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Category Archives: Leading a Learning Community

Teaching and Learning are in my DNA

A recent call-out in our provincial Alberta Teacher’s Association newspaper caught my attention and had me mulling over an idea for a bit. The call out by editor Cory Hare was asking for anyone who had a family teaching connection story.

My reflections and discussions with my mom (Maman) took some time but eventually I had enough information that I could write my own Teaching and Learning DNA story.

My mother, Angéline, is a retired teacher. She started her professional post-secondary work in 1950 at Normal School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Up until 1970, those who wanted to become teachers in Canada would attend Normal School. In Manitoba, my mother attended this Normal School for one year and then took two years of Summer courses from the Department of Education to receive her Professional First Class Teaching Certificate. (Background on the Teaching Profession in Canada by Historica.)

She had an interesting teaching career which spanned a couple of decades and in a few different provinces. At the time she was a single French Canadian girl from a farm in St. Laurent, Manitoba who wanted to teach and see the world.

Teaching highlights:

  • Bourret (Catholic) School from 1951-1953. It was a one room country school in the Municipality of Morris north of Winnipeg with grades 1-8. My mother taught about a dozen children in five different grades and she lived next door in a Trustee’s house. The school was warmed up by a stove inside the building with no indoor plumbing, only an outhouse.
  • St. Eustache (Catholic) School from 1953 – 1955. This two story school near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba was run by the nuns in the region. Here my mom taught grade three. Being fluent in French, she also taught this subject to her students (who were also French Canadian), however this was quite controversial since English was touted to be the ONLY language studied in regular schooling. This would of course change in the late 60’s with the Official Languages Act.permanent-tchr-cert-maman
  • Flin Flon, Manitoba from 1955-1957. Here she also taught grade three. This public elementary school no longer exists as it was one of four schools that were condemned by the Fire Commissioner’s Office in 1975.
  • Dryden, Ontario 1957-1958. With two other Flin Flon teachers, my mother and her posse travelled to Ontario and worked at a public elementary school. Her duty was to work with grades 2-4 special education students that came from poor families. Unfortunately, there was not much support for these three teachers and the Superintendent’s leadership was abysmal, so all three left after one year.
  • For six months, my mother travelled to Europe, and worked in Winnipeg until tchr-cert-ontario-mamanlanding a job in Kenora, Ontario where she stayed from January 1959 – June 1961. It would be the first time she worked with grade ones and then looped with them to grade two the next school year. This was also the time that she met my father, Wolfgang Otto, who recently immigrated from Germany. The two were married in 1959. Both seeking to get away from the harsher winter Canadian climate, they moved to Lethbridge, Alberta in 1961.
  • St. Patrick’s Elementary School from 1961 – 1967. Under the Principal’s Berlando and Mahoney leadership, my mother flourished in grade three. Here, resources, professional learning and collegiality were accessible. Superintendent of Lethbridge Catholic School Division was Robert Kimmitt. See this overview by the ATA about teaching in the province in the 1960s.

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Even though my mother retired from teaching in 1968 (I happen to come into the picture, and my brother five years later), she continually advocated for teachers, students and parents. In 1978, the Lethbridge Catholic Separate School Division added a French Immersion track and my mother was on a committee that helped organize this transition, she also was the main contact to answer questions from parents and supported teachers in the French Immersion classes. She also was co-owner (with my father) of Otto’s Spudnut and Ice Cream Shop located in downtown Lethbridge until 2000 when they both retired from the business.

Throughout my schooling years, both of my parents have placed an emphasis on being an active participant in learning. They would look for resources, speak with teachers, council members in order to advocate for the best education possible for us and others in Lethbridge. I was also influenced by two other teachers in my mom’s family – my Aunt in British Columbia. and my Uncle (who is also an Oblate Father) in Manitoba.

I always liked learning and my first real job was as a City of Lethbridge Lifeguard and Instructor with the Recreation Department. At the same time I attended University of Lethbridge, then spent one year in Tours, France at the L’Institut d’Etudes Françaises and finally came back to the UofL to complete my two degrees – B.A. – French Language with Art and Math Minors and B.Ed. – Modern Languages.

Teaching highlights (more details found at LinkedIn):

  • St. Michael’s School, Bow Island (taught K-12)
  • St. Francis Junior High School, Lethbridge (taught French Immersion 8,9)
  • High Park School, Stony Plain (taught 3-9, Assistant Principal)
  • Stony Plain Central, Stony Plain (taught 6-9, Assistant Principal)
  • Centre for Education, Parkland School Division, Stony Plain (Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator)

In my 25 year teaching career, I have taught students from K-12 various subjects in both English and French, worked in the Special Education environment to support Individual Program Plans for students, stepped into two Assistant Principalship roles, completed my Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Lethbridge (2006) and now work to support staff as a Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator. I sit on a number of provincial committees that support curriculum development and the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF). And I facilitate workshops throughout the province to teachers, professors, educational assistants, library learning commons staff, I.T. personnel, parents, students and senior executives on a variety of curricular and educational technology topic areas.

I have worked and continue to surround myself with some amazing educators! They brighten my day, make me think, support my work, share and connect my reflections. I am truly blessed in my upbringing and in my educational journey.

I also strive to connect successful strategies with sound pedagogy as well as up-to-date research and neuroscience principles. Whether you are an educator or not, being a lifelong learner and relationship builder are key to continually staying relevant in the globalness of today’s society. I share my thoughts and resources via this blog and my Twitter feed (@nlakusta).

As I regularly speak with my mom about the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred in the classroom, she is amazed at how the world doesn’t seem ‘huge’ to students of today. With one swipe of a finger a student could be speaking with another student or expert in another country or another classroom.

bnme maman

And the teaching DNA won’t stop with me as my daughter currently is in her second year at the University of Alberta studying to become an elementary teacher. As well, scattered throughout Canada are cousins who are also teachers making a difference with the students they work with everyday.

 

Keeping the Thoughts at Bay

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Notes, note-taking, messages, information – it’s all important at different times throughout my day and work week. I use all sorts of tools to take notes, but for the short ones, like a quick stand up meeting, a voicemail, phone call or quick “to do” list, I have relied on a physical notebook for the work that I do.

Sure, I use GSuite applications and Notes iOS app on my smartphone and laptops, but my “go to” note taker has been the 9′ x 6′ (23cm x 15cm) notebook that I use each school year. Just like my previous teacher notebooks, when I was in the classroom, this one is in paper form and stays in my office. However, lately I have noticed that I want something more available to me, whenever the need arises. I turned to Google Keep for this.

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Being a school division that uses the Google Suite of Applications, it was an easy tool to turn to. I’ve dabbled with it, seen other teachers use it effectively with their students, but I did not quite have a continual and mindful purpose in using it.

Here’s how I’ve started to use Google Keep:

  • in Google Chrome settings > on startup > add Google Keep tab to the “open specific page or set of pages” during start up so it is ready for me to review when I sign in.
  • install Save to Google Keep chrome extension for this items of interest that I’d like to look further into (otherwise I use the Diigo chrome extension for blog posts, larger information for later use (no time limit).
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone. I love the audio note feature here as it keeps the audio while also providing a transcript.
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone to make a drawing. Whether it’s a quick description or a math problem, I’ll have it saved for later use.
  • within GKeep, create labels. Right now, I’m using monthly labels and color backgrounds. Gives me a quick overview of what’s occurred or occurring in a specific month.
  • within GKeep, you can easily add collaborators or save to a Google Doc. Information doesn’t just have to reside with me, crowd sourcing is easy here.
  • within GKeep, the Remind Me feature is getting a lot of use. Now I don’t have to highlight or sticky note my notebook to ensure things get done. I do use Google Tasks within my Google Calendar so this remind feature is fantastic. The reminder can be set for a date/time or even a location.
  • within GKeep, adding images, making lists, or just typing notes gives me some creative writing choices.
  • within GKeep, you’ll never lose a note. Just search for it! It even uses OCR so you can take a picture of a page with text (textbook, magazine article, etc.)  which will also be searchable.

After a couple of weeks, my digital notetaking is doing well. I do scribe some items in my notebook and transfer them to GKeep. I think that after Christmas Break I will “hide” my print notebook whereby I will need to use GKeep exclusively. We’ll see how that goes!

 

 

Sir Ken: A New Model for Education

Sir Ken was pushed into the global educational spotlight over a decade ago with his sharing via a TED talk regarding schools killing creativity and follow up talks such as Changing education paradigms, and Bring on the learning revolution. He’s also traveled the world even visiting Alberta a number of times to heighten our awareness that the traditional way of teaching and learning must change.

The video below is part of an introduction to the work Sir Ken is participating in with the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC). This is a global group of educational systems that want to advance values such as equity, excellence, wellbeing, inclusion, democracy and human rights for all students within high-quality professionally-run systems. What rings true for me is that the educational community cannot rest at ease in the work to move the learning and teaching processes forward. No longer should it be acceptable for systems to just look at OUTPUT but look towards SUSTAINABILITY while equipping teachers and students to handle the current and future global challenges and changes. It is also important to note that Sir Ken says it takes more than just one group to make this move, it takes many.

 

 

Make Yourself Open to Opportunity

Kare Anderson is a super story teller and brings us into her world where everyone can make a difference. Not only are we all “smart” at something, we also can connect with each other and also connect others so they can network and learn. If our stories, our ideas and/or our products/services are presented by people who are startling (grab your emotion), compelling (show you there is a way) and credible (some experience), then change can and will happen.

It’s a great video to watch yourself, but even a better one to watch as a group!

Ask yourself/group – How are we using our collective talents to create a better society? Are there others (outside organizations/people) that we should tap into to help with our cause(s)?

 

Pigs + Innovation?

Design Thinking

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Critical Inquiry

And many more concepts are certainly part of the education vernacular in 2016. These are not new concepts, however what is NEWer, is that schools, administrators and teachers are re-inventing the use of flexible learning opportunities by changing how the school day looks and feels. No more, ALL students should use the same No.2 pencil AT THE SAME TIME, but more time given by teachers to provide a space for students to engage in some really interesting learning.

The commercial below reminded of the amazing ‘innovative’ work that I get to see within PSD70 and via the #psd70 hashtag of engaged and effective learning!

 

 

To continue your learning, check out:

DESIGN THINKING

ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT (also ENGAGED THINKER, ETHICAL CITIZEN)

The Alberta Education system should strive to install the following qualities and abilities in our students:

  • Engaged Thinker: who thinks critically and makes discoveries; who uses technology to learn, innovate, communicate, and discover; who works with multiple perspectives and disciplines to identify problems and find the best solutions; who communicates these ideas to others; and who, as a life-long learner, adapts to change with an attitude of optimism and hope for the future.
  • Ethical Citizen: who builds relationships based on humility, fairness and open-mindedness; who demonstrates respect, empathy and compassion; and who through teamwo9rk, collaboration and communication contributes fully to the community and the world.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: who creates opportunities and achieves goals though hard work. perseverance and discipline; who strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptive and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.
  • Some great documentation is found with the Cross Curricular Competencies, created by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC).

CRITICAL INQUIRY

  • Critical Challenges found in Alberta’s Social Studies Program of Studies (password-protected). Once in LearnAlberta portal, then search “Critical Challenges” and you’ll find a goldmine of resources!
  • The Critical Thinking Consortium is also a great place for these resources. Some free but to dig into some more amazing stuff, get a membership! They also have some Critical Challenges but also so many more resources.
 

Learning with CASS and AbEd

I had the opportunity this week to attend a conference with my Senior Executive team. It’s not often that I have an opportunity like this to sit at the same table with them, although I do get to see and touch base them individually within the school division. It was nice to sit and listen to their thoughts during the keynotes. I was also busy during this conference by hosting two sessions:

Leading into the Future with Learning Commons

The Canadian Standards of Practice for Effective School Library Learning Commons allow schools and school divisions to support a continuum of growth through various activities and learning opportunities. This session will share the work that Parkland School Division has taken on over the past two years as well as showcasing the ERLC Learning Commons Demo sites.

AND

Leadership in the LTPF: Cultivation, Capacity and Convergence (with participant notes)

Parkland School Division administrators who are members of the Alberta Education LTPF Community of Practice will share their journey of LTPF implementation at each of their sites (K-12, French, Christian, Alternate, Rural, Urban). The session will have participants reflect and share their own assumptions, inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes that they may already be thinking about and connect it with the strategies and successes that PSD has seen during this CoP work.

Feel free to check out some of the participant tweets, resources and images that were shared at https://storify.com/nlakusta/cass-abed-learning-symposium#publicize.

 

 

LTPF Leadership in Lethbridge

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About 70 participants (administrators, teachers, edtech personnel, and I.T. made their way to Lethbridge over 1.5 days to meet together to share their learning in how they were embedding the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF) specifically the Leadership policy. Holyspirit School Division (#hs4) was hosting the event.

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It was fantastic to return to my alum as I was both a student and then later a teacher in this school division. I currently have friends and nephews who work and study in this division.

 

Chris Smeaton (@cdsmeaton) reminded our group that his work as a leader is to build relationships with all stakeholders, hire people who are better than you, create a culture of learning and risk-taking.

 

Rhonda (@rljessen) gathered most of our tweets from both days and you can review them and the many images below.

Day 1 – https://storify.com/rljessen/leadltpf-cop-3rd-f2f-meeting

Day 2 – https://storify.com/rljessen/leadltpf-cop-f2f3-lethbridge-day-2

 

For me, I admire those teachers in #hs4 who are looking at engaging, motivating and incorporating different ways of learning for students in 2016. When I was a student in Lethbridge, it was a very different school division. My classrooms had blackboards and white or yellow chalk. Technology was 16mm and beta videotapes (yep, that’s awhile ago) and we all had the SAME supplies, the SAME textbooks, the SAME desks. Education and neuroscience have moved ahead (thank goodness) and infiltrated the classrooms that our group walked through today. Our students are different, our teachers are different and our society IS different.

Some #psd70 leaders share their experiences HERE.

I look forward to seeing #hs4 move further in ingraining technology so that it’s accessible whenever students require it. Their infrastructure, response to BYOD and more collaborative opportunities certainly need to planned for but they have a great foundation started. I welcome any of their teachers and administrators to visit any of our Parkland School Division schools (#psd70) or even have a virtual visit via Skype or Google Hangout. Our school division is heavily invested in critical inquiry, design thinking, BYOD, GAFE and blogging (eportfolios).