Grande Prairie, AB – Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWPSD) congratulates Harry Balfour School (HBS) on winning a National Inclusive Education Award from the Canadian Association for Community Living and its provincial member association, Inclusion Alberta. The school was nominated by Jackie Ryder and Dennis Lodge, parents of Grade 8 student Matthew Lodge. In light of the current COVID-19 restrictions, the award will be presented live via a virtual ceremony on May 8 at 11:00 a.m.
HBS Principal Jen Clevette learned about the award last week when Matthew and his mom, Jackie, displayed homemade billboards from the school parking lot, creatively thanking the staff while remaining at a safe distance.
The award honours a teacher, school or school district whose commitment to inclusive education is exemplary and deserving of recognition. Inclusion Alberta formalized the award announcement in a letter to the school.
"As an organization that values and supports the full inclusion of children in regular classrooms, Inclusion Alberta would like to thank you for your commitment to Matthew and all the other students who have been fortunate to be fully included in your regular classrooms."
The nomination letter includes the following excerpts:
"We, along with our son Matthew, are proud and honored to nominate HBS for a National Inclusive Education Award. In particular, we would like to nominate Mrs. Jen Clevette, Principal; Mrs. Kim Schellenberg, Vice-Principal; and Mrs. Rochelle Dempsey, Inclusive Education Coordinator. This is only Matthew's second year at HBS and what a difference they have made.
"We feel like we have won the education lottery. They don't talk about inclusion, they live inclusion…The team is consistently checking with us to ensure that they are doing what is best for Matthew. They value our input and look at us as partners in Matthew's education."
The nomination letter went on to say that Matthew received support from Inclusion Alberta prior to enrolling at HBS, which the school team became a part of, not only to benefit Matthew, but their school community as well.
"The HBS community celebrates diversity and children are all encouraged to participate in activities that lead to them learning compassion and empathy for things they may not have previously understood."
Mrs. Clevette recently set up and joined the family for their first meeting with Matthew's future high school.
"We have no doubt that with the support of her team, we will be successful in including Matthew at the high school level…HBS is turning doubters into believers that inclusion really does work."
A video of the virtual ceremony will be shared on the PWPSD and HBS websites and Facebook pages after May 8.
Photo: Matthew Lodge, a Grade 8 student at Harry Balfour School, and his mom, Jackie, announced news of the National Inclusive Education Award win to school staff by displaying billboards from the school parking lot on Thursday, April 9, 2020.