Katherine Dekker says her school recognizes a child's unique needs.

Katherine Dekker says her school recognizes a child's unique needs.

September 23, 2013

Sister Annata Brockman and principal Katherine Dekker are recipients of prestigious awards from the University of Alberta Alumni Association.

Dekker, one of 15 recipients of an Alumni Honour Award, is recognized for her contributions in innovative service to students. She has been teaching since 1981, in New Jersey, U.S.and the Alberta communities of Provost and Ponoka, before settling in Edmonton in 1990.

Dekker is in her sixth year as principal of St. Francis of Assisi School, an elementary school that prides itself on emphasizing the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In 2012, the Learning Partnership named her one of Canada's 40 outstanding principals, and she was nominated as one of Global TV's Women of Vision.

Her school's educational programs recognize the uniqueness of every student, challenging them to grow spiritually, academically and socially.

"This is a unique environment in that our children come from diverse backgrounds.

"Our students come from refugee families, immigrant families and 55 per cent of our population is aboriginal. They have varying issues that need to be addressed differently than other schools would," said Dekker.

Her school's philosophy is based on the Circle of Courage, which has four specific dimensions: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

"We are innovative because we have been problem-solvers as we go. We put it out there that we need some support, and others step up to help us. For example, we have a therapist from the Family Centre that comes to us three times a week. They come to us because we gave them a room that they can have an office in," explained Dekker.

Sr. Annata Brockman visits her Hamptons-area school weekly.

Sr. Annata Brockman visits her Hamptons-area school weekly.

Through APPLE Schools, the school environment has been changed to help foster lifelong health and learning. Through community donations, she initiated programs that ensure breakfast cereal, healthy snacks and a hot lunch for every student.

An after-school program allows students to participate in such activities as basketball, zumba, floor hockey and cooking classes.

"The service of our staff to these children is incredible, and that's what's made us successful here. Let me emphasize that it is the staff that is making this work, and who come up with a lot of our ideas and have a vision of what our school can be," she said.


Brockman is a pioneer in the field of education, serving as a teacher and administrator for more than 20 years. She is one of four recipients of this year's Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes graduates whose achievements have earned them national or worldwide prominence.

As a Sister of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Brockman taught in Halifax, North Sydney, N.S., Kelowna, Cranbrook, Edmonton and Vancouver. She loved the students, her fellow teachers, and parents, and always strived to call forth the best in them. Brockman was a teacher and administrator in Edmonton for 21 years.

"My years in school as teacher and principal were very happy ones for I believed that together with the teachers and parents we were preparing the students for life here on this earth, for life in a world community and for life in eternity, our true home," said Brockman.

She also served as a pastoral associate at St. Joseph's Basilica for more than two decades, and remains active in schools and hospital ministry. She also was nominated as one of Global TV's Women of Vision.

In 2010, Sister Annata Brockman Elementary/Junior High School was named in her honour. As a champion of Catholic education, she visits her Hamptons-area school weekly, speaking to students about important lessons in life and faith.

The 2013 Alumni Recognition Awards will be presented Sept. 25 at the Winspear Centre.