Our Kids
Glen Herbert - Editor

Glen Herbert
Editor/Writer, Our Kids Media

January, 2022

“It was an incredibly interesting process, and not one that I’ve experienced before,” says Elyane Ruel, head of school at Académie Westboro Academy in Ottawa. I met with her at her office one cool day this past fall. She’s new to her role, so I asked her what the hiring process was like. As I did, a smile crept across her face. “I was given the opportunity to interview lots of different people. They weren’t asking me anything,” rather she was asking them. “It was, ‘find out what you want to know about the school.’” Then, at the panel interview, “they asked me to start with a short presentation on ‘What have you learned about the school, what is its strength, and what might be the next steps you would take?’ ”

For a couple months prior to Omicron, travel didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore, so I was able to visit schools in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver. That’s why I was at Westboro that day. What I found was exactly what I’d hoped. People like Ruel.

In describing the school’s strength to the panel, she says she borrowed the hedgehog concept from writer and researcher Jim Collins. The idea that a hedgehog only does one thing when under threat—it rolls up in a ball—but it does it extremely well. “It’s about recognizing what you do well, and then do it well, and don’t try to do ten thousand other things.” To the panel she said, “You are a bilingual school, that’s what you do well, and that’s how you define yourself.” They agreed. She then outlined some great ideas, drawing on her unique perspective and experience—her first teaching position was in an Inuit school; she then went on to administrative positions at international schools in Bolivia and Romania—and she got the job.

“One of the things I started to do when I arrived was to identify what the white noise is.” Things like printers that don’t work, conflicts within schedules, and so on. “What are all the things that are just taking up time, sucking energy, and have nothing to do with learning but have become elements of frustration.” She tells a story about a school where she worked where the bell system was causing trouble. The bells were going off at the wrong times, or sometimes not at all. It was causing confusion and stress, “and finally somebody says, ‘Why don’t we just get rid of the bells? Why don’t we just get a whistle?’ And so they did. One good idea, a quick execution, “and all the stress was gone.”

When I ask her what she hopes students will take away from their time at the school, she chuckles and says, “an ability to write legibly and to compose a text that makes sense.” She’s joking, but as with any joke, there’s a lot of truth in it too. As she talks, it’s hard not to think how great it would be if more people—parents especially—could do what I was doing. Just sitting there and talking. If you ask a person to draw a school, they’ll draw a building, not the people. But of course, that’s the wrong way around.

What makes a school great? It’s one “where everyone in the community has a voice, and the systems are in place to adapt to what’s needed. A lot of it has to do simply with how you treat each other. I think one of the things that makes this school great is that teachers have a certain amount of professional freedom because we treat them as professionals who know what they’re doing.”

This is Ruel’s eighth private school, so she’s seen a lot. I ask her to imagine what, years from now, she hopes people will remember of her time at Westboro. She answers without a pause. “That I was part of a team that worked together creating a space where everyone felt that they were comfortable to learn. And that I always put the students first.” Yup. That’s what it’s all about. My feature review of Westboro will be published online and in print later this month.

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In other news ...

What Will Kids Be Eating in 2022? Chartwells K12 Reveals Top 10 Food Trends

“I’m hungry!” “What’s for lunch?” These may be some of the most common phrases heard from kids throughout the year but knowing what they are craving is a puzzle all its own. This month, culinary experts and registered dietitians from Chartwells K-12, a company that creates custom dining programs focused on nutrition and wellness for schools across the country, unveiled the top 10 food trends for kids and their families in 2022. From all-day breakfast to cultural flavours and culinary comebacks, these trends continue to represent kids’ favourite foods now and in the future.

This is the second annual list Chartwells K-12 North America has compiled. Based on decades of experience and expertise in understanding what kids like to eat, this list is shared to support parents as they look for new, fun, delicious and healthy ideas when it comes to family meal time.

“We are seeing a lot of these fun food trends across the country. Watching students get excited about creating with food and using their imagination as they discover different flavour combinations is why we have such strong culinary programs in the Chartwells portfolio. Our students inspire us every day.” Ashlee Collins, Regional Director of Operations, Chartwells Canada.

Chartwells K-12’s top 10 food trends for kids for 2022 are:

  1. Breakfast All Day, Here to Stay! – As days continue to bring hectic schedules and early starts, breakfast, brunch, and “brinner” keep trending for kids! Traditional offerings, like our student-favourite breakfast burrito and sausage, egg and cheese biscuit are as popular as ever. But, all-day breakfast menus deserve a bit of creativity and that is where the Chefs at Chartwells stand out. Options including Breakfast Fried Rice or ham, mozzarella and spinach whole grain bowls bring the fun of breakfast, while packing in nutritious ingredients to keep students focused and full throughout the day. Rising in popularity this year is the smoothie for the great-tasting combination of fruits and yogurt ready to be eaten on the go!

  2. No Fork, No Problem – Breakfast isn’t the only meal kids are eating on the go these days as handheld items make for an easy option at lunch, as well as between school, sports, and fun with friends! Bento boxes filled with meats, cheese, veggies and hummus top the list of favourites, as well as creative wraps like a Vegetarian Rainbow Hummus Wrap, walking tacos and Chicken Fajita Shawarma make finger food popular for all ages.

  3. Power Your Performance – Whether it’s competing on an athletic team, staying active with friends, or looking to improve overall wellness, Gen Z continues to prioritize healthy, nutritious meals that help them establish a mind-body connection and eat to compete! Kids are focused on staying fueled and hydrated by eating meals like Chicken & Rice Power Bowls and Hummus Dip with Veggies & Flatbread to make it through their day.

  4. Veg-Out! – Going beyond #MeatlessMondays, vegetables and plant-based foods are taking center stage! With kids placing a high priority on personal health and the health of the planet, protein replacements and vegetarian options are the star of the meal. Chartwells Chefs are creative when swapping out popular food options and replacing them with Plant Based Alternatives. The food still needs to be full of bold flavour with a great presentation! Veggie burgers are more popular in schools than ever before along with creative vegetarian and flexitarian twists like a Watermelon Edamame Poke, Kung Pao Tofu Stir Fry and a Vegetarian Sweet Potato and White Bean Chili. When developing our Chartwells menus for K-12, it’s an opportunity to educate students that Plant Based Cuisine can still be exciting, great tasting and above all healthy.

  5. Grown on Your Own – With special events and cafeteria menus celebrating fresh produce coming from local farms all year long, kids are developing a lifelong connection with their fruits and vegetables, along with a desire to know where they came from. In the past year, the number of kids and families growing their own produce and herbs in their backyard has increased, but through hydroponics and other modern technology, gardens are also sprouting indoors at schools across the country. An indoor, hydroponic garden enables students to grow their own produce at school and brings the latest innovations and the freshest flavours to the cafeteria.

  6. Culture Cuisine – Eating meals at school is often the first place a child will get to taste and learn about foods from outside their family’s recipes or traditional cultural dishes. The power of food in connecting people across multiple cultural heritages is more prevalent than ever as kids seek out and experience new flavours from around the world. From Curry Masala Roasted Chicken Wings to a Middle Eastern Breakfast Scramble with Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Spiced Tomatoes and Scrambled Eggs, students are finding school lunch menus represent a world of flavours.

  7. Eating Together – As students returned to school, kids also returned to cafeterias to enjoy meals together once again. Dining together at school presents the perfect opportunity for students to enjoy their favourite meals together and get inspired to try new foods.

  8. Let’s Go Retro – Scrunchies, fanny packs, and tie-dye aren’t the only things making a comeback! Look for healthy twists on kid favourites from the 70s, 80s, and 90s such as grilled cheese. Give it a bit of a gourmet twist, now it is an Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomato & Provolone Panini. Cheese and crackers get reinvented with On-the-Go Protein Packs, and the classic sloppy joe is elevated to a Sloppy Joe Pie with Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

  9. Oodles of Noodles – Whether a cozy meal at home or a night out to eat, noodles in any form top the list of menu picks and have long been a culinary favourite for kids and adults alike. By adding a variety of vegetables, discovering new ethnic flavours, and customizing their ideal combinations, kids are loving the elevated comfort food options and going beyond plain noodles. Favourites include Korean Bulgogi Chicken & Soba Noodle Bowl and Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese.

  10. Build Your Own – Not only are students helping to shape menus and reimagine their school dining experience through different Chartwells’ culinary programs, but customization is king as kids create their favourite combinations with build your own concepts ranging from noodle bowls and poutine bars to pizza, desserts and more.

About Chartwells Chartwells is a sector of Compass Group Canada, the country’s leading foodservice and support services provider with over 25,000 associates working throughout the country. The company specializes in providing food services and support services across the core sectors including leading sports and leisure venues, executive dining rooms and cafes, schools, universities, seniors’ residences and hospitals as well as remote camps and offshore oil rigs. Compass Group Canada has been certified as Great Place to Work (2018; 2019; 2020); Best Workplaces Retail & Hospitality (2019, 2020) and Best Workplaces in Ontario (2020)] by Great Place to Work®, the global authority on high-trust, high-performance workplace cultures.

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