St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School.

A century of Catholic education

  • September 25, 2014

TORONTO - It’s hard to argue when Krystyna Dix says there’s something special about St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School.

The school is 100 years old and no one has walked its hallways more often the Dix. It’s the first school she ever attended and its where she spent her entire 32-year teaching career. That’s four decades. So its safe to assume she knows her stuff.

“It is like a small-town school in the big city,” said Dix. “You can feel that energy.”

Dix attended the west-end Toronto school with her three sisters and one brother in the late 1960s-early ’70s. The school is why she became a Catholic teacher.

“By the time I reached Grade 7 I had a teacher named Cyril Davis,” Dix said. “He was just such a lovely man that I said, yes, this nails it in my mind — I am going to be a teacher.’ ”

Among many other contributors to Catholic education who graduated from St. Vincent de Paul are former chair of the board Donald Clune, Bishop Robert Clune, Fr. Bill Scanlon and current chair of the Toronto board Jo-Ann Davis, the daughter of the teacher who made a lifelong impression on Dix.

“I have many fond memories from my days as a student at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School,” said Jo-Ann Davis. “I thought the teachers were wonderful and incredibly supportive of student initiatives. I have very fond memories of class time in the library, and the wide variety of sports and scholastic competitions.

“Having my father teach at the school just made it even more special — like home.”

The school’s centenary was to be officially celebrated on Sept. 27 with a Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church followed by a reception at the school.

The local trustee said the celebration is an occasion to acknowledge the sacrifices and dedication of the school’s founders and those who contributed to its success over the decades. Barbara Poplawski said a great debt of gratitude is owed to the Loreto Sisters and the parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul.

“They are a living example of the partnership of parish, home and school which has resulted in a significant history of achievement for the thousands of students, generation after generation, who have attended the school,” Poplawski said.

“It was really community building back then and it was just something that you did.”

Dix, who retired last June, said the school’s small-town sense of community has remained even as the student makeup changed significantly over the years.

“Back then (when Dix was a student) they were mostly Polish immigrants,” she said. “As I started teaching it was still a very Polish immigrant population. Now the school is very mixed and more affluent in terms of money. When I was there as a student I was generally poor.”

Another big change has been in enrolment. Dix says there were 600 students when she started teaching in 1982. “It was packed.” In 2006, the head count had dropped to 180, although it is back up to 330 this year, which suits Dix.

“It’s small enough to know everybody,” she said. “You know all of the students and you know 90 per cent of the parents.”

It’s the perfect number, Dix said, to maintain the small-town feel. 

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