Like many of you, I was very lucky to have wonderful public school teachers.
Whether it was Dorothy Young in Grade 4, John Coutts and Dennis Schrofel teaching us history and letting us debate current events (they once came down to watch three of their former students battle in question period), or Harry Pauls getting us fired up about literature, my school experiences were filled with teachers who inspired and challenged me and my classmates to learn.
I know that standard continues today. I need look no further than little Clifton School on Sargent Avenue to see a teacher dedicated to making his students true citizens.
Antonio DiGeronimo has been teaching Grade 6 students at Clifton since 2002. He has made his mark on hundreds of students before they move on to junior high, by making them understand that the world is much bigger than just their school or their family.
Clifton students have supported charitable causes like Right To Play and Siloam Mission. They learn about human rights and have used their voices to speak out against bullying and discrimination. They protect the Valour Road Commemorative Plaza. They are award-winning patrols year after year. Mr. D invites local businesspeople and leaders to speak to his students and be peppered with questions.
The son of Italian immigrants, Mr. D celebrates diversity and is fiercely proud of the West End. He often uses humour to make his points, and is never shy about dressing up in a costume or an ugly sweater to enhance whatever his students may be working on at the time.
Just a few weeks ago, Clifton students came to the rescue of Omands Creek and the wildlife that live in and around it. Students gathered on their own time on a chilly day to haul away the plastic bags, drink cups, and other garbage along the creek. They didn’t do it for money, or recognition – they did it to make their community cleaner and stronger. Those are the young people that Mr. D helps to create.
I hope every kid has a teacher like Mr. D. to make a difference in their lives. One of the best parts of my job is watching young people grow and achieve their potential, and I know that devoted and caring teachers are a big part of their success.