Inside the library at St. Teresa of Calcutta School. Leif Gregersen
Principal Kyle Porter. Leif Gregersen
A remarkable place is hidden away from many Boyle Street residents at 9008 – 105A Avenue, just behind Riverside Towers. The 340 students at St. Teresa of Calcutta School have 26 different ethnic backgrounds. Nearly half of them are the children of immigrants, if not immigrants themselves. The school also serves a significant number of First Nations/Indigenous children.
Not surprisingly, many of the students’ families face major challenges, including learning English, finding employment, and settling into an unfamiliar culture and society. This situation frequently brings with it low incomes and a pressing need for counseling and other types of social support.
In a recent interview, Principal Kyle Porter was happy to talk about his job and the programs at St. Teresa, which offers pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, and Grades 1 through 6. There are 18 teachers along with a learning coach, social worker, and behavioural support team. “They choose to be here,” Porter says.
St. Teresa is a year-round school: vacation time is five weeks in the summer and three weeks in fall and spring. This calendar is believed to provide better support for at-risk students.
Porter clearly enjoys tackling the problems and issues this school population faces. He and his staff seem to take a calm approach characterized by enthusiasm, energy, and quiet pride.
The list of activities and resources at the school is long. The pre-kindergarten program provides early intervention for children aged three and four who need speech and language assistance, help with behavioural problems, and other kinds of support.
Through Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Canada, adult volunteers sign up to mentor students for one hour a week. Students from Austin O’Brien High School also volunteer as mentors at the school. St. Teresa students have the opportunity to sign up for the Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta. A bus takes them to St. Alphonsus School, where members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra teach music. Instruments are provided as needed. Field trips supported by casino funds are an exciting feature of the school program for the many new Canadians who have not yet been able to explore their community.
Another relatively unique service is a breakfast, snack, and lunch program supported by E4C, a non-profit charitable organization, along with an anonymous donor. There is also a food bank in the school. “Some families that access the Edmonton Food Bank run low before the end of the month, so we try to help them out,” Porter says.
A major school event was a ceremony in September 2016 to recognize the canonization (sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church) of Mother Teresa. Bishop Richard Smith and school board trustees were in attendance to celebrate with staff, students and parents as the school, formerly called Mother Teresa, became St. Teresa of Calcutta School.
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who moved to Boyle Street four years ago and loves her new community.