Making Connections 2018:
Beyond the "usual suspects": connecting with hard-to-reach communities
How can we make the school a welcoming environment for all families? How can school councils and parent leaders help to create an engaged community? In this session, participants learned how a parent leader in Toronto and a school in BC have used innovative approaches to engage their school communities and build connections beyond the school walls.
Kyla is the Department head of the Academy of Indigenous Studies at Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, British Columbia, where she also teaches Aboriginal leadership, English First Peoples, and Contemporary Indigenous Studies. She is Cree/Metis, and the recipient of the 2017 EdCan Innovation that Sticks award for ‘reconciliation in action’ to increase the graduation rate of indigenous students. Before becoming an educator, Kyla worked for 18 years as an RCMP dispatcher and worked with at risk youth on the downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Before moving to the Okanagan, Kyla taught in the Dene community of Fort Simpson, NWT.
Kyla on public education:
“Ideally, school is meant to be a ‘home away from home’, to provide a safe place for all learners to find pride in their ancestry, confidence in their path, and posture for their future. Our children cannot be expected to learn without feeling this sense of belonging and purpose. Indigenous children come from generations of stories being their foundations for learning and keeping culture alive. As Richard Wagamese would say, “we are all just stories in the end.” It is my hope that my ‘story’ as an educator and one who owes her success to those in public education, will inspire others to weave ‘culture as medicine’ into their mainstream curriculum.”
As Research Manager for the EdCan Network (Canadian Education Association), André provides critical analysis to implement a variety of research projects, knowledge tools, and promotional materials to advance evidence-informed and anecdotal good practices from and across the entire spectrum of Canadian K-12 public education. He collaborates with parents, educators, school leaders, researchers, policymakers, and community partners to breakdown complex research and policy so that it can be understood by everyone while generating real impact. André is a former Student Trustee for the York Catholic District School Board and former executive council member of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po Paris), in Paris, France. You can catch him every two weeks on the podcast series “EdCan Live Wire” on voicEd Radio.
André on public education:
“Polarizing debates in public education can, at times, leave us frustrated and confused. That’s why it’s important to listen to all sides, think critically, as well as focus on and question the evidence – if we hope to advance public education to create a better world.”
Nazerah is a parent representative on the Parent Involvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Prior to joining the PIAC, she was on the Gateway PS School Council from 2008-2016, and served as Chair for six years. She loves to learn about technology, more specifically about using social media as an effective parent engagement tool, and is eager to share what she’s learned. In November 2016, she joined Haniya Sheikh (PIAC Representative) and Qaiser Ahmad (Assistant Curriculum Leader – Guidance, TDSB) to form the Islamic Heritage Month (IHM) Planning Group. The three Co-Chairs currently lead a team of over 50 parents and educators across Toronto, primarily over social media and digital communication. Through collaboration, they have successfully compiled a 196-page IHM Resource Guidebook for Educators (which includes over 400 items: an educator’s primer; daily morning announcements; books and publications; films and documentaries; curriculum and study guides; writing assignments; art projects; musicians; and a list of speakers, artists and entertainers), created an annual IHM poster, and have hosted a variety of events and learning activities throughout the month of October for parents, students and staff across TDSB.
Nazerah on public education:
“Today my heart swelled. My 4-year old had a micro-meltdown because he couldn’t find his ORANGE t-shirt for “Orange Shirt Day”. I called his aunt’s house and learned very quickly from the noise in the background that my niece and nephew were upset and protesting going to school because they too couldn’t find their ORANGE t-shirts…Our leaders are doing their jobs. Our teachers are doing their jobs. Reconciliation is a long, hard road, but I’m proud to be led in the right direction by our kids. This is public education. The journey is tough, but it builds you up.”