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- Ron Vandecasteele Video Profile
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Year: 2009 – Province: Ontario
Certificate of Excellence Recipient
W.D. Sutton School
c/o Montcalm Secondary School
1350 Highbury Avenue
London ON N5Y 1B5
Subjects and Grades Taught: Grades 7 to 12 in a residential school setting
Ron Vandecasteele could have worked anywhere. He chose to work at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre, a residential treatment centre for adolescent males who spend an average of two years at the school. For seven years, he has chosen to continue teaching these young men, making sure they never forget he is on their side.
Most students at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre arrive with a variety of learning and, sometimes behavioural, disabilities, as well as long-standing histories of under-achievement, truancy and disengagement from their time at regular community schools. Mr. Vandecasteele and his colleagues seek to create a classroom environment that is nurturing and stable to help these boys turn their lives around. At the heart of Mr. Vandecasteele's approach is his focus on positive relationships based on acceptance, praise, humour, individual choices, personal strengths, celebrating small successes, and establishing self-esteem and pride in student accomplishment. Every day marks a fresh start! Prominently posting goals for success on the first day of classes is one of the basic tactics he uses to keep students grounded and on target.
- In his seven years at Wallenberg, Mr. Vandecasteele has established a solid record of success helping boys who arrive with negative attitudes about education, many hating school, to re-integrate into community schools, and begin to aspire towards post-secondary education. "I'd like it if every student in my class were like him," is typical feedback from teachers speaking of students who have graduated from the centre and gone back to the regular system.
- He prepares students for real life situations by implementing innovative curriculum, integrating units such as the Life Project, an engaging simulation that incorporates skills for managing personal resources into several courses. Students receive simulated pay cheques and bills, create budgets, and reconcile their income and expenses using supporting software.
- Mr. Vandecasteele gathered and then improved information and communications technology resources for the centre on a very limited budget. A collection of mismatched computers has evolved into an interactive and integrated network in which individual computers, SMART boards and online resources allow instantaneous interconnectivity and collaboration, inspiring curious young minds. Imaginative technology-based activities such as Internet mapping of the neighbourhood combined with a GPS scavenger hunt serve to further engage students.
"To serve these youth takes a person of extraordinary skills. Mr. Vandecasteele is such a person. In his classroom, youth learn to trust again and to develop their confidence and self-esteem in order to re-enter society in a responsible and meaningful way." School administrator
"He is the best teacher ever. He is the first teacher that can explain things so that I can understand them." Student
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