After 17 years, the International Travel Studies program still teaches students how to be global citizens

Over spring break this year, three groups of Calgary Academy students and teachers traveled around the world to make an international impact. One group arrived at a rural school outside of Cayambe, Ecuador. Built into the side of the mountain, water and mud often flooded the school building during rainy season. The CA students worked together to dig a ditch that would channel the water and mud away from the building. It was challenging work, but "every day, [the students] did way more than what was expected to them," says Kathy Pfeifer, teacher, and head of the International Travel Studies program. "They kept asking to do more." International Travel Studies (ITS) trips seem to have that effect on students: bringing out their very best, sparking compassion, and fostering generous teamwork without question. Two other ITS groups were also helping global village schools during Spring Break — a second group in Cayambe, Ecuador, and the third in the Agafay desert in Morocco. A total of 44 high school students and 11 teachers participated in the program this year. ITS has been a unique opportunity for growth at Calgary Academy for 17 years now. In 2005, CA teacher, Kelly Beaton, had an idea for an altruism-based travel program for CA students. “It wasn't just a holiday,” she reflects. The program would be geared towards teaching students what means to be a global citizen. It would ask them to contribute to their school community, their greater local community, and the global community. Kelly set out to create a year-long experience. Before the trip, the group would meet once a week to learn about the history, culture, and language of the country they are visiting. They would also look around the Calgary community for local volunteer opportunities (CA students have participated in the AIDS Walk, volunteered at the Salvation Army and at local shelters over the years.) ITS participants would also engage the rest of the school by fundraising for the international service project and giving presentations upon their return. Back in 2005, ITS’s first group of 14 students and two teachers set off for Tanzania where they helped paint a school in a small village. When the students and the teachers were all gathered in the room, one student looked up at Kelly and admitted, "We don't know how to paint." Learning practical skills and the humbling nature of manual labour are a big part of an ITS trip. CA students have painted a convent that housed orphans with AIDS in Ecuador, and hauled the rocks, sand, gravel, and cement to lay the foundation for two classrooms and a storage space in Tanzania. They have brought Knights jerseys, purchased sporting equipment, and school supplies to village schools around the world. In 2020, when the students could not make their planned trip to Morocco, they still sent the money to build a much needed second classroom for a school in the Agafay Desert. Finally able to travel again, in 2022, this year's ITS student group was able to visit the school. The classroom had been built, thanks to the funds, and the students were able to spend their trip painting the classroom and the rest of the compound. 2018-2019 ITS participant and CA alumni, Will Howard, still remembers the impact of understanding how different our relationship to resources is here in Canada. “[At home,] if you need paper or pencil or anything like that, you don't think twice about it," he reflects. "But when we went into the school in [Peru], they had certain amounts of paper for each of the students for the whole school year. They don't have the materials to replace that sort of thing.” The school’s welcome by the students for the ITS students also made a deep impression on Will.

“We walked in, and all the kids were standing on the side clapping. Then they threw flowers over top of our entire group as we walked in.”
They handed a beautiful bouquet of local flowers to the trip staff member, Ms. Pfeifer, which moved her to tears.
Ms. Pfeifer reflects that these "gifts from the heart”—including traditional songs, dances, beautiful local meals— “are so beautiful. [The people] have so little and they give so much."
The generosity and happiness shared by the locals is often life changing for CA students. After that first trip to Tanzania, Kelly remembers that many students had the “realization that you don’t need a lot to be happy. It is not given by surroundings or external things. It comes from community, and it comes from inside of you.” Ms. Pfeifer adds: “There is not one student that does not come away from these projects with a changed heart. Seeing the students grow and change, become young adults, and their leadership step forward," is inspiring. Another side effect: friendships in unexpected places. ITS participants come from across grades and friend groups, and the bonding—in Kelly's words—is “next level." In addition to volunteerism, Kelly wanted to be sure that the "kids get a chance to rest and experience where they are.” Every ITS trip includes some good old-fashioned tourism, and those moments produce a magic of their own: stepping through the Sun Gate as the clouds clear to reveal Machu Picchu; riding a camel through the Moroccan dessert; trekking through the Himalayas in Nepal; spotting lions in the Serengeti, boating through Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, or observing a blue footed booby in the Galapagos.  
The impact of ITS has a wider reach than the actual trip and its participants. “[ITS] goes a long way towards building CA culture,” says Ms. Pfeifer, “bringing the grades together, the classes together, and students who would not necessarily associate with each other.”
Participants create an Exit Project that encapsulates their interpretation and emotion of the trip. Students have handed in photograph-illustrated journals, scrapbooks, PowerPoint presentations, paintings, and hosted feasts that feature the local cuisine. "Every student has something different to share," says Ms. Pfeifer. “Some of them are just beyond what you could imagine." For many, the impact of ITS extends well beyond their high school experience. Two students from the original ITS trips went on to do international work.
“[ITS] is the thing that [students] carry forward in how they approach so many things and the decisions they make,” Kelly says. It is one thing to read about ethics and being a global citizen, it is another thing “to feel and live that. Exposure and experience are what you need to integrate [those values] into who you are as a person. The impact on their humanity is really powerful.”
Next year’s students have three trips to choose from: a return to where it all started in Tanzania, a tropical adventure in Costa Rica, and a new trip for the school, an historical and cultural venture to India.

The Knights year in sports was about more than winning games

With seconds to go in the City Championship Senior Men’s Basketball game, Grade 12 student, Cole S., came off the bench and sunk a three-point shot just before the buzzer. The crowd leapt to its feet and roared. The team ran off the bench, swarmed Cole and threw their arms around him and each other. The shot didn't win the game or the championship, but winning was beside the point. The point was that they were there—Knights on the court, the stands packed. After the pandemic had shuttered sports for nearly two years, teachers, students, parents were playing, cheering, coaching, and celebrating, together.

For the group of young men on the court, many of whom had played together since Grade 7, “it was the culminating moment of their high school basketball career,” says Head of Athletics, Nick Waterbury.
When Calgary Academy announced the return of the athletics programs for the fall of 2021, Waterbury worried about how many kids would come out. He wasn't sure what toll the pandemic had taken on the kids' enthusiasm for sports. The turnout floored him. Fifty students came out for Junior High badminton. Thirty-five for soccer. Grade 11 students who had never played volleyball before came out for the team. Interest was so high, in fact, that a new Junior High drop-in badminton night was born. And, for the first time in many years, Calgary Academy had a Junior Varsity Mens’ volleyball team, in addition to the Senior Varsity team. What's more, the kids brought everything they had to the playing field. The October Dig Pink Fundraiser brought together 24 competing teams. The Knights Women’s Volleyball team made it to the quarter finals in the tournament—"A huge accomplishment considering the competition,” says Waterbury. The tournament raised $12,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation through clothing sales, registration fees, and other volunteer-led activities. Grade 11 student, Erik B., not only participated in the Cross Country Provincials, he came in third overall. The Senior Varsity Men’s basketball team came in second in the Calgary Independent Schools’ Athletic Association Tier 2 City Championship—an incredible and fitting accomplishment for this group of young men. The Grades 7 and 8 Men's basketball team also won a banner for their Tier 3 league. When sports are a given, it’s easy to focus on skills and winning games. But losing sports to COVID has emphasized that the smaller in-between moments in sports are often the most meaningful. The year in athletics was about the opportunity for students to thrive outside the classroom. To be a part of a team. It was about the bonding on the field and the court. About older students stepping up as role models. And everyone remembering what it’s like to be part of something bigger than themselves. This year, sports were also about the simple things the students have been missing so much and are so very essential, like laughter and fun.
            As Waterbury—who also teaches math and science—puts it, “The kids don't remember the time in my Math class. They remember the opportunity to be together, to have fun, to try new things and to be active.”
With athletics and other extracurricular activities back in full swing, teachers and administrators have seen academics, personal relationships, and overall attitude improve dramatically. School spirit has swept the hallways—attendance at athletic events has never been higher. On Friday, June 3, the Knights at the Athletic Awards Banquet will celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of CA athletes. Each team will recognize its Most Valuable Teammate and Most Coachable Player. Sportsperson of the Year will be awarded to an athlete who exemplifies the REACH principles and has been a positive leader both on their team and throughout the school. Knight of the Year will recognize an MVP who also exemplifies REACH. The celebration is about everyone this year—and that, after unprecedented challenges, the Knights brought all of their enthusiasm, skill and heart to sports.

Instilling Confidence Inside and Outside the Classroom

At one time skateboards used to be banned in schools, but now it’s the new Olympic sport and schools are embracing it, not banning it. Introducing the Calgary Academy Skateboard Club, where students have the opportunity to develop gnarly new skills outside the classroom. Whether a newbie or a thrasher; the club offers the chance to learn skills that can be applied to the school classroom.

Safety, fun, and progression are the goals of Calgary Academy Skateboard Club. The club began in September 2021 and introduces students of all levels to the sport of skateboarding. Teachers Lanny Donde, Alora Popow, and Graham Diehl lead the club with safety at the forefront of all that they do.

“The goal isn't creating X Games champions but developing competent skateboarders for life.” – Graham Diehl, Integrated Studies Teacher.

The idea of having the Calgary Academy Skateboard Club has been in the back of Graham Diehl’s mind for six years but the major catalyst for starting this club was the fact that skateboarding is now an official Olympic sport. The pandemic also introduced students to a variety of new sports including skateboarding since they spent more time outdoors. The club is now in term four and has continued to see an increase in interest and has 50 students signed up!

“The skills and the process of learning how to skateboard apply directly to the classroom. When students are taught how to read or do math, they don’t move forward to the next level until they have mastered one skill.” – Graham Diehl.  

The club runs during lunch hours Mondays and Wednesdays for Grades 5 and 6 and Tuesdays and Thursdays for Grades 7 and 8.

For these students to get to the point of success, they have to pick themselves up time after time and keep working at it. There are long hours of practice, but eventually they get it and even if they don’t, they have gone through that process, which is empowering.” – Graham Diehl. 

Skateboarding is challenging; it requires a high level of commitment and teaches students the importance of learning how to persevere and the importance of patience. Sports like skateboarding help develop you as a person, build strong character, and provide a lot of value.

“I am always amazed at the amount of bravery these students have in trying new skills. For students with learning differences, everything can be really challenging. If they have the chance to feel success in another area, like skateboarding, that is going to build their confidence.” – Graham Diehl.

The Anniversary Book is Now Available for Purchase

As part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations, the first forty years of CA's history has been captured in the Anniversary Book, titled "A Pioneer in Inclusive Learning." The book shares CA's history, including how the school was first created, the tumultuous early years, and its evolution into the institution it is today. The book is available in limited quantities for purchase – don't miss your chance to keep as special part of CA's history as yours forever! The Anniversary Book is available for purchase through Rycor at a cost of $25. Current Parents: To order an Anniversary Book, login to your PowerSchool Parent Portal and choose Rycor. Once in Rycor, choose the Anniversary Book form. Past Parents, Alumni, and Community Members: To order an Anniversary Book, use this link.

CAPA: Past, present, and future

For some families, sending their child to a private school can be a financial challenge, but the Calgary Academy Parents’ Association (CAPA) helps to ease this stress by providing bursary funds to families in need. CAPA has raised more than $5 million dollars in bursary funds over its history to help children attend Calgary Academy.

CAPA was established in 1986 by a CA parent, Marion Sutherland, when it became clear that some families required additional support to send their children to CA. Sutherland fostered a relationship with the Alberta Gaming Commission, now known as Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) to fundraise at casinos and bingos, and organized initiatives like bake sales and BBQs so that the school could begin to fundraise in ways that bring families together.

“The CAPA bursary has made all the difference in my daughter attending Calgary Academy. Since the moment we became part of the CAPA family, I have been eternally grateful. This bursary has been one of the biggest gifts we have ever received and continues to open doors for my daughter’s future that I didn’t think were possible. My daughter has found her place where she can learn and thrive and it’s all thanks to CAPA,” said CA parent, Michelle Thompson. 

Without CAPA bursaries, many students wouldn’t be able to attend CA, and families may not have other options available to them.  

“These parents are holding their breath while they wait to find out if they will receive a CAPA Bursary. When they get that call from me with, “yes, your family has received a bursary,” they often become emotional with excitement and relief. It’s the best conversation, it’s one of my favourite parts of my work,” said Natalie Kowalenko, Bursary Coordinator for CAPA.   

With the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent public health measures, CAPA’s primary fundraisers were put in jeopardy. CAPA overcame these challenges and transitioned to new initiatives like virtual 50/50 draws, cash calendars, and bottle collections. Despite the pandemic, CAPA contributed $97,000 to the 2020-2021 bursary fund and helped support 46 students attend Calgary Academy.

“Being able to give back to our CAPA family through volunteering, so others can experience the benefits CA has to offer is so rewarding. CAPA not only provides opportunities for our kids, but also for us as parents. The friendships, support, and common goal of helping other families is what makes CAPA successful,” said Leta Philp, CAPA member. 

Families can apply for the bursary on the CAPA website. Bursary recipients are required to volunteer in a variety of ways, helping raise additional funding for the upcoming school year. Approximately 30-40 families apply each year, and the CAPA executive team is committed to ensuring that every eligible student with learning difficulties receives the necessary financial support to attend CA. In the future, CAPA hopes to be able to support every qualified family in need. As CA enters its next 40 years of history, CAPA will continue to be instrumental in supporting students to access the education that they need.

Exemplary Practice and Student Showcase

Twice a year the Board of Directors recognizes staff and students for exemplary work, leadership, or contributions to the school community. In February, the Board was honoured to present Grade 10 student Sascha and Comptroller Yvette Schuler with this special honour! We are excited to announce Yvette Schuler as the recipient of the Exemplary Practice award for her diligent work in the finance department and commitment to the school community. Grade 10 Student Sascha E. was honoured as the recipient of the Student Showcase award for her accomplishments outside of school in snowboarding and her leadership in the Blended + program. Exemplary Practice: Yvette Schuler  The recipient of the Board’s Exemplary Practice Award for February 2022 is Comptroller, Ms. Yvette Schuler. Yvette is described by her colleagues as someone who is cheerful, dedicated, and passionate. She is fun to be around ,and always goes above and beyond what is asked for. Yvette joined HLG in 2018, bringing her skills and capabilities from her previous role at the Calgary Airport Authority. She joined the Finance team during a time of big changes for the organization, and quickly established herself as a great mentor and leader to her team, and to others. She has helped raise the efficiency, sophistication, and diligence to the finance function. From producing clean financial audits for the last four years, to improving quarterly reporting and creating easy-to-read financial dashboards, Yvette has worked closely with the board to fulfill governance requirements. She has also led her team in implementing new technologies designed to streamline processes and improve the parent and staff experiences with tools like Rycor, LunchTime, Showpass, Shopify, and the SchoolAdmin Billing Module. She makes this work appear effortless, when those who know the nature of finance know it is anything but! Beyond her technical expertise, Yvette exemplifies the REACH principles, giving her time freely without expecting anything in return. She is always available to support projects in a behind-the-scenes capacity such as the CA Store, International Travel Studies, drama productions, FestivARTS, reviewing the Annual Education Results report, supporting the Castle Café, and many other initiatives. She also is the first to volunteer to support events in person. From helping with registration at the 40th Anniversary Golf Tournament, to hauling equipment and water for pre-COVID events like Fall Welcome and New Student Orientation, Yvette is always there to lend her help in any way that she can. Yvette is a natural leader, coach, and mentor who sees what is possible, challenges assumption, and then can chart the steps to make the possible a reality. Congratulations, Yvette! Student Showcase: Sascha E.  The recipient of the Board’s Student Showcase Award for February 2022 is Grade 10 student, Sascha E.. In addition to being a diligent student, Sascha has achieved significant accomplishments outside of school on the national stage as a competitive snowboarder. In February 2022, she competed in the Air Nation Freestyle Nationals at WinSport and earned a gold medal in Senior Nationals and a bronze medal in Junior Nationals. She is sponsored by several companies, including UNLTD Skate and Snow (pronounced “unlimited”), a Canadian ski and snowboard company, and Roxy, a snowboard and fitness lifestyle clothing company. Over the last five years, Sascha has trained regularly for 14 hours each week, in addition to maintaining her grades at school. Sascha has been an Academy student at Calgary Academy since Grade 7 in 2018. Now in the Blended+ program, she’s shown her commitment to school and snowboarding by attending lessons virtually while training in Colorado orattending competitions in California. Sascha's teachers describe her as friendly, caring, and eager to get involved in group activities. She is so welcoming to any new students that join the school community, and is a positive representative of Calgary Academy whenever we are participating in activities at facilities outside of the school. Sascha is a dedicated, driven student who is achieving her goals on the slopes without sacrificing her education. Later this year, she will be competing in three more competitions including the World Junior Championships in Switzerland, the 2022 PIPE FEST at WinSport, and the NorAM Freestyle Stoneham in Quebec. Calgary Academy wishes her all the best! Congratulations, Sascha!

Creating a Legacy

The six-week 40th Anniversary Artist in Residence initiative started at CA on February 15, when students worked with local artist Carl White, brainstorming artistic concepts based on the theme of “legacy.” It was a fun two days that has laid the groundwork for Carl to create a 40th anniversary mural that will be unveiled to the community later this spring. During each grade’s individual session, Carl took time to explore what a mural is, the meaning of legacy, and the steps included in the design process. After his brief presentation, students sketched what legacy meant to them. Carl emphasized that there was no wrong answer to the question of legacy, and stressed the importance of using their time together to express their true selves.

"Throughout the project, students will learn about creative thinking, mathematics, science, and social integration. Every academic subject, along with the skills that we acquire through school, all get applied to the design process," said Carl.
carl white looking at students artwork Students were excited to be creative, explore their passions, and reflect on what is important to them. Once the sketching process was complete, students could take their pieces back to their classrooms for ongoing reflection and addition. Carl White is a Calgary-based artist who studied at the Alberta College of Art & Design from 1989-1992. His art has been recognized on a local, national, and international scale in group and solo exhibitions.
"I love the opportunity to work with kids because it's planting seeds and even if one of them in that class sees something and gets a deeper awareness of art, it's worth the whole project. It is about opening people's worlds to what’s possible," said Carl. 
The Artist in Residence project will run until Spring Break, when Carl will then turn the student inspiration and ideas into a mural. An anniversary mural is the perfect way to commemorate 40 years of Calgary Academy and celebrate our history. The mural will be a permanent piece of the school, housed in a central location where people gather. The theme of legacy reflects on where CA began, how far the school has come, and where the future may take this amazing community. For years to come, students will look at the mural and know that they played a part in creating it.

Valentine’s Day Dinner with Alum Chef Sean Thornhill

One of the best parts of Valentine’s Day is getting to share a special meal with someone you love. Be it a partner, children, family or friend, food brings us together, bonds us and special occasions are the best time to treat yourself to something special. We recently caught up with one of our Alums perfectly suited to give us tips on showing love through food. Sean Thornhill’s career as a chef has blossomed since leaving CA. His talents have graced some notable Calgary establishments, including Rouge, Evoke, and he is currently indulging guests at the Fairmont Whistler Hotel. As a chef, most Valentine’s days are spent making other people’s evenings special. Last year, as a private chef, he had the opportunity to host a romantic cooking class, where he taught couples the secrets of creating a beautiful pasta dish. In his new role, Sean has the opportunity to learn and expand his experiences by working with a passionate and diverse team. His peers inspire him. He works with a group of highly skilled individuals who bring diverse cultures and palates to the plate, creating an environment of fusion and experimentation. So, what would be an ideal Valentine’s date for Sean? One that he can spend with his girlfriend Laurel-Lynn and their dog Koda. It might start with a hike and then a nice homemade dinner. Sean states that one of the best parts of being a chef is that he can experiment and create an unforgettable romantic dining experience at home, while teaching Laurel-Lynn how to cook. This Valentine’s Day, Sean has put together a special recipe for Calgary Academy Alumni. Sean’s passion for Italian cuisine shines with this homemade gnocchi recipe. This recipe is something that anyone can make. So pour yourself and your loved ones a glass of wine (or beverage of choice), put on your favourite music, and create some memories! Thank you, Sean, for sharing your time and talent with us. If you happen to try this dish at home, please snap a shot and share it with CA!

Meet our people: Irina Dart

This is Irina. For most of our students and parents, she is the first face you see when introduced to our school. Irina is the admissions guru and has been a trusted advocate of Calgary Academy since 1997. Irina is a breath of fresh air, a brilliant smiling face that can be felt even through the mask. Her passion for our school and our mission is exhilarating to be around, which is why she was such an easy choice to feature during February, the season of love. CA is incredibly fortunate to have Irina on the team, and we love her. Irina came from Belarus at the age of 5 and settled flawlessly into Albertan life. She did her undergraduate at the University of Calgary and a Master’s degree at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo. She has an impeccable sense of style and in her spare time loves spending time with her husband and three children, shopping, watching ‘90s rom-coms, running and spending evenings walking with friends and can always be won over with chocolate. But what makes Irina LOVE CA? Irina started as a teacher here at CA, unlike other schools, she had worked with previously, she was vastly excited about the possibilities that could be. She was intrigued by our mission of putting the child first and fully took advantage of the fact that she had mentors to guide her in the CA way. She thrived in a thoughtful, thorough, and intentional environment: one with an organized process that sets both staff and students up for success. And succeeded she did. Within the decade, Irina moved on to Assistant Principal and then to her current role with Admissions. She truly has seen the school from all angles. If you have ever spent any time in her presence, you will know that Irina excels at what she does. She loves her current role because she finds motivation everyday through the stories she hears from prospective students and parents. Her approachable charm makes it easy for everyone to open up to her. I can assure you that the connection you get is real--her care is genuine and heartfelt, it is impossible not to gain that instantaneous connection. As a CA parent herself, Irina knows how vital the work we are doing is, she can confirm first hand that CA does change people’s lives and believes in the school’s mission, vision, and values. So, what does Irina love most about her role? The transformations! From enrollment to graduation, she is inspired by everyone’s unique journey. In her words, she could not do her job if she didn’t live and breathe it. Irina truly is changing lives one child at a time. CA loves Irina to bits, and we are thrilled that she continues to rock her roll every single day!

Adopt-A-Family 2021 Recap

Thank you for making this year’s Closer to Home initiatives our biggest year yet.  CA’s annual Adopt-a-Family/Cool Kids Care initiative in support of Closer to Home Community Services has now wrapped for another year. For over 20 years, the CA community, including staff, students, teachers, and parents have supported Closer to Home to bring altruism and our REACH principles to life, helping this important community organization. This was our most successful year! The total raised for this year’s Closer to Home Adopt-A-Family initiative was $15,960 – surpassing the original goal by almost $2,000! Closer to Home will use these donations to buy gift cards for families to use for groceries or presents during the holiday season.

“Our families really do understand that there are people out of work right now, there are people struggling to put food on the table, worried about where are they going to get their next month’s rent.  Adopt-A-Family helps to take a little pressure off those people during a season that should be full of joy,”  said CA Director of Learning, Sarah Hoag.
To celebrate Adopt-A-Family coming to a close this week, the International Travel Studies (ITS) Morocco students set up a hot chocolate and candy cane station to spread good cheer and to thank their fellow CA community members for their contributions. The leadership of the students throughout this initiative was integral in generating a greater understanding throughout our community about the importance of donating and giving back to those less fortunate.
“This initiative is so important every year, but especially this year when many people are struggling to buy necessities. Calgary Academy has continued this yearly tradition since 1997 and this year is the biggest year yet, and we feel so proud to have been able to give back to 18 families in 2021,” said ITS Student, Levi L.
Thank you again for supporting local Calgarians during this holiday season. Happy Holidays!