Rainbow District School Board honours excellence in education

By Rosalind Russell – Rainbow District School Board honoured its dedicated employees and community partners with the 2022 Awards last week.

The awards include Outstanding Contribution to the Co-Curricular Program, Community Partnership Awards, Awards for Excellence and more.

Board Chair Bob Clement says the awards represent a rich tradition of honouring excellence in Rainbwo schools in Sudbury, Espanola and on Manitoulin Island. 

Employees with 25 and 35 years of service were also recognized.




Brad Smith – Teacher – Confederation Secondary School


From the start of his teaching career, Brad Smith has been a tireless advocate for students in athletics and academics. As Program Leader of Physical Education at Confederation Secondary School since 2018, he ensures that students have opportunities to experience healthy, active living. He not only delivers engaging lessons, he also gives generously of his time, energy and enthusiasm to the Board’s co-curricular program.


With his professionalism, knowledge and experience, Brad Smith is highly respected within the Sudbury District Secondary Schools’ Athletic Association (SDSSAA). He has coached and convened flag football for the past 10 years, nurturing a transition from full contact to 7×7 and helping expand flag football to one of the largest team sports. He has also coached or acted as staff liaison for other sports including basketball, soccer, hockey and curling. A true team player, Brad Smith recognizes the impact of sports on student achievement and well-being.



Daniel Young – Indigenous Support Worker – Lasalle Secondary School


For the past five years, Daniel Young has excelled in his role as Indigenous Support Worker at Lasalle Secondary School. His demeanor is warm and inviting. His passion for student success is unwavering. It’s common to find students seeking Daniel for conversation, support and mentorship. He works tirelessly to forge connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Fortunately for Lasalle Secondary School, Daniel also has a love for coaching basketball.


In his first year, he coached the novice boys’ team. Over time, he was recruited to coach the junior boys’ team. When the novice team started the year without a coach, Daniel willingly opened the gym for those who had a desire to try out. Under his leadership, his teams have had great success – this year to the city finals. A wonderful role model, Daniel approaches his commitment to students with dedication and professionalism.





Better Beginnings Better Futures


Better Beginnings Better Futures recognizes that nutritious food helps kids learn. Working with volunteers and partners, the Student Nutrition Program gives children and youth access to a nutritious breakfast and snacks to support healthy growth and development. When students start their day well-nourished, they are ready to learn and have every opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve success.


The School Nutrition Program is funded by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services with support from generous donors. Even during the pandemic, Better Beginnings Better Futures supported families. They delivered bags of groceries from the safety of school parking lots, packaged and delivered meals to schools for their programs, sent grocery gift cards directly to families and through schools, and provided vouchers to purchase produce at their local mobile market. Accepting the award on behalf of Better Beginnings Better Futures is Angèle Young, Regional Manager of the Student Nutrition Program.



Finlandia Village


Finlandia Village has been working in partnership with Lasalle Secondary School for more than a decade. It started with their support of the Memoirs Writing Project. Students interviewed residents to capture their rich life stories in words and photos. The partnership has since evolved to focus on active living for seniors to enhance their quality of life. The entire Lasalle Secondary School community is committed to promoting health and wellness for all.


To date, more than $100,000 has been raised for the Finlandia SISU Charitable Foundation through the annual Sling-Choker SISU Family Walk. Most recently, Lasalle participated in the Around Australia walking challenge, a fundraising journey of 14 million steps for the ongoing expansion of walking trails. Finlandia Village is an important partner in education. When students are engaged in the community, they learn lessons that last a lifetime. Accepting the award on behalf of Finlandia Village is Chief Executive Officer David Munch.



Dr. Robert Silvestri


A member of Rainbow District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, Dr. Robert Silvestri is the lead researcher at the Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre located at Cambrian College. The Centre supports students with learning disabilities transitioning to post-secondary education. The Centre offers comprehensive psycho-educational assessments to students and conducts multi-disciplinary research related to learning disabilities, ADHD and mental health.


Dr. Silvestri has conducted research on Board initiatives, including reading intervention screeners and interventions as well as the LD Pilot Project in which he collaborated with students, parents/guardians and educators to measure the effectiveness of student achievement. He also developed resources to support students who have ADHD. This work featured a professional learning component for staff to build system capacity. Dr. Silvestri willingly shares his expertise and research skills to ensure the Board implements evidence- based strategies and programs for students with learning disabilities. This has a direct impact on student success.





Monetville Public School


Staff and students at Monetville Public School continue to earn the highest EcoSchools certification for their environmental efforts – Platinum. Students in all grades learn about economical and sustainable food practices through the school’s gardening program. Maintaining the gardens, from germination to watering to weeding, provides an immense sense of pride. Learning in this rural school often takes place outdoors. Students connect with nature in the school yard, outdoor classroom, or “Sit Spot” which fosters mental health and well-being.


To reduce their carbon footprint, students recycle and upcycle, which diverts landfill waste. They also use recyclables to create beautiful art. Eco-friendly practices are encouraged throughout the school year. Students enjoy World Pulse Day, use Good On One Side bins, turn down the heat on Sweater Days, participate in Waste-free Wednesdays, hike in the wilderness, and clean up the community on Earth Day. Students also participate in the Bondar Challenge, discovering nature through the lens of a camera.



Lockerby Composite School


Lockerby Composite School’s Environmental Council, comprised of student and staff volunteers, lead monthly environmental projects. Students participate in Earth Day fundraisers, an International Day of Forests maple-taffy event, and seed swaps in homeroom. Students take part in community clean-ups, tree planting and birding field trips. They also help the Sudbury Horticultural Society with their annual plant sale. With support from the city’s regreening program, pollinator gardens were planted in front of the school.


Young biologists in the Science Technology Education Program learn by doing through conservation projects such as vermicomposting, assessing decomposition in student-built bio-active terrariums, and developing sustainable food growth practices by germinating cucamelons and blackberries. Last year, in addition to their weekly virtual meetings, Environmental Council members participated in the Living with Lakes Troubled Waters Forum, bringing the youth perspective to the conversation. Lockerby Composite School is leading by example with a Platinum EcoSchools certification.





Patrick Audette – Cleaner – Walden Public School


“Mr. Pat,” as he is affectionately known at Walden Public School, works tirelessly as a Cleaner to get the job done with caution and care. Mr. Pat arrives at work each day with a positive outlook that echoes through the halls. He takes pride in ensuring his school is clean, safe and inviting, and during unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Pat remains focused on the task. He is highly respected and valued by the entire school community, and offers helpful advice when needed.


An integral part of the Rubbish Rangers/ School Recycling and Composting Program, Mr. Pat meets often with the lead teacher, and instructs and supervises student volunteers. He is an active participant at meetings and is a strong proponent of the school’s environmental initiatives. When called upon to work at another school that is short-staffed, he does so without hesitation. Patrick Audette is an ideal candidate for an Award for Excellence.



David Digby – Health and Safety Officer – Centre for Education


Shortly after joining the Board in 2018, David Digby set out to review and revamp administrative procedures related to the health and safety of students, staff and school visitors. When the Board and its schools were thrust into a global pandemic, David’s wealth of knowledge, organizational skills, attention to detail, and calming presence proved invaluable.


As Health and Safety Officer, he worked tirelessly to provide clear direction on everything from the use of musical instruments to the delivery of food services. Anytime anyone had a question about COVID-19, David was always a text or a phone call away. He continues to support schools in maintaining safe and healthy learning and working environments for all. For going above and beyond to help lead the Board through one of the greatest health and safety challenges of our time, David Digby is most deserving of an Award for Excellence.



Sonia Howard – Custodian – Chelmsford Valley District Composite School


Sonia Howard joined the Board as a Cleaner in 1994. For the better part of the past three decades, Sonia has left a resounding legacy for staff and students at many elementary and secondary schools across the city including Confederation, Chelmsford, Jeanne Sauvé, Levack, Lansdowne, Carl A. Nesbitt, Adamsdale and Princess Anne. Currently, Sonia is the proud Custodian at Chelmsford Valley District Composite School where she is affectionately regarded as a matriarch.


A consummate professional, Sonia takes immense pride in ensuring staff and students have a safe space for teaching and learning. No matter how busy her schedule may be, she is always asking how she can help others. Sonia is highly respected by the entire school community. She is a model for hard work, commitment and a job well done, each and every day. Sonia Howard is very deserving of a Rainbow District School Board Award for Excellence.



Mary Jago – Mental Health Lead – Centre for Education


As Mental Health Lead since 2017, Mary Jago initiated the creation and implementation of Rainbow District School Board’s first Mental Health Strategic Plan. With a focus on evidence-based mental health promotion, prevention and targeted intervention, the plan establishes a foundation for mentally healthy classrooms. Schools are now supported by a dynamic team of Social Workers.


Together, they have a positive and powerful impact on student achievement and well-being by increasing awareness, reducing stigma, building capacity, developing resources, delivering programs, accessing services and, above all, being caring adults. The Mental Health Team builds resilience and promotes kindness as they foster safe, accepting and welcoming school communities. They also provide support during tragic events. The Board’s focus on mental health is creating learning environments where young people become strong, healthy and vibrant individuals, without discrimination. For her inspired leadership, Mary Jago is most deserving of an Award for Excellence.



Allison MacNeil – Teacher – Assiginack Public School


Allison MacNeil helps students foster self-esteem by learning their interests and passions. As the special education and music teacher at Assiginack Public School, Allison is truly dedicated to her students. She offers varied opportunities to students beyond the regular school day, leading various clubs including movie-making, ukulele, guitar, computer coding, and a Makerspace. She also hosts sessions and workshops for students and families after school.


Throughout the pandemic, Allison found many ways to instill positivity. She coordinated virtual Remembrance Day ceremonies, Christmas concerts, and even prepared an online Escape Room for Family Literacy Day. She also plans and emcees the graduations, and writes and produces songs and dance routines. During remote learning, Allison continued to shine as a leader – often in costume – creating lighter moments to engage her students. Allison MacNeil embodies the spirit of Assiginack Public School. She is most deserving of an Award for Excellence.



Brien Managhan – Manager of Applied Behaviour Analysis – Centre for Education


Brien Managhan is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and Manager of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). He oversees the ABA Program and the Northern Supports Initiative, which are part of Special Education Programs and Services. Personalized programming in an alternative setting gives students tools for success in learning and life. Students return to their home school with skills and strategies to be contributing members of society.


Knowledgeable, progressive and caring, Brien offers hope with his unwavering dedication to change outcomes. Over the past eight years, Brien has recruited and trained a team of educators to provide behaviour and social skill support in all Rainbow Schools. He has also built system capacity through workshops and professional learning. His expertise has been invaluable to the Board’s Early Intervention Programs, Section classes, Alternative Program at Jean Hanson Public School, and the ASD After School Skill Development Program. Brien Managhan exemplifies reaching minds and touching hearts.



Veronica Neilson – Teacher – Queen Elizabeth II Public School


Veronica Neilson has demonstrated exemplary service in Rainbow Schools for 24 years. A welcoming presence at Queen Elizabeth II Public School, Veronica keeps morale high by getting to know students personally and academically.


A lifelong learner, Veronica participates in Board initiatives and professional development – merging new learning into her practice to best support her students based on their individual needs. She also embraces new technology, and uses it as a means to enhance teaching and learning in class. A pillar within the school, Veronica is always willing to share her learning with colleagues for the betterment of all students. Beyond academics, Veronica believes school activities are vital to the school experience, and helps organize many events including Halloween, literacy/numeracy day, Christmas bazaar, Adanac ski trips, Mother’s Day jewelry fundraiser, and track and field day. For this and more, Veronica is most deserving of an Award for Excellence.



Lisa Polano – Facilities Supervisor – Lockerby Composite School


Lisa Polano joined the Board in 1987 as a Cleaner at Copper Cliff Public School. Since then, she has worked as a Cleaner or Custodian at Chelmsford Valley District Composite School, Long Lake, Larchwood, Markstay, Sudbury Secondary and R.H. Murray. Lisa’s diligence led her to her current role as Facilities Supervisor in 2007, overseeing a family of schools.


Lisa is efficient, effective, competent, honest, dedicated and reliable. Throughout the pandemic, cleaning staff were called into action very early in the morning to fog schools. If staff were unavailable, Lisa would willingly go to the school to disinfect it herself. When a recent classroom flood occurred, Lisa was on site to help with the clean-up without hesitation. A mentor to her colleagues, she prioritizes the well-being of students and staff. Her knowledge of facilities operations is immeasurable.



Rosanne Smagac – Educational Assistant – Confederation Secondary School


The epitome of professionalism and dedication, colleagues describe Rosanne Smagac as pure sunshine. As an Educational Assistant, she balances care, support and respect with high expectations. Students are pushed beyond their comfort zones. They learn that with hard work and perseverance they can experience success beyond what they believed possible.


During remote learning, Rosanne made personal phone calls, scheduled Google meets, participated in home visits, and encouraged outdoor fitness. Rosanne delayed her retirement by a year to ensure her student with exceptionalities had the consistency, stability and support to achieve success. Of course, she wanted to see her student graduate, one of many who have flourished under her gentle guidance. Her kind, empathetic approach, can-do attitude, and joie de vivre will be missed by students and staff. One of Confederation Secondary School’s biggest champions, Rosanne Smagac leaves a lasting legacy. She models excellence each and every day.





Steven Marko – Special Education Coordinator – Centre for Education


Steven Marko has committed himself to students with special needs, ensuring they have every opportunity possible to pursue their dreams. As a teacher, and now as Special Education Coordinator, Steven is the epitome of moral purpose. In Steven’s world, there are no problems – only solutions. He dedicates each day to improving the lives of students with exceptionalities. Even at night and on weekends, he makes himself available to ensure student safety is first and foremost.


Steven has an innate ability for building trusting relationships for student success. He recently became the lead for Project Search, a community-based school-to-work transition program for students with disabilities. A supportive and fun team member, Steven is the first to volunteer his services. He even spent time coaching two high school wrestling teams. Steven Marko walks the talk for students with humility, warmth and compassion. He is most deserving of a Barbara Konarek Memorial Award.





Kaitlin Chalk – Teacher – Redwood Acres Public School


Kaitlin Chalk is a well-respected and dynamic educator with 25 years of experience.


Currently, she teaches at Redwood Acres Public School, where parents/guardians appreciate her and students relish being in her class. Kaitlin has high, yet attainable expectations, and supports students to help them reach their potential. She affords choice for students to demonstrate their understanding, and develops lessons based on their strengths and interests.


Kaitlin celebrates success, and shares achievements with colleagues to promote positivity and create motivation. Kaitlin welcomes vulnerable students with empathy, and has a keen understanding of how to reach students with special needs. Her students know her as compassionate, caring, sympathetic, enthusiastic, organized, kind, helpful and fun. A lifelong learner, she is always looking to improve her teaching practice for the betterment of her students. She also coaches school sports. Kaitlin Chalk is most deserving of the William N. Roman Teacher of the Year Award.



Crystal Gibbs – Program Leader of Numeracy – Sudbury Secondary School


Sudbury Secondary School has earned accolades for student success in mathematics.


In 2018, the school received the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement Award from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) which assesses learning of curriculum expectations. Crystal Gibbs leads the team of educators who work together to nurture a passion for math. As Program Leader of Numeracy, she recognizes the insight data provides to determine student needs.


Classroom teachers and special education resource personnel collaborate to implement best practices. The strategies have made a huge difference, from linear timetabling, wrap-around supports, integrating units of study, spiralling the curriculum, pairing students for modeling and mentoring, facilitating transitions with feeder schools, ensuring students have special education resources, to incorporating new ideas into the classroom. Sudbury Secondary School focuses on consistency, repetition and spaced practice to maximize student success in mathematics. A leader in her field, Crystal Gibbs exemplifies the qualities of the William N. Roman Teacher of the Year Award.


Photo: Photos provided by RDSB and montaged by Rosalind Russell. Used with permissions.



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