Dundana Teacher Named Hometown Hero by Hamilton Community News
Back in December, Hamilton Community News asked people to submit stories about Hometown Heroes that have, “gone above and beyond to uplift their family, neighbours or community during the pandemic.” We challenged the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board community to highlight our students, staff members, caregivers or partners. Amazing stories come across our desks every day and one of them happened to be published by the news outlet.
An appreciative parent nominated Tricia de Graaf as a result of her ongoing commitment to students and families over the course of the pandemic. The Dundana Elementary School teacher was excited to hear the news.
“I felt very honoured to learn that I was mentioned as a Hometown Hero,” said de Graaf. “I was also extremely happy to hear that I was helping both students and parents have a positive experience during their time in the public school system.”
Jessie Blake’s son is a student in Mme de Graaf’s Grade 1 class. Her story talks about how the educator has gone out of her way to ensure that crucial aspects of early French Immersion education are not forgotten during this unorthodox year. Singing and lip reading are important practices for these young learners. COVID-19 restrictions, such as face coverings, present a challenge for educators like de Graaf.
“My classroom is quite noisy, as I’m always encouraging the students to speak in unison with me and to be a little boisterous because learning to speak French requires them to be willing to take risks,” de Graaf told us. “That is why I decided to continue making song videos, a practice which I started in the spring of 2020 during our first lockdown.”
These videos are what inspired Blake to suggest her son’s teacher as a Hometown Hero. Her submission mentions how these silly, fun songs are able to engage the class. de Graaf’s dog, Happy, has even been known to make an appearance every now and then.
Clips are posted to a classroom blog that the Dundas teacher maintains on a regular basis. It is worth noting that her students are not the only ones accessing this page, as de Graaf also uses it to update parents on what their children are working on.
“It is important for parents to be engaged in the remote learning process through my classroom blog because they have zero access to the school building this year,” de Graaf points out. “There are no school events such as open houses during which time parents would ordinarily be able to come into the classroom to get a glimpse of what their child has been working on.”
This ability to overcome obstacles and find ways to engage both students and parents helped cement de Graaf’s status as a Hometown Hero. In a school year defined by uncertainty, the elementary educator has managed to provide some stability for her class.
Congratulations Mme de Graaf on being named a Hometown Hero! We wish you, and all the rest of our HWDSB teachers and staff, the best of luck as we continue with this remote learning period.