Rebecca DiLeo: Capturing the "heArts" and minds of a diverse student
Year: 2018 – Province: Ontario
Certificate of Excellence Recipient
Central Toronto Academy
570 Shaw Street
Toronto, ON M6G 3L6
Subjects and grades taught: Victory Lap, Visual Arts, Photography, Digital Media and Drama, grades 9–12
Rebecca DiLeo was part of a small team that transformed and revitalized an inner-city school on the brink of closing. She embraces the challenges that come with teaching a very diverse group of students from many countries, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds with enthusiasm and creativity.
Rebecca's arts department is called the "HeArts Department" for a reason: students think, do and act with their hearts and minds. She teaches young people respect and to be conscious of the environment, all while providing engaging opportunities to express their creativity and look to careers in the arts.
In the Classroom
- Emphasizes collaboration with professionals in the areas of art, music, design, fashion, technology and entrepreneurship: students learn not only creative skills but also about pursuing the arts as a career, even going through a Dragon's Den-style competition to have their designs produced
- Encourages students to "do good" with social media and use it as a tool to communicate and share information: students create accounts to display artwork, share their voice and build online portfolios; they also develop social media content for businesses and social causes
- Takes students out into the community to learn from and network with industry insiders—at art galleries, fashion shows, and art and design school—to help students forge a path after high school
- Infuses all projects with concepts of inclusion and social justice: Muslim students worked on a line of hijab and abaya; students design t-shirts featuring slogans about bullying and respect, and take part in the Pride parade; fundraisers in support of community groups are a regular feature of student life
- Students have their own product line (backpacks, sneakers, phone covers and clothing) that they design and sell online and in pop-up shops; funds return to the school to support arts programs
- Designed the school's new logo, transformed the entire front half of the building into an art gallery, established a new drama space (BlackBox theatre) and a number of art studio spaces, and had local graffiti artists and visual art students decorate the entire school
- Collaborated with business teacher to launch Business for the Arts program to give students the skills to become entrepreneurs who can start successful artistic and fashion businesses; she also launched a new Native Arts and Culture program
- Named Toronto Star's 2017 Teacher of the Year and Canadian Art Educator of the Year
Thank you so much for being such a dynamo of a teacher! You have always been such a fantastic support of mine—when I need it and even when I think I don't. Thank you for being you.
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