Welcome to the 2013-2014 School Year

Dear Students, Caregivers and Staff,

On behalf of School District No. 74, welcome to the 2013-2014 school year.
For a very long time school was seen teaching the brain. We now know better, we know that we have to teach the whole child. The Gold Trail Board of Education’s mission to create a dynamic and supportive learning community that inspires and enables all students to achieve their potential reflects this understanding; as does the mission statement of the Enhancement Agreement. Our schools are places of student-focused holistic learning.

When honouring and teaching the whole child, we need to expand our teaching from the brain to include the body, heart and spirit. This year the focus of our collective learning in Gold Trail will be on the promotion of social and emotional learning in schools and in the classroom. Research has shown that students need to learn how to identify their social and emotional needs and develop strategies to respond to those needs. When students are in the classroom and are feeling stress or anxiety they do not have the ability to devote the energy necessary to be a successful learner. Social and emotional learning is a process for helping children develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. It teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, effectively.

On November 25, Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl from the University of British Columbia will be leading our district professional development day. Her research shows children that have social emotional fitness do better in school and life and that they have higher academic achievement. Everyone is invited to attend this day of learning. We all have an important role to play in the success of our students and I look forward to working closely with you throughout the 2013-2014 school year.

I wish each learner, staff member, and family a happy and successful school year.

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Signing of Enhancement Agreement

Yesterday was a significant day in Gold Trail a day of immense pride and hope.
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Elders, Chiefs, trustees, members of the First Peoples Education Council, Colleen Hannah, students, families, community members, and staff came together in the Chief Tetlenitsa Outdoor Theatre in Spences Bridge for the signing of second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.
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We came together to renew our promise to work collectively to ensure that each Aboriginal learner in Gold Trail receives the education they deserve:
– An education that respects and reflects their local culture
– An education that is holistic in meeting all their needs
– An education that maintains high standards for each student
– An education that fosters and strengthens bonds between the home, community and school

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In Gold Trail our achievement evidence consistently demonstrates a disparity between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal learners. However, we know that this data9 is not a reflection of the abilities of Aboriginal learners it is a reflection of a system that is not meeting their needs. Together we can and will change that system to ensure success for all learners.

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Empower Her

This week I had the pleasure to be the keynote speaker for the Empower
Her event in the school district. Empower Her is an event put on by a group of fabulous female leaders who work in the school district, each year they strive to put on a day for young women in Grades 7, 8 and 9 from across the district. This year it was wonderful to see the number of community members who came to support the event by leading breakout sessions on yoga, painting, health and nutrition and card making.

Below are the words I shared with the young women who attended Empower Her.

I would like to start by sharing a quote that is incredibly meaningful to me in my work and personal life. Alice Walker said “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Each of you is filled with an incredible power, a power that allows you to shape your present and define your future. All too often as women we face challenges or obstacles that attempt to limit or take away our power such as:

• Unrealistic images of what is defined as beautiful

• Stereotypes of what it means to be 13, 16, 20, 30, 40 and 50 year old woman

• A glass ceiling that too often keeps women from achieving their goals in the workplace

The theme of today is mind, body, soul and spirit, each of which make-up the woman you are and gives you your power. The power to define who you are today and the life you want to live.

For the majority of my teenage years I was consumed by what I was not – I was not tall, I was not thin and I was not overly popular. All of this negativity took me away from recognizing who and what I was – intelligent, ambitious, stubborn and opinionated. Traits and qualities that are not always positive but they are who I am, and I no longer deny that, in fact I respect those qualities and they have brought me to where I am today.

It was when I accepted who I was and began to feel comfortable in my own skin that I was able to see the life I wanted for myself and felt the power to do my best to create that life. With this comfort I was not detracted when I was told that I was too young to be a school principal or a later a Superintendent – comments that I am confident would not have be said to a man.

But the last thing I want to leave you with today is that far too often we as women taken power away from other women through negativity, gossip and jealousy and too many times we limit the power of ourselves and the women around us by participating in these behaviors. As women we need to support each other in life rather than working to bring each other down.

To each of you I celebrate that you are strong, that you are smart and that you are beautiful.

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Please note that Gold Trail also strives to support young men in the district with an event called Turning Masculinity Inside Out.

Self Regulation in the Classroom and Office

This week I enjoyed the opportunity to visit a number of schools. The energy of classrooms and hallways the first week of January is very similar to that in September, full of excitement and anticipation.

As I visited classrooms, I was so happy to see the number of clphotoassrooms that are empowering students with tools to support their self regulation with take a break cards, ball chairs, and fidgets. When returning to the office and looking at my desk, I was surprised to see the number of tools used for my own self regulation on a daily basis: ball chair, fidget for your digit, tangle and my new favorite a Zen garden. As with many of our students I struggle to maintain my focus especially when talking on the phone. These tools have helped me immensely in keeping my attention on the person I am speaking with and the conversation, rather than sliding onto email – which previously happened all too often without me being truly aware of my disengagement.

Fidgetsball chair

So one of my hopes for this year is that more staff members will begin to explore these options for the students they work with. We have to realize that sitting still with hands crossed on the desk is an artificial construct of what listening looks like. Many students have naturally developed strategies to support their ability to listen: playing with their pencil, tapping their foot, standing up at their desk, rocking, etc. but too often we have forced students to give up these strategies. It is time for us to redefine what listening and engagement looks like and realize that this definition will be as varied as the many faces in our classrooms.

Cardboard and Creativity

Yesterday may be one of the most satisfying days as the Superintendent of Gold Trail; I had the pleasure of going to Ashcroft Elementary School where the entire school was participating in a cardboard day. The school staff was inspired by the video Caine’s Arcade. Several weeks ago the video was shared with students and the staff shared their plans to devote October 10th to cardboard and creativity. The impact was immediate students began bringing cardboard boxes to school, students shared the video with their families, and parents began to talk about the video and cardboard day on Facebook.

As I walked from class to class and down the hallway of the school I was delighted to hear the voices of excited, engaged and passionate students and to see staff and parents working to support students to achieve their vision. The kindergarten class was working collectively to build a castle. I was fascinated to see that they used a cardboard tube as the entrance for their castle; it was the perfect size for each of them but too small for adults. As I moved to the older grades you could see the impact of Caine’s Arcade with many students building ingenious arcade games and many of them had a fun pass. As I spoke to the students they all described their projects to me in great detail and most said that this was the best day of school ever. Staff members shared that students were thoroughly engaged and that every student was successful. Parents shared how happy they were to see this type of learning happening in the school and how pleased they were to come and support their children.

This was so gratifying because this was not a district initiative this was staff learning and working together to make the school a great place for students and learning.

The Rural Reality

This year has been a unique start for the Gold Trail school district as the district has struggled to fill a number of full time teaching positions. As I repeatedly hear news reports that teachers are struggling to find meaningful employment, I am left to ask the question… is the true struggle to find meaningful employment in urban settings? If the answer is yes, then I encourage all teachers looking for employment to look at what rural districts across this province have to offer.

While it is easy to look at the perceived deficits of rural communities: no Starbucks or Tim Hortons, a lack of restaurants or shopping the strengths far outweigh these potential limitations.

Teaching in a rural school district has advantages:

  • Opportunities for teachers to gain valuable teaching experience in a variety of roles
  • Opportunities for professional development to all teachers in the district
  • Opportunities for career advancement

Teaching in a rural school has advantages:

  • School staffs work together collaboratively as professional learning communities
  • Teachers know the name of every student in their classroom but also the names of each student in the whole school

Teaching in a rural community has advantages:

  • Warmly welcomed and appreciated by community members
  • Opportunity to take learning outside of the classroom
  • Opportunity to save money with a lower cost of living

As I write this post, I am left to reflect on my own career and how I have professionally and personally benefited from my experience working in Gold Trail. I am certain that the developments in my career are partially due to the opportunities and experiences that were afforded to me because I worked in a rural district.

Welcome Back!

Welcome Back!

On behalf of School District No. 74, welcome to the 2012-2013 school year. September is an exciting time in the education system: students return to school with anticipation and excitement, parents and caregivers look forward to watching their children grow and develop new skills and understandings and school staffs look forward to welcoming and getting to know new and returning students.

Last year the Ministry of Education released BC’s Education Plan. A plan that is focused on transforming BC’s education system to one that is focused on meeting the unique learning needs of each student through:

  • personalized learning for every student;
  • quality teaching and learning;
  • flexibility and choice;
  • high standards; and,
  • learning empowered by technology.

The Gold Trail Board of Education’s mission is to create a dynamic and supportive learning community that inspires and enables all students to achieve their potential. We have been moving towards personalizing learning for students for a number of years. Initiatives such as Connected Classrooms, Shared Learning, Reading Intervention, the Summit Project, Personal Education Planners and AVID have shown to be successful for students. As the district deepens our work to meet the needs of each student, we have invited Barry MacDonald, acclaimed researcher and author of Boy Smarts, to Gold Trail on Friday, November 23rd.  He will be leading a day of learning for school district employees, families and community members focused on imaginative and practical guidelines for authentic engagement in meeting boys’ varied learning needs. The guidance offered can help parents and teachers in the challenging task of understanding each boy as an individual while also working toward a community plan to raise boys’ school achievement. Everyone is invited to attend this day of learning. We all have an important role to play in the success of our students and I look forward to working closely with you throughout the 2012-2013 school year.

I wish each learner, staff member, family and community member a happy and successful school year.