Just Imagine

Just imagine if as a child, I was physically taken from my mom and dad to live in a school.
Just imagine if at my school I had to change my appearance, my hair, and my dress.
Just imagine if at my school I was not allowed to use the name my parents gave me. Instead, I was given a new name.
Just imagine I was not allowed to speak my language or practice my beliefs.
Just imagine if I broke the rules, rules I did not understand or even know, I was beaten or humiliated.
Just imagine even if I did not break the rules, I was abused.
Just imagine a childhood lost. I could not play. I had to grow up overnight. I needed to survive.

Because I survived, I lost my identity, my language, and my beliefs.
Because I survived, I have become dependent on others.
Because I survived, I lost my personal connections with others, including my family.
Because I survived, I no longer trust.
Because I survived, I have some issues, including substance abuses and mental health issues.
Because I survived, I have an unconscious inferiority complex. I was always told I was bad, I was not good enough.
Because I survived, I do not feel safe or secure.

I am very thankful that this did not happen to me, but it did happen to a People. It happened in Canadian residential schools. It happened to generations of First Nations people in Canada. Canada had 80 residential schools and over 150,000 children went through these Imageschools. The last residential school closed in 1996, just 22 years ago. The Canadian government followed a policy of “Kill the Indian in the child.”  We tried to isolate and remove children from the influences of their families and community.  The film, We Were Children shows the issue of residential schools. Here is a short trailer of the film:

I am not writing this to assign blame. I am writing this hoping to be part of a solution. Canada’s history, with respect to our aboriginal population, is a history of genocide (diseases and sterilization) and cultural genocide. We attempted to rob a People of their beliefs, language, history, spirituality, and way of life – their culture.

walking togetherThe staff of Father Leonard Van Tighem School are participating in a series of workshops entitled Walking Together: Education for Reconciliation.  The workshops are part of a commitment between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education to ensure that all students learn about the histories, cultures and worldviews of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.  Not all of the workshops deal with the impact of Residential Schools, but many of them explain how the history of residential schools has a generational effect on the current First Nations youth of today.


What now? The term ‘reconcile’ means to restore friendly relationships. If we truly want to restore friendly relationships, the issue of residential schools cannot be ignored. I was not part of the decision to implement residential schools, but it is part of my history. Residential schools are part of my history as a Canadian. As a teacher, it is part of my classroom. Students in our school suffer from generational effects of residential schools.

  • We must recognize the wrong. Prime Minister Harper recognized the wrong in his apology in the House of Commons. We must recognize the wrong in our schools and classrooms. In Alberta’s new curriculum, students in Alberta will learn about the history and legacy of residential schools.
  • We must learn. Educators need to learn about residential schools and their effects. Likewise, we need to learn about our treaty: yes, our treaty. We are all treaty people, the general Canadian population and First Nations People.
  • We must listen. Sometimes we give people a token ear, but we do not listen. We hear, but do not listen. We must listen to the survivors of residential schools.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has done this for Canada, but we need to do it for our local community.  Until we do this, we cannot move forward in rebuilding our relationships.
  • We must look in the mirror. We need to decide what we can do better. We must create an environment that does not focus on “us” and “them”, but develops a community of “we”.
  • We must find ways to engage our First Nations community in our schools. We cannot simply invite, we need to find ways to empower our First Nations community to be active. Education is their new buffalo.

The wrongs of residential schools will not disappear tomorrow, nor is there a quick solution. Hopefully together, we can start the process of reconciliation and healing. The longest journey starts with a single step. It is time to start walking together.


Greg Kostiuk


Away During the Day


To start our year all our Jr. High students signed a ‘Responsible Use Agreement’ concerning the use of technology.  As our year has proceeded, we have noticed an increased use of smartphones for non-educational uses.  Therefore, the Jr. High and Grade 6 teachers have decided to implement a new phone policy called ‘Away During the Day.’  This policy requires that during class time, all students must keep their phones in their lockers.  Phones are not allowed in the classroom.  Students are allowed to have their phones before school, during the lunch break, and after school as long as they follow the ‘Responsible Use Agreement.’  Here are a few of the reasons for the implementation of ‘Away During the Day’ policy:

  • Phones can create an unnecessary distraction in the classroom;
  • Phones can remove us socially, intellectually, and emotionally from the here and now and from the people around us;
  • Phones can decrease face-to-face connections;
  • While the majority of social media can be intentional and positive, it can also cause others to feel left out, judged, anxious, and targeted;
  • Phones have the potential to be misused concerning privacy issues (for example live streaming);
  • Phones can become an unhealthy addiction.

Students come to school to learn with others.  In our connected learning community, we learn from each other in face-to-face interactions.

We are in a technology revolution—something that has changed our society. The challenge is to learn not to let it control us. We adapt and adjust to make improvements when things are not working well. Currently, phones are creating more problems than solutions in our school.

If students decide to bring their phones to the classroom, teachers will confiscate the student phone, and he/she may pick it up from the teacher at the end of the day.  An office referral will occur if a student continually breaks the ‘Away During the Day’ policy.

On occasion, teachers may use smartphones as an educational tool.  If this occurs, the teacher will give the students instructions on what particular day or class students will be allowed to bring them to class.  If this happens, it would be an exception from the ‘Away During the Day’ policy.

We are asking for parents to support ‘Away During the Day’ by only contacting their child by their phone before school, during the noon hour, or after school.  If a parent needs to reach their child during class time we are asking them to contact the school office.  Likewise, if a student needs to contact their parent during class time, we are asking them to use the office phone.

*Resources modified from http://www.awayfortheday.org

Make Ready the Way

advent one candle

The season of Advent is upon us.  Just as the Old Testament prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to announce His approach and how John the Baptist was sent to “make ready the way of the Lord”, our celebration of Advent imitates them as we prepare our hearts with the hope of Christ coming into our hearts today.  Advent also reminds us that just like Mary, entirely of her own free will, said “yes”, we must receive grace, strength, and courage to say “yes” to do God’s will.

The themes of Advent are traditionally hope, love, joy, and peace.  Although the themes of Advent can vary by parish, the third week is always joy.  It will be a blessing to see the students of Father Leonard Van Tighem light the candles of the Advent wreath as we are reminded that we are one week closer to the birth of Christ.

Advent visual themes

Recently I stumbled upon a different visual for Advent that intrigued me.

Advent visual

The graphic fits in well with our Faith Plan of Sharing Our Bounty and the 3Ts of time, treasures and talents.  Although I plan on carrying on our tradition of modelling hope, love, joy, and peace, I am also going to try to ‘worship fully’ throughout the Advent and Christmas Season, ‘spend less’ money on the people that already have, ‘give more’ to the needy, and ‘love all’ all the time.

Have a blessed Advent and Christmas season,

Greg Kostiuk

Virtue Vouchers

FLVT virtues in HAWKS

Father Leonard Van Tighem School has worked hard the last few years to incorporate our HAWKS Virtues in everything we do.  Please check this link from our school website for a better understanding of this work: https://sites.google.com/holyspirit.ab.ca/vtvirtues

As part of this year’s Continuous Improvement Plan, we started a new project this week called Virtue Vouchers.  The goal of the project is to reinforce our HAWKS Virtues and reward positive behaviour.  Here is a short video explaining it:

FLVT virtues hawksThank you to Miss Barr and her Drama class for creating this great video.

We are excited about this new project.  Every day, we see our HAWKS Virtues in our learning community.


Apollo 11, Catholic Education and the 5Cs

apollo 11d

This Sunday, November 4, is Catholic Education Sunday.  As I reflect on the importance of Catholic Education I am reminded of a conference I attended last year that focused on the ‘Marks of an Excellent Catholic Leader’.  Dr. Troyapollo 11b Davies, Superintendent of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division, presented the second mark – Expressing and Developing a Catholic Vision.  I was intrigued by his analogy of visioning for Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission and Catholic Education.  Dr. Davies listed the ‘5 Cs’ of visioning: Courageous Vision, Clear Focus, Communal, Candid, and Convincing.  He explained how NASA implemented the ‘5 Cs’ and the need to apply them to Catholic Education.  Here is my simple summary of his points:

The 5 Cs NASA’s Implementation Catholic Education
Courageous Vision President Kennedy had a courageous vision as outlined in his words, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” FLVT has the vision of a Christ-centered learning community dedicated to excellence for all.  Holy Spirit Catholic Schools has the vision of Christ-centered learning communities where students are cherished and achieve their potential.  Although both are very good, I wonder how we could improve them to be courageous?
Clear Focus NASA had specific clarity on what was needed to accomplish the vision, a clear focus on the big picture and the small details.  Details matter. We continue to be precise in our academic and faith strategies.  Assessments guide our instruction and help to drive our Continuous Improvement Plan.  Details matter.
Communal NASA had a clear ‘we’ mentality.  They knew they needed a massive team to accomplish the vision. Collaboration among staff and our various stakeholders are welcomed and encouraged.  No classroom or school is an island.
Candid Difficult questions had to be asked and answered, they addressed any and all issues. We do not shy away from the difficult questions.  Our faith is a pillar to help us achieve our vision.
Convincing NASA was excellent in communicating the vision, focus, team mentality, and the need to address any and all issues.  They were able to put the might and passion of America behind their vision. We need to continue to share our many success stories.  Often, it is a challenge to promote the need for Catholic Education in a secular world.  While many see its importance, many also see it as outdated.  We need to continue to convince every one of the former.

apollo 11a

I know Dr. Davies did a better job than my simple summary, but his presentation on visioning was both important and appropriate.  I hope to regularly reflect on the ‘5 Cs’ and how they apply to our work in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools, and more specifically, our work at Father Leonard Van Tighem School.

On a short, related matter.  I have always been interested in the Apollo 11 Mission, so I did a little online reading.  I read that astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a Christian, took communion with him to the Moon.  So the first meal on the Moon was the body and blood of Christ.  Pretty cool!

Greg Kostiuk


November 2018 Message

This Sunday, November 4, we celebrate Catholic Education Sunday in Alberta.  This year the theme of Catholic Education Sunday is ‘Rejoice and Be Glad.’  Here is an excerpt from the letter from the Bishops of Alberta and NWT:

Our theme is further inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation and the call to holiness. It highlights the important role that our schools play in nurturing the call to holiness for our children and youth. Our schools also help students know Christ through religious education, prayer, and a safe, caring school community that encourages them to discern their vocations. Pope Francis reminds young people that Jesus looks to them and invites them to journey with him. They are urged to be open to God’s plan in becoming joyful disciples.

The bishops remind us to “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5:12).  Let us work together in the spirit of Catholic Education to make Father Leonard Van Tighem School a place to ‘Rejoice and be glad’ for all members of our learning community.

Recently, the staff of Father Leonard Van Tighem completed our 2018-19 Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP).  This CIP is the third and last year of a three-year plan from 2016-19.  The three priorities continue to be:

  • Staff and students will grow in their faith and experience the richness of Catholic Education;
  • All students will develop literacy and numeracy skills that will prepare them for a changing future;
  • First Nations, Metis, and Inuit learners will achieve equitable student outcomes.

You can find a copy of our CIP by clicking on this link: https://www.holyspirit.ab.ca/flvt/_cabinet/2/FLVT_Improvement_Plan_2016_2019_-_Oct_15,_2018_submitted.pdf

During the next School Council, we plan on sharing our Alberta Education Accountability Report Card with parents.   Our school continues to be a very positive learning environment for our students.  This table summarizes our results:

Acc Pillar FLVT October 2018

Father Leonard Van Tighem School’s Accountability Report was very positive.  We were above the provincial average in the following categories of Safe and Caring, Program of Studies, Education Quality, Drop Out Rate, Work Preparation, Citizenship, and School Improvement.  We were slightly below in Parental Involvement, but this went up.  Our Provincial Achievement Tests Acceptable rating was well above the provincial average, and our Excellence rating is an issue that the staff is addressing.

Have a wonderful November,

Greg Kostiuk

Parent-Teacher Interviews

Hello everyone,

Just a friendly reminder that we have parent-teacher interviews tomorrow (Thursday, October 18) from 5-8 pm for our Grade 1 to 9 classes.  Elementary classes will be in their classrooms and Jr. High classes will be in the gym.  Assessments will not be the focus of the discussion at this interview as these are not due until November.  This first meeting is for both teachers and parents to meet and share information and to give an informal progress of how the school year has started.
Please go online at https://vantighem-leth.schoolsoft.com/login.jsf to book an interview time.
Also, we are still looking for School Council Room Reps for the following classes:
  • 1T
  • 3K
  • 5H and 5G
  • 6W and 6B
  • 7G
  • 8K
  • 9R, 9C and 9H

Please talk to your child’s homeroom teacher if you are interested in being a room rep.

Thank you and we are looking forward to seeing everyone on Thursday.  I always enjoy a good chuckle reading Calvin and Hobbes.  I hope you enjoy this one:


Greg Kostiuk