Teaching Students How To Learn: 2013-2014 Off To A Start

2013-14 opening orientation-smallWords of welcome to all staff from the GVSD Board Chair, Sam Berg, officially launched the 2013-2014 school year. The board chair welcomed all new staff to the division and also introduced the GVSD board of trustees. Holding up a student's backpack containing a digital camera and an iPod, Sam Berg highlighted the kinds of tools that are now common in the learning process.

However, the essence of teaching and learning remains the same. Both Berg and Superintendent Vern Reimer encouraged the staff to teach students how to learn, echoing the quote by Maria Montessori: "The greatest success for a teacher is to be able to say 'the children are now working as if I didn't exist'."

Following an introduction of new division office staff, school principals introduced their new staff members. The principal of the new Northlands Parkway Collegiate (NPC), Tammy MacDonald conveyed some special thanks to all those who have assisted in getting NPC ready for the students this fall. After providing some brief enrollment stats and construction updates, Vern Reimer reviewed the announced change in student user fees, as well as some of the major educational the goals for 2013 -14.

The Literacy Initiative, begun last year, has now been expanded to include Kindergarten and grade 3. Also, Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) will serve as a "multipurpose vehicle" for schools, as they develop learning teams and build greater capacity for teaching and learning excellence. To get a sense of the bigger picture, Reimer spent a moment comparing Canada's position on the global scene to that of Finland. Finland's educational system is ranked #1 in the world, and their focus on equity, excellence and respect holds lessons for all countries.

GVSD has grown significantly over the last years, with approximately 4300 students in our schools. Approximately 700 staff are involved in the teaching process. Planning is also underway to address 20K3, a government initiative that states that by September 2017, 90% of the Kindergarten to grade 3 classrooms within a school division shall have 20 or fewer students. To meet this mandate, GVSD would need 19 additional classrooms and 23 more teachers, at a cost of $6.8 million. A divisional strategy to address steady growth and 20K3 is to see another K-8 school be built in Winkler by 2017. The proposed new school for Winkler west (Pine Ridge) would serve 450 students and include daycare and Kindergarten space. Meetings with the province are being scheduled to begin dialogue on this proposal.