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Victoria Zalewski with Janet Downer, Assistant Head of School

Recent graduate Victoria Zalewski has a new accolade to add to her resume: award-winning writer. Earlier this week the Class of 2023 alumna won the Speaker’s Award for Youth Writers in the Grade 11-12 category for a story she wrote while at Pickering College.

The Speaker’s Award for Youth Writers is an annual contest by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for youth in Grades 7-12 to submit their original fiction and non-fiction essays. Spilled Milk was created for an assignment for a Grade 11 English class. Earlier this fall it was shortlisted and on Monday, October 23 it was announced as the winner at a reception that took place the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, where shortlisted authors for the Award for Youth Writer's and the Speaker's Book Award were recognized.

In her award-winning story Spilled Milk, Zalewski creates a connection with readers through a moment that, on the surface, seems entirely mundane. 

“Readers will find themselves unexpectedly empathizing with the central character as she sits, sobbing, on the curb,” explains Leah Duncan, Senior School English Department Head. “While at first, it seems as though the unnamed character is distraught over nothing more than a package of spilled milk, as the story unfolds, readers discover that there is so much more to her unraveling. The story prompts readers to challenge our assumptions and gently nudges us to remember the humanity of strangers.”

In addition to this honour, earlier this year Zalewski was named the winner of the prestigious Joshua Weinzweig Memorial Literary Award at Pickering College.

“Her writing has been capturing the attention of audiences for years and will undoubtedly continue to do so,” says Duncan. “We are so proud of Victoria and hope to have her back to the Hilltop to visit soon.”

"I'm really thankful to have received this opportunity, as well as the encouragement to go after it,” says Zalewski, now in her first year of Political Science and Economics at the University of Toronto.

Spilled Milk is now available on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s website:

Joshua Weinzweig Creative Writing Program
Thanks to the vision and generous support of Daniel Weinzweig, young creative writers at Pickering College have produced a history of successful work. Work from dozens of writers from the Senior School have received awards and praise in regional, provincial and national literary competitions. Our students have published their work in newspapers, magazines and anthologies and won short story, poetry, and essay-writing contests. The nationally recognized Joshua Weinzweig Creative Writing Program provides young writers with support and wide-ranging opportunities to develop their craft. Their creative and analytical writing skills grow throughout the years through a progressive series of writing workshops that foster resource, program support and effective mentoring. Recognition for their efforts and quality of work is another key aspect of our program.  Each year, student pieces are published in the Joshua Weinzweig Review of Writing.

Lafontaine-Baldwin Youth Conference participants

Re-imagining Canadian Democracy, Anishinaabe Perspectives

In September, Pickering College co-hosted The Lafontaine-Baldwin Youth Conference that re-imagined the future of democracy while examining historical examples of York Region’s governance, tracing back to Anishinaabe governance and a responsible government model envisioned by The Children of Peace (Quakers who built the Sharon Temple).

Eighty students from across York Region and Georgina Island participated in a full day and evening of guest speakers including Chief Ted Williams and John Ralston Saul and thought-provoking discussions about positive visions of democracy.

Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s The Agenda, led a reflective discussion with workshop leaders and students about their conference key takeaways which was broadcast on the school’s CRTC-licensed radio station, 102.7 CHOP FM.

Students left feeling inspired to make positive changes in their communities and with a clearer vision for what governance could look like in the future.

Speaker bios and more details

Dan Thompson, Senior School Faculty

Pickering College is proud to congratulate Dan Thompson, Senior School faculty member and social sciences instructional leader, for being selected as a 2023 recipient of the Class ACT award from the Critical Thinking Consortium.

The award is in recognition of educators who show a commitment to embedding critical thinking into their own practice and who have demonstrated notable success in furthering critical thinking with their students or colleagues.

Thompson, who is entering his 10th year of teaching at Pickering College, frequently uses the Consortium’s critical-thinking tools in developing lessons for his students. This past year, he further enriched student learning by bringing in anti-bias speakers through the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and by helping to organize a special Morning Meeting for Holocaust Remembrance Day which included a child survivor of the Holocaust as guest speaker.  

“I love having the ability to share historical or philosophical stories daily – as a social sciences teacher, I think we have this unique opportunity to help create socially-active students who are knowledgeable and aware of the mistakes that have happened in history while simultaneously teaching them to stand-up to injustice and be global leaders,” says Dan Thompson, 2023 Class ACT award recipient. “Being able to offer a history program that teaches students empathy, ethical reflection and critical thinking is so important in today’s day and age.”

Joshua Armstrong, Director of Teaching and Learning at Pickering College, says Thompson is an innovative teacher who knows how to engage his students in critical thinking. “Dan makes extra efforts to teach truth and reconciliation history in his courses and uses critical thinking tools to help students construct their own meaning about difficult curriculum – an approach he shares with his entire department,” Armstrong explains. “I’m proud to work with him.”

All educators (teachers, instructional coaches, consultants, school administrators, superintendents, directors, etc.) are eligible for nomination for the CLASS ACT award based on the following criteria: embedding into practice the Consortium’s approach to nurturing high-quality thinking; supporting colleagues in adopting a thinking approach using the TC² framework and TC² resources; and demonstrating notable success in nurturing high-quality thinking with students and/or colleagues.

About the Critical Thinking Consortium
The Critical Thinking Consortium is a non-profit association of institutional partners, school districts, faculties of education, teaching professionals, associations and other educational organizations. Our aim is to promote critical thinking from primary to post-secondary education through professional development, publications and research. TC2 offers wide range of professional learning initiatives, programs, workshops, digital and print publications, and other resources to help teachers implement critical thinking in the classroom.