IROQUOIS – Earlier this April, Seaway District High School music teacher Colleen Leslie won the Upper Canada District School Board’s Award of Merit. The award was announced at the school board’s April 8th meeting.
“It’s definitely a pleasant surprise to win,” said Leslie during an interview with The Leader, adding that she did not know who had even nominated her.
“[She] has been accredited with going that extra mile with her students, supporting them and inspiring them when they are learning,” said UCDSB Director of Education Stephen Sliwa when the list of award winners was announced.
Leslie has been a teacher at the school for about 10 years and has operated the school’s for credit after-school music program since it began in 2016. Experiential learning is part of what she said was the success of the program.
“At the beginning of the school year we have a music camp for the weekend as a nice way of getting the students started. For the beginners, it’s a great way of getting them involved and into the program and know everybody,” she said.
Leslie said that this year there are over 40 students in the for-credit program, the largest since the program began.
She said that she tries to get the band into as many events as possible. In the past year the program has performed at Cornwall Musicfest, the Morrisburg Santa Claus Parade, and in Ottawa at the Ottawa Champions baseball game. The group, and the musical quartet Almost Synchronized, have performed at many community activities in South Dundas as well, and in the area elementary schools.
“I grew up in Ottawa and started in a large music program in the city,” Leslie said. “I take a lot of the things that I have learned from there and try to bring it here to give the kids in this small rural school a bigger experience than what they might expect for being a small school.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Leslie and the Seaway band program were fundraising for a trip to Toronto to see a musical production and take part in some musical activities. She said that she believes that music and the arts in school are important.
“It’s important to give all students the opportunity to engage in the arts,” Leslie said. “It is a really good avenue of self-expression, and when students actively engages in the arts like music, it can have a positive affect on other subjects.”
Seaway DHS principal Geoff Trasuk commented that, “Colleen is a committed teacher who has built an exemplary music program at Seaway, while building an appreciation for music throughout the communities that Seaway DHS serves.”