St. Francis School in Harbour Grace has received an award of merit from the provincial Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development for its continued high level of excellence for encouraging youth innovation.
The announcement was made during a ceremony at the Delta St. John’s Hotel and Conference Centre on June 18.
It was part of the department's 2012 Export and Innovation Awards. The awards recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that are excelling in the areas of innovation and exporting.
According to a news release, St. Francis School, led by the school’s technology teacher — Norman Littlejohn — has consistently introduced students to innovative learning experiences that capture their interest and encourage them to think, create and innovate.
St. Francis is a Grade 6-9 school with students primarily from Harbour Grace and Carbonear.
Littlejohn and principal Deborah Ryan were on hand to accept the award.
Littlejohn described it as an "amazing award for the students and staff," and added "it shows the innovative projects that are coming from our students."
An official with Innovation, Business and Rural Development described Littlejohn as an "amazing teacher" and credited the praised the school for its innovative ways of teaching students.
For example, the school has been operating a green house for many years, and has been growing vegetables that will help feed athletes during the upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games in August. The school's robotics program has also been attending international competitions for the past nine years, and each classroom has an interactive smart board.
An underwater robotics program was introduced in recent years, and the school will increase its use of technology next year when it introduces wireless computer tablets for student use.
What's more, the school has a television studio from which morning announcements are produced. This is also a student-led initiative.
Littlejohn said it was a "strange feeling" to be attending such an award ceremony, sitting alongside corporations and businesses with up to 900 staff.
"To be regarded with that calibre of organization is a nice feeling," said Littlejohn, who has been teaching for 17 years and hails from Coley's Point.
Other award winners include the following:
• Exporter of the Year Award — Verafin, a provider of fraud detection and anti-money laundering software, is this year’s winner. The award acknowledges a local entrepreneur or business that is successfully exporting its products to international markets. Verafin has experienced rapid growth, with more than 850 customers world-wide.
• Innovation in Business Award — this year’s winner is Best Boy Entertainment, a film, television, and interactive digital media company that is using innovation to drive company growth and diversify its line of products. The award acknowledges a company for its ability to create new opportunities through innovation.
• Distinction in Innovation Award — This year’s winner is Centre for Marine Simulation, Marine Institute, which has developed simulators that provide its clients with the ability to undertake ship maneuvering and procedural trials, performance examination and improvements, marine equipment testing and port design evaluation. This award distinguishes an individual or group that has taken a leadership role in advancing Newfoundland and Labrador’s innovative culture and creating new opportunities for industry.
Keith Hutchings, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, announced the winners.
“The success of the companies celebrated through the 2012 Export and Innovation Awards shines the light on the vibrancy and increasingly diversified nature of Newfoundland and Labrador’s business community,” said Hutchings. “It is a community that has become synonymous for developing new products, finding new markets, and using innovation to ultimately create new opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
Partners of the provincial government in co-ordinating the Export and Innovation Awards are the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and OceansAdvance.