Strength & Hope for Linda Burwell

Westwind School Division trustees, administration, staff, parents, and students have been shocked by the news that beloved teacher Linda Burwell has suddenly been diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma. She has recently had a tumor removed from her brain, and will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments to fight this cancer.

Linda has taught generations of students in Cardston over her 35 year teaching career. She has been the music and choir teacher at Cardston Elementary School for hundreds of students, and her skills as a music educator have won provincial and national recognition on multiple occasions over the years. 

The community is rallying behind Linda at an event on Monday, June 19, from 6 PM to 8 PM at the Cardston Elementary School called “Strength & Hope for Linda Burwell". The organizers say, “Ultimately, this event is a symbol of love, to give some monetary relief so Linda and her family can focus on treatment and recovery.” 

If you want to donate towards the expenses Linda and her family will incur during this fight against cancer, you can find a crowdfunding page for Linda on YouCaring.com. The fundraiser has a goal of $10,000, and raised $1,555 within its first ten hours, and had achieved $3,235 within 24 hours. 

Linda, we wish you success in your treatment and a speedy recovery. As your students so eloquently sang this past year, “I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.”

Stirling Modernization Update

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Work continues to progress on Stirling School Modernization Project. 

This week our team toured the school with the contractor to see how to project is coming along. The gym walls and trusses are going up and the gym is continuing to approach completion. 

As the project continues to roll forward and we see the building come together, piece by piece, we would like to thank the community and our partners for your support in this project. This will be a world class educational facility that will help the community grow and help educate children for decades to come. Your support has been, and will continue to be, an essential element behind the success of this project. We will provide more updates on the status of this project as the weeks go by and we get closer to reopening the space to students and the public

Retirement Announcements

As the school year draws to a close we would like to thank our dedicated staff members who will be retiring at the end of the school year!

Shannon Kawade

Shannon began working as an educational assistant with Westwind School Division in 1987 at Raymond Junior High School. She took on an additional position of Librarian in 2008 at RJHS, before transitioning to being the school secretary in 2010, helping students, parents, and staff. You will be missed. Happy retirement!


Diane Oliver

Diane began working as an educational assistant with Westwind School Division in 1999 at Magrath Elementary School. She has worked focused on student health and helping individual students succeed in their classes in Magrath Elementary School. You will be missed. Happy retirement!


Carol Salmon

Carol began working as an educational assistant with Westwind School Division in 1997 at Del Bonita School. In 1998 she came to Cardston Elementary School under the Early Literacy Initiative and has been working with students at Cardston Elementary for the past 19 years. You will be missed. Happy retirement!


Marilyn Wood

Marilyn began working as an educational assistant with Westwind School Division in 1999 at Raymond Junior High School. She has been working at Raymond Junior High for the past 18 years, helping students succeed in school. You will be missed. Happy retirement!


Janet Workman

Janet began working as an educational assistant with Westwind School Division in 1992 at Raymond Junior High School. She has been working at Raymond Junior High for the past 25 years, helping students succeed in school. You will be missed. Happy retirement!


Ross Blackmer

Ross completed his Bachelor of Education majoring in Physical Education from the University of Lethbridge in 1978. He taught got a year at Raymond High School and then was hired in 1979 to be the Physical Education teacher at Magrath High School in what would become Westwind School Division. Among other highlights in his career, Ross participated in the Grade 9 Item Development Committee for Grade 9 Science in 1995, he served as a guidance counsellor and Vice Principal at Magrath High School and was involved in volunteering in many extracurricular activities in the school community. Happy retirement Ross!


Lorna Dorner

Lorna completed her Bachelor of Education at the University of Lethbridge in 1973. She was hired in 1973 by what would become Westwind School Division, at Lee Creek School. In 1976 Lorna transferred to teach at Magrath Elementary School. From 2006 until her retirement at the end of this year, Lorna has served the Magrath Elementary School community as a Vice Principal. Her influence has been felt by generations of students going through Westwind Schools over her 44 year career. Happy retirement Lorna! 


Wanda Gibbons

Wanda completed a diploma in what is now Developmental Services Counselling in 1978 from Fanshawe College in London, Ontario; a Liberal Arts Diploma in 1981 from Grande Prairie Regional College; and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Lethbridge in 1982. Wanda was hired as a special education teacher in January 1983 with what would become Westwind School Division. She spent 10 years teaching in special education, and grades 5 and 3 in the Magrath Elementary School until she moved to Magrath High School to teach junior high language arts and many other junior and senior high courses. After 35 years, happy retirement Wanda!


Dave Jardine

Dave completed his Bachelor of Education at the University of Lethbridge in 1988. He was hired at Raymond High School. He has spent his 29 year career teaching in Raymond. Happy retirement Dave!


Haroldine Neilson

Haroldine completed an Associate Degree at Ricks College in 1978 and Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education at Brigham Young University in 1980. She began teaching in what would become Westwind School Division in 1980 and spent her career in Mountain View School and Magrath Elementary School. Happy retirement Haroldine!


Darcy Ralph

Darcy completed his Bachelor of Education in 1982 at the University of Lethbridge. He was initially hired to teach at Northside Elementary in Raymond in 1988, and began teaching at Raymond Elementary School in 1990, where he remained teaching students for the remainder of his career. Happy retirement Darcy!


Rusty Rollingson

Rusty completed his Bachelor of Education in 1978 at the University of Lethbridge. He was hired to teach with Westwind School Division in 1985. He spent his career in Westwind at Magrath High School. Among other highlights in his career, Rusty served on Chemistry 30 Item Writing and Test Writing Committees, and a Biology 20-30 Subcommittee, and as the Vice Principal at Magrath High School. Happy retirement Rusty!


Cheryl Romeril

Cheryl completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood/Special Education in 1974 from Utah State University.  She was hired as a special education teacher in what would become the Westwind School Division. She also attended the University of Lethbridge and received a Diploma of Special Education. She has continued to teach at the Cardston Elementary School for the remainder of her career. Happy retirement Cheryl!


Shayne Tolman

Shayne completed his Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Lethbridge in 1986 and later completed a Masters of Science at the University of Calgary in 2002. He was hired as a teacher at the Eastridge Elementary School in 1986 in what would become Westwind School Division. He continued to teach at Cardston Elementary School, Cardston High School, and the Westwind Alternate School. Happy retirement Shayne!


Karen Toone

Karen completed her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Brigham Young University in 1992. She began teaching Westwind School Division in 1994, where she taught at Cardston Elementary School, Mountain View School, and Magrath Elementary School. Happy retirement Karen!

Engaging the Student Voice

What is the purpose of schools?  It has been said that the reason we have schools is for children to learn, grow and mature as they prepare to take their place among the leadership of the rising generation. If this is so, then all that is done in schools should be connected to what is best for the educational needs and experiences of students.  While there are many essential components of a great education, it is worthwhile to listen to the voices of the students who are experiencing this education.  

About three years ago, I felt the urge to undertake a more formal approach to hearing the student voice and responding to the messages we are hearing.  Clearly, the Principals door is open in public schools, and students have access to their school leaders to share their opinions, frustrations, suggestions, and compliments.   But in Westwind, we determined to establish a forum for students to engage with elected Trustees and the Sr. Administration in a new way.  Each secondary school was asked to appoint students who represented a cross section of their student population to be part of a student group.  This group was joined by the Superintendent, an Assistant Superintendent, and elected Trustees from the Board.

The Student Engagement Committee numbering between 30 and 40 people meet three times each year.  We take the opportunity to provide some leadership training for the students, and each session has a component where the students provide meaningful information about their educational experiences to the Superintendent and Trustees.  Generally, we use online mechanisms to ensure the candid confidentiality of the respondents and we provide the students with summaries of the information that is provided.

Following these meetings, the students then go back to their schools and meet with their school administration about the conversations and learning they have experienced with their peers from across the School Division.  In some cases, at the encouragement of principals, these students have presented their thoughts and ideas to the entire staff of their school and offered suggestions, advice, and encouragement to their teachers in a meaningful dialogue.  The Trustees who are part of this committee also report back to their colleagues on the Board about the perspective of the students they have interacted with.

On numerous occasions at the Board level, the thoughts, ideas, and passion of students had a significant influence on the decision-making actions of the Board. Hearing and responding to the student voice in education is viewed to be essential to the vision, direction, and passion in Westwind

Stirling School Modernization

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Work continues to progress on Stirling School Modernization Project. 

This week our team toured the school with the contractor to see how to project is coming along. The big projects this past while have been preparing the gym and the gathering area. 

As the project continues to roll forward and we see the building come together, piece by piece, we would like to thank the community and our partners for your support in this project. This will be a world class educational facility that will help the community grow and help educate children for decades to come. Your support has been, and will continue to be, an essential element behind the success of this project. We will provide more updates on the status of this project as the weeks go by and we get closer to reopening the space to students and the public.

Raymond Junior High: Superior Band Award

Very proud of the Raymond Raymond Junior High School Grade 8 Concert Band and Director Ryan Heseltine for winning a Superior Band Award from the 2017 Provincial Festival of Bands! This is a prestigious award that recognizes excellence in band performance in Alberta.

Bands are judged by a panel of three adjudicators. Two adjudicators submit a score sheet, and one handles a clinic with a more detailed written evaluation. After the performance of three pieces, the students work with the clinician and receive feedback and tips to improve. Following the clinic, the band performs in a sight reading competition. For this, they are given a brand new, never before seen, piece of music. They get five minutes to look through the music and figure it out (during this time, they are not allowed to play their instruments) before performing it for a different (fourth) judge. Bands receive their score based on the culmination of all performances and clinics. Scores range from Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent and Superior. The Raymond Grade 8 Concert Band band received Superior from every adjudicator including their sight reading.

Congratulations!

2017 Archery Provincials and Nationals

Archery Provincials and Nationals are completed and we are very proud to announce the incredible results of our Westwind Archery Teams!

Cardston High School placed 1st in the Provincial Tournament among all High School Teams with a total score of 3352, and placed 2nd in the National Tournament among all High School Teams with a total score of 3294!
Mountain View School placed 1st in the Provincial Tournament among all Middle School Teams with a total score of 3204, and placed 3rd in the National Tournament among all Middle School Teams with a total score of 3102!
Cardston Junior High School placed 3rd in the Provincial Tournament among all Middle School Teams with a total score of 2973, and placed 4th in the National Tournament among all Middle School Teams with a total score of 2876

Congratulations to all our exceptional archers on these teams, including 

  • Cameron Beazer, who placed 3rd of all Grade 11 Boys Provincially; placed 2nd of all High School Boys Archers, and 1st of all Grade 11 Boys Archers Nationally. 
  • Wyatt Olsen, who placed 3rd of all Grade 12 Boys Provincially; and placed 2nd of all Grade 12 Boys Nationally.
  • Nathan Doig, who placed second of all High School Boys and 1st of all Grade 12 Boys Prvincially; placed 3rd of all Grade 12 Boys Nationally.
  • Teegan Quinton, who tied for 3rd place of all High School Girls by points, and placed 3rd of all Grade 12 Girls provincially.
  • Tyson Kiemele, who placed 2nd of all Grade 12 Boys Provincially.
  • Turner Hallock, who placed 3rd of all Grade 10 Boys Provincially.
  • Bryson Uibel, who placed 2nd of all Grade 11 Boys Provincially.
  • Mckenna Ringwald, who placed 3rd of all Grade 9 Girls Nationally.
  • James Leishman, who placed 1st of all Middle School Boys and Grade 6 Boys Provincially; and placed 1st out of all Grade 6 Boys Nationally. 
  • Alyssa Bevans, who placed 2nd out of all Grade 7 Girls Nationally.
  • Shaelee Wright, who placed 3rd of all Grade 8 Girls Provincially; and placed 3rd out of all Grade 8 Girls Nationally.
  • Summer Halcock, who placed 3rd of all Middle School Girls and 2nd of all Grade 8 Girls Provincially,
  • Hallee Pilling, who placed 1st out of all Grade 6 Girls Provincially.
  • Claire Primrose who place 3rd of all Grade 7 Girls Provincially.

Magrath Modernization Progress

Work continues to progress on Magrath School Modernization Project. 

This week our Administration team toured the school with the contractor to see how to project is coming along. The Elementary School renovation has been moving at a great pace! Nearly all students will be moved back into the classrooms in the elementary school area so that work can begin on other areas of the school. The move of the students will happen on April 27-28, and there will be no school in the elementary school for those two days to accommodate the move. Mr. Sabey is inviting parents to come for a tour of the finished portions of the building on May 1 at 9:00 AM and 8:00 PM.

For now, the High School students will be staying where they are, except for the band classroom, which will move into the ice arena so work can start in their room, and other classes will move as work progresses in the coming weeks and months. 

As the project continues to roll forward and we see the building come together, piece by piece, we would like to thank the community and our partners for your support in this project. This will be a world class educational facility that will help Magrath grow and help educate children for decades to come. Your support has been and will continue to be an essential element behind the success of this project. We will provide more updates on the status of this project as the weeks go by and we get closer to reopening the space to students and the public.

End of Basketball

March was a month of intense effort for our basketball teams. We had teams playing at the 1A, 3A, and 4A levels. The performances of our student athletes were incredible. We would like to offer sincere congratulations to all our teams in every sport.

Congratulations to the student athletes. Winning graciously and losing with poise are learned skills. Being able to celebrate excellent performances on your team is easy, being able to equally celebrate excellent performances from your opponent is a difficult task, but is the essence of sportsmanship.

Congratulations to our volunteer coaches. Graciously donating your time to school sports teams is an incredible investment in your community, in your students, and in your love of the sport. None of our coaches are professional sports coaches. More than half our coaches are not teachers at the school, and only 20% of our teachers are involved in coaching. But 100% of our coaches are interested and dedicated community members and parents. We thank all our volunteer coaches for your donated time and for your example of positive community involvement.

Congratulations to our parents and fans. Attending the games, cheering for both teams, and finding clever ways to celebrate excellent performances is a difficult task, but one which many of you have done admirably. It was inspiring to see some displays of sportsmanship and camaraderie in the stands between fans of different teams playing on the court. We know there were some egregious examples of unsportsmanlike conduct from our parents and fans. We hope that we can all learn that those outbursts are harmful to all of us, while examples of sportsmanship build us all up.

We will still get to see excellent performances from student athletes in cheerleading, badminton, track and field, and rugby in this school year. We extend to you our best wishes, and preemptive congratulations.

Kaitlin McMitchell, Edwin Parr Award Nominee

Spring Glen Elementary School is a small school on the northwestern boundary of Westwind School Division. They were very fortunate to have hired an excellent teacher in 2016, who we are nominating for the Edwin Parr Award. Kailin McMitchell is a new teacher in her first year teaching after completing her university degree. She has a major in English language arts and a minor in social studies. During her university career, she received the Jason Lang Scholarship two years in a row, as well as the Simpson-Markinch Award. She graduated with Great Distinction in both her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degree paths. 

At Spring Glen Elementary Ms. McMitchell has been teaching Grade 2. She focuses on fostering literacy skills in her students and on having personal interactions with all the students and staff at the school. Principal Kelly Thomas remarked, “She has been able to get very close to all of her students and they know that she is someone they can trust, they feel safe around her and she builds them up all the time.”

Principal Thomas also spoke to the importance of having a new teacher who is dedicated to expanding their skills, “Ms. McMitchell is a great teacher in part because she has developed a large repertoire of instructional strategies she uses throughout the day. She uses mindfulness breaks while instructing to help increase the focus of students.” Mr. Thomas explained that Ms. McMitchell is always trying to understand how each student learns best, and how to empower their potential as learners and as people. 

For these reasons and many others, Westwind School Division is proud to nominate Kaitlin McMitchell for the Edwin Parr Award this year. 

Edwin Parr was a homesteader and school board trustee in the Athabasca School Division in the 1920s. He was involved in selecting new teachers and stressed to the applicants that they must go beyond the duties normally expected of teachers. He was adamant that they make the students feel at home so that they would finish high school and have the opportunity to continue their education. He was especially interested in the performance of first-year teachers and often visited the schools after hours to talk to the principals about the new teachers. With Edwin Parr, children came first and he expected every teacher to feel the same. He wanted teachers to be a positive influence in the community. They were encouraged to visit the children’s homes and attend Home and School Association meetings.

Edwin Parr’s interest in first-year teachers led to his school division instituting an “Annual Teacher Award.” He encouraged the Alberta School Trustees’ Association to consider a similar award at the provincial level but his dream was not realized in his time. In searching for a way to perpetuate the memory of a man who served as the Alberta School Trustees’ Association’s president from 1956 to 1962 and to honour the profession he so deeply respected, the Association established the Edwin Parr Teacher Award. The award is presented each year to a novice teacher who demonstrates initial teaching proficiency.

Basketball

Over the past two weeks we have seen student athletes and volunteer coaches participating in zone playoffs. As we are entering the basketball provincials season we would like to remind all our student athletes, our coaches, and especially our parents, fans, and community members about some basic things for this season.

School sports are a great way to encourage physical fitness and active lifestyles in participants. Team members learn to work as a group, to strategize collectively, and to follow a plan. All participants learn to deal effectively with both winning and losing graciously. School sports can teach athletes, coaches, and spectators important life lessons, and in our communities they are a prime source of community entertainment, culture, pride, and even identity.

School sports can also have negative impacts on students, schools, and communities when not approached with care and respect. The students, the coaches, and the referees in school sports are not sports professionals. Our students are young people who do their best. Our coaches are mostly not teachers, 80% of our teachers do not coach sports teams, and all are community members like yourself. They volunteer for our students’ benefit. Our referees are not perfect, nor do they have the technological tools, the training, or the extensive experience that referees in professional sports have. Regardless of who they are or their backgrounds, everyone at our sporting events is deserving of your kindness, patience, and respect. 

All our athletes, coaches, and referees have sportsmanship codes that they try to live by. These include treating opposing players and teams with dignity, respect and honour; maintaining self control at all times; being considerate and courteous to everyone, including athletes, coaches, referees, and spectators alike; and recognizing excellence, regardless of the team accomplishing them. We ask parents and spectators to also live by similar codes of honour and sportsmanship.

This year we remind and ask parents and spectators to be extra kind to the people you know at sporting events, and the people you don’t know; to the people you are cheering for and to those you aren’t. Westwind Schools and communities must be welcoming, safe, caring, and respectful places for all to visit and participate in.

 

Eye on Education: High School and your Community

In the current context of Alberta and across North America, rural communities are struggling to maintain their place in an increasingly urbanized society.  Yet for many, the value of the rural experience is of great importance.  Recently Doug Griffiths, a former Alberta MLA and cabinet minister, reflected on the excellent footing he received from his own background as a youth and a teacher in rural Alberta at the Rural Education Symposium in Edmonton.  In his book, “13 Ways To Kill Your Community,” he identifies the following as some of the ways to grow our communities…  Ensuring that you are attracting business, engaging youth, shopping at home, collaborating with partners, and welcoming our Sr. citizens, are among Griffiths’ key messages.  

In southern Alberta, many of our rural communities are thriving and growing even against some of the struggles that urbanization presents.  Of particular note, engaging youth is a critical piece for rural communities.  I was pleased to attend a number of games in the Southern Alberta 4A Boys and Girls zone basketball tournament this past weekend.  In this event, schools of all sizes in the south were competing for a zone title as well as the right to contend for a provincial crown.  School by school, and game after game, I observed students, parents and communities come out to support their teams.  The student sections at courtside in the University of Lethbridge gym became the scene of significant emotion and energy.  

What a great event!  It is perhaps the finest basketball tournament in the province.  A capacity crowd was on hand on Saturday night to witness the championship game between Raymond and Magrath.  Theses are the two smallest schools in the 4A league, and some disappointed fans had to be turned away… SOLD OUT… If attendance at a high school basketball game is any indication of the strength of a rural community, then it would appear that they are alive and well.  Magrath High School, the smallest school in the tournament emerged victorious. 

Whether a champion, a participant, a runner up, or a fan, these experiences will remain with these young men and women as a part of their identity for the rest of their lives.  We are most fortunate to be part of the greater southern Alberta community and to share in the heritage that is common to us all.

Jentry Salmon Media Release

Westwind School Division is aware that Jentry Salmon, a teacher in Raymond, has been charged with sexual exploitation by the RCMP. In matters of this nature, the safety and well-being of our students are our highest priority. When Westwind first became aware of allegations about Jentry, who has now been charged, the school division enacted its respectful protocol to ensure the safety of students and to conduct an investigation into the matter. The teacher was immediately suspended in October 2016, pending charges being laid and the outcome of any subsequent court case. The teacher has not been at the school or in contact with students since then. When the RCMP initiated a criminal investigation, Westwind School Division suspended our internal investigation in order to preserve the integrity of the RCMP proceedings. The school division has cooperated fully with the RCMP and will continue to do so. As this is a personnel matter and it is also before the courts we can supply no additional information or comments at this time.

Ken Sommerfeldt
Superintendent

Stirling School Modernization Update

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Work continues to progress on Stirling School Modernization Project. 

This week our team toured the school with the contractor to see how to project is coming along. The big projects this past while have been installing footings, building interior walls, and prepping the now open area for new roof beams.

As the project continues to roll forward and we see the building come together, piece by piece, we would like to thank the community and our partners for your support in this project. This will be a world class educational facility that will help the community grow and help educate children for decades to come. Your support has been and will continue to be an essential element behind the success of this project. We will provide more updates on the status of this project as the weeks go by and we get closer to reopening the space to students and the public.

Alberta Bill 1 Update

 Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/premierofalberta/, license information at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/premierofalberta/, license information at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Alberta Government will put forward Bill 1. This bill aims to cover the cost of some school fees that parents have had to pay out of pocket. Westwind School Division is very happy that the province is acting to relieve parents of this burden. This bill generally covers non-choice fees that apply to all students, like textbooks, photocopies, and supplies, as well as some bussing fees. Schools and parents can still pay for courses, projects, and items that they feel are important, like CTS projects, choice in some bussing issues, and extra curricular items. This bill, if passed will come into force for the next school year.

The Minister has indicated that there will be more specifics coming out about how this will work. We have some questions about how this will impact Westwind students, parents, and guardians.

The provincial funding that comes with Bill 1 will be distributed between all public school boards to cover these school fees for parents. The Minister of Education has requested that all school boards ensure that there is no reduction to basic programming of students as a result of this change to the fee structure.

Please read Minister Eggen's letter to parents for more details on this program. 

Eye on Education: Communication and Learning Outcomes in Education

Anytime something is very important, there is an elevation to the significance of the information connected to it. Few things are as important to parents as their children, and therefore it is imperative that timely, accurate and effective communication in education is essential. If the average person were to spend a morning in the office of any of our schools, they would be struck with the amount of messages, information, and logistical planning that occurs on the fly each and every day. Each piece of information is significant and important and must be treated as such in order for the complexity of schedules and plans of schools and families to run smoothly. I salute the staffs in the school system for making this very complex matter appear to be a well-oiled machine.

Beyond the day -to- day workings of a school, parents are expecting much more from schools in communication and rightly so. For many decades, student progress was provided 3 times per year as report cards containing information about student performance that was either percent or letter grade based. Today, more and more schools are making the transition to outcomes based reporting. Instead of a letter grade or a percent to represent student performance, teachers establish from the program of studies, the essential outcomes for student learning, and then provide to parents details on student progress toward the attainment of each outcome. Initially, some parents struggle with this new reporting format since it is not common to their own experience in schools. What appears to be happening however, is an increased understanding by parents of the curriculum their children are studying and increased engagement as parents become even more informed about the learning opportunities their children are experiencing.

From the narrative, there is increased clarity on the part of the teacher in terms of student progress, as well as for parents who have specific descriptive feedback about learning outcomes. In a sense, this form of grading and reporting is far more detailed than a number on the report card. Have you ever wondered what it means when a student is said to have achieved 77% in a term in a specific course? … 77% of what? How sure could anyone be from observing and averaging test scores that a student has achieved 77%? Which concepts of the curriculum have they mastered? Which ones do they understand at 77%? Which ones do they have less than a 77% understanding of? These are important questions that educators are wrestling with these days, and those who are providing a narrative that describes student progress toward achieving specific learning outcomes are making a difference in how we report and understand student performance.

Educational Assistant Conference

Educational Assistants in Westwind were hard at work on professional development on Tuesday, January 31. Assistant Superintendent, Rick Gilson, organized an incredible conference for the 170 Educational Assistants in Westwind. The conference featured many terrific presenters. This was an incredibly valuable development for our Educational Assistants in a wide range of areas. The presenters we had at the conference are all experts in their field and deeply understand the southern Alberta context.

  • Conrad Boehme presented on a look at what students who struggle may experience. 
  • Tiffany Weeden presented on how to connect classrooms with nature and the aboriginal culture of southern Alberta, and on using Zen Me and Yoga techniques for the classroom to inspire focus, balance, and relaxation. 
  • Regan Bikman shared strategies from his experience as a Speech Language Pathologist to help students improve their communications. 
  • Jocelyn Roberts, from Alberta Health Services, presented Programmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) books for EAs to use with students with complex communication needs.
  • Erin Stonehocker presented on using reflexes and movement as a stress buffer. She writes, “We all experience different types of stress. Learn how MNRI or reflex exercise can help with stress relief in both adults and children. These simple exercises can help reset the chronic stress cycle and improve overall well being and function.”
  • Kent Hollingsworth provided EAs with tools to support positive grieving in students and how AD[H]D brains handle executive functioning. EAs left this session with strategies and ideas to support students who have these types of challenges.
  • Brandie Andrews explained how EAs can understand and help to manage anxiety in the classroom, and went into detail about attachment disorder and how to support students dealing with this difficulty and foster positive relationships.
  • Michelle McKinnon held activities regarding brain architecture, and how both genetics and environment affect brain development in children. In this session EAs and our Board Chair Patricia Beazer built model brains using straws and pipe cleaners that represented different genetic components. The activity is designed to be difficult to craft a ‘brain’ model that supports itself, but our EAs created a series of brains that isn’t collapse. Said Chair Beazer, “Our EAs are great brain builders!!”
  • Melany Duffin helped EAs focus on how to help younger students develop pencil and scissor skills and how to help students become independent by developing self-help skills like dressing skills, toiling strategies, eating skills, and building skills by chaining activities. 
  • Rick Gilson presented about the evolving world of education assisting in our school division. He shared resources and tips in a range of areas, shared technology tips, and gave EAs an opportunity to give input into areas they would like to see future training or support in. 

We are so glad to have had this opportunity to further learning and growth as a Division. This professional development should impact students in all classrooms throughout the Division