Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of so many key events, staff at Wm E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus are doing their best to make this year’s graduation as memorable as possible.
Plans are underway for providing students their Honorary Diplomas, and speeches and photos will be provided in their Grad Video.
“Speeches will also be embedded into the grad video and that’s going to be released to the public on their original graduation day which was June 27th. We calling it ‘Grad Premiere’,” said Audra Lotoski, a vice principal at the school.
The video will also include tributes from teachers as well. “That way they will get a personalized message from the staff. These students have been with us for years so we have really come to know them.”
“As a Grade 12 T.A. teacher, I have really become close with my students, and having spoken with a few of them about their disappointment in the way their final year of high school has gone, I know that this celebration will give them some closure to mark their days here at Wm E. Hay,” she added. “They deserve to be celebrated for this milestone in their education.
“We have also arranged with our portrait photographer to come in June 9th through the 11th and do the formal ‘cap and gown’ portraits. Unfortunately, according to the regulations, they aren’t able to use the caps. But definitely there will be the formal gowns,” she said.
Appointments for those sittings have been booked online.
Lotoski said the school has a long-standing tradition of, “Providing a beautiful, momentous celebration of the students’ achievements. We know that we can in no way, shape or form replicate that but we are trying to honour and celebrate our grads to the best of our ability despite the conditions.”
Dianne Enyedy, another vice principal at the school, agreed.
“It’s such an exciting and rewarding day to celebrate our graduates. So it was kind of heartbreaking that we couldn’t go through with grad the way we would traditionally do it,” she said.
“So for us to be able to offer at least some sort of a celebration and an acknowledgement of the work that they have done and the accomplishments that they have achieved is very gratifying,” she said. “We are truly trying to make the very best of it within the guidelines and restrictions of not only Alberta Health Services but also within what we can plan with being as distanced as we are from each other,” she explained.
“We are very excited for our grads. In spite of this turmoil they’ve had to go through during this last semester of their school year, they’ve been able to be resilient and to keep moving forward.”
Looking back over the past few months, there have been a few ‘silver linings’ in what has otherwise been an extremely challenging time.
Both Lotoski and Enyedy said online educational formats have, in some cases, provided more opportunities for one-on-one teaching and mentoring times with some of the students.
“I’ve been able to really differentiate my instruction, and to personalize it,” said Lotoski.
“I always offer extra help in a traditional classroom, but I find not as many students are taking me up on that extra help. But now, I’m inviting students to talk about their writing (for example), and I’m meeting with more students than I might have in a traditional classroom,” she said. “For me, that part has been very rewarding.”
Enyedy agreed. “For some of our students, we are actually seeing their success and engagement go up.
“I am also immensely proud of our staff, and how they were able to think differently about education without a whole lot of guidance and direction in a very short turn-around,” she explained.
“We had to think outside the box. A lot of people use that phrase, but we didn’t have a choice. People who are maybe a little more hesitant or traditionalist have really, really grown and found that they can be very successful. They don’t have to stick to their traditional methods. So I think it’s going to be very interesting, even two, three and four years down the road from now, what education could look like because of this experience that we have gone through.”
And even though details of how things will unfold this fall are yet unknown, Enyedy said she is confident that no matter what education looks like at that point, “Our staff are resilient – they are ready for it.
“They know that they can tackle whatever challenge is posed to us.”