Language Friendly at AOOL

Annunciation of Our Lord Catholic Elementary School receives Language Friendly Certification
Posted on 04/15/2024
Students standing in front of the language tree

Annunciation of Our Lord Catholic Elementary School has embarked on a journey towards becoming a certified Language Friendly School. Recently achieving certification, this accomplishment signifies a significant step in embracing linguistic diversity and ensuring that every student feels valued, heard, and respected, regardless of their language background. This achievement resonates with the commitment of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board to uphold the dignity of every person. While all our schools support Language Friendly initiatives, achieving certification as a Language Friendly School provides a structured pathway and valuable support. It equips designated leaders and the entire school community with access to essential resources and opportunities for ongoing learning, empowering them to champion this initiative.

In the fall of 2023, inspired by the success stories of other schools, teacher Laura Milligan initiated a Language of the Month program at Annunciation of Our Lord. Each month, students and staff celebrated a different language, fostering an environment of cultural appreciation and understanding. This initiative soon expanded to include the establishment of an IDEAL (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility for all Languages) (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility for all Languages) team at the school.

With the guidance of Sandra Scime, Assistant Superintendent and Cristina Ciancone-Barbati (Secondary STEP Special Assignment Teacher), Annunciation of Our Lord started on a path to becoming a certified Language Friendly School.

Under the leadership of Principal Dean Younger, a team of educators from each division was brought together, Amanda Lovell (FDK), Laurine Mazzocato (Primary), Ingrid Jansen (Junior), and Salvatore Burgio (Intermediate), each tasked with exploring innovative ways to promote language inclusivity within the school community. The result was the creation of a Welcome Team comprising IDEAL team members and Language Ambassadors, dedicated to ensuring a warm reception for newcomers and providing language support as needed.

The Language Ambassadors, representing many languages, became the face of linguistic diversity within the school. Their efforts were displayed through a vibrant bulletin board adorned with QR codes, allowing visitors to hear and see the ambassadors introduce themselves in their respective languages.

In addition, the school introduced initiatives such as the Language Tree, where students could share their language journeys, and the creation of personalized pamphlets translated into Spanish to support newcomer families.

The culmination of this journey was marked by a special assembly on April 5, where Dr. Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman, accompanied by her colleagues Antoinette Gagne and Adriana Williams, from the University of Toronto, attended the school to present the certification and celebrate with the students and staff. Superintendent Toni Kovach, alongside enthusiastic Language Ambassadors, warmly welcomed the guests, while the student council and IDEAL team members highlighted their linguistic talents.

Vice Principal Stephanie MacDonald, whose dedication has been instrumental in the school's journey towards language friendliness, expressed the significance of this milestone.

"Like all language friendly schools, our aim is to promote and create a school community where children have access to a language friendly learning environment where they feel accepted and valued for who they are."

"As the first language friendly Catholic Elementary school in Canada," Stephanie continued, "this event symbolizes Annunciation of Our Lord’s intention to embrace multiculturalism and give space to these languages within the school community, to respect the dignity of the human person and to uphold our 'Each Belongs' philosophy."

Annunciation of Our Lord Catholic Elementary School looks forward to continuing to evolve and grow as they embrace the diverse and multilingual population that makes up the school community.

Student language ambassadors Students during the assembly having fun Language Friendly presentation screen Staff and students posing with the Language Friendly flag HWCDSB Staff, Supt Kovach, VP MacDonald, Principal Younger, teacher Laura Milligan AOOL choir members looking happy Staff and honoured guests to AOOL