Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 1, 2003
School meets inner city needs
Spirit of Mother Teresa lives on
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The values that Mother Teresa lived by are alive and well at the new inner city school bearing the missionary nun's name.
Students at Mother Teresa Elementary not only learn their ABCs but also learn about love, kindness and respect - values that marked the life of their namesake. And this is not just theory but a daily practice as the school makes sure needy students are well fed, well clothed and well loved. Even school supplies are given free of charge to students here.
To honour Mother Teresa's memory, the school encourages students to be kind and polite to each other, offering incentives to those who do good deeds and treat others with dignity and respect.
"Mother Teresa was a messenger of God's love and an ambassador of his peace and we want students to follow her example," said principal Charlotte Player.
Opened in Sept.
Mother Teresa School opened in September at 9008-105A Ave. with 255 students, the majority of whom come from the former Sacred Heart and St. Michael's schools, both of which have been closed. The blessing of the $3.85 million facility will be Dec. 12.
The school has 10 classrooms with a number of ancillary teaching spaces. It has a staff of 30, including 14 teachers.
The school's theme is All Things Bright and Beautiful "and that's why the school is very open with lots of windows," the principal said. The furniture throughout the school is both colourful and practical.
"I definitely love this school, especially the library because it has so many books and I like to read a lot," said Alexander Haider, a well-spoken six-year-old.
"I feel happy and comfortable here and I like the teachers," said Chemin Lee, also six. "I eat here everyday."
Player was part of a committee that designed the school and said it has a comfortable and friendly atmosphere.
Nine-year-old Kyle Bachman likes Mother Teresa a lot more than St. Michael's, his former school. "Mother Teresa is better because it's brighter, has much more space and the teachers are nice," he said. "I like everything so far."
The amalgamation of St. Michael's and Sacred Heart into Mother Teresa School has benefitted both students and staff, noted Grade 1 teacher Joey Dostaler. "It has been wonderful because each school had a wealth of resources and so now we've come together and we paired those resources and it's fantastic because we are so resource rich," she said.
The name Mother Teresa was chosen because "she was a remarkable Catholic woman and we would do anything to model after her," Player explained.
The school has an exhibit about Mother Teresa in the lobby and will soon place a huge portrait of her at the entrance. "We honour the memory of Mother Teresa and what she believed in, that doing small things could make a difference in people's lives," Player said.
"The children are doing research on Mother Teresa. They are coming to know her; they are coming to know that this lady had nothing material; she gave everything spiritually."
The school offers a variety of programs, many of which were brought from Sacred Heart and St. Michael's. "We ensured that those programs that were very, very good and made a difference for children both at Sacred Heart and at St. Michael's would continue here," Player said.
But there are improvements. One is the technology program, which has been extended by 20 per cent with 55 new computers.
The school has a family literacy program, run in partnership with the Centre for Family Literacy Centre. The program caters to parents of pre-schoolers, offering them courses to assist their children's literacy development.
There is also an environmental outdoor classroom, the Young Chefs Club, and a broadcasting program that enables Grade 6 students as well as school staff to televise school news, announcements and birthdays to each classroom. .
The reading recovery program helps Grades 1 and 2 students become successful readers and there is a comprehensive English as a second language program.
Free piano lessons
In conjunction with the Inner City Children's Community Project, Mother Teresa School is also offering a before and after school program consisting of floor hockey, art, dance, homework club and music lessons.
"Rather than the children going home (after school), because many parents work, the children stay in the school and receive an extension of their learning." Some 120 children currently take part in this program.
With the support of and under the direction of professional piano teachers, all children at Mother Teresa have the opportunity to take free piano lessons.
The school also has a social worker on site, a pediatrician who visits regularly and a dental program in partnership with the U of A dentistry department.
Many of the families face financial challenges so Mother Teresa School offers support. "We have a clothing bank and a food bank to serve those families who are in need," Player said. "We serve breakfast in the morning; we serve a mid-morning snack and a hot lunch."
"Children don't go hungry here," Player said.
To further help needy families, Mother Teresa charges no school fees and makes school supplies for its students available at no cost. All this is possible thanks to private and corporate donations.