Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I always love to walk through the school halls and see a snapshot of what the students at our school have been doing.  As we get closer to the Christmas Musical (Slapshot Santa!), we see the kids putting their all into their artwork.

Here are a few samples.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meet Emily Stark

Many school families have had the pleasure of working with Youth and Family Counsellor, Emily Stark, to find solutions to family challenges. Some parents may not know about the many services Emily has to offer at our school. Here are some of the helpful ways Emily can make a difference for your family:

Individual counselling

Family counselling/mediation

Group counselling

Resource referral

Crisis management

Work with a team to ensure each child's needs are being met in a hoalistic way

Help with kids needing glasses through the One Sight program or shoes through Shoes for Youth

Outside agency support

Parents wishing to speak with Emily can often find her outside chatting with parents at drop-off and pick-up or in her office which is located near the girl's washroom across the hall from the gymnasium. Emily can also be reached by phone at (250) 382-9131 Ext 233 or by email at

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Vic West Kindergarten student- in the Times Colonist!

One of our Kindergarten Students, Averie C, had her weather drawing profiled in the Times Colonist on Dec 6th 2013.  So fun to see our students in the newspaper!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ADHD Parent Info Day - November 19

An introduction session on the aspects of ADHD is coming up on November 19, 2013 at the SJ Willis school auditorium, 923 Topaz Avenue, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

The event is co-sponsored by School District #61, Island Health, Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, Ministry of Children and Family Development, and the FORCE Society for Kid's Mental Health.

Here is the day's full agenda.

Parents interested in attending are asked to fill out this form. Deadline for applications is November 15.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Snapshots from Division 7

Ms. Solecki's grade one class has been busy this fall both inside and outside the classroom. To showcase what her students have been up to, Ms. Solecki has kindly shared some fun snapshots of their learning adventures.  

In the second week of October, the class took a trek through Francis King Regional Park to learn about squirrels. This Capital Regional District program, which was made possible in part through PAC funding, included a comedic puppet show starring a country squirrel curious about city life and a hike through the woods to imagine life as a critter of the forest. The world truly is a classroom!

Back at the school, Ms. Solecki's students have been busy this fall putting thoughts and ideas to paper. Here they are creating entries in their journals.

Morning attendance is fun when students get to answer a question with their magnetic name when they arrive in the morning.

The wheels on the learning bus go A-B-C all through the town...

Class parents have been coming in for morning reading time. Moms and dads are welcome to stay after school drop-off to explore stories with the kids and share in the joy of reading together.

Since no fall would be complete without spiders, Ms. Solecki arranged for a scientist to come in and discuss spiders with her students. The exciting event included shaking "hands" with a live tarantula!

Thank you, Ms. Solecki, for sharing your snapshots with the PAC and for giving us a glimpse of the learning going on in Division 7!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What is Sensory Regulation?

You may have heard the term "self-regulation" or "sensory regulation" and wondered what it's all about. Vic West Elementary Counsellor, Dianne Browne, kindly prepared the following information for the PAC to share with school parents.


“Self-regulation” is a psychological concept based largely on the developmental research and teachings of York University professor Stuart Shanker. He refers to children needing to be able to effectively manage (regulate) their own environmental, physiological, emotional, cognitive and social stresses. A medical Sensory Processing Disorder (also referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder) effects how children manage their motor, language and emotional responses. These children will show extremely strong sensory preferences, intolerances and sensitivities. What this “looks like” in the school setting is seeing particular students reacting in one of three ways*: 

  • being over-responsive (becoming fearful or avoidant:  unable to focus, follow directions, transition well, or remain still when the environment has too many distractions);   under-responsive (seeking stimulation in the area of sensation that fails to register with them). 
  • having motor problems, including gross motor skills, with poor body awareness; 
  • being unable to recognize similarities and differences in sensory messages (low frustration tolerance). 

Vic West parents can support their child who is suspected of having self-regulation difficulties by having the child evaluated by either a paediatrician or an occupational therapist who will determine what type of treatment would be most effective. To support all children regulate their stressors, the following Restitution (5 Needs) ideas would be very helpful:  

  • safety: talk with your child about how to keep the home a safe, caring, welcoming place (calm home environment)
  • freedom: give your child choices about how to relax, make good choices, before going to busy places, ie being in the car, at the mall (physiological/body stressors)
  • belonging: protect an introverted child from being pushed into large groups before he or she is prepared;  provide boundaries when an extroverted child is excited about joining large groups, ie family gatherings (social stressors)
  • power: “catch your child being good”, by modeling good thinking/planning strategies (cognitive stressors)
  • fun: limit your child’s activities/day stressors that raise levels of excitement by including shared rewards in your parenting style ie. have your child experience fun, happy activities with you, such as day end bedtime stories (emotional stressors)  

(*see Miller. L.J. 2006: “Sensational Kids”, New York:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons Publ.) 

Feel free to contact Dianne Browne, Vic West’s Behaviour Support Counsellor, for more ideas!  

Vic West Elementary School Safety Plan

I think it's safe to say, that when it comes to our children, safety is at the forefront of our minds.  When our children head off to school each day, we want to know that the school is ensuring their safety while they are in the school's care. 

Vic West has a Safety Plan that is posted on the school's website  ( Vic West Elementary School ).

Below is the Safety Plan link, in case you haven't seen it before. 
Vic West Elementary School Safety Plan

Any questions or comments? Please send us an email at

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Parent Education Night- A Restitution Overview with Sue MacTavish

Strategies for the anxious child

Parenting an anxious child has many challenges. From struggles with perfectionism and negative self-talk to leaving birthday parties early because it's all just too exciting, the parents of an anxious child can be left feeling confused and overwhelmed. 

The Vic West PAC believes one of the best things we can do is support one another and share ideas. So, one of our school parents put together this list of simple strategies that can be used at home with anxious children:

- Create a worry box. Have the child decorate their own small box that they can put their worries into and seal them away.
- Create a worry doll. Have the child use modelling clay to create a doll they can tell their worries to. Worry dolls are good listeners. 
- Deep balloon breathing. Have the child imagine a balloon in their tummy. Ask them to fill it up by breathing in, then let it all out to empty the balloon.
- Counting. Counting to 10 or backwards from 5 can help steady emotions.
- Figure 8 tracing. Use the finger to trace a figure 8 on paper (or use the palm of the hand), breathing in on one loop and out on the other.
- Use a worry thermometer. Ask the child to point to how they feel on a scale of faces, from not worried at all to very worried. Example:
- Blow bubbles. Blow away the worries and watch them pop.
- Be a worry spy. Give the child a magnifying glass and ask them to find where the worry is in their body. Is it in their head? Their tummy? When you know where the worry is you can do something about it.
- Create a list of worry words. Give the child language to describe how they're feeling. Just being able to say "I'm feeling anxious" can be a useful skill for any child.
- Be an anxiety example. Remind the child that everyone feels anxious sometimes. Even grown-ups! Demonstrate how you handle feeling anxious, ie. "I'm nervous about this business meeting today. I'm going to take some deep breaths to help me relax." Or ask the child for advice on what you can do to relax.
- Encourage self-helping. Help the child help THEMSELVES. You can't always be there, so it's important for the child to know some techniques they can rely on when feeling anxious.

For information about anxiety, parents can visit the AnxietyBC website.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lansdowne Appliances- A Great Big Thank You!

The Vic West PAC is very grateful to the folks at Lansdowne Appliances. Earlier this week, the school’s much-needed breakfast program shut down because of a broken fridge. When Earl at Lansdowne Appliances  learned this, he had a replacement fridge at the school by day’s end. He couldn’t let the students at his alma mater go without the most important meal of the day. 

We can’t thank you enough for saving this essential program and ensuring all students have access to a nourishing breakfast!

To Earl, Tristan, Jesse (pictured above) and everyone at Lansdowne Appliances: THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for being true community heroes. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to school!

As we all adjust to fresh routines for a new school year at Vic West Elementary, our diverse community of parents and guardians will have several opportunities to connect and contribute over the coming months. Here are a few bits of information from the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) for school families:

PAC Elections & September General Meeting
The annual Parent Advisory Council elections will take place on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. in the school staff room. Anyone wishing to put their name forward for the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, District PAC Representative and Communications Director can do so at this meeting. The September general meeting will commence immediately following the elections. 

General PAC meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month throughout the school year, and parents are welcomed with hot drinks and treats. Come be part of the conversation!

Thrifty Foods Smile Cards
This is an easy way to support performing arts at the school, simply by grocery shopping. Pick up a smile card from the school office and load it with funds at any Thrifty Foods location after September 1st. When you do your shopping, $5 from every $100 you spend helps the PAC support performing arts events at the school. Loaded cards also make great gifts!

Mabel's Labels Fundraiser
Help support PAC goals and keep track of personal items at the same time! Buy custom labels from Mabel's Labels using this link and a portion comes back to the PAC to support school activities like field trips and special visitors.

Register for the 1.2 K Fun Run
The PAC will be organizing a group of kids from Vic West Elementary to participate in the 1.2 km Thrifty Foods Kids Run, coming up on Sunday, October 13th, 2013 at 10:15 a.m. Watch for a sign up table outside the school at drop off and pick up during the second week of September. Registration is $15 (some subsidy may be available) and includes a race t-shirt.

Check back here often for news and information from the Vic West PAC. Plus, join the PAC Facebook group to stay in touch!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Celebrating the end of another school year

Another school year at Victoria West Elementary has come to a close in spectacular fashion. As part of a fun-filled final week of school, the Parent Advisory Council hosted its annual year end party, complete with live music, dunk tank, Highlanders soccer, face painting, BBQ, and a cake walk. It was wonderful to see so many school families enjoying the celebration, and to have the help of so many parent volunteers to help make it possible. Thank you for your gift of time and talent!

The PAC also extends a heartfelt thank you to the following partners who contributed in many ways to the special day:

We treasure your involvement in our school community and we appreciate your partnership in helping Vic West Elementary remain a wonderful place to learn and grow!

Painted faces add a touch of magic to the day.

Vic West Community Centre manager, Kate Longpre, shares her time and talent painting faces.

Volunteers busily setting up for the BBQ.
Happy munchers at the BBQ.
Dunk tank setup with the help of the Victoria Fire Department.
Principal Joe Cardle getting ready for a dip in the dunk tank!
Announcing the winners of the Monk Office raffle for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and a $100 Monk Office gift card. The raffle brought in $463 for our PAC!
Rainbow cake with PAC motto.
Adorable chocolate cake.
Amazing grad cake.
Excited kids who don't want to go home yet.

Enjoy a happy, safe and fun-filled summer! See you in September!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Year end event parent schedule

Okay, all you parent volunteers, thank you for putting your name forward to help make our year end event a fun family time for all. Please see the schedule below:

Also, the following parents have volunteered to make cupcakes for the cupcake walk:

  1. D. Haley
  2. A. Batchelor
  3. J. Henson
  4. C. Forbes
  5. M. Calvert
  6. A. Madden
  7. C. Urlacher
  8. S. Ferguson
  9. L. McLaughlin
  10. C. Stevenson
  11. J. Ratchford
  12. K. Hurst
  13. K. Cherkosh
  14. C. Robinson
  15. V. Larose
  16. E. Mateos
  17. D. Malhi
Please contact PAC President, Mercedes Calvert at with any questions or if you cannot keep your commitment.

Here are some photos from the 2012 year end event:

Thanks for your support! We're looking forward to the special day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Vic West Elementary School gives back- Pennies for MS

The pennies have been counted! 
At our annual garage sale, we collected over $94 in pennies. Those pennies have been bought by local photographer/artist Keri Coles (, who will be creating an art piece with the pennies. Keri topped up the donation to $100, and a cheque will be mailed off to the MS Society this week. Thank you to everyone who donated to this worthy cause!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Staff Appreciation Lunch today!

Today parents put together a small token of our gratitude for all of the time, energy and passion that our staff put into educating our children.  Thank you to all of the parents who brought in goodies for the lunch. As you can see, everyone was really happy to have a delicious meal to tuck into today!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Math games in a VW Grade One class

In Ms. Solecki's grade one class, the students are working on number sentences for the number 11 (how many ways can you make the number 11?!) 
In the literacy centres, they are playing number games 
and building sentences with magnet words and letters.
In the card shop, students are given the opportunity to create their own cards, 
writing their messages and thoughts inside to be mailed or given by hand.
  Thanks for sharing, Ms. Solecki!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Year In The Life of the VW PAC


Ongoing Responsibilities:

  • Monthly general and executive PAC meetings 
  • PAC rep attendance at monthly VCPAC meetings 
  • Twice yearly family movie nights 
  • Return-It juice box recycling and quarterly bottle drives 
  • Payment of Can Lit book orders (approx $1000/year) 
  • Payment of seaquarium ($750/year) 
  • Scrap metal drive fundraiser 
  • Thrifty’s Smile cards fundraiser 
  • Rain garden maintenance and improvement - solicited support from Capital Iron for supplies and worked directly with student teacher/students
  • Working on increased safety at the crosswalk in front of the playground (connecting with City Councillor Lisa Helps and the City of Victoria transportation dept.) 
  • Communication and ongoing interaction with Bayview Developments - attempting to seek support and partnership 
  • Partial subsidy for Restitution Program participants on an as needed basis
  • Payment of two cultural events for all students:2012/2013: Story Theatre and Ache Brasil
  • Creation of a PAC events/fundraisers manual 



  • Redesign of PAC pamphlet 
  • Set up of new PAC email 
  • Set up and design of new PAC website (


  • Entertainment Books fundraiser 
  • Input into School Growth Plan 
  • Financial support to each classroom - $400/year 


  • Organization of Vic West involvement in Thrifty Foods Kids Run (1.5 km) - school promotion in the community, health, fun!
  • Support of Scholastic Book Fair 
  • Financial support of Halloween event and solicitation of donations of pumpkins for students 
  • Walk through of school yard with school district employees to identify areas for improvement 
  • Support of updating of earthquake kits/kiosk 


  • New PAC logo by local artist Lissa Calvert - move towards branding of the PAC to help with identification in the community 
  • CCRP magazine fundraiser 
  • Attendance at VCPAC Congress 


  • Holiday gift sale for all students and families 
  • Initiation of PAC executive meetings (approx. once a month) 
  • Collection of donations of food and money for the Mustard Seed Food Bank



  • Collected 30+ yoga mats from local yoga studios - for teachers/staff to use with students
  • Paid for busing to UVIC for choir students 
  • Paid for author visit for grade 4/5 students 


  • First monthly PAC Newsletter added to school newsletter 
  • Parent education night: anti-bullying 
  • New traffic signs added to crosswalk as a result of PAC communication with the City of Victoria


  • Raffle sales begin (Samsung Galaxy Tablet and $100 for Monk Office) 
  • Transfer of bank accounts to Coast Capital to work towards increased community sponsorship 
  • Created VWPAC mission statement and values statement


  • Support of Scholastic Book Fair 
  • Monk’s school supply order fundraiser 
  • Mabel’s Labels fundraiser (online) 
  • Parent education night - Raising Confident Boys and Girls 
  • Family movie night 
  • Participation in “Ready Set Learn” 
  • Participation in “Pitch In Vic West” at the Vic West Community Centre


  • Garage sale/bottle drive/penny drive 
  • Mural painting on ball wall (organized and supported) 
  • Extra busing for grade 4s/5s to attend theatre event at Spectrum High School
  • Participation in “Welcome to Kindergarten”


  • PAC year end event (donations solicited from community) 
  • Host staff appreciation lunch 
  • Year end gift - Restitution lyrics board installed in gym

Thank you to all parents and caregivers who assisted in achieving these goals. Without each of you, none of this would happen. 

“When educating the minds of our youth, 
we must not forget to educate their hearts” 
– the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Congrats to George Jay Elementary!

Left to right: Beth Threlfall, Karen Higginbotham, and Kate Wallace.

A huge congratulations from our PAC to George Jay Elementary, which has three new reasons to celebrate. The George Jay PAC, led by President Kate Wallace, was the recipient of the Inspirational PAC Award in a ceremony at last night's Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils meeting held at Tillicum Elementary. The Gail Edwards Memorial Award, which recognizes a parent volunteer in the district went to Beth Threlfall, also of the George Jay PAC. Meanwhile, the Parents Choice Award went to George Jay teacher, Karen Higginbotham. What a night for one of our sister schools! In fact, Wallace IS the sister of our very own PAC President, Mercedes Calvert.

Congratulations to all the winners! For more information about the VCPAC awards, visit

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Local artist brings ball wall art and new beauty to the back field

Thanks to local artist Andrew Dick, Vic West students have a bevy of brightly coloured creatures native to our region to bring into games they play on their ball wall. The wall itself was made possible due to a generous grant from The Sutton Group, and this May, Andrew created the mural, which features a background of a mountain range that doubles as the horizontal line used for many of the ball games. This self-taught artist is truly local: he graduated from Esquimalt High School, where he studied computer graphics. PAC Member at Large, Aaren Madden, spoke with Andrew about his career as an artist, what inspires his unique style, and his commitment to inspiring Victoria kids. 

When did you first know you were an artist? 

After I graduated from high school, I knew it was what I wanted to do. But when I was in grade three, I had a teacher who was art-intensive. We would have four drawing sessions a day even if it was just 20 minutes at a time. When I was drawing, that was the first time I felt a kind of meditation. I knew it was something special I couldn’t experience in any other way.
Before: Andrew is ready with colours generously donated by Cloverdale Paint.
Your art practice includes sculpture, photography, video, painting, printmaking, and graffiti art. What led to your interest in such diverse media? 

In grade 10, my neighbour gave me a big book on surrealism [a style of art based not on imitating reality, but on imagination and the workings of the mind]. He saw my drawings and he thought I would like it, and I did. I saw artists that I liked: Max Ernst, Joan Miro, and many others. From there I started learning other types of art and I realized I didn’t want to do one type of art; I wanted to be free to do any medium, anything that popped into my head.  

Besides surrealism, you like art movements like Dada, CoBrA (short for Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam), na├»ve art, graffiti, and street art. These all have in common that they run counter to established ideas about what art ‘should’ be; their works, like yours, are often vivid, colourful and imaginative. Where do you find inspiration? 

In imagination. In everything. I don’t know where it comes from; that’s what’s interesting about it. It’s just being conscious of it and letting it happen. Getting a big idea and starting to sketch or work with something, it starts to become more clear. I can get a vision of a complete sculpture or just start working with it and see where it takes me.

(for images of Andrew’s recent sculptures, click here)
During: Andrew adds local creatures to celebrate our rich biodiversity in his colourful style, freehanding with spray paint.

For about ten years, you have mentored students at local schools like Central Middle School. What’s that like? 

I go into art classes and work on my own projects and if kids have any questions, I love to help them and give them advice and ultimately just encourage them to express themselves and not worry. A lot of kids think ‘oh, I am not good at this kind of art’, but I don’t think there really is a ‘good’ in art because everyone has a different taste and it’s all individual. It’s very inspiring and it’s cool to see that kids have amazing imaginations and are conscious to not get sucked into technology – it’s so encouraging, since everywhere I go I see kids with cellphones in their face, not looking up at the trees and the sky.

What advice do you have for the budding artists at Vic West Elementary? 

One hundred percent believe in yourself and don’t disregard any ideas you have. Don’t stop, keep doing it, and don’t worry about what people say about your art because it can be personal. If it makes you feel good, don’t stop. 

Art can be whatever you want it to be. There should be no rules, and it’s important to have fun with it. Everyone sees things in a different way, and everyone expresses themselves in different ways. You truly can do anything you set your mind to. Believing in yourself is so important.
After: Thumbs up from these Vic West students!

Our most heartfelt thanks go out to Andrew for our beautiful new ball wall. We are so glad he is part of our Vic West Elementary community (and Ms. D’s nephew to boot!). In September, he will be exhibiting a collaborative installation with fellow artist Mel Paget at an art gallery in Portland, Oregon. We wish him all the best and hope he visits often!  

Many thanks also to The Sutton Group and to Cloverdale Paint for their generosity.