There was plenty of finger pointing and utterances of “Mrs. A” among the student population when Ellerslie Elementary School principal Jason Cormier started describing a member of the teaching staff being recognized with a special award.
As he rhymed off each reason for her being chosen as a P.E.I. Home and School Federation ‘Extra Mile’ award recipient, the chorus of “Mrs. A” grew stronger, and more and more fingers got pointed at a blushing Grade 1 teacher, Tracy Arsenault.
Shirley Jay, executive director of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation, the federation’s Westisle Family of Schools representative, Katie MacLennan and Parker Grimmer, Director of the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch were in attendance for the presentation, one of five being made across the province.
Arsenault is one of the founders of Ellerslie’s school awards initiative, where students and staff are recognized on a monthly basis. It was during such a gathering that she received the Extra Mile award.
“I really don’t think of it that I go the extra mile; I guess I just do it naturally and I love it; I absolutely love it,” Arsenault said following the presentation.
MacLennan read excerpts from the many letters received in support of Arsenault’s nomination.
“Mrs. A,” shared one parent, “makes each of her students feel special and is able to find their special talents and help them hone-in on that talent.”
A student noted that Mrs. Arsenault is a good story teller and “she is nice and smart and explains everything perfectly.”
The presentation was made on Valentine’s Day, and Jay referred to the letters as love letters.
In line for cake being served up by Mrs. A, Rylee Barlow described her as “a great teacher.”
Arsenault started out as a kindergarten teacher at Magic Moments in Tignish in 1993. When kindergarten was being introduced into the school system, she went back to school.
“So, I was working, teaching kindergarten Monday to Friday during the day and then going to school in the evenings and on weekends and all summer, and that took three years,” she said.
That, she said, involved a lot of “extra miles” between Tignish and Charlottetown.
In the school system, she taught kindergarten in O’Leary, Tignish and then one week in Miscouche before shifting to Ellerslie five years ago and taking over the Grade 1 class.
There, she helped with a Grade 2 science club before shifting over to a Grade 1 science club which meets after school one day per month.
“We did make it fun, for sure, and hands-on,” she said.
Arsenault introduced a pumpkin carving and decorating contest at the school last fall, an initiative that drew more than 80 entries. She has a cowbell in her classroom which she rings during birthdays and other special celebrations.
“She thinks up really good ideas that make school fun,” Cormier said.
“I think all of you would agree she makes a really great introduction to school life here at Ellerslie Elementary,” Cormier said.
Students nodded enthusiastically.
Arsenault believes she’s found her place.
“I love this school. Wonderful staff. Amazing children. Amazing parent involvement. It’s just great.”
She said she especially loves teaching Grade 1.
“Grade 1 is when you see the most growth in a child. By January they’re just taking off and it’s amazing to see their growth in Math and literacy and how much more they enjoy reading,” she said.
“I’ve always found Grade 1 very gratifying. I’ve only done kindergarten and Grade 1, and I hope I get to stay in Grade 1 for many, many more years.”