Showcasing Diversity and Inclusion at the EMSB
The English Montreal School Board unveiled “Celebrating Diversity and Inclusivity at the EMSB” from January 21 to January 28. The special six-day event kicked off Elementary and Kindergarten Registration Week, January 31 to February 4.
The EMSB community is made up of a diverse population and welcomes students of all backgrounds and identities. This virtual celebration will showcase six host schools on EMSB social media platforms, each offering the public a glimpse into school life and an example of the programming that promotes diversity and inclusion all year round in our schools.
EMSB Director of Educational Services Anna Sanalitro and Director of Student Services Julie René de Cotret are excited about this initiative. “To embrace diversity and equity requires working actively together,” said Ms. Sanalitro. “There is much collaboration between departments at the EMSB. A diverse workplace challenges our own notions and preconceptions. It forces us to see things from a different perspective and makes us richer for it. And we bring this appreciation for diversity to the schools and to all our students. We provide them a learning environment that embraces diversity and inclusion.”
“These last few years have prompted lots of introspection and problem-solving,” added Ms. René de Cotret. “We ask ourselves: ‘How can we always do better?’ Being surrounded by people from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints helps build critical thinking and finding ways to do things differently. This mindset trickles into the classrooms, providing students with opportunities to value diversity, whether in classmates’ identities, background or viewpoints.”
At St. Gabriel Elementary School in Pointe St. Charles, students engaged in a visual arts activity related to personal image and led by artist and St. Gabriel parent, Anna Jane McIntyre, and the school’s visual arts specialist, Naomi Aldrich. Special guest Thibault Zimmer from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts spoke to students, virtually, about cultural diversity using the MMFA educational platform, EducArt. A performance of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” by the school’s brass band, under the direction of music specialist John Dodge, rounded off the day’s special events.
Highlighting an example of embracing diversity and inclusion at Sinclair Laird Elementary School in Park Extension was inclusive learning. The message there – that day and everyday – is “we all work together as one team,” said Principal Derrek Cauchi of the school, which is small but more diverse than most, and one which welcomes students with special needs. To show how teamwork forms such an integral part of the school culture, students and their teachers completed an obstacle course they built together in their schoolyard. Also being showcased was the school’s dog therapy program, which aids students, with the assistance of dogs, in learning how to express themselves and overcome hesitancy.
At FACE School downtown, Kindergarten students received a special visit from the EMSB’s top educational consultant on sexuality education, Jamie Quinn. Together with the school’s Spiritual and Community Animator Elizabeth Pellicone, they guided students through an exploration of expressing emotions. Through in-class activities and conversation, students learned how to express needs and wishes when experiencing a variety of emotions in a safe and inclusive environment for themselves and their peers.
In NDG, St. Monica Elementary School had a special live online visit by Montreal educator, author and facilitator Shanice Nicole. She read to Grade 1 and 2 students from her book Dear Black Girls. In collaboration with the school’s Spiritual and Community Animator, Samantha Smith, they guided conversation around diversity, leading up to an activity engaging students in a reflection exercise about what makes them different. It’s a way to teach children to celebrate their unique identities. In February, schools across the EMSB network mark Black History Month with a variety of programs.
The Hispanic Heritage Project was showcased at Pierre de Coubertin Elementary School in St. Léonard. Guided by teacher Mariana Castro-Lopez, Grade 6 students engaged their younger schoolmates in Kindergarten in a storytelling and animation activity, allowing them the opportunity to pass on the wealth of knowledge they acquired from the Hispanic Heritage Project. Students also got to interview the Consuls General of Honduras and Guatemala in Montreal, in order to learn about the role they play for their countries abroad.
The EMSB serves students from pre-Kindergarten to adulthood. Another example of diversity came from the makeup of the student population in the adult sector. It has students from more than 100 countries enrolled in its schools, giving it a vibrant, multicultural footprint. They come to EMSB’s adult education centres, like John F. Kennedy Adult Education Centre in St. Michel, to complete their high school diploma, achieve pre-requisites for further study or enrol in basic English and French classes in order to be able to work and study in Quebec. A diverse teacher and student population is what makes EMSB adult education centres so special.
EMSB Director General Nick Katalifos emphasizes that diversity and inclusion policies are paramount in the daily activities of schools and centres. “From my days as a teacher and in-school administrator I have seen the work we do in this area up close and personal,” he said. “I am very pleased we have chosen this theme to kick off our elementary school registration campaign.”
Mr. Katalifos is proud to announce that a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, composed of board level/management members, has been created with a specific mandate to set forth clear guidelines for all stakeholders. It pursues a goal of fostering and promoting a welcoming and inclusive environment which identifies, celebrates, respects, and values the contributions and needs of our diverse communities, while inspiring our community towards strengthening and nurturing a culture of belonging for all diverse identities.
“As parents make the important decision of where to send their child for elementary school, we want them to know that children of all identities and backgrounds are embraced,” said Joe Ortona, chair of the EMSB. “Our schools are part of a welcoming board, reflecting the diverse population that represents the 19 cities and boroughs we serve on the island of Montreal.”
For more details, please go to www.emsb.qc.ca/diversity.
About the English Montreal School Board
With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along
linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 77 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.