Advancing Student Health!

The intricate relationship between health and learning is indisputable. Gone are the days where education is solely about catering to the ABCs of learning. The connection between the determinants of health and learning outcomes calls for Educational Governance that is viewed in all its capacity, at all times, and in all realms, through the lens of health and well-being.

As a seasoned Trustee I have initiated many motions and have celebrated their successful implementation knowing that on some level a difference has been made. The scope has been varied ranging from fiduciary matters to improved communication to health and wellbeing. Yet if I take a scan, the great majority of my work has centered on those matters that directly affect the health and wellbeing of our students and hence, learning.

More and more I find that my passion to see healthy happy students has played itself out in the form of motions, advocacy and policy changes that center on health prevention and promotion. This emphasis started early in my career as a Trustees with my first motion in 2007 addressing air quality in and around school zones. This led to anti-idling zones for all Edmonton Catholic Schools. Since that time, I have continued with my goal to drive change, seeking strategies to improve or save lives as evidenced by my calls for, fentanyl and vaccination awareness, motions for age appropriate training to support students in reporting sexual assault, mental health initiatives, and calls for a vaccination database. Of course, on the other end of the successes are those areas that will continue to need support such as programming and services for vulnerable LGBTQ and FNMI students. Still, I can’t articulate in words how grateful I am that my path has afforded me the opportunity to impact the quality of another person’s life.

I have asked myself where is it that I want to focus in terms of trusteeship and ultimately, what will best support me in achieving the desired outcome? Clearly, my passion takes me once again to health. So how do I continue to grow so that I can continue to advance the numerous health needs of the district? In contemplation, I have enrolled into the Masters of Public Health at the University of Waterloo as it offers the program online, allowing me flexibility in fulfilling my Trustee obligations.

This program offers a broad and comprehensive approach to health prevention, including mandatory business management and policy development coursework. I can’t imagine what I could have done to better advance my skills given that this encompasses all the essential pieces to effective trusteeship ( business and policy) all within the scope of my greatest passion…improving student lives and outcomes through health promotion.

The learning curve has been fast and furious. Free-time has  been replaced by long hours poring over data banks, reading research papers, and contemplating their application to advancing health through varied designs. None the less, this has come to be a gift that is immeasurable. I would need a book to write on all the information that has been transferred into my arsenal in just a few short months. But suffice it to say, Public Health boils down to two words, health prevention.

As I continue on my own path as a life long learner, I am looking forward to bringing a new level of sophistication to my role as a governor and policy maker for students. Research skills yielding evidence based data will undoubtedly lead me to advance solid initiatives;  identify system needs and gaps; lobby for targeted programming and supports; and advance policy. All this is encompassed within a vision to improve learning and quality of life for this generation of students now and into their future.

I am proud that my work has already resulted in one tangible for the district since embarking down this path. ECSD has now started a BOK’s program at Frere Antoine School. In short, it is a collaborative between Reebok Canada, researchers at the University of Waterloo and school jurisdictions to introduce a morning/or reverse lunch/ exercise program with the potential to quantify the impact of morning activity on learning.

Based on some of research and data analysis that I have recently under taken I will be advancing matters related to sexual education, physical health and mental health. Data for Alberta indicates some troubling trends. There is much to be done if we are going to make inroads that improve student outcomes as they relate to learning, determinants of health and quality of life.

If you are a parent in my ward and would like to learn more about this program or what I am currently wanting to tackle in terms of student health and wellness, please join me at the Riverbend Second Cup on April 10th, from 7-8 pm.

Finally, a huge thank you to my constituents for allowing me the opportunity to serve you and your family.


Vice-Chair Marilyn Bergstra





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