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St. Margaret’s School | for girls

Confident girls. Inspiring women. Confident girls. Inspiring women. Confident girls. Inspiring women.

Where did the Red Blazer take her? “My career path has been very organic and winding. I started off in science, working in prestigious laboratories, such as the laboratory that first sequenced the SARS genome. I lived in Tanzania for three months studying the maize value chain there for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I am also now working on becoming more entrepreneurial and starting social enterprises in Africa… Looking back, I realize that SMS ingrained in me the desire to have international friends and an international life. SMS also helped to foster my curiosity and desire for constant learning, which has put me on a winding career and life path.“ Elizabeth (Beth) Rogers Class of 1998 | Freelance Consultant BSc in biochemistry and microbiology (UVic); Master’s in Space Studies (International Space University); Sustainable Building Advisor Certificate & Certificate of Sustainability Management (UBC); International MBA (Rotterdam School of Management)

“I think that SMS was the right place for me … I learned to define myself based on qualities other than my appearance. Going to SMS, you always have the feeling that greatness is expected of you, and I think that has driven me to aim high and work hard.” Bianca Jackson Class of 2009 | Master’s Student BSc (Honours) in microbiology (University of Victoria); Master’s of Science in Public Health in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control with a Certificate in Vaccine Science and Policy (Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg)

St. Margaret’s iconic red blazer represents our school’s values and mission, and is a symbol that resonates strongly with current students and alumnae alike. In light of our upcoming tribute to Dr. Frances Kelsey (see story on page 6), we asked our alumnae to write to us with stories of how SMS helped them shape their careers in STEM.

“I have travelled to Saudi Arabia and worked as an NICU nurse there, as well as in Turkey, Texas, Florida, Nunavut, and more. I’m presenting at an international nursing research conference in Puerto Rico in July. I’m excited to have my boys see me at work as a scientist! I loved the expectation of discipline and excellence at SMS. I felt like I was in an elite group (and I was). Andrea Sehmel Class of 1981 | Nurse Master’s of Nursing, Nursing Education & Healthcare Leadership (University of Washington Tacoma)

“I believe that SMS has the best program in the world, and there was so much to do... Strathcona, extracurriculars, dormitory life, leadership class, international dinners, relationships with girls, etc. Once you experience all of these at SMS, you can achieve anything in your career path!” Gahee Park Class of 2006 | PhD Candidate BSc in biomedical science (State University of New York); PhD candidate studying cancer genomics (Seoul National University)

“I absolutely believe that my St. Margaret’s education moulded me into the passionate, hardworking woman I am today. The high academic expectations taught me to strive for nothing but excellence, and now I demand excellence from myself in my studies.“ Amanda Volk Class of 2012 | Undergraduate Student BSc in biology, minor in health therapy & chemistry (Saint Joseph’s College)

“I was inspired by my teachers and peers to study hard at SMS, which left me confident in my academic ability when I began post-secondary education. I was not afraid to challenge myself or to work hard to achieve my academic goals. However, practising medicine requires more than the ability to retain facts. It was through my involvement in clubs, peer tutoring, and interaction with a diverse student body at SMS that I first developed the skills in communication, collaboration, and advocacy that I continue to practise and refine every day.” Adele Duimering Class of 2007 | Medical Resident BSc in medicine (University of Victoria); Medical Doctorate (University of British Columbia); radiation oncology resident (University of Alberta)

“SMS encouraged us to try different things out. You never know if you like something unless you try it! SMS helped me develop the confidence to try things… All of this gave me courage and tools to seek out those experiences that I found rewarding in life. I still am seeking new things to learn.” Sharon Bleuler Class of 1957 | Retired BSc in chemistry and math, minor in physical education (University of British Columbia); Master’s of Exercise Physiology (University of British Columbia); Master’s of Science and PhD in psychology (University of Washington)

messages from the head and chair At SMS, our girls grow in confidence by exploring their passions and trying new things—all within a school that demands everyone to give their best. Looking ahead, I’m excited about our upcoming projects Cathy Thornicroft for 2015 that address the Head of School whole girl: heart, head, and body. Our Creating Special Places initiative, supported by generous donations from our SMS community, will focus on creating a Wellness Centre for everyone and a covered outdoor play area to give our younger students a reprieve from the elements. Our new global partnership with Outward Bound will soon offer our girls the experience of sailing a beautiful vessel off the coast of Hong Kong. Encouraging our girls to test their physical and mental capacity through programs like this will help them build the strength of character—the “grit”—necessary to face challenges outside our safe environment. And, finally, this year we will launch an initiative to encourage and recognize passions that fall outside our regular curriculum and take individualized learning to the next level by offering students a personalized Program of Distinction. One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity to meet parents and tell them the unique story of our school—a story that started in 1908 with two sisters and a dream. But after having been in the position of Head of School for over four years now, I have come to realize that I am not just another storyteller. We are all central characters in this school’s story, and while we continue to honour our founders’ original goal, we embrace the innovations necessary to meet the demands of the future—a future that is clamouring for more women in leadership roles.

When I was asked to pen an introduction for the current edition of Spirit, I asked about the themes that were to be highlighted. STEM, residence programming, Programs of Distinction, and the Wellness Centre Jeremy Mannall-Fretwell were the responses. Chair, Board of Governors Reflecting on all those great subjects, I realized that my theme needed to be the central figure without whom none of this would have happened. Five years ago, Cathy Thornicroft came to St. Margaret’s with a personal mission: she wanted to finish her career by making a difference. The school she arrived at had just come through some challenging times, and the Board of Governors was in search of a special leader: someone who could take the school to the next level and really develop the all-girls tradition into an all-girls future. The Board found that leader in Cathy, and in St. Margaret’s Cathy found that place where she could— and has—made a huge difference. On behalf of the SMS Board of Governors, it gives me great pleasure, therefore, to inform you that we have entered into an agreement with Head of School Cathy Thornicroft that will see her continue in her role for another five years. Cathy has brought focus to St. Margaret’s that is pushing the school forward in this 21st century. She is a role model for the leadership that we wish to see in all St. Margaret’s girls, and as an inspiring woman herself, she is an embodiment of the vision of our school. Jeremy Mannall-Fretwell, Chair, Board of Governors

With re-enrolment for the coming year in full swing, I invite all of you to help write the next instalment. Your support, excitement, and commitment will propel St. Margaret’s forward. Together we will write the greatest girls’ story ever written.

Keep in touch | | /saintmargarets |


Letters to the Editor: SMS SPIRIT, c/o 1080 Lucas Avenue, Victoria, BC, V8X 3P7

Cathy Thornicroft, Head of School SMS Spirit | 01


Written by Kevin Paul

Answers to Questions for Your Inquiring Mind There’s a revolution going on at St. Margaret’s School. It’s a quiet and gentle sort of revolution. It has been underway for less than a year, and there is entirely too much fun going on for it to be recognized as any revolution you’ve ever heard of. St. Margaret’s School is now a “STEM school.” That short statement does not immediately sound revolutionary, but it does lead to a long list of questions. Here are answers to the most important questions about what it means for SMS to make STEM a priority for the school’s future.

What Is STEM? The acronym “STEM” has become the generally accepted shorthand for a group of academic disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term originated in the public policy analysis done in western countries that showed an alarming shortfall in the number of qualified professionals to fill the jobs available in STEM-related fields. Technological innovation and economic growth depend on producing more university graduates in these areas. According to a 2012 report by the Canadian House of Commons, hundreds of thousands of STEM vacancies will go unfilled because of an insufficient number of qualified graduates.

Is That All There Is to It? Just a Lot More Science? If STEM were merely a new way to talk about the same old subjects like chemistry and math, there really wouldn’t be much to get excited about. There certainly would not be any reason for SMS to jump on an empty bandwagon and brand itself as a “STEM school.” But there is more to it than that. Much more. Far from being merely a list of isolated subjects, STEM—in the context of schools—has become synonymous with an interdisciplinary approach to learning and teaching. Creative teachers and education leaders have sparked an explosion in the drive for genuinely integrated curricula. Artificial barriers between disciplines fall away as students work on projects that require pulling ideas from many different subjects.

Wait! What’s All This about Projects? The concept that binds the whole thing together is projects. That’s where the magic happens. Projectbased collaborative learning is the heart of STEM education. Students work in teams to find answers to meaningful questions or to solve real-world problems. In addition to becoming knowledgeable in various subjects, to get good results in a STEM project students must develop skills in cooperation, creative and critical thinking, and problem solving. SMS Spirit | 02

ring e e n i g The En

Design Process

Step 1: ASK

• What problem are you trying to solve?

Step 2: RESEARCH •U  se background research to get ideas. Step 3: IMAGINE • Brainstorm possible solutions. •Choose the best one to take to prototype. Step 4: PLAN • Diagram the prototype. •Gather all the materials you will need. Step 5: CREATE • Make a prototype. • Test it. Step 6: IMPROVE • How can it be better? •Repeat Steps 1 to 5 to make changes. Step 7: EVALUATE •D  id you solve the problem? • If yes, then go to Step 8. If no, go back to any of Steps 2 to 6. Step 8: COMMUNICATE •T  ell the world about your results.

Throughout the process, students develop the emotional resilience necessary to cope with the inevitable failures that are part of all scientific inquiry. Coming up with ideas that don’t work becomes merely part of the process. It is something students learn to expect and overcome. They develop the character trait that Dr. JoAnn Deak calls “grit.” (See “Raising Confident and Courageous Girls” on page 12.) Not getting it right the first time, and not worrying too much about it, is a feature of this approach, generally referred to as inquiry-based learning. One variation of inquirybased learning that St. Margaret’s has been using with success this year is the engineering design process (see sidebar), which has proven to be an extraordinarily versatile learning tool.

What Does This Mean for Learning the Fundamentals? With such an emphasis on projects and exploration, some people wonder what happens to the traditional desk work where students learn fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. It’s still there. These fundamental skills are essential to successful exploration of meaningful questions. The difference is that STEM students learn the fundamentals through their projects rather than by traditional rote learning in isolation. “We carve out intentional time for textbook learning when it’s necessary,” says Lauren Hudson, the STEM Program Support Teacher at SMS. “But the STEM project-based approach adds relevance and context that enriches their learning,” she adds.

Kindergarteners help out with a Grade 11 Psychology lab.

The engineering design process works for problem solving in any context, even with the very youngest students. In Rebecca Kaukinen’s kindergarten class, the girls quickly grasped the process as they imagined technology that could enhance their senses. “Kids that age are not fazed by trying many versions of something before getting one that works,” says Rebecca.

Lauren is emphatic about this. Students definitely cover all the prescribed learning outcomes (PLO) for their grade. In fact, the goal is to exceed the PLO requirements, not merely satisfy the minimums.

SMS Spirit | 03

A fanciful design belies the underlying physics of this student art project, a ceramic teapot.

Is It All Science and Tech All the Time? Where Do the Arts Fit In? Just as fundamental skills are a key part of a STEM education, so too is there a central place for the arts and other subjects. Having STEM as a priority does not preclude using other modes of inquiry. Darlene DeMerchant, St. Margaret’s Director of Curriculum, is adamant that “STEM does not exclude any discipline.” And Dana Reid, Instructional Leader in science and mathematics, makes the point that many inquiries that begin as science projects quickly blur the lines between disciplines to include areas such as history and social studies. For example, “science very easily merges with English,” says Dana. “Scientific literacy is more than knowing the content. It’s also about being able to communicate it effectively.” As well, the principles of interdisciplinary inquiry-based learning that are the foundation for teaching STEM subjects are also surprisingly applicable to any subject.

continued on page 4

The Sky Is the Limit Dr. Elizabeth Cannon

Sheryl Sandberg

President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Calgary

COO of Facebook

Professor of Engineering

Co-author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

The first woman to become Dean of Engineering in Canada. Founder of Cybermentor, an online program for mentoring girls in science and engineering.

Named in 2012 by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Marissa Mayer

Professor of Chemistry and Biochemical Engineering, University of Toronto

President and CEO of Yahoo! Became head of a $42 billion tech company at 37 years old.

According to Dr. Gregg Cannady, a music teacher at the STEM Magnet Lab School in Northglenn, Colorado, music education is a great example of how the arts thrive in a STEM environment. High-tech problem-based learning accelerates music learning. And, more importantly, “we are valuing creativity more than ever before.” The challenge, says Dr. Cannady, is to “make sure every kid is able to explore that passion.” To make it clear that nothing valuable is being lost or ignored with this new direction, the instructional leaders at SMS created an unofficial motto that encapsulates the school’s approach to adopting STEM as a priority. At SMS, our goal is to ensure our students will be: • Grounded in wellness • Strengthened by the humanities • Connected through the arts • Soaring with STEM

Dr. Molly Shoichet

The only person ever elected to all three of Canada’s national science academies.

Why Is STEM a Great Idea for Girls? 1.G et More Women Where It Counts The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that although women make up 48% of STEM graduates, they are employed in only 24% of the STEMrelated jobs.* Why? One of the main reasons is that women are seriously underrepresented in key areas where the action is: engineering and computing (see sidebar). Universities, governments, and private-sector firms have a variety of programs and strategies to encourage more women to study and work in STEM fields. Laudable as these measures are, they are often just ways to compensate for systemic problems that remain unchanged. As well, these remedial efforts have had little real effect. The best long-term answer to the problem is to introduce girls to the wonders of science and technology as early as possible. Fostering their natural curiosity and developing a wide range of inquiry skills will make it much more likely that girls who

Students learning “in the field” at Esquimalt Lagoon.

graduate from a STEM school will permanently alter the current gender imbalance in science and technology. 2. Create More Confident, Courageous Girls STEM subjects are hard. Doing STEM work through inquiry-based learning is even harder. But, as JoAnn Deak makes plain, doing difficult things is key to building the mental and emotional resilience that creates legitimate self-esteem. Work on STEM projects is never easy. They rarely succeed on the first attempt. There are often two, or three, or dozens of failures before a breakthrough discovery or innovation arrives.

Why Is STEM a Great Idea for SMS? Part of what is so exciting about St. Margaret’s emphasis on STEM is that it is not completely new. It builds

* Statistics Canada states that women account for 39% of STEM graduates, but we could not find an equivalent stat for comparing Canadian women in STEM careers at the time of publication.

SMS Spirit | 04

Girls learning to code during a workshop: Intro to HTML and CSS

Women and the World of STEM Women are significantly underrepresented in key STEM fields in school and at work. And even though the wage gap is narrower for STEM jobs, women still earn only $0.86 for every dollar earned by men. Education: Percent of Qualifications Awarded to Women Engineering Canada 23.5% OECD* countries 27.2% European Union 28.4% Computing Canada 17.9% OECD* countries 19.7% European Union 18.8% Jobs: Getting Work and Getting Paid Percent of jobs going to women All jobs 48% STEM jobs 24% Hourly rate for STEM jobs Men $36.34 Women $31.11 Wage gap 14% *Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (comprising 34 high-income countries)

on a foundation of the school’s existing strengths. SMS already has a tradition of excellence in science and interdisciplinary inquiry. Just one example is the school’s Science Fair, which has a long history of vibrant investigation. As well, as part of the Senior Years Program, the girls prepare a substantial multidisciplinary paper. And, as Darlene DeMerchant points out, one of the reasons that STEM implementation has begun in the Foundation Years Program is because “STEM fits so well with best practice for Early Childhood Education— something we already do very well.” But perhaps the best answer to this question is that St. Margaret’s is actually the very best place for a STEM revolution to take hold. Darlene makes it clear: given the importance of STEM to the world that SMS graduates will enter,

and the fact that women are so underrepresented in STEM careers, “it is our responsibility, particularly in an all-girls school, to take this seriously. It would be wrong for us not to do the best we can to prepare our girls with STEM skills that will never fail them no matter what career they choose.” The journey to becoming a fullfledged STEM school is a long one. In fact, if done properly, with genuine scientific inquiry at its heart, the journey will never end.

Like the firms, labs, non-profits, and universities in which its graduates will find themselves working, SMS is becoming the embodiment of the very inquiry model it is teaching its students. Becoming “truly STEM” means the school is using the engineering design cycle and scientific hypothesis testing and experimentation on itself. If the fun and excitement of the early stage of STEM implementation are any indication of the future, St. Margaret’s is on the cusp of something very special—perhaps even revolutionary.

“We don’t want to create graduates who are compliant. We want to create learners who are thinkers, learners that challenge, learners who dig deep.” –Lauren Hudson, STEM Program Support Teacher SMS Spirit | 05

paying tribute to an extraordinary alumna:

Dr. Frances Kelsey (Class of ’31)

Written by Martin Laws

In early March 2015, the Canadian government met with the 95 surviving victims of thalidomide to negotiate long-term compensation. Thalidomide was marketed to pregnant women in the 1950s as a morning sickness “miracle pill” in 46 countries, including Canada, but it was soon discovered to have horrific side effects. The drug caused many stillbirths and babies being born with serious defects. According to CBC news stories, there were an estimated 10,000 victims of the drug worldwide. In the wake of the recent media coverage of thalidomide’s terrible legacy, St. Margaret’s was reminded of the courageous work in opposition of the drug carried out by 1931 alumna Dr. Frances Kelsey. Born in 1914, Dr. Frances “Frankie” Kelsey (née Oldham) is known as the whistle-blower who prevented thalidomide from entering the United States. As a result of her actions, thousands of infants were saved from the disastrous side effects of this drug. In honour of Dr. Kelsey’s centenary birthday, SMS plans to rename its science wing after this remarkable alumna, paying tribute to her

achievements as a scientist. The new name will serve to better recognize Dr. Kelsey as an important historical figure at the school and ensure that her legacy continues to inspire the young women who call St. Margaret’s home. Recently, Dr. Kelsey, accompanied by her daughter, Christine, sat down with St. Margaret’s Head of School Cathy Thornicroft to discuss her early life and her time at SMS, and to remind us that there is so much more to her story than her work against thalidomide. An enthusiastic storyteller, Dr. Kelsey spoke of the 20th century’s most important historical events with honesty and surprising nonchalance. She recounted vivid stories of the Depression years, of living through both world wars, and of her illustrious career, from which she did not officially retire until 2002 after her 87th birthday. Dr. Kelsey attributes much of her resilience to strong role models in her family. Her mother was an actress, instilling in her a love for performance. Recitation still comes naturally to Dr. Kelsey, and when asked by Cathy about being Malcolm House vice-captain, she recited the house cheer without missing a beat, despite having graduated over 80 years ago. Having two accomplished aunts, one a doctor and the other a lawyer, Dr. Kelsey was always encouraged to SMS Spirit | 06

pursue a career, contrary to social norms for women in her time. “I think I liked [the pressure]. I took advantage of it,” she says. Prior to her time at SMS, Dr. Kelsey attended St. George’s School for girls, also in Victoria. She recalls with great fondness Headmistress Mrs. Suttie, who later taught at St. Margaret’s. Following the closure of St. George’s in June 1928, Dr. Kelsey moved to SMS for her final years of secondary school and senior matriculation (roughly equivalent to Grade 13, considered the first year of college in that era). continued on page 8

Dr. Kelsey receiving the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service from President John F. Kennedy.

SMS Spirit | 07

continued from page 6

St. Margaret’s chemistry labs, circa 1920s

Dr. Kelsey’s time at SMS was punctuated with many accomplishments. She played on the field hockey, basketball, and tennis teams; was top of her class in Latin, French, and English literature; and often wrote for the school magazine. Her report cards hint at her strong character. Dr. Kelsey’s daughter, Christine, read a comment aloud for Cathy: “I think you talked a little much in class. Not only would you get yourself in trouble, you would…” Dr. Kelsey, remembering this comment, cut right in: “incite others!” Another comment from her science teacher at SMS urged “Frankie” to pursue science, making note of her natural talent and clear interest. Dr. Kelsey enthusiastically enrolled in a summer biology course at Victoria College, and she went on to complete her BSc and MSc at McGill University. It was at McGill that she made the leap to pharmacology at the suggestion of one of her professors. That professor explained to her that the head of pharmacology at the time, Dr. Raymond Stehle, “does not like graduate students very much, but he might like you.” Indeed, Dr. Stehle soon became Dr. Kelsey’s mentor, and when she completed her MSc, he encouraged her to apply to the University

Dr. Kelsey working in the lab

of Chicago’s new pharmacology program for her PhD. Dr. Kelsey did apply and received a prompt reply, but there was a problem: the correspondence had been addressed to “Mr. Frances Oldham.” Dr. Kelsey explained: “Frances with an ‘e’ is the female; Francis with an ‘i’ is male. If they had known I was a woman, I don’t think I would have [gotten the offer].” Dr. Kelsey was conflicted, but Dr. Stehle insisted that she “accept … sign your name, put Miss in brackets afterwards, and go!” And that’s just what she did: “Signed, Frances Oldham (Miss).” Dr. Kelsey completed her PhD in 1938, married Dr. Fremont Ellis Kelsey in 1943, and continued to work at the University of Chicago for the duration of World War II. At that time, the Allies were running low on their supply of antimalarial medication, and research institutions across America, the United Kingdom, and Australia cooperated closely to try to develop a new treatment. This work would prove to be incredibly important in Dr. Kelsey’s career. The drug she was testing ended up as an “early illustration—not the first—that the embryo might handle a drug differently from the mother.” More than 20 years later, thalidomide SMS Spirit | 08

provided further evidence to this earlier finding. Dr. Kelsey completed her MD in 1950, giving birth to two daughters while attending medical school. With both children in tow, Dr. Kelsey and her family moved to Vermillion, South Dakota, where she interned in nearby Yankton. Dr. Kelsey got her licence to practise medicine, so that “when a doctor wanted to go to a meeting or take a vacation, I would take over his practice for a few weeks.” Both she and Christine agree that the South Dakota years are too often glossed over in stories about her career. It was during those years that Dr. Kelsey became known as the first person to use medical isotopes in the treatment of disease, and she went on to teach other doctors. After eight years in South Dakota, she was hired at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Washington, D.C., to evaluate applications to market new drugs. In her first year there, she was assigned to evaluate the application for Kevadon—the U.S. brand name for thalidomide—a sleeping pill for pregnant women. Dr. Kelsey describes the application as being “sketchy” and having insufficient research. “It just didn’t seem right to me, right from the start,” she recalls.

Dr. Kelsey in the field

JFK signing the 1962 drug policy amendments

The William S. Merrell Company, seeking to market thalidomide, attempted to go over Dr. Kelsey’s head, even threatening her with a lawsuit. When asked if she ever felt the pressure was simply too much, Dr. Kelsey responded succinctly: “No. I stuck firmly.” For her “excellence and courage in protecting public health,” Dr. Kelsey was awarded the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service, the highest civil service honour in the United States, by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Almost 50 years later, the FDA awarded Dr. Kelsey the first Kelsey Award in 2010, for which President Barack Obama congratulated her personally. After a distinguished career in public service, smashing glass ceilings in the first half of the 20th century, and raising two successful children along the way, Dr. Kelsey remains an interesting, engaged woman. She has retained a quick wit and sense of humour, which was apparent with her entertaining story about catching armadillos for research (because their pituitary gland is similar to a human’s): “[The armadillos] go down the hole,

Cathy Thornicroft (L), Dr. Kelsey (centre), and Christine Kelsey (R) during their February 2015 visit

and you don’t dare reach down.” When Cathy asked why, she replied simply, “Because they share it with rattlesnakes!” “Dr. Kelsey so clearly embodies the mission and values of the school,” says Cathy. “St. Margaret’s is all about helping the girls find their voice. They learn to be respectful, but we want them to voice their opinions.” Even though the ratio of females to males is 13:10 at universities in North SMS Spirit | 09

America, females remain vastly underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). It is the school’s hope that this remarkable alumna’s story will continue to inspire girls pursuing STEM careers as they study in the Dr. Frances Kelsey Science Wing for generations to come.

 video

Watch an interview with Dr. Frances Kelsey online at

Alexa Bryant - PoD in Athletics— swimming/health (sponsor and organizer of the school team entry into the Goddess Run). On what she thinks about PoD: “I thought it was a really cool idea: a great way to showcase what people were doing outside of their schoolwork.” On what athletics brings to St. Margaret’s and what she takes back outside the school: “I think it works both ways: both hard work and work ethic that we bring in both directions. One inspires the other and we work hard in both.”

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Kassidy SMIDS-DY


K at ( pur h e r in e Amanat Brar - PoD in t o d suing ac E va n s e Leadership (head girl, coaching, t o o velop h t ing op - Po D i t her n F in por t er c Steering Committee, vet clinic u ra s t ud e O n im en t f t , and ni t ies a A r t s – a volunteer work). per f pr ov nd w c t in fo cu p ac t s o o g o i r d r mer se ft s ) . ing men k shopOn w o r l d o n c o m his p u r s t or s s when she heard about PoD: “I u d an i m t hipwasn’t there when we first started m o r e d t h e u ni c a t i : “ M y s t on pe ud i talking about it in Steering Committee, A s w n f o r m e d o p l e in i a n d l e a ie s a t S M r t el ch n , S ac tin l, balanc oices in helping ming abou have but when I joined [Steering Committee] tt in g m last year, I was there as we were forming e t i m e i n Va n c o g m y s c h y w o r k [ t o m a k h e e it and that got me interested.” - ma a n a g e u v e r h a s o ol w o r k s a n a c t o w men On g t s k i t au g h t m i t h m y r ] . On why she likes the program: “Being a o al s lls.” e v al othe :“Alth u abl person who does so many things outside of r in t e o u g h e I r u ni v school sometimes started to feel like maybe e r si t e s t s b e s h o p e t o ex id [I was] being unnoticed in all the things ac tin y, my g o al e s a c t i n p l o r e g, as [I was] doing …and now this is a really nice ga is it w or k in g t is m y p a t o c o n t in t way to be noticed for accomplishments both o be s sio n u e my c t t er raf t.” , an d outside and inside.” ke ep On what excites her about her project: “I really like the [requirement for the] end presentation: the idea of being able to present in any medium that I would want to whether it be a presentation or an art painting. It’s very self-driven and I like that.” SMS Spirit | 10

t a n a Am a r Br

program of

distinction Written by Heather Ferguson

Many schools talk about educating the whole child, but St. Margaret’s takes up that challenge with a big advantage—its small size. With only 350 students in the whole school and only about 200 in the senior school, St. Margaret’s students work with staff to build new programs that speak to their needs. The new Program of Distinction, or PoD, is one such student-led program. It provides a pathway that integrates students’ lives both inside and outside the classroom. When the proposed program was discussed by the Steering Committee, it was an immediate hit and several girls on the committee signed up right away. As is often the case, one person’s experience stands in for many, and the catalyst for PoD came from a student, now graduated. This was a girl who rode horses at quite a high level and whose experience in that demanding sport was very separate from her school life at St. Margaret’s. Nancy Pekter, Instructional Leader of Specialty Programs, remembered that girl, and she started thinking about a program where a student could bring her competition, volunteer work, or other outside passion into her St. Margaret’s life. In Nancy’s mind such a program

would create a reflective space for growth and encourage a deeper dive into a specialty area than the regular curriculum would normally allow. There would be work attached of course, and the girl would be marked on her project in a format not unlike the defence of a university thesis. She could earn credits, and the school would help her package it neatly and tidily for university admissions officers when the time came. The key to success in the PoD would be to demonstrate personal growth, expertise, and passion. “We are a small school, so we really know our girls,” says Nancy. “This is a way we can celebrate all their activities both in and outside the school and then roll them into their St. Margaret’s experience. It gives them a space to reflect and think about what their choices have meant in their lives.” This inaugural year, eight students chose to participate in PoD, with two highlighting their athletic activities, four on general leadership, one on service to the community, and one on fine arts. Each girl has a staff mentor, and each girl’s project answers the five component questions needed for entry to the program: 1. Is it aligned with the values of St Margaret’s? Does this project have components that show integrity, excellence, service, leadership, courage, or globalmindedness? Are girls at the centre of this project? SMS Spirit | 11

2. Does it fit with the British Columbia educational curriculum? (Girls are not required to do this for credit, but students who follow that route can earn up to four high school credits for their work.) 3. Does it demonstrate work throughout a range of pathways in a girl’s life? 4. Is there an experiential part to this project that demonstrates the achievement being sought? 5. Is there a planned showcase for this project? (Each girl will be asked to speak on her project to a distinguished panel. She will also be asked to provide a portfolio that can be shown and archived so that, in addition to university admissions officers, future St. Margaret’s students and teachers can benefit from her learning.) Head of School Cathy Thornicroft is a mentor to one of the PoD girls and says of the program, “We stay true to the voices of our students. That’s why our strategic plan is written from the student’s point of view. Our girls are an equal part of our Steering Committee along with parents and staff. The Program of Distinction is a way for us to be true to that aspiration, to listen to the voices and experiences of our girls, and to celebrate that learning journey both inside and outside the classroom.”


Listen to four of this year’s PoD students talk about what the program means to them available online at

Raising confident and courageous girls:

four secrets from

Dr. JoAnn Deak Written by Kevin Paul

“The good news for you parents,” says JoAnn Deak, “is that you can make a lot of mistakes with your girls and they will still thrive—as long as you love them.” The trick to succeeding is balancing on what Dr. Deak calls “the razor’s edge of parenting.” The right balance hinges on making choices for girls based on how their brains actually work. Deak made a long-awaited return visit to SMS in February. Using her trademark blend of humour, compassion, and bluntness, she delivered a message of hope for raising girls who will thrive as adults: doing difficult things in a supportive, caring, yet challenging environment yields confident and courageous girls. During separate sessions for students, teachers, and parents—with a special breakfast meeting for dads only—Deak tailored her message to each audience. But the essence of her advice was the same throughout. The power of Deak’s advice comes from her relentless reliance on what “the research shows us.” She uses the deceptively simple analogy of rubber bands to explain how girls are not limited by the capabilities they are born with. Short bands for math or self-confidence can grow into long, stretchy bands of great ability and resilience.

Here, then, are the essential secrets to “expand the band” that Dr. Deak emphasizes in her books and presentations. These are secrets she is happy to spread widely and share with girls, parents of girls, and teachers of girls everywhere.

pearls for parents •

Secret #1: Hug the Monster The “monster” is anything that girls find hard to do. The kind of neurological growth that expands emotional and intellectual rubber bands occurs when engaging in activities that are difficult. “If you want really good self-esteem,” explains Deak, “decent resiliency and grit—all the characteristics that tell us will help you get through life in decent shape—you must do things that are hard, or against your grain, or scary, or uncomfortable.” The rubber bands grow when girls step out of their comfort zone and embrace challenge—when they “hug the monster.” As Deak puts it, “When something meaningful is hard, like math or spelling, it’s a gift. Your brain is telling you some part of it is not as strong as it needs to be.”

Listen to your instincts.

• D on’t be a rescuer.

You can’t fix or be all that your child needs. Know your limitations and seek support.

• S tay connected.

Consult with your daughter and tap your network of trusted adults.

When saying no to your daughter, tell her how it is easy for you to say yes, “but I love you enough to do what is really hard for me, too.”

 lways go to her room A to say goodnight, especially if you’ve had a rough day together.

Adapted from Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters, by JoAnn Deak (with Teresa Barker).

continued on page 14 SMS Spirit | 12

Using her trademark blend of humour, compassion, and bluntness, Dr. JoAnn Deak delivered a message of hope for raising girls who will thrive as adults.

Dr. Deak giving a unique demonstration during one of her presentations. SMS Spirit | 13

Outweek at Strathcona Park Lodge

The Magic of Math “It is essential for girls to do as much math as possible.” Why? 1. Future employment opportunities in an increasingly technologically based world will require extensive knowledge of math. 2. Success in math at senior grade levels is essential for university admission to science, technology, and engineering programs. 3. Research shows a significant correlation between a female’s perception of her math skills and her self-esteem. This correlation does not exist for any other subject area. Adapted from How Girls Thrive, by JoAnn Deak (with Dory Adams).

Secret #2:  The Two Ms of Brain Optimization Deak advocates two kinds of learning that have the most powerful impact on expanding girls’ mental rubber bands. The early years are the most important to developing the brain structures that support learning. • Music Learning to play a musical instrument from as young an age as possible has a profound, positive effect on the brain’s capacity to generate connections between neurons. • Multilingual Girls should be encouraged to become bilingual—even multilingual—to the point at which they are so fluent that they can actually think in other languages. Deak points out that “different languages put their own unique stamp on the brain; each language requires a different set of neural connections.”

Secret #3:  The Three Cs of Self-Esteem Dr. Deak writes that feeling good about yourself is not good enough. The three Cs are essential ingredients for developing legitimate self-esteem. They must be present in near equal quantities and, as Deak puts it, “layered over time, like a strudel.” • Confidence Confidence grows each time a girl takes a risk and hugs the monster— when she tugs on the limits of her rubber bands. • Competence Competence grows when a girl achieves a goal or succeeds in a task that is just a little bit outside her current comfort zone. • Connectedness “Focusing on self does not increase self-esteem, but it can increase selfishness,” says Deak. She emphasizes the importance for parents and teachers to “find something for your girls that is meaningful outside of their own skin,” such as a group, community, cause, or team.

“Great schools pay attention to the latest brain research, and act on it. St. Margaret’s is one of those schools.” –Dr. JoAnn Deak

Applying geometry to a project about unrealistic body proportions using toy dolls SMS Spirit | 14

Secret #4:  The Big Four “Doing” Opportunities Doing things beyond the basics of classroom study is essential to solidifying the three Cs of self-esteem. Deak believes these four kinds of activities best encompass all three of the Cs. • Mentoring A full-fledged mentoring program, and not just one-shot meetings, can yield startling results. Deak believes “the modelling that female mentors provide simply by showing that someone of that gender can be a success is a powerful confidence booster.” •C  hallenge Courses Outdoor challenge courses such as the school’s annual Outweek and new Outward Bound partnership embody the benefits of physical performance, teamwork, and confronting experiences outside girls’ typical milieu.

• Cooperative Learning The collaborative environment fostered in pedagogical approaches such as inquiry-based learning is the academic equivalent of the physical challenge courses. “Most teachers report powerful changes in attitude and productivity in students in a cooperative learning environment,” says Deak. • Single-Gender Classes, Grouping, or Experiences When thinking of the three Cs, single-gender learning has the most obvious impact on confidence. Deak notes that “Girls report that they are more confident about talking, tackling problems, and expressing their ideas.”

Deak goes further when considering the benefits of an all-girls education. She believes that the confidence building reinforces the competence and connectedness so vital to building self-esteem. Research, she claims, bears this out and that “Great schools pay attention to the latest brain research, and act on it. St. Margaret’s is one of those schools.” The lifetime benefits of what such an education does for girls’ character, and their brains, leads Deak to declare to parents: “Don’t save your money for university. This is the time when their brains are formed.”

JoAnn Deak, PhD Author, educator, and psychologist, JoAnn Deak is world renowned as an advocate for the evidence-based approach to helping girls thrive. Following several years as a science teacher, Deak returned to academia to complete her PhD in psychology at Kent State University. She has spent most of her subsequent career in private practice and consulting with schools. The author of How Girls Thrive (with Dory Adams) and Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters (with Teresa Barker), Dr. Deak maintains a busy international speaking schedule. Resources for parents and educators are available at SMS Spirit | 15

at home in residence Written by Heather Ferguson

Cathy Thornicroft says, “We looked at best practices across Canada and we decided that having one house parent leading a team offered more of a home away from home, and since the Residence Parents also have a formal role in the day school, it was an opportunity to connect the residence with the life of the school.”

Imagine this scene. Matching maroon sofas gather you up and hug you when you sit down. You find your older sister there too, nestled in and reading a book. You look up at the shelf on the wall and choose a romance because it’s the end of the day and you want to unwind. A television peers down from a top ledge. Off to the back of the big room is a bright open kitchen with a table and chairs at which sits another young woman intent on a math problem. You could be in almost any Canadian home, except that you are not. You are in a student residence at SMS. From the familiar to the new. The phone rings. The Residence Parent picks it up to answer. It used to be that staff worked a series of rotating shifts so the person in charge would differ, depending on her shift that week. (Two of the houses have kept that system for this year.) Going forward one person lives on site in each house and is in charge of the whole team. Of this new system Head of School

So who is on the team, supporting the work of the Residence Parent? There are two others at any time, a supporting house parent and a dedicated activities leader. Marlene Donaldson is the Activities Coordinator and she keeps the girls moving—off the couch and aware of the many opportunities available to them through the school and in the wider community. “We have four areas of focus when we assess the activities the girls should get involved in. We ask if there is a physical, a creative, a St. Margaret’s community, or a Victoria community service component. If they hit on one or more of these areas then we are likely to approve it and support their efforts,” says Marlene. Marlene’s work with both the school and the residence is a thread that connects the two to provide a richer experience for the girls. It’s a new role and she has plans to create more activities for both day and residence girls together. (For more on how St. Margaret’s supports the activities of all the girls, see the article “Program of Distinction” page 11.) SMS Spirit | 16

In residence, as things settle in after dinner in the dining hall, most girls can be found finishing their homework, some with help from a house parent. A few girls will watch TV, and others will hang out with the older girls living in the coveted double rooms upstairs. Residence Manager Laura Kaiser says, “We spend a lot of time with the girls talking with them and teaching them to live with new people who are not family. It’s a key skill that helps them be more confident and independent, and it helps them in the future.” Living in residence is about life lessons but also about rules and boundaries, such as doing homework and getting home in time for curfew. Each residential system has its strengths and challenges, but Residence Director Rona Archer prefers the new system at St. Margaret’s, saying, “There is more consistency in this new residence staffing system. We can keep track of each girl’s needs day to day, and that helps everyone.” At a time in a girl’s life when everything is changing—her independence, her body, her mind, and often her family life—maintaining a level of consistency and being able to spot minute changes early is the key. Says Cathy Thornicroft, “It’s about community, connectedness, and comfort for everyone.”

“Having a House Mom here all the time is great. I know she is keeping track of all of us, and I can talk to her anytime, no matter when I need her.” -Residence student

SHANDY AND VANESSA Shandy Daramola and her teenage daughter Vanessa Fajemisin are a close-knit pair. They talk everyday by phone because they live in different cities. Vanessa is a boarding student at St. Margaret’s and Shandy is a nurse in Vancouver. When we spoke, Shandy had just come off the night shift. Despite her fatigue, she was happy to talk about what boarding, and St. Margaret’s, had done for Vanessa. “Oh my gosh, it’s great. Vanessa is more organized, and now she talks about university. All this is because of boarding at St. Margaret’s,” says Shandy. What comes through in the conversation is Shandy’s deep determination to get the best possible education for Vanessa.

During Vanessa’s middle school years, Shandy was very unhappy about the lack of structure and goal setting in Vanessa’s school life. Shandy was working shifts and she realized that Vanessa, like so many other pre-teens, was doing too much hanging around. “She was always lively and engaging, but her marks were sliding and she was not doing her homework. She was not living up to her potential and her group of friends were not helping either.” Now in Grade 12, Vanessa has been in residence for almost two years, and this is what she now says about that earlier time in her life: “When I look back I [remember that I] found myself alone a lot of the time, which is how I think that other influences that were not as good for me came in. So coming to residence where

there are always people and House Moms around was good for me.” Says Shandy, “I knew I needed to change her environment, and I wanted my voice to be heard as a parent.” Vanessa was unsure about it all, and she wanted to stay in Vancouver with her friends. But, as usual, Shandy’s resolve was unshakable. “We came over on the ferry to take the admissions test and we were very quiet. Vanessa was worried that I was spending all this money on her, but now look! She got a scholarship! The school teaches the girls confidence—how to value their life more. After her second year she told me, ‘Thank you for doing this for me.’”


SMS Spirit | 17

Listen to Vanessa talk about boarding at St. Margaret’s School available online at

giving at st. margaret’s You are making a difference! Written by Gregg Wiltshire

In our last issue of Spirit (fall 2014), I commented on how your generosity and commitment to St. Margaret’s helps the school fulfill its mission and that support from community members like you provides the amenities and resources our girls need to go beyond those provided through tuition alone. Continuing on our mission to create a campus focused on delivering a unique educational experience for girls, we are working on the next phase of our Creating Special Places (CSP) campaign. The CSP campaign has presented select projects to SMS supporters keen to see their donations have a direct and immediate impact on school improvements. Past CSP projects include: • Full renewal of Alexis Dining Hall • Remodelling of the Library Resource Centre • Build-out of the Culinary Arts Teaching Centre • Renovation of residence suites • Refurbishment of the Creative Commons Our current donor-supported CSP project is the redevelopment of our fitness space, transforming it into the new SMS Wellness and Fitness Centre. This project will be ready for September 2015. The decision to recreate the Wellness and

Fitness Centre comes directly from our Strategic Plan:“SMS Strategic Plan; Strategy #7: Promote the development of healthy lifestyles and personal wellness.” The Wellness and Fitness Centre will become an important addition to the SMS learning environment. At SMS we believe that students who participate in regular wellness and physical activities improve their overall health and are better at managing the stresses of academic challenges. Head of School, Cathy Thornicroft is committed to advancing St. Margaret’s, the Wellness and Fitness Centre being just one example. Your participation makes it all possible. Donations from SMS community members like you keep St. Margaret’s moving forward. Donations to CSP projects and to our central giving campaign, the Annual Fund, ensure that each and every SMS girl is given every opportunity to achieve her very best. Thank you for giving to SMS. Your giving and your generosity is making a difference. Giving for the 201415 school year is growing across our community. I am excited to report a 20% increase in the number of donors to this year’s fund with the average donation amount up 13% over last year…so far. As a result, we are on course to achieve our goal of $100,000. Thank you! If you SMS Spirit | 18

haven’t yet been able to give to this year’s Annual Fund, there’s still time. Please give to St. Margaret’s and help us give our girls the best of an all-girls education.

Features Phase 1 (In progress) Renovations to current fitness area will provide: • Additional 500 square feet of space • Glass perimeter wall with double-door entrance • Dedicated areas for stretching, yoga, and wellness exercises • Eight new spin bikes Phase 2 (September 2015) Renovated adjacent causeway area will provide: • Over 1,200 square feet of open-air workout space • Roof structure and gated entry façade • Fitness-specific flooring

P ha

P ha





Rowing machines stand at the ready behind the new frosted glass enclosure.

Before photos of Phase 2 Wellness centre. Watch for After photos.

SMS Spirit | 19

The senior basketball team takes in the view from the top of Malahat Drive.


The SMS jazz band following their performance at Poetry In Voice (February 18)

Certification day (November 27, 2014)

The Annual Speech Contest (December 2015)

Canadian artist Ted Harrison passed away on January 15, 2015. The Grade 2 students visited his gallery as part of their unit of study.

The night league basketball team unveiling a new team logo.

Outreach Committee raised $1,300, enough to send 26 goats overseas through the Free the Children charity.

Certification day (November 27, 2014)

SMS Spirit | 20

Remembrance Day 2014

Spirit Day 2014

Spirit Week and Housewarming activities, Fall 2014

Spirit Day 2014

Happenings Spirit Day tug-of-war

Yun Wah Choo (right) represented BC with synchro teammates at this year’s Canada Winter Games in Prince George, finishing fourth. Malcolm House girls

Spirit Day tug-of-war

Spirit Day 2014 Christian House

Spirit Day 2014 Malcolm House

Grade 5/6 Leadership students ran a successful We Scare Hunger campaign, donating 1,200 pounds of food to the local Mustard Seed food bank.

Certification day (November 27, 2014)

SMS Spirit | 21

Contributors: Spirit Team: Gregg Wiltshire (Advancement) Jennifer van Hardenberg (Communications) Cathy Thornicroft (Head of School) thanks to: Christine Godfrey (SMS Archives) Laurie Darrah (Refinemark Print Design Ltd.) Ruth Wilson (West Coast Editorial Associates) Tedi Vermeulen Media & Photographers: Jeanine Stannard, Maria Hogan, Sam Tallo, Bev Waterfield, Rona Archer, Jennifer van Hardenberg, John Yanyshyn (Visions West) Additional photography provided by the talented shutterbugs of the SMS community


St. Margaret’s School | for girls

Spring 2015

St. Margaret’s School 1080 Lucas Avenue Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8X 3P7 T 250.479.7171

The Spirit magazine is a publication for the entire SMS community: our students, parents, staff, alumnae, and friends.

SMS Spirit Magazine, Spring 2015  

Our biannual community and alumnae magazine. Honouring the past; celebrating the present; looking to the future. St. Margaret's School is an...

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