Quebec High School blends tradition and innovation

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Ed Sweeney and Mike Murphy (QHS) Joanne Toms (CEDEC) Caroline Lavoie
(Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Sainte-Foy)

The annual Quebec High School Open House held over the weekend was a huge success, according to school officials.

Principal Warren Thomson and Vice Principal Gina Farnell both said the turnout and the feedback had been very positive.

"Students in Quebec City are actually very lucky because they have the choice of two excellent English-language high schools," Mr Thomson said in his speech to students and parents he highlighted the balance QHS offers between tradition and innovation.

He said that trophies, banners and pictures around the school, as well as the active and supportive QHS Alumni were examples of the proud tradition of QHS; while newly introduced programs such as Arts Etudes, Sports Concentration programs, the Work Oriented Training Path and a wide variety of option courses mean the school continues to evolve and innovate.

QHS is the only secondary school in the province to offer an Arts Etudes: Concentration in Integrated Arts program recognised by the Ministry of Education. The course offers instruction in the four arts of Music, Dance, Drama and Visual Arts. Currently the program is available in Cycle One, but it will progressively become available for students at all levels.

According to Integrated Arts teacher Tess LeBlanc, the program enhances the students' self-awareness and confidence, as well as helps them refine their artistic skills.

"Creativity begins with taking risks. Every child is creative and in this program they benefit from each other's passions and talents. Ultimately they realize that creating something comes from first having a vision and then taking risks," Ms LeBlanc said. Now in its third year, the Sports Concentration programs offer specialized training in basketball and soccer to students from Secondary 1 to Secondary 5.

QHS Sports Co-ordinator Steve Philip said these courses offer students a chance to improve their athletic abilities, and to learn transferable skills in teamwork, co-operation and leadership. In most cases, Sports Concentration students also represent the school on interscholastic teams. "They are very good programs, and we would especially encourage people who have an interest in soccer to look into it," Mr. Philip said.

Another program offered is the Work Oriented Training Path (WOTP) for students who have experienced difficulties gaining credits in the regular school system. This program offers smaller class sizes and special help for students, with the objective of preparing them for the job market.

According to WOTP Co-ordinator Isabelle Lariviere, the students benefit immensely from their job placements, learning both about that specific job, as well as how to conduct themselves. "It's a good way for the community to make a difference," Ms. Lariviere said.

As well, Quebec High School has been implementing the Community Learning Centre (CLC) project. According to CLC Co-ordinator Ed Sweeney, the project has seen a greater involvement by community member groups in the education process at QHS.

"We are beginning to see the fruit of some of the seeds that were planted over the past two years. At QHS we have taken the traditional way of teaching and have begun to seek innovative ways of reaching out and collaborating with the community to enhance the life-long learning process," Mr. Sweeney said.

New to the school this academic year, QHS Principal Warren Thomson says he feels confident the school is heading in the right direction. "QHS offers a great balance between academics, the arts and sports, where every student can find their place and grow to their potential," Mr. Thomson said.

Students also appreciate the small size of the school and the sense of belonging. "It's a small school - almost like a family - so you really get to bond with your fellow classmates," said Secondary 5 student Kathryn Morin-Robinson.

Students and staff come from all corners of the world. Each year, exchange students in Secondary 4 and Secondary 5 arrive from places including Germany, Austria, Finland, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil, ready to experience life in an English school in a French city.

And the staff members bring their experience and flair from all over Canada - BC, the Prairies, Ontario, and the Maritimes - as well as all over the world - Belgium, France, England, Poland, USA, Australia, and the Dominican Republic.