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Background Pieces

David-Roger Gagnon – dedicated to the health and welfare of EMSB students

By Ljiljana Lipic
EMSB Communications Intern

David-Roger Gagnon came into the position of Development Officer-Healthy Schools at the English Montreal School Board in January 2015. He speaks enthusiastically about his new role and describes his mission as, “trying to encourage our schools to think collectively and globally in terms of the whole person health; body, mind, and spirit.” With a varied and interesting portfolio he plays an imperative part in maintaining the health culture of our schools. 

There are three main areas or approaches to the EMSB’s response to health issues. The first deals with the promotion of healthy living. This is done by raising awareness on health issues and health risks at schools, linking the schools with the necessary resources to deal with a particular challenge and to work on prevention by encouraging students to seek alternatives to getting involved in a behaviour or to think about options to an existing habit. Another approach focuses on assisting students with intellectual or learning challenges while there is also a focus on physical challenges. For instance, matching a student with a physical disability and affiliating them with a school that can cater to their special needs. 

As development officer of educational prevention and promotion of health living, David-Roger is the key liaison between the public health sectors and the school board. When a school has a concern with a social or health issue or requires funding for a like related program, he makes the connection between a professional health care worker or organization and the school. By tapping into a network of health care professionals from CSSS (Centre de Santé et de Services Sociaux) and community organizations, he can reach into the plethora of resources and provide a link between a school need and a helping hand. The umbrella of professionals includes nurses, social workers, childcare workers, guidance counsellors, psychologists, speech & language specialists and spiritual and community animators.

David-Roger has also implemented a new approach to finding solutions to dealing with social and health challenges in schools. He has encouraged the development of trans-professional teams (or multi-disciplinary teams) that combine professionals, health care staff and schools to come together to brainstorm on how to deal with certain key issues. Recently, there was a school that had a particular health concern and the trans-professional team collaborated and brainstormed some responses and solutions as how to address the problem. With a Trans-professional team they can also assess what it is in the climate of the school that is contributing to the issues at hand.

Whether it’s connecting a clinic or a counsellor with a school to deal with an issue such as lice, or providing literature on a variety of health concerns (smoking, bullying, stress) he is there to serve in any way possible. We are all “rowing together to encourage kids to live as healthy as possible,” he notes.

David-Roger has also co- authored a book called “Preventing and Reducing School Violence and Bullying” with Agence Ometz and la Fondation Jasmin Roy. It is a tool-kit for schools that is geared to different populations such as administrators to school professionals, to students and their families.

To date the most successful programme he has been involved with was the EMSB Health-Talk Forum that was held last April 29. It was a collaboration between the school board, 30 people from our network of health sector partners such as Santé Public, CQTS, and community partners. The engaging forum also included 80 students from across the board and provided them an opportunity to express their concerns over tobacco companies’ manipulative tactics to get them to start smoking. One activity the students created was a clothesline with hanging ‘dirty laundry’ messages to big tobacco companies that they felt were serious challenges to them. Profound messages on how tobacco companies were playing an unfair game with kids vulnerable to start smoking were on display. The students’ project will soon be making its rounds among EMSB schools.

David-Roger’s role is also to provide avenues of information for students on how to deal with challenges on sensitive subjects such as body image and peer pressure. His emphasis is on “prevention,” which is key to encouraging students to think about options and alternative responses to their present problems and challenges. He shared that he and the teams with which he collaborates are presently working on healthy living campaigns for the coming school year.

Prior to his present position, he was a chaplain for a palliative care hospital as well as for other school boards and a university. He also served in a number of community organizations where he offered support to families, survivors of abuse, and to First Nations communities. In 2010, he was first hired to work for EMSB as a full time spiritual and community animator. He has been connected to health care work and spiritual animation for a good part of his career so this position was a natural transition to bring together his passion and experience in one job.

David-Roger enjoys the multi-dimensional aspects of his job and finds it exciting to think that he doesn’t do this essential work alone but in collaboration with his other colleagues. With his open arms approach he serves the school board with the philosophy of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.


Marymount Academy International is thriving

By Ljiljana Lipic
EMSB Communications Intern

Principal Elizabeth Lagodich and her teachers have injected new energy into Marymount Academy International, located at 5100 Côte St. Luc Road in NDG. Recent activities were initiated for the 2015-2016 academic year and have ignited student interest and witnessed outstanding participation.

Entrepreneur Class, Students launch a Fresh Fusion Bistro!

In the fall of 2015, a hands-on entrepreneur class has replaced the Secondary V theoretical economics class. The class was designed for students to acquire practical skills on how to start their own business venture. Students are guided through the steps in developing a business plan and the financing and management of running an enterprise. Emphasis is also given to learning how to delegate responsibilities amongst the students and how to cultivate a professional attitude in the business milieu.

With the support of their teacher, Maya Doughan, the first group of ambitious students converted an available classroom into a fully equipped Bistro that serves only healthy smoothies and snacks. The Bistro is open every Wednesday during lunchtime and is an enterprising replacement for the cafeteria which is closed that day of the week. The Entrepreneurial course has been a great success since its inception. To date, 50 students have enrolled and interest is rising.

Personal and Social Development Education

Another option added to the Marymount Secondary V curriculum is a Personal and Social Development class that aims to equip students with essential life skills. There are three basic components to the class; personal finance, nutrition, and leisure activities.
The personal economics segment provides students with pertinent information such as how to open a bank account and how to file your income tax. The nutrition segment teaches students how to plan budget friendly and healthy meals. And the leisure component exposes students on how to take part in the free or low cost sport and cultural activities offered throughout the city of Montreal.
A life class that provides well-rounded guidance to students ready to embark into the real world!
Study Hall of Success

Saturday morning tutorials have been added for students in need of additional assistance in Math, History, and Science. These tutorials can accommodate students of all levels and provide them with the best opportunities to improve their success in specific subjects. Ms. Lagodich, who welcomes the students, has seen the positive results in the students’ grades and their overall confidence.

Outdoor Adventure Pursuits

Looking for ways to increase physical activity while enhancing social studies such as History and Geography was what inspired Ms. Lagodich, an avid cyclist herself, to start a student bike club and bike repair workshop in 2014. The after school bike tours are a way for students to explore historical neighbourhoods and sites in Montreal, such as the Plateau or the Lachine Canal, on two wheels. While cycling throughout the city, students can experience the beauty of our early travelers as well as learn about their city.

An overview of the tour is presented prior to the excursion and students are educated on bicycle safety. Groups consist of up to 15 cyclists, one teacher leading four students. Bike tours are scheduled once or twice per week and tours extend to roughly three hours. Fifteen Cannondale bikes were donated to the school and a bike repair shop was also created to teach the ABC’s of bike maintenance, such as changing a tire to oiling a chain.

“The bike tours are very successful. Longer trips such as Quebec City are envisioned for the future,” says Ms. Lagodich. “It’s an activity with practically no cost but with all the benefits of physical fitness combined with learning.” The bike club is open to all students.

Artificial Turf Soccer Field

The soccer field has been updated to an artificial turf field replacing grass stains and time consuming upkeep. Currently the soccer field is free for the students to play as they please and often there are kids playing soccer as early as seven in the morning. Future initiatives for the field will include a summer soccer camp as well as a soccer league. Alternatively, the field bleachers are available to hold outdoor classrooms. A ribbon cutting ceremony will officially open the field in the near future.

Opéra de Montreal

On November 19, 2015 a group of 25 students attended the dress rehearsal of Richard Strauss’ “Electra” which was presented by the Opéra de Montréal. A workshop on the appreciation of the art was presented to the students prior to their outing by an operatic enthusiast. This dress rehearsal was opened exclusively to students between the ages of 12 to 17 years, as a way to expose them to the culture and to encourage their interest in opera.

Mini Movie Theatre

An empty classroom at Marymount Academy International has recently been converted into a movie theatre with an 80 inch flat screen and surround sound. During their lunchtime, students can enjoy their lunch while watching documentaries or classic black and white films. What fun!

Ms. Lagodich shares that the addition to the new classes aspire to “giving students the right tools to prepare them for the big world.”