STEAMing up Learning: Robotics heats up at Laval Senior

This is a guest post by SWLSB Science and Technology consultant Samuel Altarac.

How many times do we hear that math and science are boring and not creative? After witnessing the energy and imagination present at last week’s CRC Robotics competition, I can vehemently disagree!

Students from twenty-five schools across the province (even one team from BC) all zealously converged on Laval Senior Academy High School to participate in a massive bilingual event where passion, creativity, and scientific thought were STEAM-ing from the bots. Our host school topped off the experience by inviting LEARN to run a pop-up Makerspace in the library where hundreds of elementary school students were given the opportunity to explore circuits, to make animations, “spinart”, robotics, programming, and so much more. Their engagement and excitement spurred on active thinking and above all, fun! Students used everyday items to produce musical notes (think Tom Hanks Big 1988), while others generated beautiful art patterns using coloured pens, cups, corks, electric motors, and their imagination.

As the younger students made use of their higher-order thinking skills in the library, the older competitors, whose robots had just come from the playing field, used their critical thinking and communication skills to troubleshoot their motors and circuits in between heats. Every participant was deeply engaged and “thinking like a scientist”, contributing to their team’s success over the three day event.

My one big reflection on this event was, how can we make all our schools more STEAM-based?

I suspect one way to engage the classroom anew is with Makerspaces – a movement that is “disrupting” the traditional paradigm of education. It has grown in popularity because it has fostered an environment and culture in which students get their “hands dirty” by doing, making, and discovering the world they live in through inquiry and experimentation.

Sir Ken Robinson explains in his TED talk that the educational system we’ve inherited was devised by those who came at the turn of the century during the industrial revolution where it was very successful at training people for factory jobs. However, students are living in a different reality: one where schooling does not guarantee a job.

The robotics competition showed what can often be missing in the classroom: a space for students to actively engage in creative and inquiry-driven projects fueled by their own innate curiosity and passion.

Group Photo

Let’s commit to empowering our students in all academic disciplines and to learn by doing.

Final Results


Samuel Altarac | @MRaltarac


Teacher Appreciation – Never Give Up!

A word that I enjoy, and like to use, is sticktoitiveness.  Also written as stick-to-it-ive-ness, it means perseverance and tenacity. As educators, we don’t want our students to give up easily as soon as they start to experience difficulty, and we have to model that for them. Whether we are striving to deal with classroom behaviour, to help students learn a challenging concept, or to learn new technology for ourselves, we can show that we will not give up AND that success can actually be much sweeter following a struggle. 

Read the other Teacher Appreciation 2018 blog posts:

Sophie Montembeault, Wilder Penfield Elementary School, LBPSB

My child is not the easiest to deal with. He is one of the youngest in his class and it shows in his level of maturity. He doesn’t always listen, he never sits still, likes to talk and play when he should be doing his work, likes to wrestle and fight with his friends no matter how much he’s told not to (he’s an all-around butt head of a student). I think a lot of educators would have given up on him by now, but Mme Sophie has been trying and continues to try and keep his focus, to find what interests him and keeps in contact with me to keep me updated and let me know how and what I can do at home to help. Since the beginning of the school year, I went from having a child who wanted nothing to do with learning, to a boy who is now reading (slowly but he’s doing it), spelling, correcting our French at home when we talk to him, counting, adding, subtracting and all-around loving everything to do with math. All of this wouldn’t have happened without the caring, loving and devoted dedication of a wonderful teacher.

Thank you for not giving up on my boy.

Lynn L’Esperence (Claude), Howard S. Billings, NFSB

Lynn is a truly remarkable and amazing person who is currently the Senior Vice Principal for the school. As an Educator, Lynn has always managed to give a situation that special “spin” that makes people smile. “It’s all about the spin” is one of her many mottos and she has become an expert in using them making life throughout the school that much more enjoyable for all.

“When students actually thank you for being suspended, you know that you are doing something right.”

Lynn is a caring, dedicated and hardworking intelligent woman who has never given up no matter how tough things may seem. Her unique laughter is often heard echoing throughout the office, staff room, hallways and even classes making others smile even if they didn’t want to. Her positive energy is contagious and a driving force in the school.

As the Head Teacher for the Direction Alternative Program, she personally helped students deal with personal issues as well as teaching them the required subjects. What the program lost upon her departure, the entire school gained as she became Vice Principal. Her impact on the school, staff and students was truly felt when she left us for a year to work at another school, but she discovered that her heart had remained with our school and returned the next year to the joy and cheers of the entire staff.

I have personally, as have many other staff, parents and students alike, experienced her caring ways and we can all honestly say that our lives have been immensely enriched and even changed for the better by her presence.

If every educator was but a fraction of the person she is, education as a whole in this province would break all achievement records, that I am absolutely sure of.

Peggy Drolet, LEARN

Mrs. Drolet is so awesome because she’s such a nice generous teacher and she’s so organized. Whenever I’m stuck on something, no matter what it is, she will always find a way for me to understand it and get it down pat. Thanks for everything, Mrs. Drolet!

Melissa Beaulieu, Beacon Hill Elementary School, LBPSB

My son had Melissa as his grade 2 teacher when she was at St. Edmund’s. She didn’t just teach him, she helped him grow as a person. He bloomed that year, developing a new confidence and sense of self. She helped him find his voice. We will always remember that as a great year.

Debbie Gallagher-Bulnes, St. Jude School, RSB

Ms. Debbie has been teaching my son Logan for 2 years now, and she’s been such a positive presence in his life, that I wanted to acknowledge her on a larger platform than just sending her a thank you note. She truly brings out the best in him and encourages him to keep working hard and never give up. Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do for Logan!

Laurie Finlayson, Huntingdon Adult Education & Community Learning Centre, NFSB

Laurie’s dedication to her class is unparalleled. She took on the SFIS class (Adults with Special Needs) only a few days before school began and hit the ground running. Her students are encouraged to communicate and integrate with the other students. She goes above and beyond always the first in the building in the morning and the last to leave! She plans activities that she knows will enrich her student’s lives as well as help setting the tone in the whole school. Her class room door is always open and her classroom is the centre of the school at lunch hour. ALL students are welcome to visit and play games or relax.
She is a very humble person and always prefers to be in the background, but deserves to be celebrated!!

Natasha Lo Basso, Riverdale High School, LBPSB

Natasha teaches the 3-year program at Riverdale, which is a specialized program for students who start high school with academic delays. It’s a 7-8-9 class with children at various levels. Natasha is incredibly dedicated, and she finds creative ways to reach these children and perhaps most importantly, make them want to learn. I cannot thank her enough for everything she has done for my son and all the children in the class. She is truly making a difference in their lives.

Christos Papafilipakis, Lake of Two Mountains High School, LBPSB

This is definitely a one-of-a-kind teacher. He taught my sister and me, as well as 2 of my stepsisters who are 15 years older than I am. When I told them he was my English teacher they were still ranting about what an incredible teacher he is 15 years later. He has a teaching style that works for every student, he makes learning a subject that’s potentially extremely boring very fun and enjoyable. He manages to get along with every student and is able to tell you your strengths, not only your weaknesses. I could write a book on what a great experience it was being in his class but I’m sure the only way to truly understand is to be one of his students. I hope he’s chosen!

Kim Grenier, ACCESS Adult Education, RSB

Kim Grenier is AWESOME. She brings joy wherever she passes. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she cares for every student. She has a creative mind and she is able to create positive relationships that can definitely change students’ lives.

Kim has been working with students with special needs in a Socio-vocational Program and reinventing the meaning of actualization every day.

Cheers to Kim Grenier!

photo by Gerd Altmann

Have you been planning to write a shout-out for an educator but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Don’t give up! Write a comment now to let that special teacher, librarian, principal, daycare worker or school secretary know that they have made a difference for you.

Teacher Appreciation – Reap the Rewards of Hard Work!

Teacher appreciation week continues on the LEARN blog! Quebec teachers, you’ve been working hard! March break is coming, but before that well-deserved rest, please know that all of your hard work is paying off.  Parents, colleagues, administration, and most importantly, your students, see and appreciate the extra time and effort that you put in every single day… including weekends. Thank you.

Read the other Teacher Appreciation 2018 blog posts:

Shanna Lavallee, Netagamiou School, Commission Scolaire du Littoral

This teacher goes above and beyond for her students. She has after school activities every day. She has homework assistance, tutoring supervisor, and Science club. She has great ideas and is able to see where the students need to go to accomplish them.

Anny Boivin, Gerald McShane Elementary School, EMSB

Both of my children had/have Mme. Anny. She is an extraordinary teacher who goes beyond her means on her method of teaching which encourages the students to excel, whether it be by incentives or creative ideas to help them comprehend the exercises. She uses materials, work papers that she herself will research and extract, to help the students further their education. Her means of communication is via ClassDojo which keeps you up-to date on the students’ progress, activities and behaviour. Excellent teacher!

Tasha Ausman, Philemon Wright High School, WQSB / LEARN Tutoring

Tasha has been amazing as my son’s tutor for Sec. V math. She takes the time to clearly explain the problems and ensure they are understood. She is patient and extremely helpful.
Thank you, Tasha.

John Whittaker, Nova Career Centre, NFSB  

John goes above and beyond what is expected of him to give his students the best of himself and the best of his experience. He is always coming up with new and innovative ideas to help his students enjoy every moment of his class time. He has a hard working mind but he is also compassionate and will go out of his way to help people. John is by far one of a kind, and students always have positive things to say about their time with him and how much he helps people.
He goes out of his way even off duty to help. He’s truly an amazing guy.

All teachers and support staff at Flemming Elementary, ESSB

A HUGE.. HUGE thank you to my son’s teachers and all the staff at Flemming Elementary. Ms. Kathy Fequet is my son’s teacher this year and we are so happy about this. She goes above and beyond every day to help Logan’s transitioning at school and to adapt her teaching to meet his many needs. No matter the day or circumstances she is there every morning to greet her class with a friendly smile. Also a huge thank you to Mr Cody, his PhysEd teacher, and Madame Manon, his FSL teacher. I know to incorporate Logan in the class is not always the easiest task but you both invest so much time to ensure he is happy. He is very fortunate to have you 3 as teachers.

The Flemming Elementary staff is an amazing team who invest so much time in the students and their classrooms and today I just want to say a big thank you to you all. Your kindness and generosity does not go unnoticed. It’s a great feeling to know when your child enters these school doors that they are in such great hands.

Clementina Fraga, Gerald McShane Elementary School, EMSB

As director of Daycare, she is dedicated to her job and love for the children. She reaches out and is respectful to both parents and students. She is a helpful resource in guiding the students with a loving discipline method and with very well thought out examples to help the children understand their actions or non-actions. She not only does her job during lunch and daycare but throughout her whole day. She rolls up her sleeves and steps outside to see the children at play. Keep up the amazing work you do!

Louise Outland, LBPSB / LEARN Tutoring

and Esperança MacIntosh, McDowell Elementary School, WQSB / LEARN Tutoring

Very kind, understanding and very good teaching skills.

Keith Bellamy, Rosemere High School, SWLSB

He always makes his classes entertaining and he truly supports his students. His positive reinforcement has brought me far in my writing assignments.

Amanda Foster, Emmanuel Christian School, QAIS / LEARN Tutoring

Amanda takes the time to clearly explain Sec. III math to my daughter. This has helped tremendously by following the steps and clearly explaining how the math is to be solved. This has helped to instill the confidence needed to work on math and achieve the goal of better understanding and better marks.
Thank you, Amanda!

Andréa Giroux, ACCESS Adult Education, RSB

Andréa is a new teacher to Adult Education and is an incredible teacher.
Her optimistic and positive personality is a great addition to any team. She is passionate by her students’ success as well as their learning process. She is engaged and creates motivating and interactive learning activities and fosters a safe and stimulating community to learn French as a second language.
Her dynamism and authenticity are her students’ best allies for a successful journey.

Natalie Ettienne, Access Riverside, RSB

Do not know where to begin, there is so much to say! I have had the pleasure of being in her classrooms in total for almost four years. She is a nursing teacher and I have learned so much from her. She can be tough at times, but only to show you that you can do it. She has the biggest heart, takes the time to listen, and she never makes anyone feel less worthy. Her kindness is out of this world. Her ability to teach, show her students how things are done, or how to treat people, is more than amazing. I have taken the time to tell her all of this, but being rewarded for all her great work would be the icing on her cake. Teachers should be more rewarded for the hard work they do. She deserves it big time.

To this day I keep in contact with her and am very blessed to call her my friend and, most of all, my mentor. Being a nurse today is all because of her. The encouragement and the patience she has, made me want to be just like her. Glad to say that I am.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for changing my life for the better and letting me see that nursing was my calling.


Melanie Jean, St. Jude School, RSB 

Melanie is a dedicated and caring teacher. She is willing to provide support to her colleagues, students and families in the community as needed. She shares her passion for learning in any way possible including using her love of all things Disney to inspire her students. Everything is a learning experience for Melanie’s students. They have had the help of a classroom hedgehog to learn sounds and vocabulary, explored the world of flexible classroom seating, and uncovered that taking risks in learning is rewarding. Melanie, with her creativity and energy, spreads a little magical pixie dust over all of her grade one students each day! Merci, Mme. Melanie!



And last, but certainly not least, our leader at LEARN, Michael Canuel

This person is rarely referred to as a teacher, so I wish to do so. The educational work he does impacts Anglophone students and parents throughout the province. His leadership and dedication ensure solid educational support for the entire community. He has tirelessly led groups of teachers and the LEARN staff for over a decade. He has made LEARN the essential body it is today. For as long as I can remember, he has praised the online teachers, the LEARN directors, consultants, and support staff without ever being cited during Teacher Appreciation Week. He is one of the best teachers anyone will ever meet. He teaches the teachers. He really cares about Quebec students – young and old!

If you know an educator who is overdue for some words of encouragement to “Keep up the hard work!” it’s not too late! Please add your comment of praise and support here.


Teacher Appreciation – Do What You Love, Love What You Do!

We’ve all heard the advice that if we find a job that we love, we’ll never really work a day in our lives. The Québec educators highlighted in this first of three blog posts in the fourth annual Teacher and School Staff Appreciation shout-outs clearly show their love for their students and for their chosen profession. Valentine’s Day must be coming because love is certainly in the air!

Read the other Teacher Appreciation 2018 blog posts:

Nathalie Swanson, Dr. S.E. McDowell School, WQSB

Mme. Nathalie is not only an excellent language teacher, but she is kind, organized and extremely dedicated. My son loves her and is always excited to get up in the morning to start his school day 🙂  She has been a huge asset to our family, as our son sometimes struggles with his learning, and needs a teacher who is both knowledgeable and patient. Thank you Mme. Nathalie for the quiet way in which you make an enormous difference in the life of our school and community!

Linda Fitzpatrick,  Forest Hill Elementary (Junior), LBPSB

C’est une professeure merveilleuse car elle aime ce qu’elle fait et ça paraît. Elle aime les enfants et imagine toutes sortes d’activités pour faciliter leurs apprentissages. Elle sait susciter leur intérêt et les garder motiver. Notre fils adore aller à l’école, et quand il revient le soir il nous raconte sa journée et il en parle avec des étoiles dans les yeux.

Sonia Arnoldo, Gerald McShane Elementary School, EMSB

Extremely caring and patient, understanding, respectful towards both students and parents, clear and concise with homework outline for parents to follow, techniques used for English and math easy to follow and easy to implement by students. Great amazing teacher full of love for her students!

Denyse Griffiths, Gault Institute, NFSB

Mme. Griffiths teaches French in an English immersion school. She has one hour a day with each class, and she always makes the most of it! She loves hands on learning, adaptive learning spaces, and community engagement. She continuously tries new projects both in the class and outside, bringing people together. French class always brightens up the student`s day thanks to this energetic teacher!

Mona Nesbitt, Hull Adult Education Centre, WQSB

Mona has been creating flexible learning environments since way before they became all the rage! You can see the love she has for teaching and for her students by simply walking into her classroom – she designs it specifically for student success. She is an inspiration and her students are lucky to have her!

Linda Cotter, St. Lawrence School, RSB

Linda Cotter is the most dedicated teacher I know. She travels very far every day to teach. She loves her students. My eldest child was her student when he was in grade 1 (he is now in Secondary II). I believe she is the reason my son loves to read. Our family loves Mrs. Cotter. She will always be THAT teacher – the one we will remember forever.

Lia Maggiorino, Laval Junior Academy, SWLSB

She is amazing because she always does what is best for her students. She is always in a good mood and puts a smile on everyone’s face. I always look forward to going to her class because she makes learning fun. Thank you for everything you do!

Gabriella Di Placido, Rosemere High School, SWLSB

Mrs. Di Placido is my niece’s teacher and she has bloomed since day one. She looks forward to going to school every morning and her grades have improved amazingly!!! Mrs. Di Placido is an Angel on earth!! Thank you!!!

Jennifer Hayden, St. Edmund’s Elementary School, LBPSB

Our music teacher, Miss Jennifer, is truly the heart of our school. She has instilled a passion for music into each and every student. Her enthusiasm is absolutely unstoppable. Whether she is teaching the grade three’s how to play the recorder or rehearsing for an upcoming music show with the grade one’s or leading the grade six band, every student is fueled by the excitement and passion she brings. Her reach goes well beyond the music room.

In the past couple of years, she has initiated a new fundraising event for the school (an outdoor concert!), connected students and parents together through a common love of the Tragically Hip and educated students about residential schools while leading our school in a project to pack shoebox gifts for Indigenous youth. Our gratitude for Miss Jennifer cannot easily be expressed. We are so thankful to have her at St. Edmund!

Jennifer Butler, Twin Oaks Elementary School, SWLSB

Dedicated, hard working. Loves her kids.

Marilyn Cormier, McCaig Elementary School, SWLSB

Madame Marilyn est une enseignante au grand coeur qui sait comment approcher un enfant en difficulté et l’aider à prendre la bonne voix. Une enseignante que tous les enfants aimeraient avoir. Un des enseignants qui apporte tellement à cette école.

Isaac Dumont, St. Lawrence School, RSB

Isaac makes music class fun for the children, teaching drumming, flute, etc. to his students with modern day music. The children love knowing that their music teacher is a well-known drummer across Canada. We are lucky to have such a talented and inspiring music teacher.

Can you feel the love? Add your own words of love for the educators highlighted above, or add a shout-out to someone new in the comments below.