creates strong bonds
A school district focuses on building healthy brains
WRITTEN BY DOUG HORNER
Dressed in a mask and black cape,Patrick Lantz speaks directly to thecamera with his best superhero voice.
“This is Batman,” he says. “I hope you’re
working really hard on your reading and
your printing, and you’re listening to
your teachers and your parents.”
Lantz is an elementary school
principal; the clip is from a series of
videos he made for a student, then in
Grade 1. “I wanted to check in and see
how my buddy is doing,” he says in
the recording. “I’m looking for good
Personalized superhero videos are
just one of many different expressions
of the Calgary Catholic School District’s
Champions initiative, which has set the
ambitious goal of connecting all 55,000
students with a personal mentor atschool. “We want to ensure that everysingle child has at least one trusted adultthat they can go to for anything,” says
Gary Strother, the school district’s chiefsuperintendent.
The ideas behind the Championsinitiative are both age-old and leading-edge. Many of us credit a former teacherwith helping to shape who we are today.Trust, guidance and inspiration are partof the job.
The goal of finding every student a
champion is also based on neuroscience.
The district has been working with
the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative
and other experts to harness new
developmental brain science research
Champions initiative is an example of
what happens when everyone—from
administrators to teachers—learns
the fundamentals of healthy brain
“All of the research that we’ve beenputting together over the past fewyears has really pointed to the fact thatrelationship-building is paramount,”
Strother says. The idea goes far beyondthe teacher-student dynamic, recruitingeveryone who works for the CalgaryCatholic School District. The districtemploys about 6,000 staff at 115different schools. Principals, bus drivers,caretakers, teachers and support staff areall encouraged to become mentors.
“Every child who winds up doing wellhas at least one stable and committed
The Champions initiative aims to connect every student with a trusted mentor to help them succeed.