July 14, 2010
By Jason Misner
COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, HDSB STAFF
Halton District School Board graduate Priscilla Ladouceur has come full circle.
The associate of Hossack & Associates Architects spent many happy days in the 1980s and early 90s roaming the halls, and learning in the classrooms, of M.Z. Bennett Public School (now McKenzie-Smith Bennett) and Acton High School before spreading her education wings at the University of Waterloo to eventually become an accomplished architect.
Recalling her elementary and high school memories played a big role as part of her recent job assignment – designing the new $27-million, 155,000-square-foot Oakville high school on West Oak Trails Boulevard, just west of Third Line.
The goal is to start school construction this year and open in September 2012.
Being given the task of designing a new Halton high school was exciting for Ladouceur, her maiden name Foster during her Halton District School Board school days.
“I’m just happy to be given the opportunity to give back to the community I came from,” Ladouceur says. “You draw a lot from your high school experience.”
She says in designing the new high school – which will provide accommodation relief to Abbey Park High School and White Oaks Secondary School – it was important to include open space and natural light. For example, she says a common space in the school connects with a space on the outside.
“We’re hoping people really value the building,” Ladouceur says, adding a design key is to “create a nurturing environment” for students.
She recalls how her school environment was enhanced by the inspiration and motivation of teacher Norbert Axtmann, who still teaches at Acton High School.
She said he was a “very good teacher” who “always had a high expectation of students.”
And Axtmann fondly remembers Ladouceur as a hard-working student with tons of potential. He recalls first meeting Ladouceur as a student in his drafting and design program.
“Those were the days of board drafting with pencil and set squares, and when she enrolled in the Grade 11 Architectural Design class she quickly demonstrated a passion for producing creative, detailed architectural drawings that displayed the line work and lettering of a seasoned designer,” he says.
Axtmann tells the story of Ladouceur and a Grade 12 student being selected to participate in the Halton Technical Skills Competition. He was thoroughly impressed by Ladouceur’s performance.
“Priscilla competed and blew away all the competition that day with her design concept for a cottage and her beautifully crafted drawings.”
As the Halton gold medalist, she advanced to the Ontario Skills Competition where she competed at Mohawk College against the best architectural drafting students from across the province.
She then won the provincial gold medal that day and, as Skills Canada only existed in Ontario at the time, she qualified to represent Canada at the 1990 United States VICA, (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) Skills Competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She finished 15th out of 45 competitors.
“That was quite an honour for a young lady from a small high school in the little old town of Acton,” Axtmann explains.
Before they even flew to Tulsa, Ladouceur had won another contest.
At the annual Hamilton Homebuilder’s Student Design Competition ― where students are challenged to design a house and produce a complete set of drawings ― Ladouceur won the 1st Place Honours Award.
Ladouceur continued her drafting studies in Grade 12 at Acton High School and repeated her Halton and Ontario gold medals to represent Canada at the 1991 US VICA Skills Competition. She finished a “very respectable” ninth place, Axtmann says.
“It was pleasure to teach such a mature, talented, hardworking young lady who, unbeknownst to her, inspired a whole generation of students behind her who wanted to duplicate her achievements,” Axtmann says. “She probably doesn’t know that she also inspired me in many ways to become a better teacher.”
Superintendent of Facility Services Gerry Cullen says the Oakville high school has been designed to work with the town park that sits to the west of the property.
Meanwhile, there are at least two more secondary schools planned for north Oakville but they are far enough out in the future that the board has not started specific designs, Cullen says.