Meet Graham Fong, the New Outdoor Education Teacher at Dr. Wilbert Keon School

A sunny and cheerful hallway at Dr. Wilbert Keon School
Bright and cheerful hallway at DWKS

Located in the small town of Chapeau QC, Dr. Wilbert Keon School (DWKS) is a bright and welcoming school. The building was originally designed and used as a convent and was later extended to become St-Mary’s Teacher’s College.  Since becoming a K4-11 school years ago, the dedicated staff members have transformed it into a colourful and vibrant environment for the youth sector.  

Upon entering the building, one is immediately struck by the colours, the sense of warmth and welcome radiating throughout the school. The classrooms are painted in an array of colours accentuated with natural light that beams in throughout the day through extra large windows. There are air-purifying spider plants thriving in almost every room. The school, surrounded by stunning forests and fields, is in close proximity to the Ottawa River – all free to use for outdoor education.

Meet Graham Fong, DWKS’s newest outdoor education teacher. Mr. Fong started his career with the WQSB at Maniwaki Woodland School for two years as a Math and Physical Education teacher. Prior to this, he taught various outdoor courses such as mountain biking, whitewater canoeing, cross-country skiing, winter camping and wilderness first aid courses. He studied at Laurentian University in Sudbury ON, where he completed the renowned Outdoor Adventure Leadership and Concurrent Education Program. 

Though Mr. Fong truly enjoyed working at Maniwaki Woodland School, when a position for an Outdoor Education and Physical Education teacher was posted at DWKS, he jumped at the opportunity at his dream job. Graham was already familiar with the charm of the Chapeau community, the school’s reputation for high academic standards and staff attention to holistic development of its students, as he had previously made frequent visits to friends’ homes in the area. The advantage of being so close to the Ottawa River was also a big draw for Graham and a major factor in the career move, as it is one of the best spots in Canada for whitewater canoeing and kayaking. 

Mr. Fong kneeling in the snow beside a quinze

Upon his arrival, Mr. Fong noticed a strong sense of community between DWKS and the town of Chapeau. “Some people believe small schools and small towns don’t have the advantages of larger urban centres,” says Graham Fong; however, he knows the opposite is true, and that the community he now calls home provides many opportunities that many in other regions might only dream of. He points to strong community partnerships. For example, a neighboring farmer allows the students to cross-country ski in their field during his class, and the school has access to the municipal dock when they go canoeing. The Chapeau Recreation Association also allows them to use their arena for skating, the baseball diamond, and their park for school events. Other local organizations also give workshops and host events with DWKS students, giving them an opportunity to have many unique learning experiences.

Mr. Fong’s outdoor programing covers a wide array of activities:

  • Canoeing and canoe trips
  • Orienteering and geocaching
  • Outdoor survival techniques such as shelter building, fire making and knot-tying
  • Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
  • Winter camping
  • Wilderness First Aid
  • Cycling
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • High ropes course/ziplining
  • Tobogganing
  • Various games in the forest such as Camouflage, Capture the Flag and Predator-Prey

In addition to the knowledge and skill development listed above, Outdoor Education provides students an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, leadership, and resilience. Furthermore, it instills confidence and boosts self-esteem, which lead to a higher level of individual growth. The WQSB is thrilled to have passionate teachers such as Graham Fong, and we warmly welcome him in his new position at Dr. Wilbert Keon School.

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