Portrait of a Victim: Anastasia DeSousa
MONTREAL- A pink rose sits on a desk in front of the main office of Royal Vale High School. Above it sits a pink poster board and students have been lining up to sign messages that will be sent to the family of former Royal Vale student Anastasia De Sousa, who was known to friends as Stacy. Pink was the trademark colour of the girl who helped organize the school's fashion show. Teachers remember she often wore pink socks or pink in her hair, because the school has a uniform.
The student, who spent Grade 10 at the public school in Montreal's Nôtre Dame de Grace district, was killed Wednesday when gunman Kimveer Gill, dressed in black and sporting a Mohawk haircut, entered Dawson College and fired several shots in the school's busy second-floor atrium. The shooter injured about 20 other people before shooting himself while being fired upon by police. De Sousa was a first-year student at Dawson, a CEGEP.
To honour her memory, Royal Vale students have been asked to wear pink next Wednesday and to each bring $2 as a donation to the Montreal Children's Hospital in her name. "She was only here for a year, but she was a very bubbly, outgoing and charming girl, so she made friends very quickly," said Cathy Schriber, the guidance councillor at the school. De Sousa's uncle said the pretty, dark-eyed teen dreamed of a career in international business. "She was a good girl," Pierre Hevey told CBC Newsworld. "She wanted to go to school. I don't know exactly what she wanted to do in life but she wanted to travel, she travelled. She had good parents. She went to Europe, she went to Cuba, she went all over. She spoke three languages."
Anastasia was the eldest child in her family. "It's hard for us. She was the first one. It took a long time to have the first one. She is good. She was good ... She'll always be here and here," he said, pointing to his heart and his head. Cory Novak, one of De Sousa's friends from Royal Vale, told CBC Radio that when she found out what had happened, "I broke down really badly. She was very caring and loving. She was always upbeat and she brought love to everything she touched. She was a really good friend. She was very caring and generous."
Schriber said she knew De Sousa well, since she interviewed her before she was admitted to the school. She also spent two weeks with her and 44 other students as part of the school's trip to Italy. "She was a very nice girl. She was an attractive girl. She was tall, slim, had long blond hair and was very fashion conscious. She had a dazzling kind of personality and she was always dressed in pink."
De Sousa completed her high school leaving certificate at St. Pius X High School in Montreal's east end. "I saw her last year at the career fair and she told me, 'Miss, don't worry about me, I'm happy here, I've made friends,'" Schriber said. De Sousa was originally thought to have been among the victims rushed to Montreal-area hospitals, and her relatives were seen pleading frantically with hospital workers for information about her. But De Sousa never made it out of the school.
She was pronounced dead on the scene. La Presse reports that according to police, a witness told them that after she had been shot by Gill, a man tried to intervene, telling Gill he would look after De Sousa and remove her from the building because she was hurt. Gill then fired his weapon again and told the man that he wouldn't have to take care of her any more, the witness said.
The family didn't learn of her death until almost 10 p.m., La Presse says. It was several hours more before investigators removed her body from Dawson College. Schriber said she has been providing grief counselling to several students. "People are sort of wandering around today; there has been a lot of crying and a lot of story telling today," she said. "We visited the classes and told people that if they needed to talk, I would talk to them or their teachers would talk to them about what happened. "We have also had many students who have graduated come back today to see their old teachers for hugs."
Schriber said she had trouble dealing with her own grief after Wednesday's events. "I was sick to my stomach when I found out," she said. "I was hoping it was an exaggerated report. My children went to Dawson. My colleagues and friends also have children who attended that school. I also live in the area and I spend a lot of time there, so the whole thing makes me sick."
At nearby Villa Maria high school, where De Sousa spent Grades 7, 8 and 9, there was an assembly in the morning and grief counselling offered to the students. De Sousa's sister Sara is enrolled in Grade 11 at the Catholic school. "The mood here today has been very sombre," said Carole Gélinas, the development officer. "We announced what happened to the students during the assembly and we all shared a prayer."
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Maddy Spidalieri, Teacher at Pierre De Coubertin School
When I first met Maddy I did not picture us being friends. It was 1975 and we were both rookie teachers at Georges Etienne Cartier School. I can still recall the image of her wearing a jean dress, which at the time seemed a little unconventional for a teacher. However, as I got to know her and got drawn into her circle of friends I realized that first impressions are not always accurate. I never could have imagined then what a wonderful and true friend she would become.
Maddy was such a warm and open person. Anyone who knew her could attest to that. She easily connected with people, always gave them her full attention and showed genuine concern over their problems. I loved that about her. I know that many others also appreciated this quality in her.She was fun to be with. She had a passion for books and movies, which probably reflected her love of life and people. Coversations with her were always interesting and stimulating. And somehow we always saw things the same way. We rarely disagreed and never exchanged an unpleasant word. Maddy was totally devoted to her husband Sam, her dearest daughters Melissa and Samantha, her mother Licia, her sister and best friend Luisa and her little sister Anna. Her family was always her first priority and the time spent with them precious. She always spoke about them lovingly. I knew they were the center of her world. The many children she taught over the last thirty years were lucky to have had her. Over and above her intelligence and teaching skills, Maddy's interpersonal skills made her a very special teacher. She had this wonderful ability to listen and empathize that drew her students very close to her. I remember when we first started teaching, how students would easily flock to her in the schoolyard. I felt quite envious.Years later, so many former students still remembered her as a favorite teacher.Over the years Maddy generously gave her time to many student teachers. She understood the need to prepare a new generation of teachers with this field training. Her love of children and education made them enthusiastic about teaching, her easy way made them comfortable in the classroom. This kind of training wasn't so easy to come by in the faculty of education. Those student teachers lucky enough to have had Maddy as their assisting teacher can they themselves pass on her legacy. Other teachers, myself included, might rethink the importance of accepting to train new teachers.We always went together to the Teachers' Convention in November. It was kind of a ritual. But the last few years I had not especially wanted to go. There didn't seem to be the same choice in books and materials like there was when we started teaching. Also I was nostalgic for the Queen Elizabeth Hotel where the convention used to be held. But Maddy was still enthusiastic about it, always anxious to meet up with old friends, so I agreed to go.Again this year we had run into so many old friends and even former students who were now new teachers.It felt great! We reminisced and laughed, incredulous that we'd been teaching for 30 years. How fast it had passed. Retirement was just around the corner. At one point we laughed that we could now start to countdown how many conventions were left to attend.Maddy and Sam had celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary last December 16th. One snowy evening in January they showed me the video of the family celebration. The film was dark and blurry, and difficult to view, but one thing was unmistakable. Both Maddy and Sam were honored and roasted and greatly loved. Anyone watching the film could feel the love.Maddy's birthday was coming up on March 27th. She would be turning 50. I phoned to congratulate her. She was happy, as always, to hear from me, but seemed to be in a bit of a hurry, or a little anxious about reaching this milestone. I had meant to tell her, "Don't worry, Maddy, you made it over the hump!" But I reconsidered. I'd tell her next time... Maddy had called me a week before with plans to go out to dinner with friends as we often did. In the past I always agreed with whatever date was proposed. This time she mentioned April 2nd. I said it was my parents' wedding anniversary and so would prefer not to. The years were passing and I didn't want to have any regrets. Maddy next called to suggest April 9th which was Good Friday. Again I resisted. I explained, "Maddy, not that I'm so religious, but it doesn't seem like the best choice for a girls' night out." Again she understood and agreed. That was very typical of her. Always trying to please and accomodate everyone. Finally when she suggested April 16th we were at first silent on the line. That date seemed fine, but we both commented that it seemed so far away. But it would be something to look forward to.
The news of Maddy's sudden and untimely death on April 4th was a shock to her family and to so many people who loved her and whose lives she touched. It certainly was to me. I recently read that friends are like angels on earth. For me Maddy was such an angel. Her memory will always remain alive in my heart and she will forever be my dearest friend.
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In February 2004, the John F. Kennedy Business Centre in St. Michel lost a valuable member of its team. Rosangela Scuccimarri, head of the Travel Department, passed away. Her dedication to the Travel program, as well as to the success of the school throughout the years, was greatly appreciated by her students and peers alike.Ms. Scuccimarri's career began over 20 years ago in an industry that she was passionate about. Her journey started in the 1980s as a travel agent, and she soon discovered that her ambition would lead her to own an agency. This vehicle enabled her to satisfy her personal goals. Her business sense allowed her endeavor to develop and flourish. The need to take on new challenges led her to the John F. Kennedy Business Centre. Initially, she assisted the department with simulations and practical applications. In 1995, she took on a more permanent role as an educator and role model. Her dedication to an ever changing industry and her need to keep abreast of all advancements, made her contribution invaluable to the department and the students.
Ms. Scuccimarri always believed in the simplified concept. She took the time to find innovative ways to deliver her message so that the students walked away with a clear understanding of what was expected of them. Students were always commended for their efforts as a means to push them to be the best that they could be. She was their teacher, their mentor, and many students joked that she often took on the responsibility of an adopted mother.
Ms. Scuccimarri more often than not went beyond the call of duty. Always at the centre of professional and social events, her input and contribution was invaluable. Her attention to detail and level of creativity has provided memorable moments for staff, students and guests alike. She is missed by all, and her absence has left an empty seat that will be very difficult to fill. She will be remembered for her smile and contagious laugh and for her ability to make a difference in so many people's lives.
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A tribute to a wonderful teacher: Morrie Bakerman
Tributes continue to pour in for Morrie Bakerman, the popular former science/biology and photography teacher at Royal West Academy of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) who passed on January 14, 2004, following a battle with cancer. He was only 58 years old.
Bakerman spent the final 14 years of his teaching career at Royal West, having begun his life in the classroom at Riverdale High School on the West Island in 1967 and moving on to LaSalle High School in 1973. Upon arriving at Royal West, he assumed the chairmanship of the school's Science Fair, a job he continued until his retirement in June of 2000. That year, the Royal West yearbook was dedicated to him. It was a way of saying thanks to a man who went above and beyond the duties of teaching science. He developed a photography program for the school and built a darkroom for the program. Each year he'd coordinate the marine Biology trip to New Brunswick and he somehow found time to participate in the Royal West Ski program. Not surprisingly, he was the winner of the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
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