EMSB recognizes exceptional teachers

Maria Frank (right) congratulates the three winners.

May 10, 2024- On the occasion of English Montreal School Board Teacher Recognition Day May 7, three  teachers were presented with special awards at Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North.

The EMSB launched this ceremony more than a decade ago to coincide with National Teachers Day in the United States and recognize this profession towards the end of the academic year.

There were many nominations from parents for the awards.  Maria Frank from Bâton Rouge Grillhouse and Bar, known for its famous ribs and exceptional steaks at locations across the country, presented $100 gift cards to Paul Karpontinis, a social studies  teacher at Lester B. Pearson High School; Karine Gomes Silva, a physical education teacher at Gerald McShane Elementary School in Montreal North; and  Georgette Amar, a   Common Core Basic Education (CCBE) teacher at Galileo Adult Education Centre in Montreal North . The winners also received gift packages from Michael Dean Rafferty of Kera Organics and were featured on CityNews Montreal.  

Here is the report  

Here are the photos 

Here is our video podcast 

Here is the audio version  

Paul and some of his students.

Paul Karpontinis: A teacher & mentor

While incredibly humbled by his nomination and award, Paul Karpontinis is not one for the recognition that comes with it. For the past 19 years, Mr. Karpontinis has tried to stay in the shadows at Lester B. Pearson High School (LBPHS), despite leaving a lifelong impression on each and every student he interacts with.

“I really enjoy working with our student leaders,” said Mr. Karpontonis. “Over the last two decades I have had the privilege of working with inspiring students who work every day to improve the student experience at LBPHS.”

In fact, what Mr. Karpontinis failed to mention is that his reach extends well beyond LBPHS. As testament to his ability to connect with students, he is the long-time coordinator of the English Montreal Student Advisory Committee (EMSAC) program. EMSAC brings together two student leaders from each EMSB high school for   monthly meetings where they discuss issues pertinent to students, staff and the community at large. Their recommendations are brought to the EMSB’s Council of Commissioners and considered at their monthly, public meetings. Students on this committee look to Mr. Karpontinis for guidance on issues big and small, acting as a mentors as the students navigate through some of the most pivotal times of their young lives.

A native of Laval, Mr. Karpontinis began his EMSB journey as a high school student at LaurenHill Academy in St. Laurent. Following his graduation, he attended Dawson College, where he returned to LHA as a peer tutor, before earning both  Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees at McGill University and ultimately found a home at LBPHS. Yet, despite education being the perfect calling for Mr. Karpontinis, it was not until he worked as a peer tutor that he really did consider this profession. 

“Working with the students and Student Council at LHA, in an unofficial capacity, while I was a peer tutor opened my eyes,” said Mr. Karpontinis. “I really enjoyed helping others with material that they were struggling with; I thought maybe there is something more to this.”

Fortunately for countless students at LBPHS, Mr. Karpontinis acted upon his intuition. Today, he teaches three classes: Personal Orientation Project, Macroeconomics and Law, having also previously taught ERC, Geography and History. 

While it might seem that Mr. Karpontinis’ demeanour comes naturally to him, it took two special people to bring a self-described defiant teen down to earth. 

“Joe Hackett and Jimmy Giannacopoulos both taught me multiple times at LaurenHill Academy and then as cooperating teachers,” recalled Mr. Karpontinis. “They were always there for me from the time I was 12 through adulthood. I owe them for fostering the importance of offering students a safe space to spend their time at school, for many of my teaching methods and for their support during my formative years.”

Mr. Karpontinis also reserves a shout out for CJ Turner  of Westmount High School whom he said  was influencial in helping him to develop the leadership program at Lester B. Pearson High School.

Yet, their support could never prepare Mr. Karpontinis for perhaps the most significant memory of his teaching career – one that he shares with 38 students and five chaperones. 

“In my second year as a teacher, I was a part of a European trip that suffered a unique circumstance, the sinking of our cruise ship,” said Mr. Karpontinis. “We were a large group of 38 students and five chaperones when the Sea Diamond, where we had spent our final five days on, ran aground. This personal crucible left me changed as well as all of the members of the trip to Greece forever. The episode taught me how to respond in a crisis situation, to be able to put the needs of the people under my care ahead of my own needs, making important decision under pressure, the importance of empathy in helping others deal with their own personal apprehensions through the crisis and the healing process afterwards.”

Although a crisis such as this is rare,  the lessons learned and subsequently imparted on hundreds of students have become a gift. 

“Being able to rise to the occasion and conquer adversity truly elevates you to the next level or leadership and self-awareness,” added Mr. Karpontinis. “I have since been able to draw and those experiences in order to more effectively respond to difficult situations, deal with sensitive issues, have more compassion for students and staff alike who are experiencing their own challenging circumstances.”

Karine is given her certificates.

Karine Gomes Silva has always loved physical education

Since her days as a student at Edward Murphy Elementary School in Hochelaga Maisonneuve, Karine Gomes Silva   has always loved physical education. Multiple degrees and 21 years in education later, this passion has only grown. For the past 20 years, she has called the Gerald McShane   gym  in Montreal North her home, and despite the long commute every day from Dorval to Montreal North, she remains as energized today as she was on day one. 

“What I like is that I get to see my students mature. [I first meet them] as four-year olds and I see this amazing emotional and social growth in them,” she said. “As a physical education teacher, I see a different side of them, the more social side and I really love that. They open up to me and we have a different kind of relationship.”

Growing up in the East End,  Ms. Gomes Silva  is a PSBGM alumna, having attended both Edward Murphy and Vincent Massey, before completing both her Undergraduate and Masters degrees at McGill University. 

“I was always a very active child and participated in team sports, but it was my teachers and coaches in high school whoreally sparked my passion for education,” she said. “They really took the time to connect with us outside of the sport, making sure we were doing well academically, socially and emotionally. As a teacher, I try to do that with my students: they keep me going, bringing me a lot of joy and fulfillment.”

Ms. Gomes Silva begins each class by chatting with her students to further strengthen the bond between them. From hearing about their weekend to stories from summer vacation, Silva genuinely wants to ensure that the students feel comfortable in her class, giving them every chance to ultimately succeed.

“The first thing I do is I ask them about their lives and deepen that connection. Then we begin the class,” she said. “I want them to have a positive experience. I want them to have that sense of belonging and acceptance. We accomplish this by developing a love for being active and being part of a team.”

In a world where youth are becoming more and more sedentary, the excitement that Silva brings to her class and to sports is critical.

“One of my main goals is to give my students as many different movement opportunities, whether in they are in the gym, on play days, ski days, winter camp, all in the hope that they find that one physical activity that they love so much that they want to pursue it for the rest of their lives,” she says. “I want them to associate movement with good health and fun!”

Yet, while Ms. Gomes Silva might be the lone teacher in the gym, she is never alone at Gerald McShane.  

“I have great colleagues and I am so lucky to work with people who inspire me every day,” she added. “We are a good community, we share information, we try things together and most importantly, we work well together. There is a special atmosphere here.”

“I feel very humbled to have been nominated, but I wish everyone could be recognized. If it wasn’t for my colleagues, I think it would be hard to keep on going. This nomination, award, validates my career path. Ultimately, I think we all want to make a difference and we all want to make the lives of our children a bit better.”

Georgette with Michael Dean Rafferty.

Georgette Amar Recognized Prior to Retirement

With an extensive career spanning both the youth and adult sectors,  Georgette Amar’s dedication to teaching English and French for 34 years is truly admirable. She is retiring in June.  It's evident through the lasting relationships she has built with both colleagues and students that Ms. Amar  pours her heart and soul into her teaching! 

“An exceptional teacher who goes above and beyond to contribute to a positive school culture, she actively participates in all school activities and willingly volunteers her time to help her colleagues,” says Principal Martina Schiavone. “ Georgette is always eager to learn new methods and techniques, showing her dedication to continuous improvement in her teaching practices. Her enthusiasm and love for learning and teaching has had an impact on the lives of hundreds of students. Undoubtedly Georgette is leaving a lasting and profound impression on all those who she has taught and worked with.”

Georgette with Martina Schiavone, Joe Ortona, Commissioner Sophie De Vito, AEVS Director Angela Spagnolo, Michael Dean Rafferty and Mayor Christine Black.

Ms. Amar’s dedication and enthusiasm have made her a beloved figure at Galileo, where she has spent the majority of her teaching career. Although she has worked at various EMSB schools, she says, “My heart is at Galileo.”

Ms. Amar arrived at Galileo in 2008. She began teaching  in 1990 at the former St. Brendan Elementary School, where she taught both English and French during the day. Additionally, in the evenings, she taught at Marymount Adult Education Centre (now Wagar) English as a Second Language ( ESL) in the community school. In 1999, she went to the St. Pius X Adult Education Centre focusing on teaching French and English.

From 2015 to 2019, Ms. Amar expanded her teaching responsibilities to include evening and weekend French classes at JFK, while continuing her ESL work at Galileo. Currently,  she teaches   French in the evening at Galileo. She has also      taught at HSM  and James Lyng Adult Education Centres.

Ms. Amar had originally  pursued language studies, with a specialization in French at the University of Strasbourg (France). Upon relocating to Canada, she worked part-time at her brother’s clothing store while also studying English at Concordia University.  Over time, she discovered a passion for assisting others and aimed for a career that would allow her to apply her academic background and fulfill a desire to help others. This led her to apply for a teaching position.

Ms. Amar loves her work at Galileo. “My day-to-day role involves creating lesson plans, delivering engaging instruction, and providing support to students as they develop their English and French language skills,” she says. “I also enjoy organizing activities outside of class to enhance students' language learning experience.

“The satisfaction of witnessing my students progress from having limited English proficiency at the beginning of the semester to being able to understand and write proficiently by the end is truly fulfilling.”

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 73 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.

                                                About Baton Rouge Grillhouse & Bar

Founded in Montreal in 1992, Bâton Rouge is named after the glowing wooden logs that were used to fire up the original ovens at its very first locations. While the original ovens were eventually modernized, the kitchen at each Bâton Rouge restaurant continues to make each dish with passion, the real flame which is revived daily with each dish to satisfy the most capricious of palates. Today, 28 Bâton Rouge franchises are located throughout the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, with expansion soon to reach New Brunswick.

About Kera Cares

Kera Organics was created to not only to make soap, but specialize in transforming pure and natural ingredients, free from chemical fragrances and processed components like artificial dyes into handcrafted organic products.

 Kera comes from Keratoconus, an eye disease which, if not treated could easily lead to blindness. For many, surgery is not the answer, but spiral lenses are. Those stricken by this disease may need to go this route however it comes with a very costly price to pay. There are no available government subsidies that you can receive and not many places offer this type of lens with the necessary treatment services. That is why Mr. Rafferty, who has suffered from the disease since he was a child, created the  Kera Cares Foundation ( https://keracares.org) to provide assistance.    



Michael J. Cohen

Manager,  Marketing and Communications

English Montreal School Board

514-483-7200 ext. 7243

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