MONTREAL, JANUARY 30, 2009 – The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) marked its third Public School Education Month in January. This campaign is meant to highlight the system in a number of ways, chiefly by encouraging prominent graduates to return to visit their neighbourhood schools to talk to students about the role public school education played in leading them to their present-day success. These individuals now serve as outstanding role models, as do many other prominent Quebecers having or having had a link with area public schools or vocational centres.
- The EMSB had an information kiosk at the Place Vertu Shopping Centre in St. Laurent. Representatives, including staff, students and parents, from four elementary schools – Cedarcrest, Parkdale, Carlyle, John Caboto, as well as one adult centre – St. Laurent Adult Centre- and one vocational centre – the Shadd Business Centre showcased their programs. The John Caboto Choir Group performed for shoppers on opening day.
- Dr. Victoria Kaspi, a Professor of Physics at McGill University, returned to her old elementary school, Edinburgh in Montreal West. Dr. Kaspi holds the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology and a Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics. She received a B.Sc. (Honours) in physics from McGill University in 1989, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University in 1991 and 1993 respectively. From 1994-96, she was both a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Visiting Associate at the California Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the McGill faculty in 1999, Dr. Kaspi was an Assistant Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she also held a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Center for Space Research. She told a gymnasium full of students that she was born in Texas and moved to Montreal with her family at the age of seven. When she entered Edinburgh her goal was to one day become a lawyer. She provided a fascinating PowerPoint presentation for students about the star system, getting things off to a humorous start by asking the question: What is a star? She then showed a photo of singer Britney Spears. “Not that kind of star,” she laughed. Students sat glued to the screen and asked many interesting questions. The presentation ended with Dr. Kaspi letting everyone listen to what a star sounds like. Principal Leah Auclair and Commissioner Joseph Lalla thanked Dr. Kaspi for taking the time out of her busy schedule and for being such an excellent role model.
- Helen Georgaklis, a successful financial consultant for the Investors Group, where she manages millions of dollars for people planning their retirement, returned to Gardenview Elementary School in St. Laurent She is also the author of a number of books. “ I used to sit where you are today,” she told more than 300 Cycle III students. “ I would come to school every day, play with my friends, work hard in my classes and try to learn as much as I could from my teachers. Without school, you won’t get very far. You will not learn to focus, stay determined and keep going even when you fail, and chances are you may fail a couple of tests, but you need to keep going. What I want to talk to you about is what is in the future for you! I can’t predict the future, but I can most definitely tell you what you need to know to make your life the best life! About eight years ago I went back to school and learned about money. Yes, money! But not how to make money, how to save money. Making money is easy, having the discipline to save, isn’t. I have spent every day for the past eight years helping people learn how to save money, how to make smart money and how to make money with money. Why is that important here today? Until you learn the discipline of saving money, and what money means, you will not have the discipline to follow through with your dreams.”
- On January 16 Anna Gainey returned to Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount. She is the daughter of Montreal Canadiens general manager and former team captain Bob Gainey and the executive director of the Gainey Foundation (www.gaineyfoundation.com). Speaking to Grade 6 students, Anna explained how after the sudden passing two years ago of her sister Laura, the third of Bob Gainey’s four children, the family decided to honour both Laura and her late mother, Cathy who passed away in 1995, with a foundation dedicated to funding environmental and arts programs for youth. The foundation’s goal is to raise $2 million by 2010 in support of this objective, building a lasting and fitting legacy for two special people.
Cathy and Laura shared a love of children and a gift for connecting with them. It is, however, Laura’s interests in particular that shape the specific areas that the Gainey Foundation supports. Laura took a great deal of joy both from exploring her own artistic side and even more from teaching children’s art classes and she believed deeply in environmental conservation and sustainability.
Anna attended Roslyn for Grades 2 to 5 (1985-89) before the family moved to France. Her brother Steven and late sister Laura were also Roslyn students. Youngest sibling Colleen was only born in 1984 and the family moved to France before she started school. Mom Cathy, who passed away16 years ago after a battle with cancer, was actively involved with the Roslyn Home and School Association. “We lived a few blocks away from the school on Belmont,” said Anna, who was reunited with her former science teacher Roger Parent. “This was a fun place and it gave me a good foundation in speaking French before we moved to France where my dad coached and played for a year.
After France the Gaineys moved to Minnesota, where Bob became the coach and general manager of the North Stars. The team relocated to Dallas, Texas. Anna eventually returned to Montreal to attend McGill University. She worked for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in Toronto and then studied at the London (England) School of Economics, where she met her future husband Tom Pitfield. Ironically, Tom also grew up in Westmount. The couple first settled in Ottawa, where Anna went to work for the Minister of National Defence as a policy advisor while Tom opened up a Dunn’s Restaurant. After Laura passed away, Anna decided to return home. Soon after the Gainey Foundation was established and she assumed the directorship. Anna and Tom are expecting their first child in March, a boy, whom Principal Jim McMorran hopes will be a future Roslyn student.
- Angelo Esposito returned to his former elementary school, Dunrae Gardens (235 Dunrae) in Town of Mount Royal. Esposito brought his gold medal from Team Canada’s title game in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa. Esposito, who scored the winning goal, is a National Hockey League draft choice and property of the Atlanta Thrashers. He presently plays for the Montreal Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Among those on hand to greet him were T.M.R. Mayor Vera Danyluk, Mount Royal MNA, Minister of International Relations Pierre Arcand, Montreal Juniors team owner and team owner Farrel Miller, EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini and Commissioner Liz Leaman.
Esposito received a “rock star” welcome in a packed gymnasium. Principal Darlene Kehyayan and vice principal Anna Maria Borsellino prepared a special video tribute to Esposito. This included a Grade 4 clip of a then nine year old Angelo performing magic tricks and calling himself Il Magnifico. Two of his former teachers, Sylvie Mailhot and Kiki Kastelorizios, spoke about what a model student he was and noted how he was so polite, well behaved, hard working, and motivated. Even then he would practice his skating early in the morning before classes started. Teacher Jean-Francois Dion, who still on staff, surprised Esposito with that 10 year old “magic” video. Three of Esposito’s former classmates, Alexander Fyfe, Ryan Favretto and Alan Smeaton, were reunited with him.
Mayor Danyluk congratulated Esposito for being “focused and disciplined.” Mr. Arcand invited the future NHLer to feel free to call upon the Quebec delegation office in Atlanta for any help he needs when he begins playing for the Thrashers. Mr. Miller presented the school with an official Montreal Juniors sweater, which Esposito signed and also provided some tickets to future games. Ms. Mancini and Ms. Leaman presented Esposito with an EMSB gift bag while Ms. Kehyayan gave him a special Dunrae Gardens sweatshirt with the number 7 and “Esposito” printed on the back. Esposito answered many questions from excited students and passed around his gold media. He later took the time to visit every classroom and sign autographs. For video highlights and photos from his visit go to www.emsb.qc.ca.
- The EMSB presented its first Science Olympiad at Laurier Macdonald High in St. Léonard. This event had 288 Cycle III elementary and Cycle I secondary students from 27 participating schools test their creativity and scientific knowledge by competing in two specific, science-related challenges. “ I am not going to crack” involved teams building a bridge from popsicle sticks that supported the greatest load of water bottles. Royal West Academy in Montreal West came in first place followed by Elizabeth Ballantyne School, also from Montreal West, in second and John F. Kennedy High School from St. Michel in third. “Blast Off” had teams building small rockets with straws and paper to see which one flew the greatest horizontal distance. Honoré-Mercier from St. Léonard came in first, with East Hill from RDP second and FACE School from downtown third.
A panel of 15 judges was selected from the EMSB’s Adult and Vocational Centres. Each student received a certificate of participation, and each winning team was awarded a plaque for their school. As well, the winners of the challenges received special vouchers for a pizza lunch for a class of 32 students.
“No preparation was required on the part of the students, but the Science Olympics encouraged students to use their problem solving abilities in a hands-on fashion as well providing a forum to develop and/or showcase teamwork skills,” said event chair Ginette Clarke, the principal of Rosemount High School. In addition to the winning teams, other schools which took part were: Gerald McShane, Carlyle, Dalkeith, Dante, Gardenview, Holy Cross, Leonardo Da Vinci, Merton, Michelangelo, Our Lady of Pompei, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Sinclair Laird, St. Brendan, St. Dorothy, St. John Bosco, Willingdon and Royal Vale. Other high schools participating were John Paul I, Rosemount, FACE and Royal Vale. EMSB Director General Antonio Lacroce and Vice- Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco gave opening remarks. The new bilingual EMSB theme song, recorded by the students from Dante School, was played on the sound system.
- Former NHL forward and successful businessman Robin Burns returned to his former high school, Marymount Academy in N.D.G. Burns started his hockey career with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens, where he played three consecutive seasons from 1964 to 1967. He later added 240 American Hockey League (AHL) games to his portfolio with the Montreal Voyageurs and Hershey Bears. He won the Calder Cup with the Bears during the 1973-74 season. Robin also added 190 National Hockey League (NHL) games under his belt, playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies. He founded the ITECH hockey brand in 1984 with the launch of his innovative fully clear facial visor, a first in the hockey protective industry and a product that is still counted in the line-up today. In May of 2004, ITECH merged with Mission Hockey to form Mission-ITECH Hockey Ltd. Last September Mission-ITECH was sold to Bauer Hockey.
Burns told the students that he began playing junior hockey when he was 14 years old. In Grade 10 he missed 62 days of class due to his hockey schedule. However, he fondly remembers teachers staying with him late after regular school hours so he could pass his courses. Burns, who met his wife of 44 years while studying at Marymount, is a father of three and grandfather of nine. He shared some great anecdotes of his days in the NHL including one time when he was playing for Pittsburgh. “There was a minute and a half left in the game and I had not gotten on the ice,” he said. “The referee came over to the bench and told the coach Red Kelly ‘Play the kid.’ Kelly gave me the signal to go on the ice, but I had the guy next to me- Ron Shock, go on. Later the coach asked me why I did this. I told him that I did not expect to play and I already had my skates pretty much untied and the tape taken off my pads. The next day he sent me to the minors.”
While he was still in the NHL Burns said he began spending his summers working for a skate company called Lange. That led to him gaining employment at another skate company called Micron. He ultimately rose to the position of president. Soon after he took a major gamble, quitting Micron to start ITECH. It was a good move since he eventually sold the company for millions of dollars. He later established Mountainview Bags, which provides Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) and Private Labelling for products such as bags, umbrellas, wallets, and personal flotation devices. In addition, he has started a maple syrup company, is developing homes in Hudson and is involved with a number of charitable endeavors.
On the success of his roll of the dice with ITECH, Burns said: “Life is not a dress rehearsal. We only come around once. Because I went to the NHL I did not have a college degree so I had to work a lot harder. What does a college degree give you besides a piece of paper? It teaches you how to think.”
- Dr. Albert Cohen spoke to students at his old elementary school, Coronation in Côte des Neiges. Dr. Cohen is the chief of gastroenterology at the Jewish General Hospital. He brought with him a large diagram of the human stomach and a gastroscope, an instrument used for the visual inspection of the interior of the stomach by means of a flexible fiberoptic tube inserted through the oral cavity and passing the length of the esophagus into the stomach.
When I was in high school I did not know what I wanted to do for my career,” Dr. Cohen confessed. “ Even in high school and university I was not sure. When I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Science I was still not sure. In fact, I really wanted to become a writer. I did end up deciding to go to Medical School and I really like being a doctor. So I want you to know that if you stay in school you will have choices.”
Dr. Cohen has been a gastroenterologist at the Jewish General Hospital for 18 years now. What does he like most about his job? “It just feels nice to be able to help people,” he said.
The young students, many of whom said they want to be doctors when they grow up, were full of questions. One student asked, “What was the weirdest case you have ever seen?” Dr. Cohen thought for a moment and recalled how early in his career he had a patient who mysteriously had a coke bottle in their stomach. He was also asked some very technical questions related to the intestine, bacteria and cancer.
- Luigi Greco, an associate director for La Capitale Financial Services spoke at his old high school, John F. Kennedy in St. Michel. La Capitale is the title sponsor this year for the EMSB Volunteer Recognition Evening April 22. He talked about how much he enjoys his job, which involves hiring a sales team and then training them to deal with plans focusing on family security, retirement, liquidity and disability. “I’m following my dream and doing it with passion and conviction,” he said. “Each and every one of you will create your own destiny.”
Mr. Greco noted that it has been 25 years since he graduated from JFK. He went on to Dawson College and then Concordia where he studied economics. “It was the mid 1980s and the economy was booming,” he said.
Students showed a lot of interest in the present financial situation in Quebec. A lot of them wanted to know whether this was a good time to invest. Others inquired about how to start a business. Mr. Greco turned the tables and asked many in the audience what they wanted to do with their lives.
Mr. Greco was painted with a framed copy of his 1984 graduation photo.
Earlier in the year author and filmmaker Ian Halperin visited his former elementary and high schools, Gardenview and LaurenHill in St. Laurent. Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg returned to Hampstead Elementary School, which he attended some 50 years ago. And author P.J. Bracegirdle, who just penned the popular book The Joy of Spooking, came back to Willingdon Elementary School in N.D.G.
During the month of January the EMSB ran advertisements in English and French newspapers and aired radio and television spots. In addition, the EMSB was proud to be part of the Quebec English School Board’s Association (QESBA) “Go publique” campaign focusing on “The English public schools of Québec – the many colours of success.”