Superintendent of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division

Tag: resilience

School Opening Message, 2022

I consider it a privilege to welcome our division to a new school year as superintendent of schools. This is my first in-person welcome address, since becoming Superintendent in 2020. I want you to know that I truly see this as a privilege; one that has been bestowed upon me by God, because He qualified me. That is a very BIG privilege.  

Having finalized our previous faith plan in June, our new Three Year Faith Plan, entitled, Arise, Pilgrims of Hope, was a result of significant consultation with many community stakeholders and is profoundly appropriate and inspiring, given the context of the past 2 ½ years.  As a Catholic community, we have hope because we believe in God and we have one another to support us along the way.  In essence, this is what has gotten many of us through these recent demanding times.  But, we are versatile & strong people.  BJ Morbitzer, in his poem, A Time to Believe, highlights the many things that inspire us to believe and to have hope.

To believe is to know that every day is a new beginning.

Is to trust that miracles happen, and dreams really do come true.

To believe is to see angels dancing among the clouds,

To know the wonder of a stardust sky and the wisdom of the man in the moon.

To believe is to know the value of a nurturing heart, the innocence of a child’s eyes

And the beauty of an aging hand, for it is through their teachings we learn to love.

To believe is to find the strength and courage that lies within us;

When it’s time to pick up the pieces and begin again.

To believe is to know we are not alone,

That life is a gift and this is our time to cherish it.

To believe is to know that wonderful surprises are just waiting to happen, 

And all our hopes and dreams are within reach.

If only we believe.

In a Catholic education system, we are blessed to be able to live, celebrate and proclaim our faith, while AT work.  We must never lose sight of this beautiful gift.  We are strong and adaptable people whose sights are always on our primary interest – the children and students we serve, whose resilience will be supported by the nurturing and thoughtful staff in all positions throughout our school division.  That is how our learners will be cherished and reach their fullest potential, as so aptly noted in our vision statement.  There is no question that this will be difficult work, especially in light of the disruption in learning that the past couple of years have presented.  There will be setbacks and hurdles to cross and most definitely there will be uncertainties and frustrations.  However, we have hope and as long as we place our trust in God and humbly ask Jesus to walk with us on our journey, we will have absolutely nothing to fear.  We are called to arise and be agents of change to do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. 

While our world of Catholic Education has seen many challenges of late, there are some great opportunities that have been presented to all of us.  We know fairly well what we have to do and almost always realize how to do it.  However, in our vocational calling as employees in this Catholic school division, how often do we reflect upon the why?  Why do we do the things we do in our division?  Simon Sinek reminds us to examine our why, our purpose, our vision before we venture into what we do.  Is it to provide a robust Catholic Education rooted in the Gospel values of Jesus Christ?  Is the overall intention of our collective work to provide experiences that motivate our students to be faith-filled and to become contributing members of our greater community who will inspire others to live and proclaim their faith? If so, we are providing new and exciting experiences for them.  According to Brené Brown, professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, “When we open our minds to new experiences, we find joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”

Now is the time to dive deep into our very purpose – to ignite a passion for developing and fostering strong personal relationships with our students so as to pave the way for their success, knowing that each person’s journey is uniquely different.  Now is the time to accept the ongoing challenge to be the unique person God created you to be.  Because I believe in each one of you, I want to share with you this very fitting and multi-pronged invitation, similar to what I shared with you a year ago. Given the important work we do, in the many facets of education:

  • (I invite you to …) Take calculated risks.  If you win you will be happy, if you lose you will be wise.
  • (I invite you to …) Embrace new opportunities and challenges
  • (I invite you to …) Ask great questions
  • (I invite you to …) Share your talents, for as Maya Angelou once said, “I believe that every person is born with talent.
  • (I invite you to …) Express your vulnerability.  “It is not about winning or losing.  It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” (Brené Brown) and finally
  • (I invite you to …) Continue to be faith-filled, for we learn in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” 

I leave you with Bettina Van Vaerenbergh’s poem, “The Time is Now”.

We have but a short time on this earth,

So value your life for what it’s really worth.

Your life has purpose – God sent you on a mission.

To live, to love, to learn – Is His commission.

The world needs you. Believe me, it’s true!

Some things need doing, that only you can do.

Character matters; be your own person,

Your own original self, not someone else’s version.

Develop your talents; they are unique.

Use your time well; listen only to positive critique.

Go after your dreams.  Be bold.  Be brave.

Swim against the stream; it’s more than okay.

The time is now to find your passion.

Time waits for no one, so get into action.

To be free of regret in your old age,

Never ever forget to fully live today!

May the Lord continue to bless each one of you as you begin this new school year – refreshed and renewed.  It is going to be a GREAT year.  Remember, we need YOU and YOU and YOU.  

March Madness – In Our Schools

When we ordinarily think of March Madness, it is typically associated with a month of anticipation and excitement surrounding NCAA’s Division 1 basketball. Fans from every corner of the globe ready themselves for binge watching game after game, either in person or with eyes glued to the television, centering on a physical activity that has been coined as the third most popular sport in the world. 

Most especially in the last couple of years it is very important for everyone’s mental health to engage in activities that will bring joy to the heart, for we know all too well the challenges and obstacles we’ve encountered.  Going forward, we need to begin to feel relative degrees of normalcy.  Without question, I understand that everyone believes this to be true.

From a significantly different perspective of March Madness, we are finding ourselves on the cusp of what could very likely be a removal of all COVID-19 related restrictions and health protocols. With a fair degree of certainty, we are positioned to see continued and augmented polarizing viewpoints which inevitably will lead to increased divisiveness and fracture in our communities.  Since the formation of our country, Canada has been a magnet for immigrant families all over the world for a multitude of very good reasons.   The negative attention that Canada has recently garnered in worldly news, from parades of protests to complete blockages of main highways at multiple ports-of-entry in and out of the country, is incredibly unfortunate.  

Now in Family Week where we have the wonderful opportunity to gather as family, let us take every chance to recharge, renew and reset. We are slated to return to classes on the eve of March, and let’s do so in the spirit of togetherness and unity where the focus is on learning, not on the political rhetoric that is becoming more and more common and damaging to our youth.  This facade of politics must be kept out of our schools. 

The past two years have caused tremendous obstructions in learning in so many ways.  As a society, we will feel the effects of this disruption for many years to come.  That being said, our school and divisional staff have gone to no end of the earth to ensure schools are safe, caring, respectful and welcoming environments for our students to learn and staff to work. This amalgamated work has been a collective effort and includes everyone from school administrators, teachers, program leaders, support staff, office administrators, custodial and maintenance staff, information technology, business services, human resources, learning services, support services and most importantly religious education.  We recognize the significant hurdles that lie ahead but we are certainly up to the challenge.

As we are about to head into March, let us join together as a true united community to create our own March Madness. A March Madness that burns with unquenchable desires for learning that recognizes the MOST fundamental reason for the very existence of schools – that children and students entrusted to our care will learn, be cherished and reach their fullest potential.  We all have a critical role to play in this formation.  We owe it to the key stakeholders in our division, our children.  

Who are the Superheroes in your School?

Over the past year, there has been no shortage of news stories around the critical and absolutely necessary endeavours of front line workers in the many sectors of our society. Nurses, doctors and the myriad of healthcare workers in the medical profession certainly are atop the list, for without them, our environment would be unimaginable. Workers in food stores and other identified essential service businesses have been relentless in their pursuits to provide the necessities of life. We also know how school administrators, teachers and the variety of support staff in our schools have gone the extra mile to ensure that our students are safely guarded in a welcoming and loving learning environment. They have made learning come to life in creative and engaging ways in a very different learning context. There is no question that these people are real heroes. 

Those of us in the education system know that superheroes are not just those fictitious characters who wear capes and swoop in to save the day. I am always most impressed when it is our students, the young people we serve each and every day, who take on the role; when they inspire those around them by going well beyond that which is expected, when their strong work ethic, attitude and effort are undeniable. It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has initiated a special means of recognizing the missionary work that is carried out by the dedicated and hard-working students in our schools.  

The stories that have come back to us are heartening. We’ve heard of many students who act as peacemakers on the playground, encouraging the inclusion of peers and classmates in a variety of activities. Another small group of students organized a special fundraising activity and donated all of the proceeds to a charity that supports individuals in need. A third example involved a single student writing messages of hope to every schoolmate in the building. Just this past week, one of our grade one teachers delivered a special gift to our office that contained carefully illustrated and coloured posters with uniquely crafted messages from her creative-minded students. Special messages included, “We love you”, “You are just right” and “Thanks for being you” to name a few. One even said, “Just keep swimming!”  What an uplifting experience that was for everyone here at our Catholic Education Centre. It is people like this who make all the difference in our schools and communities. In spite of all the current difficulty and challenges in our world, we don’t have to look far to intentionally see young learners making our world a much better place. 

True superheroes lie in our students. We all recognize as educators that students learn well from their peers so when students go out of their way to make this world a better place, it is particularly important that we encourage and support them. Children and youth, at all ages, who make kindness their priority, who are empathetic towards others or who graciously see the selfless need to extend gifts of time, talent or treasure to others understand that we are called to be our brother’s keeper. We must be intentional to make and seek out these acts of kindness, whether overt or subtle, and appropriately recognize them.


Catholic Central High School Receives a Blackfoot Name: Taatsikioyis – Centre Tipi


Wednesday, October 28, 2020, marked a very special day for Holy Spirit Catholic School Division as Catholic Central High School received a Blackfoot name at a small and personal gathering in the school’s Eggplant Theatre.  Led by Kainai Elder Tom Little Bear, the very touching ceremony involved a smudge, face painting and the Blackfoot naming of the building.

From time to time, we learn of when First Nations communities honour individuals with a Blackfoot name, but it is particularly distinctive and rare that such entities as buildings are honoured in the same manner.  As a former student in our Catholic school system, Elder Little Bear shared his experience growing up in a very traditional First Nations family on the Kainai Reserve with grandparents who were spiritual leaders in their community.  Together with the influence of those within the Lethbridge Catholic School District at the time, Little Bear’s experience was particularly inspiring.

Only the fourth building in the City of Lethbridge to receive a Blackfoot name, Catholic Central was beautifully named, “Taatsikioyis – Centre Tipi”.   As I have come to understand the significance of this name, I realize that, to have received it in one of our schools, is of the highest honour.  In their culture,  Blackfoot people gather annually in the summers on the Kainai Reserve for Aakokaatsin – Circle Camp.  Their traditions, relationships with each other and their Creator would be renewed.  At Aakokaatsin – Circle Camp, the central tipi is viewed as a very special place of sacredness, learning and relationship.  With this special honour now placed upon Catholic Central High School, this institution of learning becomes a beacon – a place where our Blackfoot students can connect with each other and with the entire school community  – a place where learning and prayer are interwoven.

I felt so privileged to have been a part of and to witness this powerful and beautiful cultural ceremony; listening to Elder Little Bear’s wisdom about the interconnectedness of our faith and the cultural beliefs and the ways of being and knowing of our Blackfoot people.  As a Catholic school division, we continue to be truly blessed by the presence and leadership of the First Nations people in our greater communities.  We are indeed grateful for this very special distinction.

A recording of the livestreaming of the event can be found here at this link.

COVID-19 Response and Update

As we are now into week six of the school year, we can safely say that we have made it through what we anticipated to be a very challenging September.  School and divisional personnel have gone over and above the call of duty to ensure that schools were ready to welcome children and students back into our schools after a six-month absence.  Our staff has done some great work in welcoming students in school communities to ensure they feel loved, safe and included.  Further, parents have been extremely supportive of our direction and we definitely appreciate your support throughout the entire process thus far.

Recently, we have begun to see an increase in the number of positive cases in the South Zone.  This could very well be an early indication of what is yet to come and seems to be in line with what has been happening in other areas of the province, as well as across Canada. In fact, as you may have heard, over the past weekend Alberta Health Services (AHS) identified a positive case connected to St. Teresa of Calcutta School.  I am pleased to report that school and division staff worked diligently with AHS to inform and isolate the impacted cohort as quickly as possible. We continue to follow the lead of AHS and use the Alberta Government’s resource guide to determine how best to proceed in informing those affected promptly, while still maintaining their dignity and privacy. 

To assist us in the future, so that we may contact you quickly should your child be part of a cohort that needs to isolate, we ask that you ensure that your child’s school has your most current contact information. We also highly recommend that you enable text messages, or download the SchoolMessenger App, so that you may receive timely information directly on your phone. Please know that the school division will only send you text messages in emergency situations.  See our website for more information on this, or contact your child’s school directly for assistance. 

We know that we need to remain vigilant in adhering to the health measures put in place by our Chief Medical Officer of Health, along with additional precautions that our division has identified.  As such, we continue to ask our staff, students and visitors:

  • Not to come to school if feeling ill, even if you are only a bit unwell. The Alberta Health daily checklist should be completed each day prior to attending school and if your child has any of the symptoms listed, fill out the online Alberta Health Services COVID-19 self-assessment or call Health Link at 811, and remain at home. 
  • To engage in proper and frequent hand washing or hand sanitization
  • To ensure physical distancing of 2 meters
  • To wear masks while in common areas, hallways and in classrooms. This applies to grades 4-12 students, all staff, visitors and volunteers 

Our schools will continue:

  • To maintain class cohorts. This reduces the number of individuals impacted should there be exposure to COVID-19.  We are seeing that this is of particular importance
  • To remain closed campuses.  All visitors and parents are required to call ahead and make an appointment before coming to school
  • To ensure heightened protocols for cleaning frequently touched surfaces

We know that everyone plays an important role in stopping the spread of this relentless virus and other diseases.  We also recognize that the current context in which we live is far from ideal.  We appreciate the support from our parent community as we endeavour to support our students’ mental well-being on a day-to-day basis in our schools.

As in everything we do in Catholic Schools, we are called to pray for each other.  Let us continue to hold each other in prayer as we navigate these challenging times.

Kind regards,
Ken Sampson, Superintendent of Schools

Holy Spirit Catholic School Division

Relationships and Resilience

Relationships and Resilience
Superintendent Ken Sampson, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division
For Lethbridge Herald – September 30, 2020

Resilience is not something we are born with; rather it is generated and developed as a result of the experiences we face as we live our daily lives.  The first step in the process of cultivating and building resilience comes from primary relationships we have with our parents and, later, extended family members.  It stands to reason that the more positive and nurturing these early relationships are, the stronger the foundational building block structures become.

As children begin their journeys into our schools, the scope of the already established primary relationships expands to include friends, classmates, teachers and support staff to name a few.  These relationships become a source of strength for children so that, when they experience a stressful situation or an emotional pain, they have support available to draw upon and deal with them.  This process cultivates resilience.

When students returned to our schools at the beginning of September, there were many obvious changes, and perhaps some subtle ones as well.  Our administrators, teachers and support staff initially focused on ensuring that all of our children and students felt safe, reassured and welcomed into the new learning environment, whether through in-person classes or while learning at home.   Understandably, there were noticeable indicators of worry or uncertainty on the part of students in the first couple of weeks.  However, with the assistance of parents and school staff, it wasn’t long before our students understood the current reality and were able to adjust and move in a different direction, in spite of all the restrictions and health measures that were put in place.  Now, as we close the month of September, routines and expectations are well established and students have unsurprisingly settled in nicely. This is resilience at its finest.

A key factor in achieving mental wellness is our ability to understand adverse experiences and to learn from them.  It is often not overly pleasant, but going through the process is absolutely essential in order for positive growth to be realized.  Educators continue to support and encourage students’ curiosity, creativity and resourcefulness.  In doing so, students will grow in resilience and become compassionate contributing members of society.

As we move forward in our new reality, one thing remains certain.  The need for change will continue to be in our midst. This will involve new and challenging experiences in our lives, which will bring exciting opportunities.  Let us continue to encourage our students to embrace them, thereby enabling our children to become the strong, resilient people they were meant to be.

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