Class in the Graveyard? Spooky but true. … and 24 More Great Teaching Ideas

Canada’s National History Society today announced the 25 finalists for the 2005 Governor General’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History – the nation’s top teaching prize. Now in its 10th year, the award honours teachers who excel at bringing history to life for their students. Of the twenty-five finalists, six will be chosen to receive the award at the Governor General’s residence at Rideau Hall in November.

“These exceptional teachers have a way of “doing” history, rather than reading it. They inspire their students to take an interest in Canada’s past, and they help them develop a sense of place,” said Deborah Morrison, CEO of Canada’s National History Society. “Teachers are often the front line when it comes to protecting and promoting Canada’s heritage, and the History Society is proud to honour them with this distinction.”

Highlights from winning classrooms include:

– A Manitoba high school student who researches unmarked graves and
lobbies the province for markers
– A grade 4 student who looks back on the day police banned tobogganing
in Edmonton
– Archaeological digs in Alberta, where students unearth hundreds of
thousands of years of local history
– A grade 7 class that writes “A Moron’s Guide to Canadian History”
– A Kingfisher Lake student whose teacher inspires her to finally “feel
proud as a Native person”
– A Quebec teacher that develops a new way to look at history – through
– Quilting, scavenger hunts, visits with veterans, talks with Arctic

explorers … and more!

The 2005 Finalists are:

Graeme Stacey – Kelowna, BC
Craig Findlay – Lethbridge, AB
Jennifer Johnson-George – Calgary, AB
Jean-Fran̤ois B̩langer РCalgary, AB
Linda-Rae J. Carson – Edmonton, AB
Catherine Suen – Edmonton, AB
Team of: Loretta Stabler & Patti Thorne – Millarville, AB
Team of Kim Chagnon & Mary Scott – Regina, SK
Elgin Wyatt – North Battleford, SK
James Kostuchuk – Portage La Prairie, MB
Dr. Jack Lipinsky – Toronto, ON
Marcia Mack – Campbellford, ON
Trisha Masaro-Susi – Ancaster, ON
Elizabeth Polihronidis – Scarborough, ON
Robert W.C. Burgar – Richmond Hill, ON
Harry Stegenga – Orillia, ON
Paul Gifford – Toronto, ON
Team of: Sheila Hetherington & Jerry Berridge – Markham, ON
J.D.M. Stewart – Toronto, ON
Stéphane Côté – L’Isle Bizard, QC
Luce Leclerc – Sabrevois, QC
Team of: Val̩rie Rivard & Caroline Ricard РMontreal, QC
Team of: Hélène Dion, Véronique Roy, and Suzanne Guilbault – Saint-Pierre ile-d’Orleans, QC
Jim Rideout – Yarmouth, NS
Dawne McLean – Hopewell Cape, NB

“Inspiring students to explore Canadian history, fostering their connection to the people and places that shaped our country – now that’s educational excellence,” added Ian Wilson, National Librarian and Archivist. “We’re proud to continue our strong partnership with the History Society and to help acknowledge the important work these outstanding teachers are doing every day. Library and Archives Canada looks forward to hosting them in Ottawa
again this year.”

In addition to the Awards events in Ottawa, which include a gala dinner and insider’s tour of Library and Archives Canada’s Gatineau Preservation Centre, Canada’s National History Society also shares the teachers’ ideas through publication of their Canadian History Lesson Plans online. The complete ten-year collection of lesson plans from past GG finalists and recipients are available at

Improvement Grants Awarded to Schools

Six BC elementary schools have been awarded grants to boost their students’ literacy skills. The grants are part of an innovative program to assist public schools serving low-income and at-risk students develop new literacy strategies.

Out of an original 37 applicants, seven schools received $5000 grants in April to create detailed action plans for improving literacy. A selection committee comprised of Dr. Eileen Wood (Waterloo University), Dr. Judy Halbert (Network of Performance Based Schools), Melissa Foster (Valley First Credit Union), and SAEE staff reviewed those proposals and chose 6 schools to begin their projects this fall. The winning schools are:

Khowhemun Elementary, Duncan
West Heights Elementary, Mission
Alexander Elementary, Duncan
Heath Elementary, Delta
Morley Elementary, Burnaby
Ruth King Elementary, Victoria

The schools will receive $15,000 each from SAEE over the next two years to carry out the instructional strategies chosen to help them reach their achievement targets. Each school has secured an outside research partner to assist them with data collection, and SAEE will produce a case studies report to share with other schools facing similar challenges.

The School Improvement Grants Program is sponsored by SAEE, a non-profit education research agency, with support from the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRNET), and the Hecht Memorial, Royal Bank, Donner, and Anonymous Foundations. SAEE continues to seek additional partners to expand the program.

This is the third set of schools receiving SIGP grants. Case studies of the first schools were published in School Improvement in Action (Fleming & Raptis, 2005). A second set of 6 schools is completing Year 1 of their two-year projects.

“Research tells us that schools serving at-risk students can perform at high levels if given the necessary support”, said Helen Raham, Executive Director of SAEE. These schools are to be congratulated for choosing a valuable goal and focusing their efforts to improve literacy outcomes. What we can learn from these case studies will help many other schools increase student success.”

Parents Asked to Ensure Children’s Web Sites are Appropriate

The PEI Department of Education and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are asking parents to be sure the contents of their children’s personal web sites are appropriate.

RCMP and school officials report that personal web sites are being developed at home by Island youth that contain inappropriate content and information intended to bully other kids.

“Schools are concerned that students are creating sites at home and using them to bully students. This, in turn, is creating problems at school. Parents should talk to their children about Internet use and safety. They should review their children’s personal web sites on a regular basis to ensure they are safe and appropriate,” said Education Minister Mildred Dover.

Constable Don Crozier of the RCMP commercial crime section delivers Internet safety talks to students, teachers and parents each school year. “Parents need to be aware of the content of their child’s personal web site,” he said. “They should review the site with their child to ensure that there is no detailed personal information by which an Internet predator could track the child.” He said full names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses should not be on a child’s personal web site. In addition, parents should review photos and links that may appear on the child’s web site, preferably before they are posted.

Philip Connolly, principal at Queen Charlotte Intermediate School said students are using the Internet to target other students in a negative light. Digital cameras and scanners make it easy to get images of people. People are posting these images on web sites, often with false information attached. “This is a very hurtful new form of bullying which enables students to post information about other students anonymously,” said Connolly. “The problem is not originating at school but at home where the sites are being created and information is being passed around by students. It is important to prevent this kind of bullying because once information about a targeted student is out there, the damage has been done whether the information is true or not.”

Darlene McAllister knows how important it is to review the material on her child’s web site. Earlier this year she became aware that her daughter had a personal web site. “It’s great that our children have the knowledge and ability to create web sites,” says Ms. McAllister. And while she was impressed with her daughter’s creativity, she was shocked to learn that her daughter unknowingly had posted personal information that could lead anyone right to her door. “I encourage all parents to take the time and interest to review their children’s web sites. We need to consider whether a person viewing the site could trace the child and put them in harm’s way.”

Investing in Saskatchewan Schools

Saskatchewan students and communities will benefit from major upgrades to
schools throughout the province this year. The Government of Saskatchewan is
investing $6.2 million to improve Saskatchewan schools. Thirty-two K-12
schools around the province will receive capital upgrading for the 2005-06
fiscal year. With these projects, the total commitment by the government to
K-12 capital projects this fiscal year is $26.6 million.

“When we invest in capital projects for education, we are investing in our
students and in the future of Saskatchewan,” Learning Minister Andrew Thomson
said. “These projects show our continued commitment to improving Saskatchewan

The projects announced today include improvements such as roof replacement and
restoration, mechanical system upgrades, renovations, additions and portable
classrooms, as well as preliminary planning funding. Funding for these
projects will be cost-shared with school divisions across the province.

“These school improvement projects are part of the government’s commitment to
invest in modern, well-equipped learning facilities for Saskatchewan
students,” Thomson added.

Teacher Shortage in Ontario is Over

Ontario’s teacher shortage is over, says the Ontario College of Teachers, the licensing body for the province’s teaching professionals.

College data shows that an increased supply of newly qualified teachers and a return to lower retirement rates has dealt with the crisis in teacher numbers that the College first brought to the public’s attention eight years ago.

However, in a report in its quarterly magazine published today, the College says that shortages remain in some specialties – French, physics, chemistry, math, business studies and technological education.

Even with recent provincial government funding that will spur the hiring of new teachers to meet literacy, numeracy, physical education and arts programming needs, the existing supply meets most projected needs.

Professionally Speaking, the College’s magazine, first published reports in 1997 warning of a looming crisis in the supply of qualified teachers. A sharp rise in demand was predicted from 1998 through 2005 due to a spike in retirements among teachers hired in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Further study showed that the problem was widespread. As a result, the College urged the province to fund 10,000 extra spaces over five years in Ontario’s faculties of education.

“We’re pleased to say that government and teacher faculty response to the situation helped to attract the high quality teachers Ontario’s students required,” says College Registrar Doug Wilson. “But our most recent Transition to Teaching study now indicates that many newly certified teachers are struggling to find full-time work.

“There are excellent, full-time teaching opportunities for work in northern and remote areas of the province that people sometimes overlook,” Wilson says.

College data shows:

* the annual retirement rate is now headed steadily downward
* government-funded spaces for one-year teacher training at Ontario education faculties jumped from 5,000 in ’98-99 to 6,500 in 2000-01, a level that continues today
* fewer teachers are leaving the profession in the early years of teaching. Only one in 13 leave in their first three years
* new teacher education programs have emerged in the province
* interest in teaching has surged – 15,000 apply to faculties now compared to 8,000 in ’97-98
* US border colleges have added to the supply. In 1998, American-based teacher education programs provided 500 teacher candidates per year. By 2002, the number of US grads applying for College membership in Ontario rose to 1,300.
* school boards also have access to a growing pool of retirees who can work for up to 95 school days a year without affecting their pensions
* College membership has grown from 172,000 in 1998 to 193,000 in 2004. Teachers must be licensed by the College to teach in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.

New teachers say they’re finding it increasingly difficult to find full-time work. So far, most are employed full-time by their third year. Internationally trained teachers report even less success in finding full-time teaching jobs.

“New teachers specializing in the high need subjects stand a 50 per cent better chance of finding work following graduation,” Wilson says.

There is also evidence that school boards are challenged to fill school leadership roles. So far this decade about 1,000 teachers a year have completed their Principal’s Qualification certification. However, over the last few years, the College has granted roughly 175 Temporary Letters of Approval to school boards each year to enable boards to fill principal and vice-principal positions with people who do not have the qualifications for those roles. The leadership shortage is most severe in French-language school boards.

With the threat of general teacher shortage successfully met, the author of the College report, Frank McIntyre, says that the persisting shortages for qualified teachers in specialized roles can be solved if the provincial government and faculties of education respond as effectively as they did to the general shortage.

“Targeted recruitment and support can help to relieve these remaining pressures facing Ontario’s school boards,” says College Chair Marilyn Laframboise. “More must be done to attract and support French-language teacher education candidates and people with science, math and technical backgrounds and to assist northern boards who find it particularly difficult to hire the staff they need.”

Teachers Call for More Resources for Students

The 84th Annual Council of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union wrapped up Sunday in Halifax. Over two-and-a-half days, some 250 voting delegates debated more than 100 resolutions dealing with issues ranging from more resources for the province’s classrooms to the health of teachers and students.

“Even with the additional monies for education in this year’s provincial budget, Nova Scotia still has a long way to
go to catch up to public education funding levels in the rest of Canada,” says NSTU president Mary-Lou Donnelly. “Per-student funding for education has been at or near the bottom of all Canadian provinces and territories for too many years. The system is showing the strain and teachers, on the front-line of education, are feeling the strain. Our students deserve better. They deserve the same educational opportunities as other Canadian children.”

Several resolutions specifically addressed the need for more resources in support of students with special needs.

“NSTU members are concerned that government has not committed sufficient funds to fulfil the requirements of its special education policy,” says Donnelly. “While we welcome the promise of more specialists and support for inclusion contained in the recent provincial budget, the need for more professional development and time for individual program planning is obvious to teachers working in the classrooms of this province.”

Also of concern to delegates was the amount of out-of pocket expenses teachers face in providing classroom resources. Delegates passed a resolution calling upon the NSTU to lobby the province for a reasonable tax credit for teachers who pay for needed classroom supplies. The government of Prince Edward Island recently introduced a similar credit for that province’s teachers.

The NSTU will also lobby the provincial department of health to consider teachers as being in the high risk category for influenza and therefore eligible for free vaccinations.

Delegates also took the opportunity to praise government on one of its measures. Teachers resoundingly affirmed their support for an initiative to provide healthy food choices in schools across the province.

Delegates unanimously re-elected Alexis Allen as NSTU first vice-president for a second one-year term. Allen teaches history at Lockview High School in Fall River.

NWTTA Accepts Agreement

Teachers employed by the Government of the Northwest Territories voted in favour to accept the tentative agreement reached between the NWTTA and the GNWT.

Members of the GNWT Bargaining Unit voted eighty-five percent (85%) to accept the agreement. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of eligible voters cast ballots.

Negotiations began March 6-8, 2005 and culminated on April 27, 2005 when the two sides reached a tentative agreement.

Highlights of the three year contract are increases to salary and northern allowances, principal’s base and minimum, increased language allowance, more money in professional development for Aboriginal language proficiency. Improvements were also made in substitute teacher’s pay, special leave, and qualification time for access to dental care, among others.

Amanda Mallon, President of the NWTTA says, “ The GNWT Teacher Welfare Committee was able to reach a reasonable agreement. Our membership, through the large percentage of positive votes, has indicated their support of this agreement. A number of our members indicated ongoing concerns with living and teaching situations and this was also reflected in the percentage of rejected votes.

I am very pleased with the voting results. The NWTTA looks forward to continuing to work with the GNWT and Department of Education, Culture and Employment to provide educators and students with the best possible working and learning conditions.”