivotal than it is now.  In January students will be learning online and as a community of learners we will all pivot into the cyber learning environment.  I know that this will be successful as we are prepared and we are open to working harder and doing better.

The novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID‐19, is currently impacting every aspect of daily life around the world. It is one of the most significant and unpredictable global public health crises in recent times.  We all need to adhere to the government regulations, to be patient and to practice resiliency.  As the holiday season approaches, I challenge you to become creative in how you stay connected to those you love and how you celebrate the special days ahead.  We need to develop new resiliency strategies so that we can feel emotionally charged to withstand the pandemic.

​"Resilience is a measurement of one's capacity to recover fully from an adversity," says Charles Figley, PhD, director of the Tulane Traumatology Institute in New Orleans.  Some recommendations to support you in your courage may be the following:

  1.  Expect Things to Get Better:  Optimism  is the single biggest factor in recovering from adversity. It's what makes some of us seek out solutions to our troubles instead of pulling the covers over our heads.  If you want to work on bouncing back, you must expect that good things will happen. 
  2. Reach Out To Friends and Family: having a support system helps us get through tough times. Friends and loved ones can provide an invaluable distraction. When we're feeling isolated, they remind us that we're attached to a group—and that we're important to someone. Social support is among the 'protective factors' that increase our odds of having high resilience when faced with daunting adversity," "It enables processing of the experience to focus on solutions."
  3. Go On a Mind Vacation:  Lose yourself in a hobby, exercise, a movie or reading about a favorite topic.   Although it's natural for your mind to turn over events in your head, getting a break from such thoughts is a good thing.  Keeping yourself busy can give you some much-needed distance from your troubles and helps shift your focus to see troubles in a new light; an opportunity for joy to sprout again.
  4. Tickle Your Funny Bone:  sometimes humour is the best medicine.  Research shows that it is one of the most important protective factors.  Humor dampens down our natural fight-or-flight reaction to negative events and lowers our stress hormones. It also shifts our perception of a difficult situation from an emergency to a less distressing issue, so we can calm down, take a break and experience something that makes you laugh.  It will not only help you feel better in the moment, but allow you to adapt to the reality you're faced with.
  5. Count Your Blessings:  Feeling grateful improves our overall wellbeing and helps us cope with our troubles. Create a list of five things that you are grateful for.  This will give you optimism and you will feel more connected to others.
  6. Finally, Remember That This, Too, Shall Pass:  Everything in life has a beginning and end.  There is relief in that thought.  I believe that this pandemic will end in time and we will all feel victorious as a community; as a society; as Canadians.

In closing, I wish you great Resiliency and Happy Holidays.  May the new year bring each of you Peace, Love and Joy!

Sincerely,
Mrs. Spagnolo

Principal
Twitter: @wdsprincipal

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Nov 27
Spirit Days at WDS

At WDS, school spirit days are valued and anticipated events.  Today, our grades 5/6 Leadership students hosted 'Wacky Hair Day!' I believe that hosting school spirit days brings all members of the WDS community together.  A sense of belonging and pride permeates our hallways and classrooms.  Spirit days motivate students to achieve because there is a sense of 'one for all'.  A sense of belonging to a school gives students motivation to strive and thus to excel.  Students feel a sense of unity with fellow peers and staff.  A sense of pride is shown by those who feel a strong connection to their place of learning and the people in it.  It's about being proud to represent your school and the values it stands for.  The sense of happiness and belonging to a greater team makes students feel loved, cared for and at Peace.  WDS will continue to host spirit days so please follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our calendar for upcoming spirit days!   Join in the fun next time!  Our next spirit day will be 'Holiday Sweater' day on December 18th!​  

Maria Spagnolo
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Nov 10
Remembering Our Fallen Heroes


Today our students and staff observed the Remembrance Day assembly.  It is an unprecedented school year with the pandemic however the students and staff have maintained the teachings and learnings that the face to face experience brings us.  WDS students came together online, performed and displayed art work for one another in an online format. I am very proud of the work the students did, the respect they exemplified and the commitment they have to our national fallen heroes.  We will always remember their sacrifice!  Thank you for giving us this place and Peace!

Be well WDS community.

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Sep 15
Welcome Back to School!

​Dear WDS Families,

we are so excited to be back in school and able to see most of our students!  We are very proud of our students, parents and staff for adhering to the WDS Re-entry plans and supporting us to be safe during this pandemic.

We will be offering online Parent Conferences this month.  Please ensure to check your email for the detailed information that was sent to you.

In early October we will be able to share our finalized staffing changes once our Hub online registrations are settled.

Please ensure to follow your child's teaacher on Twitter so that you have a glimpse of the daily happenings in class.  We will all do our best to ensure you have an inside look at what the students are doing daily!

We ask that parents return their demographic forms as soon as possible so that we may input any contact changes into our system.

Thank you for your continued support and trust in us!

 

Maria

Jun 26
Happy Summer!

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Dear WDS families

We wish you a safe and relaxing summer break!  We enjoyed the WDS Porch Parade yesterday and were so delighted to see the students and other members of our community!  While on Summer break for the next 8 weeks, we have many people in the CBE that will be working hard to make sure our school is safe to welcome back staff and students. The CBE task force continues its work on our planning for what the next school year will look like in our school. We will have more information in August after the Minister announces the re-entry scenario schools will follow for September.

Regardless of the re-entry decision, we know that things will look a bit different in our school in September. While we cannot eliminate all COVID-19 risks, we will implement measures to minimize risk. This includes:

  • Where possible, creating cohorts or groups of students and teachers who will stay together throughout the day;
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas and equipment;
  • Identifying ways to engage in valuable courses where additional health protocols must be followed (e.g. physical education, music classes) and ensuring cleaning of equipment that may be shared by multiple students (e.g. computers, gym equipment)
  • Creating regular routines to support hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette;
  • Enforcing a strict illness policy. Anyone showing signs of sickness will not be allowed on buses or in schools. This means families will need to ensure they have back-up childcare available if their child is unable to attend school;
  • Changing pick-up and drop-off routines for parents to support physical distancing student safety while entering or exiting the building;
  • Developing new procedures for students using yellow school buses, including assigned seating and how students get on and off the bus; and

 

  • Organizing and planning to apply protocols and online instruction allowing us to move between different scenarios if required.

Once again, thank you for all your trust and support.  We can hardly wait to see our students in person again!

 Maria Spagnolo

 


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RT @MandelaUnited: Huge Day for the Aviation Program! A massive thanks to Mark Kotris for the donation, Regent Aircraft Services for prepping the plane, McIntyre Crane for the lift and to Mr. C and Mr. H for creating authentic learning opportunities. #wearecbe #abed https://t.co/yVDBr6oLW1

RT @CrescentCowboys: A great community collaboration with our #CowboyNation Outdoor Ed/Sci team & @twowheelview. We worked together to repair donated bikes and were able to purchase them for students as a part of our Neighbourhood Grant! Can’t wait to get riding #CrescentStrong #WeAreCBE https://t.co/gO7L7r27KL

RT @yyCBEdu: Transportation pre-registration is now open for the 2021-22 school year. Log into your My CBE/PowerSchool account to pre-register before June 6. https://t.co/OrC6nz8Hyp #yycbe #WeAreCBE https://t.co/XQO7Rx7jXN

Transportation pre-registration is now open for the 2021-22 school year. Log into your My CBE/PowerSchool account to pre-register before June 6. https://t.co/OrC6nz8Hyp #yycbe #WeAreCBE https://t.co/XQO7Rx7jXN

Both Simon Fraser School and A.E. Cross School have recognized with National Inclusive Education Awards: https://t.co/9X1U7VEbFF Check out this news story about the principal at Simon Fraser School #WeAreCBE https://t.co/uymu2soIce