when technology supports passions

Proud of her progress following her intensive training in Quebec City last year, speed skater Courtney Charlong has decided to do it again. However, she had one condition: to be able to finish high school as a student at the Polyvalente Roland-Pépin.

Young New Brunswick speed skating hopeful, Courtney Charlong is already back on her skates. Monday, she had no class due to the leave decreed for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. However, she did not have training leave.

She has been training for a week on the ice at the Center Gaétan Boucher in Quebec. This is the second time in as many years that the athlete from Campbellton has gone abroad in this way in order to improve his skills.

Last fall, when the pandemic was in full swing, the young Restigouchoise had chosen to leave the family nest in order to continue her progression on ice in a specialized environment. The choice paid off. Courtney shone at the Junior Canada Cup (first three places) in addition to finishing at the top of the Canadian rankings in her age category.

Distance is not always easy, however. Aged 15 – 16 next month – Courtney wanted to put the odds on her side in order to keep her spirits up. Starting with his school environment.

Courtney Charlong (photo) has been training since last year at the Gaétan Boucher Ice Center in Quebec. Despite the distance, she remains a proud student of the Roland-Pépin high school in Campbellton.

She could have chosen to continue her studies in an establishment in the Quebec capital, but she preferred to stay with the polyvalente Roland-Pépin.

“With all the years that I have spent in the school system in New Brunswick, I found it a shame to leave it as the end approaches,” says the student who has just started his 11th year.

“I want to be able to live these last two school years with and at the same time as my friends. It didn’t tell me to start from scratch with a new group, with other people. And in addition, the system in Quebec is different in terms of school years. It was therefore simpler and more advantageous to continue with PRP”, she adds.

From a distance

Leaving for Quebec in mid-August, Courtney returned to Campbellton to experience her first week of school face-to-face, to meet her team of teachers and see her friends again.

Back in the capital for a week, school is done via video conferencing and homework is uploaded to Teams software, two methods students and teachers had to learn to master last year during outbreaks of COVID-19 (hybrid teaching).

“My (skating) practices are mostly in the morning, so sometimes I miss classes. I pick myself up later in the day or week. It’s not always easy to keep up, but the teachers are flexible. I can attend classes, otherwise they call me afterwards to share their learning with me or they write me the tasks to be done. I can count on them and on my colleagues in my class if I ever need more explanations”, she underlines.

School support

At the versatile Roland-Pépin, we do not perceive this attention towards Courtney as being a favor or an accommodation, but more like support, support for her and her dream.

“We believe it is important in our educational mission to go beyond academic subjects in order to allow students to reach their full potential. In this case, Courtney has specific goals in mind. It seemed natural to us to do everything in our power to accompany her and make her task easier so that she could also concentrate on skating,” explains Ginette Noël-Thériault, acting director of the PRP, admitting to being particularly moved by Courtney’s attachment to her school and her region.

“She really wanted to remain a PRP learner, and that’s very touching. It warms our hearts to know that it is important to her, just as it is for us today to support her. We are very proud of our champion, she is a very good role model for our students,” she said.

Pandemic legacy

According to Ms. Noël-Thériault, the remote experience has worked perfectly well so far. It must be said that it was tested for a few months during the previous school year. Moreover, this project would probably not have been possible without the COVID-19 pandemic which forced schools to go virtual.

“When we say that the pandemic has not been all bad, access to and learning about technology is proof of that. It forced us to do things differently and it gave us new tools. Nothing replaces face-to-face teaching, but in situations like this, we put what we have learned into practice,” she underlines, mentioning nevertheless that the key to success remains the involvement of the student.

“It’s not for all students. You have to be very committed to your education, have a heightened sense of responsibility and an exemplary work ethic,” says Ms. Noël-Thériault.

Need

But was going to train in Quebec really essential?

According to the skater, this is a crucial stage for her athletic development.

“At Restigouche, I had access to one hour on the ice every week. Here, we generally train between 1h30 and 2h every day, six days a week. The difference is huge. In addition, I have access to really specialized coaches in the field and everything I need to train off the ice. So in short, if I wanted to continue skating and hope to improve, the choice was obvious,” she said.

In great shape at the moment, Courtney should return to competition very soon, in two weeks more precisely.

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