Yes I Can! Awards

The York Catholic District School Board and The Council for Exceptional Children, York Region Chapter #543, would like to acknowledge and congratulate all student and adult recipients of the 2023 Yes I Can! Awards.

The annual Yes I Can! Awards returned in person at Richmond Green Secondary School on May 10th, 2023. It was a spectacular night, celebrating the amazing students, educators, parents, and community partners of YCDSB and YRDSB.

Exceptional students are recognized for their accomplishments and significant achievements in the categories of School & Community, Academics, Arts, Athletics, Self-Advocacy, Technology and Transition. YCDSB and the Student Services Department wish to congratulate all winning students and thank you for the contributions you’ve made to your school, home and community. We are so proud of your hard work and effort. Well done!

The Council for Exceptional Children also recognizes staff, parents and community members who have given outstanding service to the Catholic Education Centre (CEC) or who have contributed directly to the support and well-being of exceptional children and youth.

YCDSB and the Student Services Department would like to congratulate the following winners, in their respective categories, for their outstanding work and commitment to supporting our exceptional students.

  • Sean VanSpall from VanSpall’s No Frills, Business Award Winners.
    VanSpall’s No Frills has been a partner to our FLS program for many years. They have always been supportive in providing enhancement and work experience opportunities to students in the FLS program and more recently, the Pathways to EmployABILITY Program. They continuously welcome our students, and their positivity and encouragement allows our students to participate within the community and build on their work skills to help prepare for the future.
  • Allan Steven and Christine Steven, Parent of the Year Winner.
    Every weekend, they take their son to downtown Toronto to watch a live sports game such as the Toronto Football Club, Marlies, and Argonauts. It’s an activity that their son loves and looks forward to on a weekly basis. In the Fall of 2019, the family treated St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS life skills staff, students, and their families to box seats at a Marlies game. Everyone enjoyed the snacks, socialization, and hockey — it was definitely great fun for all. The weekend trips downtown to watch a sports game resumed as soon as they could during Covid. They very kindly organized another Marlies game in April for all of their son’s classmates again.
  • Nella Figliano, 2023 Paraprofessional of the Year Winner.
    Nella is part of Best Buddies and this year organized the Best Buddies Valentine’s Dance for the entire York Catholic District School Board. This was a huge commitment that Nella took on and she did an incredible job.  Some highlights include moving the dance out of the school cafeteria and into a banquet hall with a full sit down meal and dancing for all students part of the Best Buddies Program. The amazing part was this was offered for free to all students, their buddies and staff support, over 300 people!  Nella worked tirelessly securing donations for the event so that there would be no financial barriers for anyone attending.
  • Daniela Sambolec, Teacher of the Year Winner.
    Daniela has recently taken on the role of Head of the Department of Special Education. Although this is a very busy and demanding position, Daniela chose to keep the Life skills class under her personal portfolio. She can often be heard expressing that teaching these students is her greatest passion. She is able to balance the administrative piece of running a cohesive department with the direct teaching of our most vulnerable students, planning and providing important and engaging lessons focused on both the skills of daily living and social engagement. A quick glance of her Twitter, walk through her class, or walk through the school will show that Daniela takes care to include her students in all events and make the most of opportunities to showcase their amazing skills and talents.
  • Wendy Britt-Steiner, Leader in Education Winner.
    Over the course of 34 years in education, Wendy Britt-Steiner has inspired and enriched staff and student learning in all of the roles she has held. As a Classroom Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Department Head, and as Special Education Program Consultant, Wendy has consistently demonstrated inclusive practices and has advocated for the students who needed her to be their voice when they struggled to use their own. She worked closely with Administrators and Teachers to inspire them to become fierce advocates for exceptional students and to seek the optimal approach to tapping their true potential.
  • Karen Tutty-Smith, 2023 President’s Award Winner.
    As the Hearing Consultant for the York Catholic School Board, Karen Tutty-Smith has become a leader in initiatives for the Hearing Department. Fuelled by her genuine love and care for our students with hearing loss, Karen is continually advocating to maintain a department with staff that are experts in the field of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Karen has encouraged the Hearing Department staff to be trained in board wide language initiatives. Karen has been the leader in organizing and planning board-wide in-services to help classroom teachers develop an understanding of the implications of hearing loss in the classroom. Karen initiated a now annual celebration known as Hearing Play Day. On this day  students board-wide with hearing loss are invited to Divine Mercy to spend time having fun together and to share their experiences in the classroom.“

Lastly, the council would like to congratulate Hank Liang, winner of a Yes, I Can award in the category of Academics. After reading their amazing nomination and voting, Hank has been selected to be put forth for provincial recognition. His nomination highlighted his amazing skills and helpfulness,
“Hank is able to find strategies in order to communicate his ideas and perseveres in order to demonstrate his knowledge. Hank has also volunteered to help mentor/tutor a peer at our school who requires assistance with Math. He does this on his own time at recess in the Core classroom. Hank benefits from social interaction experiences, therefore this tutoring allows him to work on his interpersonal communication skills. He is excelling in this area as well. As such, Hank is a deserving nominee for the Academic Award in Mathematics.”

The provincial Yes I Can Awards will take place in November/December 2023. We wish the best of luck to all of our provincial candidates, and once again, thank you and congratulations to all the York Chapter 543 recipients. 

The York Region Yes, I Can Awards will return in Spring 2024! Voting will open again in January 2024.