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Deidre Macpherson: Active school sports culture spurs lifelong health and wellness

Year: 2020 — Province: Ontario
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

The Linden School
Health and physical education, grades 8 to 12
Toronto, Ontario

With any other coach we would not have even tried out for fear of embarrassment and failure but because of Deidre's encouragement, both of us joined extra-curricular sports for the first time.


Deidre Macpherson helps students make connections to local, national and international communities and issues—whether she is taking them to a local lawn bowling club to learn from seniors, showing a documentary about Indigenous women's struggles to play lacrosse, organizing a field trip to train with teen athletes in Cuba, or leading class discussions of human rights in sport.

Teaching approach

Deidre's holistic sports program focuses on learning, inclusion, mutual respect, self-improvement and enjoyment. She wants students to take healthy risks, challenge themselves physically and develop traits—such as self-confidence and time management—that will serve them in all areas of life.

In the classroom

  • Builds confidence: from the beginning, refers to all students as "athletes"; changes students' mindset; inspires them to hone their skills; coaches their parents on ways to encourage them; students feel comfortable to try things without fear of embarrassment.
  • Enables lifelong fitness: introduces students to individual activities, such as rock climbing, camping, snowshoeing and archery; runs field trips to commercial gyms so students know how to use the equipment safely; students hone independence and resilience.
  • Introduces students to digital tools, such as fitness websites and exercise support groups: has them analyze health and personal safety apps; students develop critical thinking skills and find tools they can use to manage their health and wellness outside of school.
  • Makes extensive use of video documentaries, interviews, films and advertisements: engages visual learners; increases awareness of women's sports; sparks discussions of social justice issues, such as health accessibility, gender diversity and equal pay.

Outstanding achievements

  • Built school's sports culture from scratch: when she started, school had never won a sports award; it now holds 33 championship banners, and 90 percent of middle and high school students are on a team.
  • Fosters awareness of accessibility issues: students adapt sports equipment for para-athletes—for instance, putting noisemakers in balls; analyze data about their adaptations; Grade 12 students use wheelchairs for a week at school, sparking discussions about disabilities.
  • Maintains a supportive, inclusive environment: teams have no try-outs, no cuts and no captains, and everyone gets a chance to play; classes on sexuality are open and non-judgemental; students often ask her advice on such issues as contraception or coming out.
  • Develops students' leadership and communications skills: students run school-wide events, organize field trips, coach middle-school teams, lead junior-school clubs, write articles and social media posts.

Get in touch!

The Linden School
10 Rosehill Avenue
Toronto ON  M4T 1G5

Twitter: @Linden_Sports

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