We started 2020 with a PD Day for our staff. We often spend our PD Days together, working on plans or researching most relevant teaching methods/ideas.. However, even with an agenda, we always have a tendency to go off course. But, as with any awesome teaching lesson, those offshoots from the plan are often where real gems emerge. And so it did, here. We wrote this little piece, in collaboration with our staff, who inspired the whole thing. Thanks crew!
Our new year started with a fresh bowl of fruit and fresh new ideas. Staff PD January 6th, 2020. The day’s plan included debriefing the first part of the year, looking forward with new initiatives, and planning out the next chunk of time – together. Being a small school of about 60 students, planning trips and special events involves everyone. Not only does it help that many hands make light work, but at our little school, getting students involved in everything, together as much as possible, is both momentous and motivating; creating opportunities for meaningful hard work, building a feeling of connection with peers of all ages, and feeling valuable and a part of something.
Our PD Day consisted of talking out a lot of things - projects, events, report cards, and more. Dances, Bingos, Camping Trips… There was much to talk about and discuss. But, before we did any of that, there was some self-reflecting and personal goal setting to do; a way to refresh and refocus. One by one, each of us shared our top moments from the previous year, things we’ve learned from, things we’re looking forward to, and things we’re grateful for. It was from this, that the day took a new positive twist. When each of us started to share things we were grateful for in 2019, each of us reiterated a similar thought, “I am grateful for all of you.”
Now, the school itself is a living and breathing dream come true for Meghan and I. Everyday, we still pinch ourselves. But to hear our wonderfully hardworking and caring staff, who have become friends through and through, share sentiments of gratefulness for their colleagues and our supportive work environment is beyond anything we could have imagined.
In our journey of creating a safe and supportive learning space for our students, it was most definitely also at the forefront of our efforts to also create a safe and supportive working space. We strived for a place where teachers are celebrated for their compassion, dedication, and collaboration. A team of teachers and administration who support one another, help each other’s strengths shine, and uplift each other when they need it most. A group that models teamwork as example of leadership, friendliness, and fun. And an environment that truly celebrates and models the benefits of diverse thought.
If you follow us on social media, you’ll see us often quoting our amazing teachers, with hashtags such as #beststaffever, #bestjobever, #proudteachers #viavitadifference. We are so grateful to these amazing humans. Bringing joy and discovery to the lives of their students on the daily, reminding us that kindness and compassion make the best educators. We are lucky bunch to have them working at our school.
They shared with us their thoughts on teaching at VVA and the joy that is teaching in this way, at our little family school. We hope you enjoy!
Though our days may be at times a little crazy, teaching at Via Vita offers opportunities that are unparalleled. Each day I wake up with the opportunity to teach students not only in the curriculum, but in life. I get to see students develop skills in independence, self-discovery, and confidence. I have the privilege of fostering inquiry in my students, and watching as they begin to ask questions of me-- challenging me to see things from a new perspective. I am able to put aside the drilling of facts, for critical and philosophical discussion of big ideas. I get to gently guide as students learn to problem solve, form resilience, and revel in their new-found strength. I get to see quiet, self-doubting individuals, grow into gentle and impassioned leaders. I get to observe as students experiment with a variety of subjects, such as art, music, fitness, dance, and cooking. I then have the immense joy of seeing them light up as they finally find their niche. I get to help nurture passion, and in doing so, continually reignite my own. I get to watch as students see their worth re-affirmed daily, for at Via Vita, they are appreciated for the unique value that they bring to the school community and the wider world. I have the pleasure of witnessing young strangers become fast friends, and inevitably a forever family. I get to see students become empathetic, thoughtful individuals--deeply aware of their impact on the world. Every day I get to experiment, grow, learn, take risks, and discover along with my students. In helping my students find a sense of purpose and belonging, I undoubtedly find my own.
As a new staff member this year at Via Vita Academy, when I reflect on my experiences and memories thus far, I am flooded with images that make my heart smile. In only a few months, the amount of growth I see in the students' social/emotional skills makes me proud to work here. All you have to do is look at the weekly photos of engaged and smiling children, learning how to take chances and challenging themselves in a school community that is rooting for them to succeed and grow as well rounded individuals. When prior lessons and thoughtful discussions are then demonstrated by the students in such a natural way, and incorporated into their vocabulary and behaviours, you know that true learning has taken place.
As someone who supports students in overcoming various challenges, I have focused this past term on teaching the importance of recognizing emotions, perspectives, and their effect on behaviour and impact on others. I am often the one in the "helping" role. However, if I have been under the weather and struggling through my day, the ability of the students to recognize this, demonstrate empathy in a reciprocal manner, provide warm hugs, and in one case from a 6 year old, "I will help be the strength in your weakness to get you through", brings tears to my eyes. These moments, are impactful. These moments are important reminders of why we are here on this journey together.
Where we work, teaching is exploring. We’re encouraging our students to take ownership of their learning, by helping them find and build routes that suit who they are so far. We know that they’ll pick up different skills along their ways, and so we encourage our students to share their skills with each other as they go. This way they’re reminded that there are many methods for getting to where they’re going, and that they’re not alone on their journey.
Learning like this is harder to map out. I like to think of it as helping each kid map out their own path to success, without ever letting them get lost.
Teaching this way allows students grow to be brave, thoughtful, and curious young adults. They care for their fellow human beings, affect change by not accepting the status quo, and know that hard work and perseverance are worth the effort. The world needs more people like this.
It’s a Friday… and my students and I gather together for our weekly “closing circle” to end the last class of the week.
“What was your favourite part of the week” I ask my students, and I wait for their tiny hands to raise in the air excitedly and bright eyed.
“I loved singing and dancing this week”, one squeals.
“I REALLY liked cooking in the kitchen”, another exclaims.
“I had fun going over my sight words and writing in the agenda,” one of my students continues, and I chuckle to myself that I’m glad I made the list in the sea of wonderful educators I get to spend my days with.
And with that simple question, I am reminded of the reason I get up each morning and smile as I head to work. Via Vita Academy offers their students the perfect blend of academic, life, and social skills all blended seamlessly in a weekly schedule. They are given opportunities to grow as learners in all sense of the word, and in that sense so do I in getting to observe and assess them. We are a school dedicated to giving each student an individual learning experience meant to follow them on their lifelong educational journey.
I wake up thankful every day to be a moment in that journey, and that my fearless leaders have provided myself and my team an opportunity to view education in this way.
So here is me, signing off forever and always grateful,
I love that Via Vita teaches children about everyday life. Getting children outdoors and discussing topics beyond typical classroom discussions, such as creating a whole new planet to support the environment rather than just looking at it from a textbook.
It brings me so much happiness to see each of our students excel at via vita. Seeing a student confidently execute a new yoga pose, a pre-k student experiencing painting with watercolours for the first time, or passionately writing their own songs and scripts. The value cannot be calculated. At the end of each term, when the students collaborate to showcase all they’ve learned is truly a magical moment. I’m so thankful to spend my days sharing my passion for art with them.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of this wonderful little school that brings together these very special hearts and minds. This is my first year teaching at Via Vita Academy, and I can already name oh-so many moments that truly made me proud to be an educator and a part of this family. There’s a certain feeling I get the minute I walk through those front doors and this feeling seems to stick throughout the whole day - regardless of any chaos or craziness that the school day may bring. VVA brings a feeling of togetherness. Whether it's through my time with my little Glass Belly Frogs, morning meeting with the whole school, or lunch with my fellow educators - there’s always a feeling of togetherness and family wherever you go and I feel so lucky to come to a place everyday where I may experience that feeling over and over.
Please welcome our newest teacher, Ms. Kerrie, to the VVA Family! She brings with her a spirit for fun, creativity, and exploration! We love her ready-for-anything attitude, just how Via Vita rolls. And we love that she focused her blog post around snow - as it has been fun seeing her go from loving the snow to being done with the snow. Welcome, Kerrie! We are thrilled to have you join the VVA Team!
After finding out that I received my visa to come and work in Canada after living and studying in the UK, the first thing that I thought about was having a reality I have always dreamed about… snow! We got a ‘good’ snowfall about once every 8-10 years, which compared to Canada is a light flurry. Little did I know the reality of it all would brush off very quickly. Seeing the possible temperatures, I realised I would have to dress like a big marshmallow in order to function on a daily basis (thankfully I’ve been acclimatizing pretty quickly - 0 degrees is no longer cold but merely mild). Never thought I would love snow pants and snow boots more than any other item of clothing in my two suitcases and tiny house closet!
Winter is seen as a very magical time of year, with the holidays and fairy lights all around; drinking hot chocolate and most importantly getting to spend time with family. Since moving here, I haven’t had my family around to enjoy the traditions over winter that we have been creating year upon year since I can remember. This year is definitely about creating new traditions and on top of that a new lifestyle (soon I’ll be saying the native lingo before you know it, eh).
Since starting at Via Vita, the one thing that has always stuck with me was the word family. Via Vita prides itself in acting as one big family and they have definitely fulfilled. Via Vita has definitely become a family to me since I started here and supporting me to create new traditions such as community week, the Christmas dinner and singing carols. I never thought that my British quirks would fit in so nicely with a bunch of Canadians.
When I moved here, Kate and I also brought up our tiny house (a major 2 year project for Kate). It was a rocky start especially down at Peggy's Cove - we had no idea what it was going to be like in the winter. Now experiencing it, I love the house to pieces but there are many times that I wish we had a normal apartment (having to fill up our interior 25 gallon tank with 5 18L bottles every couple weeks, having to shower at the gym so we don't use excess water until we get well access or having to turn on our portable heater for as long as possible until we go to sleep so the house stays warm over night). Peggy's Cove is a beautiful and peaceful place to live but it's going to be such a nice feeling not having to drive down it in snowy weather! Despite all the struggles we've had starting this new adventure, I can’t wait to finish off this winter in style, continuing to accumulate more and more traditions in years to come.
Cheers to that!
Please join us in welcoming Ms. Arlene to the Via Vita team! We wish we had met Arlene sooner, as soon as she started, we could see the awesomeness she offered both our students and staff. She brings with her a wonderful sense of joy and wonder, that has already inspired great discoveries in the classroom. We are so grateful and thrilled she has joined our team! With her contagious zest for life, curiosity and openness, we hope you enjoy reading her intro to you! Welcome aboard, Ms. Arlene!
Ever since I was a child, I knew there was something I loved about travelling. Having parents who immigrated to Toronto from the Philippines, I was fortunate enough to spend some of my childhood travelling to the Philippines to visit the hometowns of my parents as well as some family. Sure there was the whole process that was exciting too - packing up your bags, going on a plane, all that ‘good’ stuff. But there was some sort of magic in travelling somewhere, and not knowing what to expect. What feelings will I get once I arrive? What people will I meet? What will I see? I certainly didn’t have the answers to that, and if I asked my parents they didn’t know either - all those answers can only come from me, and when that time comes.
Visiting the Philippines was such a wonderful experience. I was able to learn more about myself - my heritage and culture. Even at a young age, I took this as an opportunity to learn something new. However, there was still something more that I needed, especially once the trip came to an end and I eventually had to go back home. But with that being said, my love and pride of being who I am, a Filipino Canadian, took me in the direction of doing more with that. For over 10 years, I was actively involved in a cultural dance group. We would showcase our Filipino culture through music and dance and we would perform in festivals within Canada and other countries around the world. I remember thinking, how lucky am I to do what I love and be able to share that with others. Essentially, this whole experience for me entailed learning more about my culture, dance, and travelling - all of my favourite things.
I believe that it is important to take up every opportunity to ‘travel’, and I am using that term very loosely. Although I have shared with you my first travel experience which involved hopping on a plane, this is not the only travelling one can do. Travel in a book, in a movie, or in your dreams. Travel with friends, or with new friendly faces. There’s mystery and wonder in where it will take you. For instance, mine took me to dance and to learning about Filipino culture. But, the grand souvenir that I got from this all is a broader perspective in the word ’travel’. To me, travelling isn’t merely a thing to do - it’s an experience and it’s a feeling. When you travel, I guarantee you will learn something new.
As a new teacher at Via Vita Academy, my hope is to inspire these students to do the same. I want them to travel within learning, within their creative minds, within their play, and within their conversations with others. There are new adventures awaiting them, and I am so excited to see where their own travel experience will take them!
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!