A prominent Edmonton magazine has named two teachers to its annual list of high achievers under 40 years old.
Avenue Edmonton magazine’s November issue outlines its seventh annual “Top 40 Under 40” list. It includes highly successful entrepreneurs, doctors and dentists, chefs and engineers, as well as teachers Melissa Hladyshevsky, 33, and Thomas Holmes, 36.
Hladyshevsky teaches music at Académie Saint-André Academy, in Beaumont, and Holmes is the learning support co-ordinator for Sturgeon School Division, based in Morinville.
Hladyshevsky’s nomination came largely on the strength of her long-time volunteer work with Choral Morphosis, a disabled-friendly choir she founded eight years ago at Edmonton’s Robertson-Wesley United Church.
The premise of the choir is to accept people with all types of disabilities and all levels of vocal talent, a level of acceptance that has led many new choir members to shed tears of joy at their first rehearsal.
Despite the transformative nature of the program, Hladyshevsky was surprised to be included on the top-40 list.
“I was completely shocked because I was sitting [there] with doctors and brain surgeons,” she said. “For me it was unbelievable and it’s still unbelievable to think about it now.”
According to the summary in Avenue, the choir does a live performance about six times a year. Its repertoire extends beyond traditional hymns to include numbers such as Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid and The Lion King’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Hladyshevsky is also an occasional pianist at St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church, conducts the choir at Edmonton Moravian Church, sings with the EKOSingers choir and is a monthly donor to the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
In 2009 she received the mayor’s award for outstanding community service to the city of Edmonton.
Mental health crusader
Holmes is the system psychologist for the Sturgeon School Division. He spends most of his time working at central office as co-ordinator of learning support. He also is the principal of two outreach schools.
A former special education teacher and school counsellor, Holmes is now a registered psychologist and is currently involved in a pilot project aimed at measuring students’ brain activity, then taking steps to ensure they are in the right frame of mind for learning.
“You can have the best teacher in the world in the best school equipped with the best technology, but if you’ve got children suffering from anxiety or depression, or having some challenges at home, their basic needs aren’t being met — both from an emotional and a physical point of view — so they’re not going to learn,” he told Avenue.
It was Holmes’ ongoing efforts to improve students’ mental health that ultimately earned him a spot on the top-40 list.
“It was a nice honour. It’s a bit embarrassing too, but it was a nice honour, for sure,” he said. “I think it’s the same thing as teaching; it’s not work that we’re doing to get recognition.”
Holmes has been active with the Alberta Teachers’ Association in several capacities over the years. He’s the past president of the Sturgeon Local No. 27, just ended his term as past president of the Guidance Council and serves on the Teacher Development and Practice Advisory Committee (TDPAC).
In 2008, Holmes’ passion and community engagement earned him the Teacher Award of Excellence, part of the School-Community Public Relations Awards. ❚