MTS offers help to Hanover School Division

June 29, 2016
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society wants to work with the Hanover School Division as it grapples with issues involving LGBTTQ students.

The offer was made June 29 by MTS President Norm Gould to a meeting of the division board.

“We are here to work with you so that we can get closer to achieving what we all want -- a safe and inclusive learning environment where all our students have the supports they need to learn and grow.”

  The division has been at the centre of controversy for its policy of not allowing classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity until students are in high school. A human rights complaint has been filed against the division over the policy.

  Gould said the Society recognizes that the issue is not easy for school trustees.

  “We aren’t downplaying or dismissing what you as school trustees and the community wrestle with,” he said. “We totally understand and recognize that change isn’t easy. We get that this topic triggers emotional reactions in some people.

  “Ten years ago, LGBTTQ-inclusive education was a topic seldom discussed in Manitoba; we have learned over these years that the absence of those discussions have caused a lot of pain for students, families and communities.”

  Communities have been forced to discuss these issues to protect students, some of which committed suicide after being bullied.

  “We have asked ourselves: how can we take tragic events and use them as catalysts for change; to prevent similar horrific events from paralyzing our communities?

  “Recognizing that schools need to be a safe place for students in order for them to succeed, these tragic events led to the development of policies aimed at curbing the harassment of LGBTTQ students and the creation of inclusive school environments.”

  The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has been in the forefront in supporting students, educators and trustees in ensuring all schools are safe and inclusive.

  “We, as Manitobans, are used to supporting one another and we are quick to help our neighbours when the need arises, by providing a helping hand,” Gould said. “The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is here tonight to extend that hand of friendship and collaboration.

  “We are offering our services, our expertise, our connections and our commitment to work alongside Hanover School Division.

  “Change doesn’t come easily and we cannot control when change is going to happen. But we can control how we react to change when it is thrust upon us and decide who will walk beside us along this journey.

  “I hope that we will be able to work together to affect that change and that you can trust in The Manitoba Teachers’ Society to be there with you.”

Trustees did not discuss the issue.

  Read the complete presentation here


Manitoba Teachers Announce Support for 2017 Canada Games

  June 29, 2016  
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society President Norm Gould has announced that MTS will be one of a group of official supporters bringing the 2017 Canada Games to Winnipeg next summer.

Gould made the announcement June 29 at a joint media conference with Investors Group, Sport Manitoba, Canada Games representatives and Maple Leaf Construction.

  Gould also called on the over 15,000 members of MTS to volunteer their organizational abilities and energy to the games.

“Teachers are often the life-blood of so many community projects. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to share our expertise and encourage healthy, active living among our students,” he said. “Young athletes already know that teachers have their backs. This is a further demonstration of our commitment to these talented young people in every city and town across the province.”

  Jeff Hnatiuk, President of the Canada Games, said his organization was proud to partner with the Society, which is contributing $60,000, as strong volunteer support is “so important to the success of the games”.

  The amateur, multi-sport Canada Games are held every two years. The 2017 event is expected to draw up to 25,000 visitors into Winnipeg, seat over 241,000 spectators in multiple venues, and be televised and livestreamed to over a million viewers. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the games.


Hundreds of teachers turn out for Pride Parade

June 6, 2016
More than 200 Manitoba teachers and supporters turned up loud and proud at the 2016 Pride Winnipeg Parade on June 5. The Parade was marked by a festive spirit, cloudless skies and a record-breaking display of colour and teacher pride.

Women teachers led the way with our rainbow banner. Chants of “teachers, teachers!” marked the procession down Memorial Blvd. and through the downtown. Specially designed “Proud Manitoba Teacher” tees uniquely identified the purple MTS swarm. And along the way our walkers handed out packs of crayons with the Society’s “The world is brighter when we include everyone” message.

The Society also greeted many hundreds of kids throughout the day at our tent at the Pride Festival held at The Forks that day. Our artistic and talented face-painters created countless works of art on small faces – and naturally, sent them away smiling.


First budget fulfills promise to increase literacy initiatives

May 31, 2016
In its first budget, the provincial government repeated its commitment to introducing programs to improve literacy in Manitoba.

“Education is both our province’s path to opportunity and future growth,” said Finance Minister Cameron Friesen. “and one of our greatest challenges, given our unacceptably low rates of literacy.”

The budget speech contained little that hasn’t been mentioned by the new government before and fulfilled a promise that it would not alter funding already in place.

To address the need for a greater emphasis on literacy, Friesen said the government would take some new steps.

“We are providing support for new initiatives in early years reading, building upon our children’s potential with a focus on improving their ability to read and write.”

He also said it would increase resources available to at-risk students through the Winnipeg School Division, to Indigenous students through Aboriginal Academic Achieve and to Adult Learning Centres.

“This budget also provides new resources in support of three new schools: École Sage Creek School, École South Pointe School and École Rivière Rouge.”

The budget also included increased funding for the Child & Youth Mental Health strategy.

According to the Mental Health Coalition of Canada (MHCC) between 15 and 25 per cent of Canadian children and youth suffer at least one mental health problem or illness.

The 55 per cent funding increase translates into an investment of $3.1 million in 2016/2017.



MTS Young Humanitarian Award winners announced

May 18, 2016
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and sick children have moved the hearts of Manitoba’s young humanitarians this past year. Ten public school students will share the spotlight next Wednesday (7:45 p.m., May 25) at the Fairmont Winnipeg as the 19th annual MTS Young Humanitarian Awards honours students from four school divisions in Winnipeg and Brandon.

"The goodness and social conscience of these students who work so hard in caring for others will lift you like nothing you can imagine," says Norm Gould, President of The Manitoba Teachers' Society.

Caring comes naturally to Sage Karsin, a Grade 2 student from Linden Meadows School in Winnipeg. Sage was curious about a girl at school who was diagnosed with cancer. She peppered her parents with questions about how she could help her future friend. Then, on her own initiative, Sage set to work making loom bracelets and her home became a bracelet-making factory. By baking muffins and setting up a lemonade stand one summer, Sage raised $100 for Kenzie’s cure. As Kenzie became very ill, Sage wrote poems, drew pictures and helped make posters for her friend. When her community held a huge Kenzie’s Kause fundraiser, Sage quietly donated her summer earnings in an unmarked envelope, knowing she was helping sick children like her friend. Kenzie passed with the love and support of the entire community.



Garden City Collegiate student Tracie Leost has devoted incredible energy to mental health initiatives like Youth Against Mental Illness Stigma and True North’s Project 11.

She also spearheaded a #7OaksTalks Mental Health initiative, this April. But this Grade 12 student’s biggest achievement was running 115 K from her Kookum’s home in Oak Point to Winnipeg to raise funds for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). By the time her four-day journey finished at the MMIW monument at The Forks, she had made friends on the road, raised awareness, gathered huge support, endured many blisters – even running for a time in moccasins – and surpassed her dream of raising $2,000.



Nicole Ternowesky is a Grade 11 student who’s acutely aware of the struggles faced by some people in Brandon. Her humble goal? To make infinity scarves for the Brandon Women’s Resource Centre as Christmas Gifts. Staff at Vincent Massey School donated some extra yarn and funds. Then Nicole wrote to a local craft store.

When they delivered 30 skeins of yarn directly to her school, Nicole was brought to tears. She worked for months knitting the scarves. A local hair salon donated gift certificates to add to the scarves. Nicole wrapped the project up right before Christmas, and the Centre received her donation with amazement and gratitude.



Never doubt the impact of seven young teen girls. Members of Gordon Bell’s Star Blanket Club have incredible hearts and energy to match. These Grade 7, 8 and 9 students decided they would create and distribute lovely traditional star blankets to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women. They worked with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to deliver the quilts to families sitting vigil in the hospital, and in Garden Hill First Nation and Kenora. Most importantly, the Club has raised awareness of the huge personal and societal loss caused by missing and murdered indigenous women.



Get your shirt on: Join other teachers at the Pride Parade, June 5

May 10, 2016
Get this cool MTS teacher tee free! Just show your pride by joining our MTS walking group at the 2016 Pride Parade on June 5.

There’s plenty of colour and excitement as the day starts with a rally in front of Legislature. Be there at 11 a.m. to pick up your awesome shirt. The parade begins at noon. And don’t forget to stop into the MTS tent in the Pride Festival Kids Zone at The Forks.

We have free face painting and decorating for kids 12 and under. You’ll be surrounded by plenty of food carts and a great summer vibe!


Portage MLA named education minister

May 3, 2016
Portage MLA Ian Wishart has been named Manitoba's next education minister in the new Progressive Conservative government of Premier Brian Pallister.

Wishart was first elected as the MLA for Portage la Prairie in 2011. In addition to his duties as MLA, he serves in a crucial role as the PC Opposition Critic for Child and Family Services.

Ian graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture. Before his election to the Legislature, Ian had a long and accomplished career in the agriculture industry as a producer raising cattle and as an advocate through a variety of organizations.

Ian has served as President and Vice President of Keystone Agricultural Producers, on the executive of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and as a board member with the Manitoba Crop Insurance Board and the Manitoba Water Council. Ian received the Agri Food Award of Excellence for the environmental work he has done on the Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS) program that introduced the principles of Environmental Goods & Services to Canadian agricultural policy.

Full cabinet list here


Trudeau speaks to CTF meeting, first time for a PM

OTTAWA – For the first time in its history, a sitting Prime Minister has addressed the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) Board of Directors in Ottawa. The CTF teacher leaders of 16 teacher organizations from across Canada welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to their meeting at their national office today, on his six-month anniversary of being elected to power.

“We appreciated his openness and insightful perspective on the challenges faced by teacher colleagues and in public education today,” says CTF President Heather Smith. “The Prime Minister acknowledged his first career as a teacher and his passion for social justice especially in the context of public education.

“We were also heartened when he expressed concern about the previous government’s cuts that ended support for CTF’s international cooperation program which involves Canadian teachers in professional development and capacity building partnerships with teacher organizations in developing countries.

“CTF Board members asked him very specific questions about student mental health and wellbeing; ending child poverty; seeking an education exemption in the TPP; and ensuring quality education for all indigenous children and youth,” says Smith.

As a token of appreciation Smith presented him with a special T-shirt that recognizes his leadership skills both in the classroom and in Canada. It reads “I Teach. I Lead. Une classe. Un pays.”

Teachers show up for MTS virtual town hall, PC leader bows out

Many of the more than a thousand teachers who participated in the MTS virtual town hall on the election appeared disappointed that Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister bowed out of the event.

When it was announced at the beginning of the forum that Pallister had informed MTS he would not be participating, members took to Twitter to express their displeasure:

  • Disappointed that Brian Pallister decides that he has better things to do than to engage in a discussion with MB teachers.
  • @Brian_Pallister concerning to teachers on #mtstownhall that you're not available for teachers in their questions about ed in MB
  • Agreed. It feels like we @mbteachers aren't valued as voters.
  • I'm disappointed that Brian Pallister is not available. Education is an important to all Manitobans.
  • Pallister no-show at @mbteachers #mtstownhall. Considering his record on teachers, I'm not surprised
  • If I supported PCs I would have not voted after his non-show up.

All three party leaders had been approached last year about participating in the one-hour telephone town hall and all three had given verbal assurances they would.

See the MTS special Election 2016 section

Both NDP Leader Greg Selinger and Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari took the opportunity to criticize Pallister for not taking the time to answer questions or speak with Manitoba’s 15,000 public school teachers. The forum was only available to public school teachers, not the general public.

“The single biggest threat to education is the folks who didn’t show up tonight – Brian Pallister,” said Selinger.

Bokhari called it an insult and showed a lack of concern for teachers.

During the town hall, both Bokhari and Selinger answered questions on issues from Aboriginal education to standardized tests to poverty and amalgamation of school divisions.

Selinger focused mainly on the work the current government has done in funding education to the rate of economic growth and beyond even as other provinces have cut education spending. He again expressed his opposition to standardized tests and said he would not force amalgamation of school divisions.

He said what’s more important is keeping small schools open, something he predicted the Progressive Conservatives would not do.

Bokhari emphasized that she would listen to teachers and all other groups working in the education field in developing policies.
As well, she said a Liberal provincial government would be in the best position to help in Aboriginal education because it would have the best relationship with the federal Liberal government.

The audio of the complete town hall will be posted on this website in the Election 2016 section this week.


Federal budget includes tax credit for teacher-bought school supplies

Canadian teachers will get some help from the federal budget when buying school supplies with their own money.

The federal budget includes a teacher and early educational supply tax credit. It will allow an eligible educator to claim a 15 per cent refundable tax credit based on up to $1,000 in expenditures made by an employee for eligible supplies. That credit is worth $150 if the full amount is claimed.

Eligible educators must have a teacher’s certificate or a diploma or certificate in early childhood development recognized in the province or territory they work.

The Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Benefit will apply to expenses incurred after Jan. 1, 2016, and will generate $60 million annually in tax savings for teachers and early childhood educators across the country, the government says.

A variety of expenditures are eligible, from art supplies to board games and educational software.
Science experiments count and the government has a list of ingredients it suggests, including seeds, potting soil, vinegar, baking soda and stir sticks.

According to the budget, the list of allowable school supplies also includes items like:

  • Bulletin board decorative items, such as borders and illustrations;
  • Construction paper and Bristol board for activities, flashcards, or activity centres;
  • Posters with instructions, such as punctuation rules or chemistry formulas;
  • Items for science experiments, such as seeds, vegetables, fruits, potting soil, milk, vinegar, coffee stir sticks, straws, spaghetti for building structures, etc.;
  • Specialized art supplies;
  • Games and puzzles;
  • Supplementary books (novels, non-fiction, and reference) for classrooms;
  • Supplementary technology for classrooms, such as tablets, laptops, graphing calculators, and projectors;
  • Stickers and motivational items;
  • Support software for teaching and learning purposes; and
  • Containers, such as plastic boxes or banker boxes for themes and kits.



Liberals promise to introduce all-day kindergarten

March 16, 2016
The Manitoba Liberal Party has promised to introduce all-day kindergarten if elected April 19.

Leader Rona Bokhari said the current half-day kindergarten in most areas is putting a strain on parents and the child care system.

It would also give children a beneficial start to their schooling.

“We are falling behind the rest of the world and need to start to turn that around and there is no better place to start than at the beginning.

“We believe that healthy interaction and early learning are the keys to a healthy and prosperous society and when our children begin early they are getting a head start.”

The Liberals say the plan would cost taxpayers $50 million annually. It would be rolled out over five years.


MTS looking for election
questions from members

March 14, 2016
On April 6, MTS will be holding a virtual town hall. The leaders of the three main political parties have been invited to attend..

MTS members can participate by joining in on their telephones. Details to the right.

Also, MTS is looking for questions our members would like to pose to the leaders.

If you have a question you would like considered just email it to townhall@mbteach.org

Please let us know your name and what school division you are in.

We will only use that to verify MTS membership.





U of M presents evening with Justice Murray Sinclair on education and TRC

March 9, 2016
A University of Manitoba faculty of education symposium series on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action begins March 22 with an evening with Justice Murray Sinclair.

The university says Sinclair will help begin the conversation on how teacher education may best respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.

“Justice Sinclair will draw upon the knowledge he has gained from his experience as Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

The evening will be held March 22, with a reception at 6:30 and program at 7 in Room 224 of the Education Building, 71 Curry Place, University of Manitoba.

See information on all parts of the series here.


MTS president answers Brandon Sun attack on teachers

March 8, 2016
MTS President Norm Gould has responded to a Brandon Sun editorial that suggested teachers were overpaid.

In a letter published March 8, Gould points out that teachers are not receiving what the newspaper described as "excessively high salaries."

Gould's complete response is below.

As the representative of 15,000 professional teachers across Manitoba, I take great exception to your editorial on “The elephant in the classroom: Teacher Pay”.

Currently, the Brandon School Division:

  1. is clearly in the throes of a healthy growth spurt, with 158 more students reporting this year alone, and at least “142 new students” next year,
  2. is in 24th place out of 38 school divisions in teacher salary ranking this year,
  3. wants to give Brandon students “all the opportunities you should afford them” as one area property owner recently said, and
  4. would have needed at least 14 more teachers just to reach the provincial average in regular instruction this year—according to Manitoba Education accounting (FRAME)—never mind anticipated enrollment growth for next year.

So, rather than targeting overworked teachers and questioning their worth on the front lines of education, why wouldn’t the Brandon Sun encourage a different kind of community dialogue: One that looks for continued ways to meet the real challenges of Brandon’s schools, students and teachers.

The question Brandon citizens and taxpayers really need to ask themselves is “why would the BSD even consider cutting nine more teachers after a more extensive cut of 11 teachers last year?”

Lamenting the potential loss of 20 educators over two years in the face of strong enrollment growth is natural because it imposes serious challenges on the remaining staff members and program delivery.

Traditionally, teachers have been the shock absorbers of the public school system. But their ability to absorb has limits. How can programs not suffer when there simply aren’t enough qualified teaching staff to go around? How can educators be effective, if their bucket of duties, responsibilities and paperwork is overflowing?

Besides these obvious oversights, there are fallacies and factual errors in your editorial that simply must to be addressed.

You mention that a full 85 per cent of the BSD’s budget is “eaten up” by salaries alone. “Eaten up”—really? Education is a highly people-intensive endeavour. Why wouldn’t salaries compose the biggest share of the budget, similar to the health care, police and emergency services systems?

In fact, teachers account for only about 50 per cent of an average school division’s budget. Do you also begrudge the salaries of bus drivers, school crossing guards, maintenance and facilities workers, cafeteria personnel, guidance counsellors, clinicians, and countless others in the public school system—not to mention the superintendent, and stipends for board chairs and trustees?

We assure you that in public lists of positions with “excessively high salaries” as you put it, you’ll see CEOs, bank presidents, maybe even lawyers and surgeons, but you’ll never see public school teachers.

Keep in mind that salaries for teachers and other organized workers are, almost without exception, freely negotiated between their unions and the BSD—both of whom are active participants in the process. It’s not compulsion, it’s negotiation.

As for arbitration, in roughly 196 collective agreements negotiated by teachers and divisions province-wide from the year 2000 to the present, only nine, or less than five per cent, went to arbitration.

In short, contract negotiations are settled mutually and salaries meet the market test.

As for low scores on international tests, our Manitoba students’ results differ because our conditions differ. The levels of disparity in poverty, demography, and migration are acute in Manitoba. And Brandon’s conditions reflect those of other large urban school divisions.

Let’s get back to budget matters.

We understand the BSD uses Regional Health Authority data to forecast births when budgeting. The weakness there is that those births don’t anticipate growth from migration into Manitoba from people returning from Alberta oil projects or even the welcome influx of migrants to the province.

Also, according the 2015-2016 FRAME budget, the Brandon School Division was spending about $1,400 per child below the provincial average, last year. Brandon residents should ask themselves if they are satisfied that every child in their school division would receive at least $17,000 less than other Manitoba children over the course of their K-12 education. This could explain large class sizes, and fewer program options for students.

That there are important issues to discuss within the Brandon School Division, there is no doubt. That people on the BSD board, in the schools and in the communities want to do their best to meet the needs of our students, is a given.

But it’s simply not productive for the Brandon Sun to continue scapegoating teachers and refuse to recognize that the students we value so much need more support, not less.


Election forum on Indigenous Education and Reconciliation

March 02, 2016
The Council for Aboriginal Education in Manitoba will be holding a provincial election forum March 10 on Indigenous Education and Reconciliation.

The forum will be held at Maples Collegiate Commons Area, 1330 Jefferson Ave. in Winnipeg, 7-9 p.m.

Hear leading experts on what is needed for Indigenous education and how reconciliation can help all Manitobans.

Panelists include Kathy Mallett (former Co-Director of Community Education Development Association), Tasha Spillett and Frank Deer (Education professors), Lenard Monkman and Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Red Rising Magazine).

CAEM is a special area group of educators with The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. For more information, email:   fionamuldrew@hotmail.com


Book Market calling on teachers, school divisions for donations

The Children’s Hospital Book Market is calling on teachers and school divisions to help it out of a jam.
It has been a victim of its own success.

The recent sale at St. Vital Centre did so well it left the market without enough books for its next sale, April 26-30.

Market spokesperson Carol Irving says the organization has a desperate need for more books and is hoping teachers and school divisions might have extras to donate.

Donations can be dropped off at any Winnipeg fire hall at any time.

The last sale raised more than $170,000.


Video of Media Literacy Launch in Winnipeg created

The young people in the Just TV project at the Broadway Neighborhood Centre have created a video featuring students that were part of the launch of Media Literacy Week last November.

The launch was organized by The Manitoba Teachers' Society and the event sponsored by The Canadian Teachers' Federation and MediaSmarts.


Final national report on LGBTQ education released

Jan. 15, 2016
Researchers have released the final report of a national study into LGBTQ education.

The study was headed by Dr. Catherine Taylor, education professor at The University of Winnipeg, in partnership with The Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

Called The Every Teacher Project on LGBTQ*-inclusive Education in Canada’s K-12 Schools (*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, Two-Spirit, queer and questioning), it is the largest study of its kind in the world.

Among the main findings were:

  • The vast majority of teachers approve of LGBTQ-inclusive education
  • Teachers in Catholic schools are only slightly less likely to approve, but much less likely to practice, LGBTQ-inclusive education
  • Only 2% cited conflict with personal religious beliefs as holding them back
  • 18% agreed that teachers should be able to opt out for religious reasons
  • Among the main reasons given for not teaching in LGBTQ-inclusive ways were lack of leadership and resources
  • Two-thirds were aware of teachers being harassed for being LGBTQ
  • Almost all rated their school as safe but far fewer rated their school as safe for LGB or transgender students

See the complete report here.

University of Manitoba members of the research team were Vice Provost (Academic) Dr. Janice Ristock and Professors Dr. Tracey Peter (Sociology) and Dr. Donn Short (Law).

The Every Teacher Project attracted tremendous support from project partner The Manitoba Teachers’
Society and from every national, provincial and territorial teacher organization in the publicly funded school systems of Canada. With their help in recruiting, researchers completed the project with 3,400 participants.


Province increasing funding for students with special needs

Jan. 7, 2016
The Manitoba government has just announced increased funding for students with special needs to $75.5 million and making it easier for these students to get the supports they require by eliminating applications as recommended by the Task Force on Special Needs Education.

“We want students with special needs to get the supports they need without having to make their parents and educators go through a lengthy and stressful application process,” said Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum at a press conference at Glenlawn Collegiate, this morning.  “I want to personally thank the parents, advocates and teachers who served on this task force for their hard work that will result in a new funding model that will better help students.”

The minister added the province will implement all the recommendations of the Task Force on Special Needs Education and that developing a model that includes eliminating applications will give special needs teachers and clinicians more time to focus on the classroom, not paperwork.

“Teachers want to spend more time working with students,” said Norm Gould, president, Manitoba Teachers’ Society.  “This initiative will give principals, specialists, resource teachers and classroom teachers the time to do just that.  Our kids need more supports, not less.”

The minister noted the Louis Riel School Division will pilot a new process for allocating special needs resources in some of its schools starting in fall 2016, working in collaboration with the province, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and the Louis Riel Teachers’ Association.  He added other divisions could voluntarily implement the new funding model the following year, with full implementation in place by fall 2018.  The lessons learned from the Louis Riel pilot will assist other school divisions to make a smoother transition to the new approach, the minister said.

“Over the past year our LRTA committee has met numerous times and invested countless hours in striving to conceive a new model of support for students with special needs,” said Frank Restall, president of the Louis Riel Teachers’ Association.

The model would be “strength based, and would provide teachers, clinicians, resource teachers and principals with more time to work with students,” said Restall. He talked about the importance of making the model “quick and responsive in addressing student needs, and, of course, a model that would best support learning.
“I believe this committee, in collaboration with the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and the Louis Riel School Division has created a model for student success.”


MTS welcomes $32.5 million in additional funding for public schools

Jan. 5, 2016
The Manitoba government has announced an additional $32.5 million in funding for public schools in 2016-2017, and that’s welcome news to everyone who cares about students’ education, says Norm Gould, president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

“This announcement recognizes that classrooms are more challenging and diverse than ever,” says Gould. “Once again, public schools can count on stable funding at the rate of economic growth that is responsive to the needs of teachers, students, parents, and communities across the province.”

The government also announced $13.9 million for literacy and numeracy programing, $1.8 million to support the Student Achievement Fund, and a new website to help high school students and young adults find out exactly what kind of education and training they’ll need for a future in various careers.

“We know that cookie cutter approaches are not the solution, so we welcome these targeted investments in our schools and in our classrooms,” says Gould. “The increased support for Indigenous and new Canadians and more resources for our under-privileged students will help ensure that all students are given the tools they need to work towards a strong future.”

With the extra time this early announcement gives school divisions, it’s now up to school boards to draft budgets that ensure this announcement translates into excellent programming for students and better resources for teachers.

School divisions across Manitoba have until mid-March to finalize their budgets.


Entire school takes part in international coding event

Dec. 10, 2015
How do you plug 150 students from a rural Manitoba town into the buzz and excitement of a worldwide education event?

Simple. Enroll the entire school in an Hour of Code.

So far this week, about 170 million people—including all K-12 students and staff from Elkhorn School—have spent time cutting their teeth on computer coding using resources from hourofcode.com.

“All of our kids, from every grade level were engaged,” says Wanda Elliott, who spearheaded the event for the school which lies a mere 10 kilometres from the Saskatchewan border. “We want our students to be makers of code, not simply users of apps and technology.”

Karli Frederick, a Grade 11 student at Elkhorn, says it was obvious how engaged the students were. “There was lots of excitement. You could tell everyone liked it.” She says the coding project involved moving characters around a screen and making them speak. “It really made you think, but once you got it, you felt good about it.”

Elliott, who is also the president of the Fort la Bosse Teachers’ Association, thanks her principal Lance Barrate for being so supportive of the project and her fellow teachers for leading and inspiring these 21-Century learners throughout the event. “Students had such a blast, they wanted more.”

“I loved it,” says Kelsey Sanheim, another Grade 11 student who’s intrigued by the possibilities of coding. “Who knows, it might work into a future job some day. Coding is everywhere now.”


Province closes ‘the Mommy / parent gap’ for teachers

Dec. 3, 2015
Teachers in Manitoba will no longer take a hit in both pay and pension benefits to have children. The Manitoba government announced a change to the Education Administration Act today that will see teachers’ maternity and parental leaves count for a full year’s credit toward teacher pay increments.

“The elimination of the “mommy gap” or parent gap is welcome news for our teachers,” says Norm Gould, President of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “It puts our female members on equal footing with male members in Manitoba, and with their colleagues in the rest of Canada. The same holds true for women and men teachers who access parental leave. And it’s another example of how much this government values Manitoba teachers and listens to their concerns.”

Until now, Manitoba has recognized only 85 days of credit for teachers accessing either maternity or parental leave, rather than the full school year common in most other Canadian provinces. That has put Manitoba teachers who have children at a distinct disadvantage because of delayed pay increments early in their careers and smaller pensions later in life.

The effort to change the status quo was set in motion at AGM 2009 when a resolution was passed to amend a regulation in the Education Administration Act to include “maternity leave or parental leave granted in accordance with the Employment Standards Code, to a maximum in any school year of 200 teaching days for a full-time member.”

Today’s change means that members of the Society on parental or maternity leave will no longer be disadvantaged by choosing to have children. They will be eligible, at the same time as their colleagues and counterparts, for their annual salary increments—just as they would had they not chosen to have a family.

“No woman should ever feel that she is being penalized for having a baby,” says MTS staff officer Nancy Kerr. “As a society, we have agreed on the importance of women having time at home with their babies in that critical first year of life, both through provincial legislation that grants a full year of leave, and federal legislation that grants Employment Insurance benefits for 50 weeks of that leave. Giving teachers full credit of service for that year of leave just makes sense.”

The amendment will also have positive long-term effects on pensionable earnings and years of service towards pension. Information provided by the Teachers’ Retirement Allowances Fund (TRAF) shows that, until now, male teachers generally have had greater career earnings and more years of service than their female counterparts. Much of this inequity can be attributed to women staying home with their newborns. Today’s announcement will help to correct this.

“It means young teachers will no longer have their increments delayed, significantly reducing the impact of having a baby on both lifetime earnings and pensions,” says Kerr. “And teachers who are at maximum earnings will see a positive impact on their pensions.”

MTS staff officer Arlyn Filewich says, “This is ‎a huge achievement for our youngest members and their growing families. It’s proof that when teachers raise issues of equity and voice their concerns, we have teacher advocates who take action of their behalf. We are so thankful that MTS President Norm Gould and our Provincial Executive have made these changes both a priority and a reality.”

Gould says teachers appreciate the effort the Manitoba government has taken to consult with the Society on an issue that’s so important to teachers and their families. He says the change operates on three levels. “First, it eliminates a legislative injustice and discrimination that been in place for years. Second, it will relieve some of the pressure on our younger members who take maternity or parental leave. And finally, it will give anyone who accesses these leaves more security in retirement.”

Province of Manitoba amends The MTS Act, gives Society greater control

Dec. 3, 2015
Education Minister James Allum has announced that the Province of Manitoba will be repatriating The Manitoba Teachers’ Society Act. This is a significant announcement for the Manitoba Teachers’ Society because it empowers us to amend the MTS constitution independently thereby enabling us to modernize its language and enhance the image of the teaching profession in the province and the role of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

Why is this important?

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is an incorporated entity that is governed by provincial legislation. Our organization’s constitution, the supreme governing document, is also an act of the legislature called The Manitoba Teachers’ Society Act.

Legislation is drafted to reflect the needs of the day. In 1942, when the Manitoba rTeachers’ Society Act was assented, the Act’s objectives reflected the priorities of teachers of the day and protected the profession. As time passed, the profession evolved and irregularities and inconsistencies in the Act began to emerge, so amendments to the Act were needed. However, the necessary amendments had to be done through legislative amendments which, as is the case with all legislation, can be a tedious process.

Over the years, The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has repeatedly asked government to amend our constitution (The Act) so that we can make these changes, but these requests did not succeed. Consequently, today many of the terms contained in the Act remain outdated and do not apply to Manitoba’s current educational climate.

For example, in 2001 the Province announced the amalgamation of school divisions, so in 2003, 2004 and 2006 The MTS Provincial Council passed resolutions calling on the government to give MTS the ability to make changes to the constitution’s language to reflect these amalgamations, but to no avail. As a result, a recent review of the MTS Handbook exposed many areas of confusion that were difficult to reconcile given the antiquated language in our constitution.

This announcement is the culmination of years of hard work to give MTS the authority to control our constitution so we are able to evolve at the same pace as the education profession. Ultimately it enables us to grow so that we will be stronger tomorrow than we are today.


Students, MTS president become hamper helpers

Nov. 25, 2015
Cheery? You bet! MTS President Norm Gould helps Grade 5's from École Assiniboine put together 450 individual hampers today at the Christmas Cheer Board on Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg. Two classes of students accompanied by their teachers Stephanie Craciun, Natalie Van Damme, and a group of parents, turned a short visit into big blessing for 450 people. The first day for hamper pick-up is Dec. 7 and deliveries start on the 11th.  Contributions are always welcome.









Government vows to expand some school programs in Manitoba

Nov. 16, 2015
Premier Greg Selinger says his government will be introducing legislation and new programs to help Manitoba students.
“Our schools prepare young people for the opportunities of tomorrow and we will make strategic investments in our schools so that every child can succeed,” Selinger said in the government’s Speech from the Throne, outlining its upcoming priorities.
Some education initiatives, such as smaller class sizes, are already being implemented, but the government said it will expand other programs.
The government says it will:

  • “Be introducing legislation that ensures all Manitoba students learn about the histories, languages, cultures and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples to build on our shared values of inclusion, diversity and respect.
  • “Expand programs that provide healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks in schools.
  • “Invest more in community schools, early childhood hubs, and after-school programs in the inner-city and in northern Manitoba.
  • “Support children who are struggling in our schools, help them with reading and math, and provide opportunities to students who want to excel beyond the core curriculum.
  • “Ramp up our First-Year Now initiative to ensure high school students earn university and college credits to get a head start on their careers.”


Pallister promises reading program, new report cards

Nov. 13, 2015
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says a government led by him would focus on reading in early grades to improve education results.
In what was billed as an alternative Speech from the Throne, Pallister sketched out a few education initiatives he would undertake if he becomes premier.
“Education is the key to finding everyone’s potential. I was raised with the belief that education provided a way up for me in my life,” he said. “We must provide a stronger way for Manitoba’s children.”
Pallister said he would do this by:

  • “Establish a Read to Succeed initiative with reading labs and mentoring so all children leaving Grade 3 can read at the highest national level.
  • “Focusing on the needs of the child by empowering teachers to evaluate students fully for their work, including giving a zero grade for zero work.
  • “Empowering parents to evaluate their child’s progress by providing more meaningful report cards.”

Pallister did not provide any details of the initiatives or how education might be impacted by his promise to reduce taxes.
He did, once again, pledge “to protect front line services and the jobs of the workers who deliver those services.”



Nov. 5, 2015

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has partnered with 103.1 Virgin Radio to support and promote all the great things happening in Manitoba's public schools. We  want your school to submit everything from fundraising events to school concerts using the hashtag #SchoolShoutout1031. It will be posted on the 103.1 Virgin website School Shout-outs page and may be mentioned live on the air. Your school event also may be featured in Virgin's monthly highlights on the same page.



How do Canadian teens show respect online?
Media Literacy Week promotes good digital citizenship

Nov. 2, 2015

Winnipeg youth, teachers and community leaders gathered today for an engaging morning exploring what it means to be a good digital citizen and how to promote respect online.
The event, held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, marked the start of the tenth annual Media Literacy Week which runs Nov. 2-6. Hosted by MediaSmarts and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) – with the help of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) and the Manitoba Association of Computing Educators (ManACE) -- the theme of the week, Respect in a Digital World, encourages young people to be responsible and ethical digital citizens by respecting themselves, others and the online spaces they’re in.
At the launch, youth speakers discussed the inspiring and empowering work they are doing using digital technologies to promote social justice issues. Students also took part in hands-on digital workshops hosted by teachers and student leaders.
Norm Gould, President of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society says, “Online respect and good digital citizenship is so important. We’ll be inspired by the speakers we’ll hear today, all of whom are students. Even our workshops today are being all lead by students. And to the teachers who are participating - thanks for modelling good digital citizenship.”
“We are pleased to celebrate the first decade of Media Literacy Week by promoting the importance of respect in the digital world,” said Cathy Wing, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts. “Through the week, we hope to raise awareness of the important role of parents and teachers in encouraging youth to create cultures of civility in online spaces.”
“Teachers have a role in guiding their students to value respect, empathy and compassion in the real and digital worlds. It is through teamwork and communication that they can promote social justice in their community and the world,” says CTF President Heather Smith.
In recognition of the week’s theme, MediaSmarts has released two new workshops on social networking for teens and for parents, made possible with financial support from Bell. Respecting Yourself and Others Online and The Parent Network are freely available for download.
You can also find resources for parents, teachers and youth at www.medialiteracyweek.ca. The hashtag for the event is: #medlitweek.


Manitoba teachers pack MTS Professional Development Day events

School’s social justice answers blowing in the wind

World Teachers’ Day: Teachers’ voices are important in this federal election

Sept. 30, 2015
On Oct. 5, World Teachers’ Day, teachers from across Canada will be taking to social media with the message “On Oct. 19, I vote for Our Canada. Our Students. Our profession.” This action is part of a national campaign by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), to raise political awareness about public education issues that need federal government action. Teachers are hoping to elect a federal government that will provide enhanced mental health services for children and youth and will commit to ending child poverty.

“Although provinces and territories are responsible for education, we know federal government programs and policies directly affect the lives of students and teachers,” says CTF President Heather Smith. “Federal policy decisions relating to funding transfers to the provinces and territories directly affect the capacity of many provincial/territorial governments to appropriately fund and administer their health care and education systems.

“In a 2014 national survey, 5,000 teacher respondents told us to focus on child and youth mental health and child poverty in this federal election. Under the banner of the ‘Hear My Voice’ campaign, the CTF engaged with major political parties at the national level and with its Member organizations at the provincial/territorial levels who shared CTF resources and social media tools with teachers for use in their own ridings.

“As a non-partisan federation, the CTF does not support any one party but rather advocates with all parties regarding issues that are significant to the teachers of Canada. We believe it is important to provide information so that teachers may make well-informed decisions when they head to the polls on Oct. 19.

“World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great work teachers are doing in support of public education around the globe. The federal election is the opportunity for Canadian teachers to take positive action by making their mark in support of policies benefiting the students in their classrooms,” concludes Smith.

Founded in 1920, CTF is a national alliance of Member organizations representing nearly 200,000 teachers across Canada. CTF is also a member of Education International (@eduint) which represents 30 million educators around the world. Follow CTF on Twitter: @CanTeachersFed and @EnseigneCanada.


University panel looks at diversity in teaching

Sept. 25, 2015
The University of Manitoba is inviting teachers to a panel discussion on diversifying the teaching force.

“Diversifying the teaching force has become a priority in many educational settings around the world with the growing mismatch between the ethnic backgrounds, cultures, languages, and religions of teachers and those of students and families,” says a description of the event.  “This issue has particular significance in the Canadian context with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the role that schools have played in the genocide of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.”

Organizers of the Oct. 15 event say the problem goes beyond the argument that minority students needing positive role models.

“A growing body of scholarship identifies other compelling reasons for diversification, including the idea that all students benefit from a diversity of perspectives and role models in schools.  Nevertheless, the process of diversification is fraught with complexity. Depending on the context, systemic discrimination, an oversupply of teachers in the profession generally, and outdated hiring policies and practices can all impede efforts to diversify the teaching force.“

The panel will feature:

  • Dr. Jens Schneider, Institute for Migration and Intercultural Studies, University of Osnabrück  
  • Dr. Christine Cho, Schulich School of Education,  Nipissing University
  • Dr. Roumi Ilieva, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University
  • Mr. Jamie Wilson, Commissioner, Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba
  • Dr. Robert Mizzi, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba
  • Dr. Clea Schmidt, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba 

The event begins Thursday, Oct. 15 at 5 pm with a reception, followed by the panel discussion at 5:45 in Room 224 of the Education Building at the University of Manitoba.

For more information, contact:
Clea Schmidt
Phone: 474-9314
Email: clea.schmidt@umanitoba.ca


Museum for Human Rights holding open house for educators

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is opening its doors for Manitoba educators

The museum is holding an Educators’ Open House Friday, Oct. 23., 4 pm to 8 pm and Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 am to 5 pm.  All educators will receive free admission on those days between those hours. The open house has been scheduled to allow teachers attending SAGE events to also go to the museum.

The open house visits are free-flowing, but museum staff will be stationed throughout the facility. There will also be a Q and A in The Manitoba Teachers’ Society classrooms.

For more information, visit humanrights.ca/learn/museum/educators-program


MTS president welcomes students, teachers and parents to a new year

Sept. 01, 2015
Manitoba Teachers’ Society President Norm Gould is taking to the airwaves to welcome back students, teachers, and parents to another school year. His welcome is one of three spots the Society has launched to kick off 2015-2016.

Gould, a proud father with three children in Manitoba public schools, says teachers will continue to provide “engaging programs, smaller class sizes, individual attention and valuable communication between home and school.”

Listen to all three of the MTS radio spots here, here and here.


MTS shows support at Pride Festival, 2015

MTS President Norm Gould (left) gets help with the banner from Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.



Young humanitarians honoured by The Manitoba Teachers' Society

May 15, 2015
Compassion, drive and humility will be in the spotlight May 20 at the Fairmont Winnipeg as the 18th annual MTS Young Humanitarian Awards show highlights 31 public school students from four school divisions in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg.

"‎The Young Humanitarian Awards just might be the best evening of our year," says Paul Olson, President of The Manitoba Teachers' Society. "The YHAs honour the goodness of students who choose to work hard in caring about and for others."

Activism seems to come naturally to our youngest humanitarian, Brooklyn Maguathi (Paddock), a Grade 3 student from Riverview School in Brandon. Brooklyn’s first effort to help the Canadian Cancer Society—at the tender age of four—grew from a lemonade stand into a $1,000 donation. At six, she was inspired by Spencer West at We Day, and decided to walk 20 km with her mom and aunt, in the pouring rain, to raise $1,200 for clean drinking water. Last year, she started a hugely successful school supply drive. This year she is $2,500 toward her $10,000 goal to build a school for third-world children. Brooklyn’s humanitarian heart absolutely shines.

When she was only 10, Jenna Sigurdson learned her dad Blair was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson Disease. Her first reaction was “What can I do to help?” Ever since then she has been raising awareness by educating people, raising funds by knocking on 2,000 doors, organizing school fundraisers, appearing on Breakfast Television, CJOB and in the Winnipeg Free Press. Jenna, an École George McDowell School student, has been a guest speaker for the Parkinson Society Manitoba. With incredible sweat and determination (she actually wore out her shoes knocking on doors) this Grade 8 student has raised $40,000 in hopes of finding a cure for the disease that affects her father and so many others.

Kirsten Trimble’s reputation for good works followed her from middle school to Portage Collegiate Institute. When she got there, she immediately became active in the Social Justice Group, Teens Against Distracted Driving and the school’s first GSA. She plays a key role in a local elementary school’s breakfast fundraising program, Coffee House for Change, the Fair Trade and We Are Silent campaigns, and many others. Right now, the Grade 11 student is working on a craft day for moms and kids, a campaign to build a school in Nicaragua and raising money for her GSA to attend a national conference. Kirsten loves kids and is very involved in caring for foster children in her home. Kirsten is inclusive and never seeks the limelight.

The 28 members of Global Kidizens from École J.B. Mitchell School have incredible hearts and energy to match. This year, these Grade 5 and 6 humanitarians reached out to their community and around the world with three major projects. The first raised $2,500 for Winnipeg Harvest’s Baby Formula Drive. That turned into $10,000 when corporate sponsors joined. Next was a push to raise enough food for 30-40 families for the Christmas Cheer Board. Finally, the group raised $300 for a well in Zimbabwe and $400 to buy goats in developing countries. The Kidizens work so hard to make a difference globally and here at home.

Each MTS Young Humanitarian Award comes with a YHA medal, framed certificate and a monetary prize. For complete details on the awards, go to mbteach.org.


James Allum again named as province's minister of education

James Allum has been named as Manitoba's minister of education and advanced learning for a second time.

Allum replaces Peter Bjornson who decided to step down from cabinet. Allum had previously held the education portfolio from October, 2013 to November, 2014, before being appointed justice minister.

Selinger thanked Bjornson for his years of service, which also included two stints as education minister.

“Peter has decided for personal reasons to step down from cabinet.  I respect his decision and thank him for his many years of service as minister of education, housing, entrepreneurship and trade.  Peter has been an excellent minister, good friend and strong voice for the people of Manitoba,” Selinger said.

Students from 36 schools rack up food donations

Manitoba students tipped the scales at this year’s Operation Donation School Food Drive.

There were 36 Manitoba Schools involved that collected 17,425 pounds (7,920kg) of food along with 20,667pounds (11,172kg) of food gathered from Manitoba Public Insurance offices. Total poundage raised was 42,003 (19,092kg).

Peak of the Market and Canada Safeway matched pound for pound the total weight of donations through schools and MPI for a grand total of 126,009 pounds (57,277 kg).

“We owe a huge thank you to students and teachers across the province,” said Norm Gould, vice-president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “We appreciate every person, and every school, that fought against hunger with love and action. You may never meet the people that you help. But in the coming days and weeks, a mom or dad is going to reach into their cupboards, pull out the food you gave them and prepare it for their families. The hunger will stop. Their kids won’t go to bed hungry. And that’s going to happen because you cared.”

The week long food drive took place from March 2-6 and was supported by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Manitoba Public Insurance and matched by Peak of the Market and Canada Safeway.

Across Manitoba, schools from K-12 assist Winnipeg Harvest by collecting non-perishable food items including; baby food, tuna, soup, canned vegetables, fruit and pasta, and much more.

“Operation Donation is proof that strong partnerships can make a difference for many families,” said MaryAnn Kempe, vice-president, Business Development & Communications and Chief Product Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance. “The success of Operation Donation is achieved by young Manitobans who have a taken a leadership role in their respective schools.”

“This program makes a difference in the lives of the families we feed each month. With 61,691 people that receive food each month, we have our work cut out for us”, said David Northcott, executive director of Winnipeg Harvest. “Operation Donation is a key staple to assisting us with this heavy task of feeding so many.

It fills a gap at just the right time – after Christmas and before spring planting when food stocks are low. It’s a great campaign for helping students think about the larger questions in life, such as, ‘Why don’t the poor have the right to eat the same kind of food as my family has on the table’?”, said Northcott.


Province adds $3 million to smaller class initiative

Feb. 19, 2015
The Manitoba government has chipped in another $3 million to help schools create smaller classes for students in kindergarten to Grade 3, Education and Advanced Learning Minister Peter Bjornson has announced.

The new funding will target schools that have some of the largest classes and bring total provincial funding for smaller classes to $13 million in 2015-16.  Work is currently underway to support small classes with 48 classroom renovations and additions at 22 schools, and five new schools including the Amber Trails Community School.

"With smaller class sizes, teachers can give students more one-on-one time in the critical early years to improve student learning so that parents see results," Bjornson said.  "Smaller classes provide teachers more time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student to help them build the skills they need to succeed."

In 2011, the Manitoba government announced it would provide new supports to enable school divisions to cap kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms at 20 students by September 2017.

Partnering with school divisions, more than 300 additional teachers have been hired since 2011 to create smaller classes across the province, the minister said.  He added schools have seen significant results including:

  • 353 more kindergarten to Grade 3 classes;
  • 633 more kindergarten to Grade 3 classes with 20 or fewer students; and
  • the reduction of 327 kindergarten to Grade 3 classes with 24 or greater students, representing a 52 per cent reduction in the largest classes.

Teacher / Staff Appreciation Week - February 8 – 14

Feb. 8, 2015
Think of a teacher who showed you kindness, whose influence sticks with you today, who may have helped you choose a career or discover a passion—or who pointed you back on the right path.

“Teachers and other staff have a profound influence on the lives and education of Manitoba’s students,” says Manitoba Teachers’ Society President Paul Olson, who will be delivering that message during Canada’s Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week.

“Students’ futures depend on being able to learn and live well. As teachers, we want them to be excited about school, to relish learning,” says Olson. “Whether it’s discovering a sonnet, solving an equation, performing in Shrek or writing a smartphone app—these experiences open up new worlds for kids every day.”

More than that, Olson says there are other dimensions of learning are just as important for kids as the intellectual, the artistic and the physical. “We want them to be good citizens, to be community minded, to care about social justice—and the planet they live on. We want them to be a force for change.”

It’s a tall order, he says. Students come with emotional, intellectual and physical challenges that require intense preparation and sensitivity on the part of their teachers. “As front-line workers in education, teachers know the toll that poverty and hunger take on a child’s ability to learn.”

Finally, Olson says communication and mutual respect between parents and teachers are the foundations for student success. “Parents and teachers need to play on the same team if students are to succeed.”


I Love to Read Month kicks off; MTS president reads to students

Feb. 3, 2015
Education and Advanced Learning Minister Peter Bjornson helped kick off I Love to Read month for students, teachers and parents by highlighting this year's theme, Literacy is a Human Right.

"When you consider the profound effect reading and writing have on our everyday lives, it's clear that access to quality education is a basic human right that every child deserves," said Minister Bjornson.  "Literacy empowers individuals, and enriches families and communities."

I Love to Read month is celebrated every February to encourage reading, writing and sharing in the joy of literacy.  This year's theme is in recognition of the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

MTS President Paul Olson helped out with the launch by reading to students at Ecole Robert H. Smith.

"The first duty of a public education system is to help create citizens," he said of the event.  "Literate citizens ask hard questions, demand good government and create a society that values human rights.  Literacy is essential to the great futures we want for our children and our province."

"The recent announcement of new targeted literacy supports will ensure that all children get a good foundation on their reading, writing and critical thinking skills so they have the tools they need to engage the world as active citizens," the minister said.  "By continuing to invest in public education, providing targeted supports to newcomer students and making important changes to the language arts curriculum, we're providing high-quality education to our students so that parents see results." 

Minister Bjornson noted parents and family members play a major role in helping young children learn to enjoy reading.

"Parents are their children's first teacher and set their children on the path to be lifelong readers and learners," the minister said.  "Reading is a positive activity that families can do together and I encourage parents to take the time to read with their kids as part of I Love to Read Month and throughout the year."

Province keeps public schools' funding on track

The additional $25 million for public schools announced today for 2015-2016 is good news, says Paul Olson, president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “Given what’s happening in other provinces, moving into 16 straight years of stable funding this fall is something Manitoba teachers, students and schools should welcome.”

“The $13.1 million for literacy and numeracy is also great news. Most students are at or above grade level, but this should help those struggling most to succeed.”

Manitobans know that as professionals, teachers are never satisfied, says Olson. “Teachers and schools can’t fix child poverty—it’s not a school-only solution. But we’ll be working hard with government and our partners to improve outcomes. We also recognize and appreciate the $9.8 million support for cultural programming and math and literacy achievement for Indigenous students.”

“Increased equalization funding and more money for nutrition programs are also really important to increasing equity and opportunity for Manitoba students.”

School divisions can take advantage of a 50 per cent increase in the Skills Build Equipment Fund, and $2 million Career Development fund. Olson says it’s now up to divisions to draft budgets that ensure students get excellent programming and teachers get the resources they need. “Teachers are front line workers in dealing with the effects of poverty and other social factors that affect children’s health and ability to learn. Stable school funding is essential to helping our most vulnerable students.”

School divisions across the province have until mid-March to finalize their budgets.


New Certificate in School Leadership announced

The provincial education department has announced introduction of a new provincial Certificate in School Leadership. The education minister said the new certificate will replace the current Level 1 Administrator’s Certificate and Level 2 Principal’s Certificate.

Those who are in the process of completing requirements for the Level 1 School Administrator’s Certificate or the Level 2 Principal’s Certificate will have until 2017 to complete and obtain their certificate.

The Certificate in School Leadership remains an optional certificate, although individual employers may give preference to those who have the certificate.

According to the department the renewed qualifications for the Certificate in School Leadershipstrengthen and recognize the current education and professional preparation essential to supporting effective leadership in our schools.

Meeting the qualifications under the pre-existing administrator certificates will continue to be an available option until September 2017.

More information on government website here

Space program looking for student projects

The U.S. National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, have annouced a new opportunity for school districts across the U.S. and Canada to participate in the tenth flight opportunity of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

Launched in June 2010, SSEP was designed as a model U.S. National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program that immerses typically 300 students across a community in every facet of authentic scientific research of their own design, using a highly captivating spaceflight opportunity on the International Space Station (ISS).

SSEP is open to schools and school districts outside the U.S. serving grade 5 through 12 students, through the Center’s Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education. SSEP is not designed for an individual class or a small number of students.

Student teams are able to design experiments across diverse fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro- aquatic life. Experiments require design to the technology and engineering constraints imposed by the mini- laboratory, and flight operations to and from low Earth orbit.


Digital devices in hand, students help launch Media Literacy Week

Nov. 3, 2014
Over 100 students from Henry G. Izatt Middle School and Linden Meadows School helped launch Media Literacy Week (MLW) 2014 in Manitoba, and shared ideas on how to use social media for social good.

The theme of this year’s Media Literacy Week is “Youth and Social Media: Connected, Creative, Collaborative.” Students and teachers from H.G. Izatt (PTSD), Dakota Collegiate Institute (LRSD) and George Waters Middle School (SJSD) gave 20-minute presentations on managing your social media image, making six-second Vine videos, blogging for good causes, and harnessing the power of digital media for social justice goals and causes.

Groups of about 25 students rotated through the presentations with their iPods and smartphones trying out the techniques and sharing their knowledge with their peers and teachers.

“It’s inspiring to see so much creativity and skill with social media among these kids,” said MTS President Paul Olson. “Teachers play a vital role in helping kids learn to use technology ethically and effectively.”

“The goal is not simply to help students become adept at using a given social media platform, but mentor them into good digital citizens who can create and collaborate with their peers in online communities—as well as respect intellectual property rights.”

Derek McGinn of Linden Meadows School believes in the power of digital tools for social good. “Social media has had the biggest impact on our lives. It’s really interesting to see all the varieties of ways it can be used. I don’t think it’s ever going to end.”

Nick Kreker, also from Linden Meadows, was pretty pumped about his summer vacation to VidCon in California. I got to meet tons of people that I watch over the Internet, every day,” He says meeting with YouTube gaming sensations Lasercorn and MatPat was a highlight. They were super nice! MatPat makes everyone think, his gaming videos involve a lot of math and interesting stuff.”

Today’s event was sponsored by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, The Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) and Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning. It was part of a Canada-wide launch for Media Literacy Week which runs from November 3-7.


Conferences attract thousands of teachers

The first five years of your teaching can be quite challenging, but it helps to know you're not alone.

Over 140 teachers from across the province and as far away as Nunavut came together to gain ideas and support, and to form new friendships at the 6th annual Fab 5 conference, held in Winnipeg on October 23d and 24th.

Working with EA's, professionalism in social media and new tech tips are just some of the topics offered at this year's conference. 2014 also marked the first time Fab 5, for teachers in their first five years, was being held during the same week as the SAGE Conferences, in hopes for making it easier for out of town teachers to attend both events.

Meanwhile thousands of teachers attended special area group conferences on the Friday, Oct. 24, across Winnipeg and in some outlying locations.

See the December issue of The Teacher (in print and on the app) for more information and photos.


MTS president welcomes education plan, but says more will have to be done

MTS President Paul Olson says action announced by the provincial government to improve education in the province is a good first step.

Olson was responding to a provincial announcement on the heels of a report that Manitoba students had the worst scores in math, science and reading based on 2013 tests taken last year. The tests were of Grade 8 students in French and English.

Education Minister James Allum outlined a plan to close that gap.

“As today’s national assessment results demonstrate, 86 per cent of students in Manitoba are meeting or exceeding expectations.  However, clearly some students need additional support,” Allum said.  “We need to do better.  We have a targeted plan that includes new supports for teachers and more resources for parents to help ensure that all our students excel.”

The plan includes:

1)   enhancing teacher education:

  • working with all deans of education to strengthen teacher training, looking at entrance prerequisites, course composition, practicum supports, teacher certification requirements and new initiatives to encourage more math and science graduates to enter the teaching profession.

2)  providing more support for teachers and students in their early years:

  • continuing investments in new classrooms and additional teachers to ensure smaller class sizes and more one-on-one learning for kindergarten to Grade 3 students; 
  • expanding early childhood development programs to more students facing socio-economic barriers to success, and;
  • introducing new resources to help teachers better prepare students for tests.

3)  focusing on fundamental skills:

  • continuing the implementation of revisions to strengthen the provincial math and language arts curriculum to ensure an appropriate balance between basic skills, conceptual understanding and problem-solving, and;
  • prioritizing essential learning outcomes within the curriculum to better help teachers focus on priority areas.

“The Manitoba Association of School Superintendents is supportive of a sharper focus on essential learnings.  This will assist in identifying what a student should know, be able to do and believe about the big ideas in an area of study,” said Barb Isaak, president, MASS.

4)  providing more supports for parents and students:

  • supporting parents and students by putting the curriculum online, introducing new homework supports, expanding after-school tutoring resources and instructional videos for targeted grades to help with tests and challenging concepts in core subjects.

5)  ensuring greater accountability:

  • ensuring greater accountability by working with school divisions to set goals and track progress in essential math and reading skills.  Department staff will be dedicated to work with school divisions to develop plans and analyze data to ensure accountability for academic achievement and progress. 

Olson said the plan is welcome, but added that more needs to be done to help students, teachers and parents. Such testing doesn't take into account all factors that impact results.

“As professionals, we are never satisfied,” he says. “So we will look at teaching methods, curricula, and anything else we can do to make a difference in each child’s education. Some of the very things holding back the 14 per cent who didn’t meet expectations in Manitoba are simply beyond teachers’ control, though. They have nothing to do with education and everything to do with larger societal issues.”

Olson says Canada has not moved the bar on poverty.

“So when a child consistently comes to school demoralized, without breakfast and ill-prepared to learn, we cannot simply teach that child out of that hole. In order to begin to address those issues, we need to look at the granular analysis of the PCAP results that will likely be issued early in the new year.

“That information is vital in order to drill down and find out how and where to target our efforts.”


See more details of the province's plan

A hundred new teachers hired this year for class-size initiative

Oct. 6, 2014
More than 300 new teachers have now been hired in Manitoba to allow for class-size caps in early years' classrooms.

Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum said that this year 100 new teachers were hired. In the first three years of the initiative, the Manitoba government, in partnership with school divisions, has hired 315.

“Smaller class sizes mean teachers have more time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student early and help them succeed in their critical early years,”said Allum.  “We know that students are more likely to succeed when they have more time with their teachers and I would like to thank school divisions for supporting this important initiative.”

Since the launch of the initiative in 2011-12, the Manitoba government has invested more than $29 million to create or renovate 49 classrooms.  This year the Manitoba government will invest $3 million for additional teachers, to support the smaller classes initiative, bringing the total funding for teachers this year to $10 million. 

More than 59 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 3 classes have 20 or fewer students and 87 per cent of these classes have no more than 23 students than prior to the initiative.

School divisions are required to ensure kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms are at 20 students or fewer by September, 2017.  A maximum of 10 per cent of classrooms per division can have the flexibility to go beyond the cap of 20 students to a maximum of 23.

Province's graduation rate continues to climb

Sept., 08, 2014
The Manitoba government says the province’s high school graduation rate continues to climb.
The graduation rate for June, 2013, was 85.3 per cent, up from 84.1 per cent the previous year.
“Between June 2002 and June 2013, Manitoba's high school graduation rate has increased 14.2 percentage points. This is equivalent to 2,131 more students graduating from Manitoba's public and funded independent high schools in 2013 than in 2002.”

The province points out that the difference between the graduation rate and 100 per cent is not equal to the drop-out rate.

“The difference includes students who are continuing in public and funded independent schools and require more than four years to gain the credits needed to graduate, students who have transferred out of public and funded independent schools to enroll in First Nations schools, non-funded independent schools and Adult Learning Centres, students who have left the province, and students who have withdrawn from school.”

See the trend here.


How to book a school visit to the CMHR; registration Oct. 1 to Nov. 15

Sept. 08, 2014
As the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) gets set to open its doors on September 20, it is also getting ready to receive school groups from across Manitoba and Canada.

Registration is open from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, 2014 for school programs that start January 2015. But before you pick a date or book that school bus, teachers and principals need to check with their superintendents.

Because the CMHR anticipates a high demand for school visits in its inaugural year, it created a system called FAIR SHARE to distribute the available visits fairly across the province and country, based on advice it received from educators. The CMHR has assigned a specific number of school visits for each school division based on student population for the January to June 2015 period.

Principals must let their superintendents know if they have school groups that would like to visit the Museum. The superintendent of each division will then submit a pre-approved list to the CMHR for October 1, 2014. Teachers or principals can then contact the CMHR to register for a school visit, but the museum will only accept requests if it has received a pre-approved list from your school division with your name on it.

The FAIR SHARE system will be in place until November 15; after this time any unclaimed spots will become available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The school programs will be curriculum-based, age-appropriate, inclusive, and accessible using a diverse range of exhibits, activities, and methods for exploration, the CMHR says. More information about the school programs available can be found at www.humanrights.ca/learn .


Teachers invited to try out for new MTS TV commercials

Sept. 2, 2014
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is looking for teachers who are interested in auditioning for the fall 2014 MTS TV ad. 

Teachers will be considered for both speaking and non-speaking roles. No acting experience is necessary – but teachers who are also members of ACTRA (the actor’s union) are encouraged to apply. If non-ACTRA teachers are selected, the production company will help facilitate getting you a temporary permit (as per the ACTRA Commercial contract). 

Any teacher who is interested must be available to attend a short audition Saturday, Sept. 6, during the day. And you must be available the entire day on Saturday, Sept. 13 for the shoot. Both casting and shoot locations are in Winnipeg.

If you’d like to be considered for an audition, please email your name, your school, the subjects/grades you teach, your contact information (email address and home and cell phone numbers) and a recent photo to  nextcasting@shaw.ca. Please include the phrase “MTS teacher casting” in the subject line of your email. 

The deadline is Friday, Sept. 5 at 9 a.m. A representative from Next Casting will contact you to coordinate the specific time for your audition. 

Thanks for your interest in helping to profile the important work you and your colleagues do!


MTS vice-president elected as VP for Canadian Teachers' Federation

July 10, 2014
Norm Gould, vice-president of The Manitoba Teachers' Society, was elected as a vice-president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation at its annual meeting in Winnipeg the week of July 6.

Elected to be the next president was Heather Smith, from the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association.

Cassandra Hallett DaSilva was appointed the new Secretary General for CTF beginning in 2015, until which time Calvin Fraser will continue to be the Secretary General. This appointment represents a historic landmark for CTF as it is the first time a woman has held the position in the Federation’s 94-year history.

The CTF Executive Committee for 2014-2015 is:

  • Dianne Woloschuk, President
  • Heather Smith, President-Designate
  • Norm Gould, Vice-President (The Manitoba Teachers’ Society)
  • Maureen Weinberger, Vice-President (Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario)
  • Shelley Morse, Vice-President (Nova Scotia Teachers Union)
  • H. Mark Ramsankar, Vice-President (The Alberta Teachers’ Association)

The CTF is an alliance of nearly 200,000 elementary and secondary educators from 17 organizations (15 Members, one Affiliate Member and one Associate Member), from coast to coast to coast.

Two Manitoba educators awarded national honours

July 10, 2014
Two Manitoba educators have been recognized by the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

Peter Wohlgemut, a former member of the MTS provincial executive and teacher in Altona, was given the Special Recognition Award at the CTF annual meeting in Winnipeg. Wohlgemut was at the centre of a controversy after posting a sign in his classroom that it was a safe space for LGBTT students.

"Wohlgemut's dedication to his students and refusal to back away from controversial issues is deservedly recognized with this award," the CTF said.

Receiving the award for Outstanding Aboriginal Educator was Manitoban Mary Courchene, well known in the education community as a teacher, principal, counselor, dean of Aboriginal education and elder-in-residence.

Manitoba School Boards Association offers election information

June 17, 2014
The Manitoba School Boards Association has created a section of its website dedicated to the upcoming school board elections.

The site contains a variety of information from running for office to voting for school board members.
Among the documents on the site are:

  • An overview of the role public schools and school boards play.
  • A Guide to School Boards and Trusteeship.
  • Ten Characteristics of Effective Board Members.
  • Questions for School Board Candidates.

Access the page here


Teachers help thousands of kids find the bear at Teddy Bears' Picnic

May 25, 2014
Little rain boots and soggy teddy bears stomped through the MTS tent at the 28th annual Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Assiniboine Park on May 25th.

Loud renditions of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” were performed through the day as teachers Bill Quinn and Kristine Duke took the stage and guided little hunters through tall grasses and squishy mud, in hope of “catching a big one.”

In between shows the MTS tent offered kids and parents a dry place to sit down and read from stacks of children’s books. On their way out, visitors received stickers and their free copies of Annikins books, handed out by teacher volunteers and MTS president Paul Olson.

“We come to the MTS tent every year,” said Jen who brought along her 4.5 year old son Sam. “The show is fun and we still have copies of books we received in previous years.”

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is a long-time sponsor of The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.


Young Humanitarian Award winners for 2014 announced

May 24, 2014
Compassion, drive and humility will be in the spotlight next Wednesday at the Fairmont Winnipeg as the 17th annual MTS Young Humanitarian Awards show honours eight public school students from four school divisions in Morris, Dominion City and Winnipeg.

"‎The Young Humanitarian Awards just might be the best hour of our year," says Paul Olson, President of The Manitoba Teachers' Society. "The YHAs highlight the wonderful efforts of students who choose to work hard in caring about and for others."

With a YouTube video and an ambitious plan to build a school in a developing country, Morris School’s Avery Skog launched his Brick by Brick campaign. The Grade 4 student’s goal? To sell 500 paper bricks at $20 each. “It’s just not fair” he says, “that so many kids can’t go to school”. Avery bought the first two bricks with his own money, then partnered with another school group to launch a fundraiser called “a week of change.” He has spent many hours sending emails, preparing talks and mobilizing the community to promote his cause. “At first, I wasn’t confident I could make it,” says Avery. Recently, he reached his goal of $10,000.


Clare Dodds excels at nurturing and connecting. Whether it’s packing school kits for war-affected kids in Syria, or serving meals at Siloam Mission, the Grade 7 student at École River Heights School genuinely enjoys school and community service. She is an integral part of the Butterfly Effect Club at her school and is deeply aware of the effects of poverty, marginalization and how kids are affected by world crisis. Clare loves to see people smile and doesn’t hesitate to speak up for the less fortunate.



Loizza Aquino has an educated heart and some mad digital skills. As a Grade 9 student at Henry G. Izatt Middle School, she spearheaded a $4,000 fundraising effort for a school build in Kenya, worked to raise funds for 2010 and 2013 victims of typhoons in the Philippines, and distributed Day of Pink t-shirts to Grade 4 students as a welcome to her middle school. She films and posts videos encouraging young people to talk about issues they face - and she encourages everyone to speak up for what’s right. A promoter of good digital citizenship, Loizza was granted a meeting with Education Minister James Allum to propose a student advocacy group on technology use in Manitoba schools.


Raelee Fehr is a humble soon-to-be graduate of Roseau Valley School who’s passionate about mental health. “Students with mental health issues need safe spaces,” she says, “places where they can get resources and not be judged.” Raelee coordinated the school’s Out of the Blue mental health campaign for the last two years. She’s also done humanitarian work in Ecuador, raising money herself through an after-school positionas a cashier, odd jobs and various fundraisers. This August, Raelee heads to Nicaragua.
Emotions are close to the surface when young Paige Andrusko, Kyle Mingotti, Hope Croatto and Juliana Marucci talk about theirmotivations for raising money for cancer research. They don’t want anyone to get cancer. Grade 4 students at Beaumont School.

Team Paige and Friends threw themselves into an awesome Movember campaign, making and selling colourful mustaches at lunch and raising $1,757.

Each MTS Young Humanitarian Award comes with a YHA medal, framed certificate and a monetary prize.






Almost 600 in attendance at MTS conference on technology

April 16, 2014
The MTS conference on technology opened with a packed house of almost 600 registrants from across Manitoba.

Opening keynote Steve Dembo energizing teachers with a passionate presentation on embracing the power of digital creation and the evolution of communication. Showing examples of people and classrooms presenting themselves online and the effect of having a digital identity in today's society. He said it's important to teach students to market themselves.

The Awakening Possibilities conference is trending in Canada on Twitter right now so people can follow along.

Public school teachers honoured with teaching excellence awards

April 10, 2014
Eight public school teachers have been honoured by the provincial government with Excellence in Teaching Awards.

“Teachers have dedicated their lives to educating and inspiring students,” said Education Minister James Allum. “It’s important to recognize the work they do and show appreciation for those who prepare our young people to achieve great things in life.”

This year’s recipients are:

  • Teaching excellence – early years: Andrea Maxwell, Centennial School, Sunrise School Division;
  • Teaching excellence – middle years: Jason Nadeau, McCreary School, Turtle River School Division;
  • Teaching excellence – senior years: Donald Nikkel, Lundar School, Lakeshore School Division;
  • Outstanding new teacher: Lauren Marshall, Lundar School, Lakeshore School Division;
  • Team collaboration: Angela Bowley, Jacqueline Burrough and Shelley Lowes, Birtle Collegiate, Park West School Division;
  • Outstanding school leader: Moyra Vallelly, Southwood Elementary, Garden Valley School Division.

The awards were presented at a special ceremony at the Legislative Building.  Each recipient will receive a certificate of recognition and a $500 cash award.  The recipients’ schools will also receive $500 for projects or equipment.

More information on the award winners can be found here.


MTS beginning teachers' conference to be held during SAGE week

The annual Fab 5 Conference for New Teachers will now be held in Winnipeg in conjunction with the SAGE day conference.  Fab 5 will be held in the evening of Wednesday, October 22, as well as all day Thursday, October 23.

Participants can follow up the conference with a full day of SAGE activities on Friday, October 24.

“By offering the Fab 5 Conference before SAGE, we’re really opening up more possibilities for teachers,” says Mario De Rosa, department head of Professional Issues and French Language Services at MTS. “For teachers that have to travel to Winnipeg; this schedule offers them a chance to attend both conferences in the same trip.”

Introduced in 2010, the Fab 5 Conference covers topics such as classroom management, developing safe classrooms, working with parents, technology, engagement, incorporating aboriginal teachings, wellness, and self-care.  “The Fab 5 offers more general and practical topics and more ‘big picture’ content, while the SAGE content is more subject-specific,” says De Rosa, adding that the Fab 5 conference sees around 100 teachers, and is open to however many want to attend.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society General Secretary Ken Pearce says that the Society has a long history of providing in-service support to new teachers, with the format changing as circumstances changed.

“Consolidating Fab 5 into one weekend which includes SAGE allows us to continue to offer a high calibre of in-service support for new teachers new to the profession.”


Operation Donation brings in almost 70,000 kgs of food

March 25, 2014
Students, teachers and a phalanx of TV cameras packed a room in the cavernous Winnipeg Harvest warehouse for the big reveal of this year’s Operation Donation food drive. Students from École Julie-Riel School revealed the stats one-by-one while standing behind huge yellow bins of collected food.

The final tally?

Well, Manitoba schools gathered 29,043.5 lbs. or 13,202 kg. of food. That combined with 21,968.9 lbs from Manitoba Public Insurance offices and overall matching food donations from Safeway and Peak of the Market added up to 153,037.2 lbs. or 69,562 kg. – a full 40,000 lbs. (18,144 kg.) higher than last year’s total.

Fifty-six schools around the province participated by collecting baby food, tuna, soup, canned vegetables, fruit, pasta and much more for hungry kids and families during the campaign’s collection week March 3-7.

Students and teachers from six schools were on hand for today’s weigh-in.

Amber Peterson, a teacher at Samuel Burland School, was particularly proud of her school’s Operation Donation leadership team. “They got the entire school involved. We had what was called a food feud. It was a friendly competition (between grade levels) to see who could bring in the most food, each day. And we’re here to celebrate how wonderfully these girls did.”

A student spokesperson for École Julie-Riel said “it’s difficult to understand how people in our society are hungry and living in poverty. We learned that giving to the less fortunate makes the world a better place.”

Paul Olson, President of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, said Operation Donation is a great example of the positive impact of members of a school community working together.

“Students, teachers, other school staff, parents, and community members fighting for food security achieves two things--food and supplies for those who need it most, and a learning opportunity for those same community members to seek answers to why this work is necessary at all.”

“As Manitoba teachers,” he said, “we are proud to support both.”


Teachers' federation opposes main provisions of "Fair Elections Act"

March 3, 2014
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation has called for changes to the federal government’s Fair Elections Act, saying it will do “damage to the education of students” about citizenship and democracy.

In a letter to Pierre Poilievre, minister of state for democratic reform, CTF President Diane Woloschuk says the organization has deep concerns about a number of provisions in the proposed law.

Among major concerns cited are the Bill’s provisions to remove the vouching system of voting, ending Elections Canada’s promotion of youth voting and removing the commissioner of Canada Elections from the Elections Canada office to that of the director of public prosecutions.

“Perhaps of greatest concern is the speed with which this Bill is being pushed through the Parliament,” Woloschuk says. “Democracy works best through consultation, consensus-building, and respect for diverse voices.”

The letter says Elections Canada programs that encourage youth voting are valuable.

“CTF has applauded and supported the education initiatives organized by and through Elections Canada,” she says. “Unfortunately, your Bill puts an end to this valuable outreach.”

As well, CTF says the end of the vouching system will disenfranchise many voters. Vouching entails one person vouching for the voting eligibility of another who may not have the proper identification or a permanent address.

“Canadian teachers believe that voting is a fundamental right and responsibility within a representative democracy. Any proposal to take away this right, for whatever reason, must be considered very judiciously.”
More than 120,000 voters were vouched for during the 2011 federal election.

“We are further concerned about some of the funding provisions in the Act and the removal of the Commissioner of Canada Elections from the office of the Chief Electoral Officer.

“As you know, the Chief Electoral Officer reports to Parliament while the Director of Public Prosecutions reports to the Attorney General – a cabinet post. Couple this with proposed rules limiting the public disclosure of investigations and the Canadian practice of open democracy may be severely hampered.”

A similar letter, citing the same major concerns, has also been sent to the government by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.

Sandy Bay chief wrong about teachers' concerns, says MTS president

Feb. 5, 2014
MTS President Paul Olson says the chief of the Sandy Bay First Nation is “entirely wrong” in claiming teachers at the school on the reserve are not upset about serious issues involving their pay and benefits.

He said some of the chief’s comments fell somewhere between “the surreal and the bizarre.”

Band Chief Russell Beaulieu held a news conference to respond to a move by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society (see next story) to persuade the federal Aboriginal Affairs department to put the reserve under third-party management.

The request came after more than a year and a half of discussion with Sandy Bay over pay cheques not delivered on time, cheques not for the right amount and deductions taken off cheques but not remitted to the appropriate agencies.

This has led to teachers not being able to access their pensions and some being denied disability and health benefits such as eye glasses or medications. As well, deductions taken from teachers’ cheques for such things as income tax and Canada pension have not been sent to the government.

Beaulieu admitted that benefits and contributions have not been remitted since 2012, but placed blame on the previous band administration for racking up debts of almost $20 million. As well, he said he didn’t know where the money has gone. But, he rejected any demand to put the band under third-party management.

He said that teachers at the school have not signed any petition complaining about the issues and that The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is responsible for creating a controversy.

Olson said the union, which has met and worked with the local teachers for 18 months, does not need its members to sign a petition to take action when their collective agreement has been broken. And there is no difference between the Sandy Bay Teachers’ Association and MTS.

“There is no dividing line between the two.”

Olson said if the reserve is having financial difficulties and if those are a result of a lack of education funding from the federal government, then MTS is willing to help any efforts to improve that situation.

“This would be a perfect time to put a spotlight on those issues.

The action by the union was not taken lightly and has not been taken with any joy, Olson said.

“We have agonized over this, but have come out of 19 months of promises that have been broken over and over and over again.”


Band withholds teacher pay & benefits, MTS wants third-party management

Feb. 4, 2014
For more than a year teachers at Sandy Bay First Nation have never been sure whether they will be paid on time or paid the right amount and have discovered deductions made on their cheques – from pension contributions to income tax – are not being remitted to appropriate agencies.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has been trying to resolve the situation for 18 months and will now ask the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs to appoint a third-party manager to take control of the band’s finances.

“This situation is worse than intolerable,” said MTS President Paul Olson. “We have exhausted all other options.”

The problems have been growing over the past year even as the band vowed to pay all debts and meet its obligations. The last date by which it promised to rectify the situation was Feb. 1, which passed without any change.

“Promises were broken time and time again,” Olson said, adding that the 58 teachers on the reserve have been extremely patient.

One of those teachers is Mike Beaulieu, who has taught at the reserve’s Isaac Beaulieu Memorial School (named in honour of his father) for 23 years.

He said teachers only found out about some of the problems after they tried to access benefits they thought they had paid for such as health coverage and pensions.

Teachers trying to submit claims for such things as medication were denied by insurance carriers because the band had not sent payments that had been deducted from teachers' cheques.

Three teachers who recently retired cannot access their pensions because payments had not been made by the band, even though they too had been deducted from cheques. Five teachers could not access disability payments for the same reason.

Olson says the Society has not been told why those payments or Canada Pension deductions or income tax deductions have not been passed on to the appropriate agencies.

“Teachers made the payments. Where the money went after that is anyone’s guess,” he said.

Beaulieu said he was especially disheartened since it was his father was instrumental in getting the K-12 school built.

“I am proud to be teaching in a school named after my dad,” he said. “He was the first to get MTS into the school because he wanted to ensure than Sandy Bay got quality teachers. That’s my home community. That’s the school my dad built and I don’t want to have to leave.

“Our leadership has talked about the importance of education. I believe that education is where our future lies. But what is happening at Sandy Bay is undermining that future.”

He said the problems are not confined to the teachers. Morale at the school has dropped and many of the 1,000 students are also under stress because they all know the situation and some are children of the people affected.

As well, financial problems extend beyond the teachers. The school itself has not been maintained, with teachers saying that fire alarms don’t always work, that there is often no toilet paper in the washrooms and school buses are transporting more students than is allowed by law.

Beaulieu said teachers are never given an answer when they ask about the problems.

“They are called unforeseen circumstances, but it’s never explained what those circumstances are.”

In the meantime, teachers have had to deal with financial institutions to which they are making payments or pay for medicines and eye glasses from their own pockets.

“I am not there for the money,” Beaulieu said. “But I do need money to live.”

Sandy Bay is one of two reserves where MTS represents teachers in Manitoba. It is currently under co-management, but Olson says that has not alleviated any of the problems. Indeed, they have gotten worse, leading to the call for third-party management.

According to a report on the band’s website, Sandy Bay has built up debts of almost $20 million which it is trying to repay to a wide range of suppliers from a funeral home to the Manitoba textbook bureau.

The Sandy Bay chief says in the report that he doesn't yet know why bills weren't paid by the previous administration and how the debts grew so large.


Schools' funding announcement is welcome news, says MTS president

Jan. 30, 2014
The additional $24.4 million for public schools announced today for 2014 - 2015 is welcome news for teachers, says Paul Olson, president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

“Stable funding is the lifeblood for schools, students and classrooms. This fall, we’ll enter the 15th straight year the provincial government has kept its commitment to fund Manitoba’s public schools at or above the rate of economic growth.”

“We’re also pleased to see more funds being directed to equalization for school divisions,” he says. “It helps address inequities in a funding model that relies heavily on locally levied property taxes.”

Olson says divisions can also take advantage of initiatives in the areas of quality education, career development and breakfast and lunch programs. The government has also announced changes to how grant funding is monitored, and now requires divisions to submit plans in order to access funding in these areas.

“We see this as a good balance between provincial oversight and divisional flexibility when it comes to dispersing funds.”

He says it’s now up to divisions to draft budgets that ensure students get excellent programming and teachers get the resources they need.

“Teachers are front line workers in dealing with the effects of poverty and other social determinants on children’s health and ability to learn. Adequate school funding is essential to helping our most vulnerable students."

School divisions across the province have until mid-March to finalize their budgets.

Total funding for public education announced today will increase to $1.2403 billion from $1.2159 billion.  This means overall funding has increased $469.3 million or 60.9 per cent since 1999.


Indspire to hold Indigenous career conference in Winnipeg

Indspire, a national non-profit organization that helps Aboriginal youth, will hold one of its three regional conferences in Winnipeg in March.

The Soaring Indigenous Youth Career Conference will be held March 20 at the University of Manitoba. Indspire holds three student career conferences a year in major cities across Canada.

The conference gives Indigenous high school students an opportunity to explore career opportunities in a dynamic and unique way. This high-energy, motivational, and educational day includes career workshops and tradeshow, entertainment, and giveaways for students.

More than 38,000 Indigenous participants have attending Soaring career conferences nationwide.
Indspire, started 28 years ago, is self-described as Canada’s largest Indigenous charity.
Among other accomplishments, it has provided:

  • More than $54 million in scholarship and bursaries support to 16,000 students nationally, with more than $6.2 million distributed in 2012-2013.
  • Programs that impact more than 10,000 students annually encouraging them to stay in school and providing them with valuable career advice and Indigenous role models to inspire them to reach their full potential.

For more information or to register schools and particpants visit https://indspire.ca/programs/soaring-conference/


Operation Donation school food drive begins

Jan. 9, 2014
Winnipeg Harvest’s Operation Donation school food drive launched today at Lord Nelson School in Winnipeg. Over 450 students, staff and parents participated in the assembly.

Here, members of Operation Donation’s official Goal 2020 team – all from Lord Nelson – gather in the library for pictures. Front row (l-r): Maria Villanueva, Jayda Vince, Catherine Santos, Joaquin Martinez and Jheyrus Jlagan. Back row (l-r): Luba Krosney, Lord Nelson’s principal; Lynda Richard, school programs development for Winnipeg Harvest; and  Monique Russell, Lord Nelson’s Operation Donation coordinator.

This year’s campaign runs from March 3-7.

Last year, 69 Manitoba Schools collected more than 26,000 lbs. (11,793 kg) of food in support of Winnipeg Harvest.

With the support of the Society, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), and matched in weight by donations from both Peak of Market and Canada Safeway, the total amounted to nearly 118,000 lbs. (53,523 kg).

To register your school, email events@winnipegharvest.org.



Count Me In conference makes its Winnipeg debut, registration ends soon

More than 2,000 students and educators are expected at Winnipeg’s first Count Me In Conference in February.

Teachers and schools have until the end of December to register.

The largest youth-run organization in Canada is beginning a national expansion with the addition of Winnipeg's event. Taking over the Centennial Concert Hall on Feb. 24, 2014, the single-day event will motivate over 2,000 Manitoba students in grades 7-12 to volunteer locally.

  Our team is committed to inspiring students from coast to coast in the coming years, motivating teens across the country to volunteer in their local communities," said Shane Feldman, the 18-year-old founder and executive director of Count Me In.

The conference has had three successful years in Ontario. For more information and registration details and forms visit http://bit.ly/WinnipegTeachers



Website developed to help parents see what their kids are learning

Nov. 29, 2013
The Manitoba government has unveiled a new website for parent-friendly curricula to help parents help their children thrive in school, Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum announced today.

The new website (www.manitoba.ca/mychildinschool) will give parents information about what their children are learning in compulsory subject areas such as English language arts, mathematics and science. It’s organized by grade and each compulsory subject area features information about what students are learning, how they can demonstrate that learning and what resources may be available to support learning.

“We are pleased to learn about the continued supports being created by the Manitoba government to engage parents in their children’s education,” said Manitoba Association of Parent Councils executive director Naomi Kruse.  “We encourage all opportunities to develop meaningful conversations between parents and educators,. and look forward to sharing this website with our membership.”

“Tools and resources that help teachers and parents to better communicate about student needs are always welcome.  We look forward to seeing how the website will develop and support better learning through better communication," said Paul Olson,  President, Manitoba Teachers' Society.

The minister noted curriculum information on kindergarten to Grade 4 is now available on the website, with information on grades 5 through 12 expected to be posted in the coming year.


New curricula, renewed focus on graduation rates part of throne speech

Nov. 12, 2013
Some new education and training initiatives were outlined in the provincial government’s Speech from the Throne, delivered Nov. 12.

Education highlights included what the government promised would be:

  • Better and streamlined tax credits for employers to take on more apprentices, and new tools to help match apprentices with job openings.
  • A new grant program for young entrepreneurs in technology-based startups and access to better resources for young people in skilled trades wanting to start their own business.
  • Expanded co-op and workplace credit options for high school students and upgrades to more shop classes so students can gain practical experience.
  • New schools for growing neighbourhoods including a new school in north Winnipeg and a major new investment in Frontier Collegiate Institute in Cranberry Portage.
  • A new language arts curriculum to improve reading and communication skills for all students, new French as a first language and French immersion curricula, and a renewed focus on improving high school graduation rates in Aboriginal communities.


Conference Board report urges nutrition education in schools

Oct. 31, 2013
Children need to learn more than how to read and write at school—they should also be learning about a healthy diet, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.

Incorporating education about nutrition into Canadian school programs, at least up to a Grade 6 level, is one of the recommendations from the report published by the Centre for Food in Canada, What’s to Eat? Improving Food Literacy in Canada.

“Nutrition education for children is especially important as a positive influence on their
food-related knowledge and skills, eating and physical activity behaviours, and health status," said Alison Howard, Principal Research Associate. “This is the prime time to teach them behaviours that will have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.”

Food nutrition education efforts and school nutrition programs are most effective when paired together, as outlined in a previous Centre for Food in Canada report, Enough for All: Household Food Security in Canada.

Food literacy can be broadly defined as an individual’s food-related knowledge, attitudes, and skills. These factors influence food-related decisions and behaviours.

Food literacy refers to the ability of people to: select and purchase nutritious foods and meals, safely store and prepare food, interpret food labels and claims, and plan and budget for meals. Although most Canadians have a fairly good basic knowledge of food, nutrition, and health, they often do not put that knowledge to use.

The report highlights successful programs, such as Health Canada's popular Canada's Food Guide, school meal programs, and partnerships among the public sector, private enterprises and not-for-profit organizations.

Along with incorporating food literacy into school curricula, the report makes six additional recommendations:

  • Make nutritional information more effective, understandable and accessible for household use.
  • Tailor food literacy programs to high-risk populations and community needs, such as Aboriginal peoples and recent immigrants.
  • Foster parental involvement in hands-on experiential opportunities to develop food literacy.
  • Create guiding principles for children’s advertising as it relates to nutrition.
  • Replicate highly successful international food literacy programs, such as the Food Dudes in the United Kingdom and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation in Australia.
  • Track, study and evaluate food literacy initiatives.

This report is one of 20 being produced by the Centre for Food in Canada. Since 2010, the Centre has been engaging stakeholders from business, government, academia, associations, and communities in creating a Canadian Food Strategy —one that will meet the country’s need for a coordinated, long-term strategy on industry prosperity, healthy and safe food, household food security, and environmental sustainability. The strategy will be launched at the third Canadian Food Summit in March, 2014.


Teachers' federation looking for students' work on human rights

Oct. 29, 2013
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation is spearheading a project to encourage students to write lyrics and poems about human rights.

It is hoping teachers persuade students to submit music videos or spoken word videos.

They will be showcased on the website for the program Imagineaction and included in the 2014 CTF’s President’s Forum on Equity and Social Justice, in Winnipeg next July. That event is expected to bring together teacher organizations, educators and human rights activists from across the country.

These creative productions aim to celebrate the voice of youth and to highlight the pivotal role that education plays in the promotion of human rights.

CTF has developed K-12 lesson plans to introduce the concept of Rights and Articles of the UN Declaration, and to stimulate students’ creativity in the writing of lyric and poems.

Teachers must submit students’ final video productions before April 1, 2014.

More information can be found at the website http://www.imagine-action.ca/


MTS welcomes James Allum as new education minister

Oct. 18, 2013
James Allum has been appointed as Minister of Education replacing Nancy Allan who held that position since 2009.

“It has been a pleasure working with Minister Allan these last four years.  She has been a staunch defender of public education and a strong supporter of Manitoba's students and teachers alike,” said MTS president Paul Olson.  “I can only wish her the very best in her future endeavours, and extend the thanks of Manitoba's teachers for her years of hard work.”

Former MTS executive member Erna Braun was named labour minister (see next story).

James Allum was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature as the MLA for Fort Garry-Riverview in the 2011 provincial election. Prior to becoming an MLA Allum held a variety of positions with the City of Winnipeg including Environmental Coordinator and Senior Consultant in Strategic Management. His last post was Manager of Aboriginal Initiatives.

Allum has also taught part-time in the department of history at the University of Winnipeg and served as a chair of the Manitoba Heritage Council. In 2008 he was named chair of the Council on Post-secondary Education for the province.

“I am very pleased to welcome the appointment of Minister James Allum,” said Olson.  “The Teachers' Society has worked in co-operation with a number of excellent and supportive Ministers of Education, and we look forward to continuing that tradition of working together on behalf of Manitoba's students.  The Education portfolio is clearly a very demanding one, and we will do all we can to support the Minister in his work.”

During the debate on Bill 18, The Safe and Inclusive Schools Act, Allum said, “as a parent of three children who have gone through Manitoba’s public school system, I know how critical it is that our schools are safe, caring and accepting places where all children feel respected. No child can learn when they are being bullied. Moreover, every child who is bullied is robbed of the self-confidence and self-esteem they need to grow as people and realize their own individual potential.”

Former MTS executive member and WTA president new labour minister

Oct. 18, 2013
Erna Braun, a former member of the MTS provincial executive has been named provincial minister of labour and immigration.

A teacher for 34 years, Braun was elected in Rossmere in 2007.

She served on the executives of the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association and the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. She was president of the WTA from 1989-1990 and from 2005-2007.

She received both a Bachelor of Home Economics and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Manitoba. She has taught Home Economics, Child Development, Family Studies and Nutrition. Her last teaching assignment was at the Adolescent Parent Centre, an alternative program by which young mothers are able to complete their high school education.


Minister proclaims new anti-bullying law to protect students

Oct. 10, 2013
The controversial legislation to protect Manitoba students from all forms of bullying is now law.

Education Minister Nancy Allan made the proclamation announcement while talking with students at Kelvin High School’s gay-straight alliance.

Bill 18 Becomes Law - October 10, 2013 - Winnipeg, Manitoba from ChrisD.ca on Vimeo.

“Every parent knows the impact that bullying can have on their children and their ability to learn," she said. "In recent years, the face of bullying has changed so much with the spread of cellphones and social media, and parents expect action.”

Paul Olson, president of The Manitoba Teachers' Society, which has been a strong supporter of the legislation, said it will make schools safer and more inclusive.

“While great work is already going on in many Manitoba schools and school divisions, the proclamation of Bill 18 and the requirements it puts in place will strengthen and expand that work throughout the province," he said.  "This sends a clear message that all have the right to teach and learn in schools that are as inclusive and supportive as we can make them."

Under Bill 18, schools in Manitoba will be required to:

  • report and act on cyberbullying incidents even if they take place outside of school or after-hours;
  • expand policies related to the appropriate use of the Internet in schools to include social media, text messaging and instant messaging;
  • accommodate students who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that fight all forms of bullying, and accommodate any student-led groups that want to use the name gay‑straight alliance or any other name consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all students; and
  • establish respect for human diversity policies that are consistent with the principles of the Manitoba Human Rights Code and create a safe and inclusive learning environment that is accepting of all students.

To support schools with developing diversity policies, the province will hold seminars with school administrators this fall.  The province is also partnering with the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust to develop resource kits for teachers and schools to assist and support students who want to form gay-straight alliances in their schools. The province will also provide training for teachers and other staff about bullying prevention and strategies for promoting respect for human diversity and a positive learning environment, the minister said.

In addition, the province is requesting that Appropriate Use of the Internet and Human Diversity policies be in place in all school divisions and funded independent schools by June 30, 2014. 

MTS speaks in support of changes to The Teachers' Society Act

Oct. 7, 2013
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has voiced its approval of changes to The Teachers’ Society Act that will strengthen the organization’s disciplinary process.

MTS General Secretary Ken Pearce told a legislative committee that the amendments are those requested by delegates voting at the last Annual General Meeting.

The amendments increase the possible penalties for teachers who breach the MTS Code of Professional Conduct.

“MTS takes its responsibility to monitor the conduct of our members very seriously,” Pearce said. “A member’s professional behaviour must reflect the spirit as well as the letter of the Code. This Bill strengthens The Manitoba Teachers’ Society’s internal discipline process for teachers.”

The changes were recommended by the Society because current penalties – admonishment, censure or a recommendation to the government to revoke a teachers’ certificate – did not provide enough options.

Read the complete presentation

The MTS Review Committee, which examines possible breaches of the Code, will now be able to impose sanctions including suspension of MTS membership, termination of members or a fine. Teachers who are disciplined may also be required to pay up to $5,000 in costs.

Pearce told the committee that only rarely does the review committee have to adjudicate charges against members.

Most complaints are resolved by the general secretary before it reaches the hearing stage.

Province, Museum for Human Rights sign agreement on education

Oct. 1, 2013
An agreement signed today between Manitoba Education and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) marks the only official partnership in Canada between a provincial education department and a national museum.

MTS President Paul Olson, at the signing held in The Manitoba Teachers' Society classrooms at the museum, said the agreement is good news.

"It only makes sense to have a formal partnership between the CMHR and the Department of Education.  Both are dedicated to education in the broadest sense, and both have responsibilities to support and promote human rights education in schools."

Education Minister Nancy Allan said the partnership will further "enhance the work our government is doing to protect and promote human rights in our schools through legislation such as Bill 18. It is an important expression of our shared vision to turn this city and province into a national centre of excellence in human rights learning and research.”

CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) is a signal to educators in Manitoba and beyond that the museum has the provincial government’s seal of approval as a valuable educational resource.

The agreement formalizes collaboration that has already been underway for several years. This has included:

  • Secondment of a senior educational consultant from the province to the Museum in the early development phases.
  • A lead role by the province in facilitating Museum consultation with provincial and territorial social studies curriculum consultants from across Canada – a rare opportunity for educational collaboration across provincial boundaries.
  • Sharing expertise on development of CMHR and school-based human rights programs for students and teachers.
  • Ensuring direct linkages between Museum education programs and Manitoba school curriculum.
  • Facilitating communication regarding the progress and development of the Museum and Museum programming to Manitoba teachers.


153 new teachers hired under class-size initiative

Sept. 10, 2013
Manitoba’s Premier Greg Selinger announced the hiring of an additional 70 teachers, this morning, bringing the total number of teachers hired through the Province’s small class size initiative to 153 so far this year.

“Smaller class sizes make a real difference in students’ ability to learn,” said the Premier at packed presser at École Assiniboine School – a K-5 immersion school in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division. “Smaller classes allow teachers to individualize instruction and provide better support to students who need it.”

Society President Paul Olson said the announcement was the latest progress report in a key initiative that Manitoba teachers flagged as a priority.

"Our members and the public both told us that smaller classes were a top priority. The government is making good on their election commitment to Manitobans."

The Selinger government recently announced $4 million in additional funds to hire teachers. That brings this year’s financial commitment to the initiative to $7 million.

See the complete Manitoba government release here.


Landmark Elementary School recognized by national sustainability program

Sept. 09, 2013
Landmark Elementary School was one of seven schools in Canada recognized under the Learning for Sustainable Future Award for Youth Action in Sustainability.

It was one of four schools receiving honourable mention of 120 school projects submitted for awards.
Students from Landmark completed their ‘Grow to Give’ project this year.

They worked with community volunteers to build a greenhouse on their school grounds.

Then, they created two solar panels out of 544 repurposed pop cans to charge the greenhouse batteries and keep the greenhouse ‘off the grid’.

See an article on creation of the solar panels, written by two Grade 4 students

They have also installed two composters in the schoolyard and a rain barrel which they will connect to the school eaves troughs so they can use rainwater to water their plants.

All 233 students at Landmark Elementary School are growing plants from seed in the greenhouse.

It's not the first time the school has been cited for its sustainability efforts. Manitoba Education also recognized the school, and Landmark Collegiate, for efforts under its Education for Sustainable Development program.

Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) established the LSF Jack Layton Award for Youth Action in Sustainability to honour Jack Layton’s passion for optimism and hope in creating a more sustainable future.

Recipients of the LSF Jack Layton Award for Youth Action in Sustainability have responded to community challenges with creativity, responsible citizenship and innovative action. The Winning school receives $500, and Runner-Ups receive $250 towards a sustainability-related action project.

Apply for the LSF Jack Layton Award for Youth Action in Sustainability or nominate a school for the Award. Applications will be accepted in Spring 2014.


MLA gives statement on the contributions of Manitoba teachers



Sept. 4, 2013
On September 4, 2013, the first day of a new school year for many Manitoba students, Sharon Blady, the MLA for Kirkfield Park, rose in the Legislature to acknowledge the enormous contribution of Manitoba  teachers.

MTS President Paul Olson was in the Legislature to hear her remarks and posed with Ms. Blady afterwards with a copy of her Member’s Statement.

Blady, the mother of two students, also acknowledged the work of The Manitoba Teachers' Society in promoting public education in the province.

The full text of Blady's statement can be found here.



MTS speaks in favour of Bill 18, the province's new anti-bullying legislation

Sept. 4, 2013
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society expressed its support of the province’s anti-bullying bill during legislative committee hearings Sept. 3, saying the law is long overdue and could even be stronger.

MTS President Paul Olson said the bill is necessary to ensure that all students feel included in all schools. And not only does the Society support the bill, Olson said it feels that it could be even stronger.

The legislation mandates that schools allow creation of Gay-Straight Alliances within schools at the request of students. Olson said the onus should be on schools to create them, not on individual students.

MTS support for the legislation has been well-publicized here, here and here.


Teachers' Society joins with other unions at Labour Day picnic

Sept. 2, 2013
Winnipeg can be a bit of a ghost town on Labour Day. But a couple of thousand people had an absolute blast at the Winnipeg Labour Council’s first Labour Day picnic at Vimy Ridge Park, yesterday.

It’s the first time labour groups in Manitoba had organized an event in 15 years, and every indication pointed to success.

Sunny skies, balloons, a bouncy castle, children’s entertainer Jacques (Jake) Chenier - and 2,000 free hot dogs - were all part of the two-hour afternoon outdoor party.

Unions representing just about every sector of Manitoba workers were involved. Manitoba Teachers’ Society President Paul Olson and CUPE National President Paul Moist sent video greeting to teachers and workers across the province. See the video here

The Society supported the event and flew its banner in the park.


MTS to make presentation on anti-bullying legislation, Bill 18

Aug. 30, 2013
On Sept. 3, MTS President Paul Olson will be at the Manitoba Legislature speaking in support of Bill 18, the government’s anti-bullying legislation.

As part of the recent deal made between the government and the opposition, legislative hearings on the Safe and Inclusive Schools Bill will begin Tuesday evening at 6 pm and carry on for nearly two weeks to hear from more than 300 Manitobans who have registered to speak.

The amendments to The Public Schools Act contained in Bill 18 will help ensure a safe and inclusive learning environment so all students feel protected and accepted. The changes will give teachers, principals and school divisions additional tools to ensure schools are safer. In addition, the Bill recognizes what every modern parent already knows—a text, an email, a cellphone picture or a Facebook posting can and does inflict harm and could be considered bullying. This all-encompassing definition of bullying is similar to legislation already in place in other provinces.

The most controversial aspect of the Bill is the requirement for schools to set up Gay-Straight Alliances if requested.  GSAs are designed to provide a safe space for all students to meet, socialize and support one another as they discuss their feelings and experiences related to sexual orientation and gender issues.

All MTS members are invited to show their support for Bill 18 and the presentation being made by MTS by coming to the Legislature, Room 255, at 6 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 3.


MTS speaks in favour of Bill 20, legislation to increase the PST

July 5, 2013
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has come out in support of Bill 20, the legislation that would increase the provincial sales tax by one percentage point.

In a presentation to the legislative committee studying the bill, MTS Vice-President Norm Gould said it is unusual for the Society to take a stance.

“The Teachers’ Society would typically have no position as such on the advisability of raising or lowering the PST,” he said. “I am here today speaking in support of Bill 20 because we have seen the havoc created in public schools when a government is hell bent on balancing a budget without regard to making public services like health and education a priority.”

The presentation came the same day provincial Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said he would cut public spending across the board by one per cent, about $120 million. He also said he would undertake other targeted spending cuts, including what he described as a "chill" on hiring.

“Governments make tough choices about revenues and expenditures all the time,” he said. “Our experience as teachers is that when governments choose to reduce supports and services for education, there is a direct, material impact on student welfare and learning.

Read the complete presentation

“Investment in a public good like public education is not governed by the same rules as deciding whether you can afford dinner out. Public health care and public education are not the same as a trip to Hawaii. Austerity works on luxury items, not on basics.”

The presentation pointed out the chaotic impact cuts in the 1990s had on public education.

“With less money coming from the province, more of it had to come from local communities,” he said. “In those communities without the tax base or the political will to raise the revenues that were needed, opportunities and program for students were cut.

“Art, music and athletic programs were cut. Guidance counsellors and librarians were cut. More than 700 teaching positions were lost. Class sizes grew and textbooks and other supplies were rationed.”

Gould said the education system is still recovering from that period.

“It takes many years for public schools to overcome a decade of short-sighted decisions made under the pretext of balancing the provincial budget.”

Code of Conduct linked to bullying to be developed by province

July 2, 2013
A new provincial code of conduct will be developed that will set out a range of appropriate disciplinary consequences that all schools will be required to follow that will also provide schools with more tools to address bullying in a clear and consistent way, Education Minister Nancy Allan has announced.

“Our government was a leader in bringing in anti-bullying legislation and establishing a Safe Schools Charter and codes of conduct for all schools in 2004.  As part of our anti-bullying action plan, we are continuing to take steps to ensure there are strong consequences for bullying and that teachers and principals have the support they need,” Allan said.

MTS President Paul Olson said the announcement is welcomed.

“Teachers are always working for better learning in safer schools," he said.  "This code could be an important step toward having both useful guidelines and a clear message of support for the work Manitoba teachers do every day."

The new provincial code will be developed in partnership with the provincial oversight committee comprising teachers, superintendents, parents, trustees and school business officials from public and private schools in consultation with the province’s Safe Schools Advisory Committee, said Allan, adding  it will also provide guidance to principals and teachers on how to respond to incidents of bullying or cyberbullying that affect a student’s ability to learn in school and outside of school hours. 

The minister also announced passage of a new regulation that will require all schools to follow the new provincial code of conduct in the next school year. 

“Building on the good work the oversight committee did in helping draft the new provincial report card and has been doing to implement our government’s smaller classes initiative, I look forward to working with them to ensure we have the strongest anti-bullying legislation in Canada,” said Allan.

The new provincial code of conduct builds on recent provincial work to ensure safe and inclusive schools including:

“We know that students can’t learn when they feel marginalized, humiliated or intimidated.   We want all of our students to feel safe.  And we want bullies to know there are real consequences for their actions,” said Allan.


Senate effectively blocks anti-union legislation, Bill C-377, for now

June 26, 2013
The Senate has blocked for now an anti-union law that would have forced unions to make public financial disclosures that other organizations and corporations do not have to do.

The legislation, Bill C-377, was effectively blocked when the Conservative-dominated Senate voted in favour of amending the bill, removing some of the more contentious provisions.

The amended bill will now have to return to the House of Commons for a vote. The House has recessed until the fall.

Amendments were brought forward by Conservative Hugh Segal and passed 49-33. More than a dozen Conservatives supported the amendments. The government had supported the original bill.

During Senate hearings on the legislation, numerous organizations said the consequences of the bill would be far reaching, not just for unions but many other organizations and individuals.

For example, under Bill C-377 all unions, of any size, would have to disclose every payment they make to anyone worth more than $5,000. The names of all employees who make more than $100,000 would have to be made public.

The amendments changed the salary level to $444,661 and the payment disclosure to $150,000. They also exempt union locals and unions with fewer than 50,000 members.

For other stories on the bill, see our Union Watch section.


Province announces renovations to accommodate smaller class sizes

June 19, 2013
The Manitoba government is moving forward to reduce kindergarten to Grade 3 class sizes with the first phase of its infrastructure plan to add additional classrooms across the province, Premier Greg Selinger announced today.

The premier announced an investment of over $15 million to renovate or build 28 classrooms in six school divisions across the province through the Manitoba Building and Renewal Plan.  

“By building or renovating these classrooms, we are providing students with more individual time with their teachers to help them improve their reading, writing and math skills,” said Education Minister Nancy Allan. 

The province is in its second year of moving forward with smaller class sizes and recently announced an additional $4 million to hire teachers across Manitoba.  This brings the total provincial funding for smaller class sizes to $7 million in 2013-14. 

In the first year of the initiative, 83 additional new teachers were hired across 31 school divisions.  The premier said all of them are having a direct impact on class size that has resulted in more than a 20 per cent reduction in large kindergarten to Grade 3 classes that had 24 or more students.

“Our investment in smaller class sizes will improve the quality of our education system by allowing students more one-on-one time with their teachers, which in turn will build a strong foundation for future learning and help students achieve academic success,” said Selinger.


Block funding model for special needs students abandoned

By Paul Olson
MTS President

May 27, 2013
Three years ago, Seven Oaks School Division and Manitoba Education began a three year pilot of a "formula based" or "block" funding model for Level 2 Special Needs students.  In brief, it was a model that allocated funding based on history and trends, rather than individual applications.

And it has been brief. The province has said it will return to the previous model.

It was commendable in theory.  More time with kids, and less time on paperwork.  More teacher time, and less reliance on EAs.

I still remember the first time the President and Vice President of SOTA discussed the pilot at an MTS meeting.  They were cautiously optimistic, but a lack of meaningful consultation prior to implementation left them with more questions than answers.

SOTA leadership soon raised the alarm.  Their members were talking to them about resources having diminished or disappeared.  Teachers were expressing grave concerns about their ability to meet their professional and legal obligations, and I spoke with more than one member who was shaking and crying with the stress of their lived professional reality.  The gap between theory and reality took a heavy toll.

Many meetings have been held over the last three years.  Surveys, focus groups, and large sample polling were conducted by both SOSD and MTS. All results were consistent:  while some "positives" were voiced by some members, there was nothing like the level of positive response needed to support a continuation or expansion of the new model.

Government has committed to working with the division to transition back to the application-based funding model, even as MTS has committed to working with government to discuss ways to improve special needs funding in general.

Governments and school boards should, in collaboration with teachers, question the status quo, try new ideas if they seem reasonable, and find ways to do better by our students.  Teachers do this all the time, and such innovation needs to be considered not just at the classroom or the school level, but system-wide.  But it must be done prudently, as our students' and members' welfare is depending on it.

Not every new idea can be a winner.  We greatly improve our chances, however, when teacher voice is at the planning table from day one.  We work on the front lines, we look into our students' eyes every day, and we know the impact we have -- or are prevented from having.

We all owe gratitude to our members in Seven Oaks for raising a red flag.  Thank you.


Manitoba’s young humanitarians to be honoured Wednesday, May 22nd

May 16, 2013
When the spotlight’s turned on at the Fairmont Winnipeg next Wednesday night, 20 public school students will share their inspiring stories of how they reached out to their classmates and communities to share their compassion, courage and passion for social justice at the 16th annual MTS Young Humanitarian Awards.

See the line-up for awards night

“We are thrilled to highlight these exceptional young humanitarians,” says Paul Olson, President of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “It has always taken courage to care. We commend their parents, teachers and everyone else who’s had a hand in shaping their hearts and characters.”

At five years old, Jaron Johnston of Carman Elementary School is one of the youngest MTS Young Humanitarian Award winners ever. “Where do people with no houses sleep?” asked the kindergartener one cold February night. His mom’s answer inspired him to collect “maybe even 100” blankets by the end of March for people who live in shelters and on the street. Jaron delivered those blankets to appreciative patrons of Siloam Mission and Devoted to You Street Ministries. He’s now working on a second batch.

When Mara Pinlac learned that Dane, one of her Grade 4 classmates, had leukemia, she knew compassion was not enough. She spent the next two years making jewelry to raise funds for Dane and others through the Children’s Wish Foundation. Now a Grade 6 student at Oakenwald School in Pembina Trails School Division, Mara speaks passionately about raising money for kids with cancer. She wants their lives to be filled with love and hope.

Shania Sveinson, of Gimli High School doesn’t draw attention to herself, but working with the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC) she’s been a huge influence in establishing Gimli as a Fair-Trade-certified town. She’s also worked on Make Wake, for protecting the health of Lake Winnipeg; Eating Lower on the Food Chain; the Provincial Envirothon; the Gimli Film Festival and Matlock Music festival.

Fort Richmond Collegiate’s Free the Children Club, may have only 12 members, but they have worked hard for an incredible number of worthwhile causes this year. This self-directed student group has raised money and community-consciousness about the need for clean drinking water here and abroad, collected over 1,000 food items for Winnipeg Harvest, donated more than 300 pairs of jeans to homeless youth, collected toys for disadvantaged children and held a community craft sale which raised $1,700.

They’ve organized jewelry and bake sales, put caution signs around drinking fountains, painted murals and organized fund- and consciousness-raising activities very regularly throughout the entire school year - all to benefit their school and community projects.

Five Teulon Collegiate Students have a vision and a passion to highlight issues affecting First Nations communities in Manitoba. They set out to visit as many schools as they could to be positive role models, raise awareness of water issues on reserves, provide cultural opportunities to non-aboriginal people – and even provide a little entertainment. So many students, teachers, and staff members have been touched by their presentations.


Each award comes with a YHA medal, framed certificate and $1,000. For more information on the 2013 Young Humanitarian Awards, go here.


MTS president urges teachers to attend rally in support of anti-bullying law

May 10, 2013
MTS President Paul Olson has called on teachers to join in a rally at the Legislature May 16 in support of Bill 18, the province's new anti-bullying law.

"It is very important that strong public support be voiced by one and all for the protections envisioned by Bill 18," he said in a letter to association presidents. "It is time for teachers and their allies to send a clear, strong message."

The complete letter follows:

May 10, 2013
Dear colleagues:
The purpose of this letter is to ask for your personal and collective support. Your voice and your presence are needed.

The International Day Against Homophobia is typically observed on May 17th. This year, however, The Rainbow Resource Centre is organizing an IDAH Rally at the Legislature on Thursday, May 16th at 4:30 pm., with particular attention being accorded Manitoba's Bill 18.

The RRC works extensively to provide education and advocacy for all Manitobans on LGBTQ* issues. They've been instrumental in providing professional development and resources to teachers throughout Manitoba. Their work helps create safer schools for all.

Bill 18 is an amendment to the Public Schools Act intended to strengthen protections for students from bullying. It has received significant media attention, and no small measure of opposition because it specifically provides protections against bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The RRC will have speakers at the rally on bullying and LGBTQ issues, and Education Minister Nancy Allan is scheduled to speak at 5:30 pm regarding safe schools and Bill 18.

The MTS Provincial Executive voted unanimously to have me send a letter to the Minister in support of the draft legislation. I have rarely been so proud to sign a letter on behalf of all our members. Similar endorsements were also sent to the Minister from many of the education partners in Manitoba.

MTS will take part in the formal legislative committee hearings some time later this year, and indeed would encourage all members to make submissions to the committee.

Besides the formal presentations, however, it is also vital that a strong show of support for this legislation be shown by the entire educational community, and all those who support safe schools. It's important that all Manitobans both show and see strong support for this initiative to better protect our students.

While teaching demands a great many solitary hours of work, it also demands that we stand together for our students and colleagues who too often have to stand alone.

I will be at the rally in support of Bill 18. So will many members of your Provincial Executive, Teacher Association Presidents, and their families and colleagues. While I fully appreciate that this is short notice and that time and distance will make it impossible for many to attend, I would hereby ask that you stand with us.

Yours in solidarity,
Paul Olson


Teachers need more resources to teach human rights, says survey

Teachers across the country have identified a need for more human rights tools and resources – especially when teaching younger children.

That’s one of the findings of a national survey by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

Just over 90 per cent of respondents said teachers place high value on human rights education, even though they already feel pressured by high expectations in a demanding curriculum.

And 94 per cent said it was important for them to acquire more knowledge and skills around age-appropriate methods for teaching about human rights.

“There are not enough resources to use to teach students about human rights, especially at the primary level, which is where we need to start before bias sets in,” said one respondent.

Teachers also said they need help with strategies for addressing student concerns about human rights, as well as resources for teaching about current human rights issues in Canada.

“These survey results confirm a very strong desire by teachers to acquire more tools and skills to help students learn the value of human rights,” said CTF President Paul Taillefer.

Speaking at the news conference at École St. Avila, CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray said the museum will help fill human-rights education gaps – not only through its own content when it opens next year as a national educational hub, but through strong partnerships with educators at all levels.

As a first step, the CMHR and CTF are working to create the first national human rights toolkit for teachers, creating an unprecedented searchable database of reliable K-12 educational resources on human rights.

At École St. Avila in the Pembina Trails School Division, students have been studying human rights and participating in an exchange program with a school in China. In a recent project, they created silk-screened works of art under the guidance of local artist Karen Cornelius, incorporating images of themselves with their writing about the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

“It’s not enough to tell students to be nice, sing a song together and pretend you’ve taught them about human rights,” said Principal Gordon Campbell. “It’s important for them to understand that there are no simple answers, but we can make a difference by taking a stand for what we believe in. Teachers need resources to help them deliver human-rights lessons in meaningful ways for children at various ages.”

The CTF-CMHR online survey received responses from 2,585 teachers across the country, including a high level of participation from Manitoba teachers. According to the survey, most schools offer human-rights education, but over 40 per cent of teachers cited insufficient resources to support teaching human rights. Teachers also indicated a strong desire for access to speakers with personal human-rights stories. A summary of results can be found on the CTF Web site at www.ctf-fce.ca .


More must be done to counter anti-union efforts, growing inequality: McQuaig

May 6, 2013
By George Stephenson
Inequality in society will continue to grow unless progressives take back the conversation on taxes, economic growth and the common good, says author, columnist and activist Linda McQuaig.

In a speech kicking off the national conference of the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education in Winnipeg, she said conservatives – politicians and corporations – have dominated the public debate.

For the past 30 years, those in the top one per cent of income earners have been getting a larger and larger share of national income while average workers have seen their shares diminish.

“We progressives have been afraid to talk about higher taxes on the rich,” she told the 300 delegates at the conference, partly sponsored by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “We let the right take over the conversation.”

Since 1980, the right has managed to get governments to cut taxes for the rich and corporations. As one example, she pointed to the elimination of the Canadian inheritance tax in the 1970s.

If that tax was reinstituted today and only taxed inheritances of $1.5 million, the revenue could be used to create a trust fund that would ensure every child in Canada receive $16,000 for post-secondary education, she said. As it is now, we reward people who have done little or nothing except being born into the right family, while heavily taxing those who do.

“We never hear that debate because progressives are afraid to push for it,” she said. “We should unabashedly say it is about redistribution; take from the winners in the ovarian lottery to ensure every young Canadian can get an education.”

McQuaig acknowledged there would be a loud clamor, enhanced by the media, against such a move. The rich and corporations would call it an economic catastrophe and they would threaten to leave the country.

The response to that should be: have a nice trip, she said, pointing out that such threats have always been more thunder than light.

“What, are they going to take the oil and the forests and the banks with them?”

McQuaig emphasized that the problem of inequity is not just about money, nor envy directed at the rich, but about the well-being of most people specifically and the world in general. The rich have not just gained overwhelming economic power, but with that has come social and political power, as well. Using money has given them the power to influence public policy, to dictate operations of institutions such as universities and to have laws enacted to fulfill their agendas.

“Today’s corporate kings have the power to destroy the planet,” she said, pointing to the efforts made by the energy industry to block any meaningful action on climate change. “The potential impacts of inequality are absolutely catastrophic.”

For example, the rich can support universities through donations and, in many cases, dictate how those universities operate.
In Toronto one donation to a department at the University of Toronto, mandated that the front door of the school would be reserved for senior faculty and guests while junior staff and students would be “required to enter by the back door.”

“That is a repulsive vision that smacks of elitism and privilege. It doesn’t have to be that way."

When philanthropy and private funding replaces public funding through taxes, then the rich make the decisions, she said.

“If you collect money through taxes, then the public makes the decisions and that is the essence of democracy.”

McQuaig countered many of the modern arguments about compensation and inequality and taxes that are heard.

She noted that before 1980, there were much higher taxes on the rich and on corporations. The middle-class was doing better and the economy was growing. Everyone was doing well. As she said, “the benefits of capitalism were much wider spread through society.”

Indeed, conservatives themselves had a much stronger belief in the common good, not just a belief in enhancing the gains of a privileged few. Before 1980 average incomes doubled every 25 years. It was “the Golden Age of Capitalism.”

Since then, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. Before that, corporate CEOs earned 25 times what the average worker earned. Now, they haul in 250 times what the average worker earns.

McQuaig pointed out one hedge fund manager, who made a killing on the economic collapse, who earns 82,000 times what the average worker gets, the equivalent of one person earning the same as 82,000 nurses combined.

“In what moral universe is that hedge fund manager worth 82,000 nurses? In what moral universe is that hedge fund manager worth one nurse?”

These are the types of inequities, along with the attack on unions, that progressives must be loudly condemning, she said.
“Canadians are ready to move beyond this neo-conservative agenda,” she said. “The ground is shifting.

“It’s time we demanded this be a country where everyone enters by the front door.”


Canada second behind Finland in education and skills, says study

Canada is second only to Finland in education and skills among 16 developed nations, says the Conference Board of Canada.

In a report card covering a wide-range of criteria, Canada and Finland were the only two countries to be given an A for education and skills.

While the results of the study were released last month, they were roundly ignored by the media.

The board says that Canada’s strength is delivering high-quality education with comparatively modest spending.

“While Canadians are at school, they become well educated (for the most part) in core subjects like mathematics, reading, and science,” it says. “Canada now has the second-highest rate of high school completion and the highest rate of college completion among its peers.”

Canada ranked highly in what the board called equity in learning outcomes.

In other words, there was less of a gap between students in disadvantaged schools and least disadvantaged schools.

Among a few weaknesses cited, the board said Canada needs to improve workplace skills training and lifelong education.

“Canada’s adult literacy skills are mediocre, with a large proportion of adults lacking the literacy skills necessary to function in the workplace. Canada gets a “C” and ranks 10th out of 15 peer countries on the indicator measuring adult participation in job-related non-formal education.”

See the full report.


CTF president says teachers insulted, upset by Tory attack ads

April 26, 2013
The president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation says teachers are angry about federal Tory attack ads that question the value of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's background as an educator.

Paul Taillefer told the Ottawa Citizen that the ads are an unwarranted attack on the profession and much like the kind of bullying schools are trying to eliminate.

“People are very insulted that their profession was targeted in that way,” said Paul Taillefer, president of the federation, a national organization representing about 200,000 teachers. (Taillefer is also a former Liberal candidate who ran unsuccessfully in the 2008 federal election.)

“To say that it is not a worthwhile profession and the skills you garner in a teaching career don’t really count for anything, well, people are pretty upset about that.”
Read the complete story in the Ottawa Citizen

Excellence in Teaching awards given to six Manitoba public school teachers

Six Manitoba public school teachers have received Excellence in Teaching awards from the provincial government.

The award announcement by Education Minister Nancy Allan was part of Education Week.

"This year's recipients are well-deserving of this honour," said Allan.  "I am pleased to recognize each winner's commitment to their students, school and profession.  They exemplify outstanding teaching and professionalism within and outside the classroom."

This year's public school recipients were:

The awards were presented today at a special ceremony at the Legislative Building.  Each recipient receives a certificate of recognition and a $500 cash award.  The recipients' schools also receive $500 for projects or equipment.

More information on the recipients and awards


CTF board meets with government to discuss child poverty, other issues

April 16, 2013
Canada’s teachers see ways to help the growing number of children whose needs are not being well met by society and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF)’s Board of Directors members are meeting today with MPs, senators and senior government officials to discuss ways of supporting Canadian families.

“We know the majority of students experience success at school,” says CTF President Paul Taillefer. “But we also know there are students who are slipping through the cracks because of poverty, mental health problems, bullying, discrimination, lack of fluency in the language of instruction and insufficient resources. Our society can do better for these children.

“Our main concern is child poverty and how it remains embedded in a nation as wealthy as ours,” adds Taillefer referring to a report by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC) which found that more than one in seven Canadian children live in poverty, ranking Canada 15th out of 17 peer countries.

“We know that governments understand that failure to address poverty may place a heavy burden on a country’s economy.  As the OECD has concluded, “failure to tackle the poverty and exclusion facing millions of families and their children is not only socially reprehensible, but it will also weigh heavily on countries’ capacity to sustain economic growth in years to come.”

“Teachers witness first-hand the effects of poverty on their students, including hunger, fear, shame and mental health issues,” adds Taillefer.  “Certain vulnerable groups continue to experience higher levels of poverty than others."


MTS helps kick off Education Week in Manitoba

April 15, 2013
The Manitoba Teachers' Society and other education partners joined together to kick off Education Week in the province.

Education Minister Nancy Allan used the occasion to announce that new data show the provincial graduation rate for high school students continued to increase in 2012 with more than 84.1 per cent of students in the province graduating.

Education Minister Nancy Allan made the announcement today at Dr. F. W. L. Hamilton School as she declared April 15 to 19 Education Week in Manitoba.

See our other Education Week coverage

"All parents want their children to succeed," she said at Dr. F. W. L. Hamilton School. "Now, more than ever, success depends on education."

She said Manitoba has seen the number of students graduating from high school increase by 18.3 per cent since 2002, a significant increase from that year when the provincial graduation rate was just 71.1 per cent.

To officially launch Education Week, the minister was joined by representatives from the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents (MASS), the Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) and the Manitoba School Boards Association (MSBA). 

"Schools continue to be the focal point of our communities and provide informative, exciting lessons and engaging activities that connect with students of all ages," said Norm Gould, vice-president of MTS.  "That connection is important to us and to everyone who believes in public schools."

Education Minister Nancy Allan at Education Week kickoff



Staff, executive don pink shirts to support anti-bullying initiative

April 10, 2013
Members of the MTS staff and provincial executive donned t-shirts to support the Red Cross Day of Pink, Wednesday, April 10.

The Canadian Red Cross, RBC Royal Bank and Safe Schools Manitoba invited schools and businesses to participate to raise awareness about the impact of bullying.

The Red Cross says the initiative is to provide students, staff and the larger community with the opportunity to discuss the impact of bullying and to learn how they can use their power to help create a safe and respectful school environment.

On April 10, 2013, students, staff and community members wear pink shirts in solidarity to show that they are taking a stand against bullying.

It started in 2007 when two high school students in Nova Scotia took a stand against bullying in their school. The students asked all of their peers to wear pink to school after they heard a male classmate had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt.


Call for Teddy Bears’ Picnic Volunteers

The Society needs volunteers for its “Teach Your Bear” tent at this year’s Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Sunday, May 26th, at Assiniboine Park.

You’ll get free food, three great ways to have fun helping—and your pick of easy two-hour shifts.

If you’d like to volunteer, call Joyce Deleau at 888-7961 ext. 214, or email jdeleau@mbteach.org.


Operation Donation results in more than 11,000 kgs of food for Harvest

March 19, 2013
There were smiles all around as the non-perishable harvest from 69 Manitoba schools that participated in the 14th Annual Operation Donation School Food Drive was revealed - 26,173.2 lbs. (11,871 kg).

Cameron Tramley, who took to the podium with Kateesha Wai, a fellow student at École Varennes, said, ‘I feel good about helping the people who don’t have as much as we do - most of all the kids.”

The schools’ haul, combined with 13,103 lbs. (5,943 kg) of food gathered from Manitoba Public Insurance offices, made a total of 39,276.15 lbs. (17,815 kg).

But it didn’t end there.

With Peak of the Market and Canada Safeway matching the school and MPI donations, the total collected was 117,828.45 pounds (53,446 kg).

“Students and teachers are the heart of today’s success,” said Paul Olson, president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “We celebrate every individual – and every school community – that fought against hunger and hopelessness with love and action.

“Having enough to eat should be the most basic of human rights. Sadly, it’s not. We are grateful to every school that participated in Operation Donation. You made it possible for thousands of kids and their parents to get the food they need.”

From  February 25 to March 1, K-12 schools from across Manitoba helped Winnipeg Harvest by collecting non-perishable food items, including, baby food, tuna, soup, canned vegetables, fruit and pasta, and much more.

The annual campaign always fills a gap at just the right time – after Christmas and before spring planting when food stocks are low.


Northern schools rally for human rights

March 14, 2013
During the week of March 19–21, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission is sending staff to four northern schools to promote human rights and responsibilities.

The Rights Rallies will take place in Thompson at École Riverside School and Deerwood School and on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation at Oscar Lathlin Collegiate and in The Pas at École Scott Bateman Middle School.

Workshops include “Scenes from a Hat’ where students (with the appropriate props) act out a scene revolving around a human rights issue.  Other students are asked to figure out what type of discrimination or harassment is taking place and what can be done about it.
The second workshop “What About Now” is a timely, interactive workshop about bullying and "drama" that can happen in the classroom, in sports, at work, online.

The Rights Rally Team will also be launching a new game called “The Rights Race”.  The combination of Angry Birds, Charades and Trivial Pursuit becomes a race around a life sized game board testing students’ and teachers’ human rights knowledge.

By the end of the week 450 Grade 7 and 8 students will have participated in these spirited human rights rallies.  The goal is to create a greater awareness of human rights and responsibilities among young people, to celebrate human rights achievements and to encourage students to plan human rights projects to eliminate discrimination and harassment.


Students and staff celebrate Pink Shirt Day
Feb. 27, 2013

Students and staff at Hastings School got their pink on this morning at a Pink Shirt Day event before an audience that included Society President Paul Olson, Vice-president Norm Gould and Education Minister Nancy Allan.

The event was run entirely by Hastings School’s social justice committee. It featured strong anti-bullying messages, presentations by students to representatives of Cancer Care Manitoba (CCM) and the Tourette Syndrome Foundation (TSM) – even a teacher flash mob which caught students by surprise.

The assembly started with the presentation of cheques to TSF and CCM by a Grade 3/4 class that held a garage sale to benefit these causes.
Later, just before a Grade 8 video presentation, teachers flash mobbed the floor to a medley of Katy Perry’s “Firework”, Taylor Swift’s “Mean” and Lady Gaga’s “Born this way”.

The three-and-a-half minute mash-up delighted the students and got thunderous applause.

Next, students Brook Didora and Amy Lee had their video debuts with “Where do you stand?” a video put together they collaborated on with other Grade 8 students.

The goal was simple - to show what bullying looks like and what students can do to help. “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” said Brook, who played the part of a bystander who speaks up.

Amy, who was cast in the role of a bully, said the part didn’t come naturally to her. “I felt mean, honestly. Like something I wouldn’t do.”
Amy said planning the production took a long time, but the video will not sit idle. They’ll be screening it classroom by classroom over the next few weeks.

MTS President Olson said: "I think it speaks volumes about the work that teachers and students are doing together that the Minister and I didn't spend even a second speaking from the podium today.  The teachers and kids at Hastings, and so many other schools, just plain "get it".  They know what they're doing, and didn't need anyone in a suit telling them why it mattered.  They already know, and they're already doing the work that makes a difference."

Pink Shirt Day activities are happening around Manitoba today. Check the Society’s Facebook and Twitter feeds for more.


Some religious schools oppose provincial anti-bullying measures

Feb. 25, 2013
CBC News says that some Manitoba religious schools are opposing new provincial anti-bullying measures, claiming they infringe on their values and beliefs.

The new law, supported by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society and which applies to all schools receiving public funds, ensures that schools allow students to form such groups as gay-straight alliances.

Specifically, the law says a school board must “accommodate pupils who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that promote gender equity, antiracism, the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people who are disabled by barriers, or the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; and use the name "gay-straight alliance" or any other name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils."

CBC quotes the principal of Steinbach Christian school as saying this could be contradictory to their teaching.

“Independent schools should have the right to direct and ensure any organizations meeting in their school will not be contradictory to their faith principles.”

He doesn’t explain in detail how the new measures would be “contradictory".

See the complete story at CBC News Manitoba.


MTS president responds to criticism of provincial anti-bullying efforts

Feb. 21, 2013
MTS President Paul Olson has responded to an opinion article that was published in the Winnipeg Free Press criticizing anti-bullying measures in Manitoba.

The opinion article by Rodney A. Clifton and John C. Long can be seen here.

Olson’s letter to the Free Press follows:

As a teacher since 1990 and as President of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, I take issue with a few of the comments made by Professors Clifton and Long in their article “NDP bullying law is bad legislation.”   We would, of course, agree with them that bullying is a serious matter requiring serious attention.

The Safe and Inclusive Schools legislation introduced by Education Minister Nancy Allan recognizes the need for all students, staff and community members to feel physically and emotionally safe en route to school and at school.

Bullying's toxic effects have always gone beyond the merely physical in nature.  Our own research shows a decline in "traditional" bullying, and a significant rise in its online or "cyber" forms. Expanding the definition of bullying to include written, verbal or electronic communication recognizes that a text, an email or a Facebook posting can all inflict harm. All of our students deserve to feel safe, accepted, and respected in school. All Manitoba schools have an obligation to provide students with a safe and caring learning environment.

The definition of bullying in Bill 18 follows the best practises of other provinces. It has the potential to empower students to take action to make their schools safe, respectful and accepting of all students.  It acknowledges the reality that bullying is entirely about the intent, and only minimally about the methods or the tools.  Bullying is bullying because of the malicious intent, not the specific approaches that the bully uses on a given day, or on a given victim.  Threats and psychological attacks are as potentially damaging as any physical attack.

The legislation requires that schools accommodate students who want to organize student activities or organizations that promote safe and respectful schools. If anything, this doesn't go far enough -- but it's a good starting point to the conversation.  Quite literally this says that if a student asks for a safe space — for help — then the school needs to say "Yes," and make it happen.  On what basis does any community member, teacher, parent, or person of faith consider this unreasonable?  On what basis do we say that one child is more worthy than another of a safe school?

The activities or groups may be focussed on addressing any number of things - sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination against people who are disabled. We can't teach our kids tolerance and respect for diversity, then deny them the right to hold activities or form organizations that promote these values.

The rank hypocrisy of so-called "adults" who give lip service to creating one type of world, and then aggressively create one that is very different, has no place in public schools.  We need to stand beside our students and support them in making their schools safer places where all students feel a sense of belonging and support.

Paul Olson, President
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society


Paul Olson to be MTS president for another two years

MTS President Paul Olson has been acclaimed to another two-year term.

The deadline for nominations to the position expired without any additional nominations being received by General Secretary Ken Pearce.
Olson was also unopposed when nominated for his first term.

He has held numerous positions with MTS and the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association throughout his 23-year teaching career. That includes chairing committees for professional development, group benefits and workplace safety and health as well as serving on bargaining committees for the Society and WTA.

Before becoming president he was MTS vice-president.


Province adds $4 million to class size initiative

Feb. 11, 2013
The Manitoba government continues to reduce class sizes for children in kindergarten to Grade 3 by providing additional new funding of $4 million for the province’s Class Size Initiative in 2013-14, Education Minister Nancy Allan announced today.

“Every parent wants their child to receive the attention they need in the classroom,” said Allan.  “Smaller class sizes and investments in teaching contribute significantly to improving the quality of education in our province because students do better when they receive more one-on-one time.  Our investment will allow our schools to hire 69 new full-time teachers. ”

This additional $4 million will bring the total provincial funding for the class size initiative to $7 million in 2013-14.  The funding is in addition to the $27.2 million in new provincial education funding the minister announced last week.  The funding will be targeted at school divisions that require additional teachers to reduce class sizes.

In 2011, the province announced that it will provide new supports to enable school divisions in Manitoba to cap their kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms at 20 students by September 2017. 

In the first year of the initiative, 79 teachers were hired to teach in 31 school divisions.  The minister said all of them are having a direct impact on class size that has resulted in:

“In the past, economic uncertainty meant freezes and cuts to our schools.  Our government is committed to making investments in education that give our children the start they deserve,” said Allan.  “Fourteen consecutive years of funding education at the rate of economic growth demonstrates this.”   


Teacher / Staff Appreciation Week - February 10 - 16

Feb. 8, 2013
Anyone who has ever set foot in a public school has seen the dedication and contributions made by teachers and other staff to students and the community.

That’s the message Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Paul Olson and Manitoba Association of Parent Councils (MAPC) president Judith Cameron will be delivering next week during Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week.


“As teachers, each of us works hard to meet our students’ needs and to defend their interests, both in their classrooms and in their schools,” says Olson. “We also work together in advocating for better class sizes, better resourcing, better supports and programs. We cannot do better work than the system allows us to do.”

“MAPC and our parent members have had the opportunity to work with some amazing teaching staff over the course of the school year,” says Judith Cameron, president of Manitoba Association of Parent Councils. “We appreciate their dedication and hard work on behalf of the children under their care. Our teachers routinely go the extra mile to provide a rich and welcoming school environment. Their efforts are applauded!”

Olson says teachers need and appreciate parental engagement in their child’s education.

“Parents and teachers working together are a powerful force in helping students reach their potential.”

Profiles on the influence of Manitoba’s public school teachers in the lives of notable Manitobans from Sam Katz to Clara Hughes to Gail Asper
are online here.


National campaign launched by teachers to champion democratic values

Feb. 6, 2013
Hear my voice
, a national campaign launched today by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), aims to mobilize the growing number of teachers concerned about the state of democracy in Canada.

“Teachers are passionate advocates for social justice who strive to prepare their students to become responsible members of society,” says CTF President Paul Taillefer. “But when they witness the silencing of voices of dissent, the dismantling of social programs and public services, the demonizing of charities and labour organizations and the diminishing of Canada’s reputation on the world stage, they become very concerned that these measures are sending the wrong message about democracy to their students.

“The numerous government initiatives that have shown willful disrespect for democracy have sparked, across the country, a massive swell of pro-democracy demonstrations and movements, reminiscent of those in the 60s. People from all walks of life are calling for an adherence to democratic values, for inclusion and for social and economic justice in Canada.

“Good government means listening to all voices,” adds Taillefer. “In a healthy democracy, decisions should be accompanied by respectful consultation and ongoing dialogue with all sectors of the population -- not just with those few who share the same ideology.

“Teachers and their organizations are among the many groups targeted by the Harper government’s initiatives. A recent example is Bill C-377 which was pushed quickly through the House of Commons with little debate and no consultation despite the many attempts by CTF to meet with federal Conservative MPs,” concludes Taillefer.

The Hear My Voice campaign will see teachers contacting their federal MPs via postcards, in person and/or with social media and urging them to put an end to “excessive government secrecy; corruption and waste; attacks on unions; the exclusion of voices and decline of democracy.”

The national campaign was adopted at the CTF Board of Directors meeting in November 2012.


Register your school for Operation Donation (Feb. 25th to Mar. 1)

Jan. 30, 2013
The 14th annual Operation Donation school food drive needs your help!

Every year, Winnipeg Harvest’s Operation Donation sees The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Manitoba Public Insurance, Peak of the Market and Canada Safeway work together to help replenish Harvest and regional food banks.

But the most important players are Manitoba schools. They lead this huge effort to fight hunger and feed hungry kids and adults throughout the province. And their efforts are exceptional.

Last year, Manitoba schools and students collected over 43,000 lbs. of food. The haul from those schools was generously matched by Peak of the Market and Canada Safeway, and – with the help of Manitoba Public Insurance collections across the province - reached a whopping 166,635 lbs. (over 75,000 kg).

This year’s Operation Donation campaign week runs from February 25 to March 1. But again, schools lead the drive. So how do you get yours involved?

  1. Register your school's participation by filling out and submitting the online registration form http://winnipegharvest.org
  2. Promote the event to your student body and teachers.
  3. Collect food and cash donations between Feb. 25 and Mar. 1.
  4. Prepare your donations for pick-up by Winnipeg Harvest between Mar. 4 and 15.
  5. Have student and teacher representation at the Mar. 19 media event.

Schools outside of Winnipeg can also participate by collecting food and cash donations for their local food bank. Contact Samantha Turple, Events Associate at Winnipeg Harvest, 204-982-3663, for a list of food banks in regions throughout Manitoba.


Canadian Museum for Human Rights plans extensive education program

By Mireille Theriault

Jan. 30, 2013
Consultation is the driving force behind the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ educational program development, says Mireille Lamontagne, the manager of education programming.

“Teachers have told us that human rights can be one of the most challenging subjects for many reasons so we decided to build a program more robust than normally found at other museums. We thought if we don’t get the teachers, we won’t get the students.” 

Through the consultation process, teachers said there are lots of education resources that could be used to develop lesson plans but they’re scattered and unorganized with no way of knowing how well the material would work in a classroom.

“We’ve already engaged ourselves to essentially become a clearing house for all human rights education resources, making them researchable by levels, by grade , theme and language and having them teacher-rated,” says Lamontagne.

This is the National Human Rights Toolkit, the first of two online programs the CMHR unveiled in partnership with the Canadian Teacher’s Federation.  The second online program, the Canadian Human Rights Defenders, was also developed in partnership with the CTF as well as the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, which also involved the Assembly of First Nations and the JFK Centre for Justice and Human Rights.

“Our biggest and most substantial branch of programming by inauguration in 2014 will be online programming and that’s because it will help us meet our national mandate immediately.”

Under five core programs, detailed curriculum-based modules for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary will be developed for delivery:  the online program, the on-site class visits programs, the national students program, the outreach programs and the educators’ program.

The onsite classroom program will offer both guided and teacher self-guided streams appropriate for early years, middle, high-school and post-secondary students in both official languages. The National Student Program will serve as a point of further study for human rights streams.

“This is all yet to be developed.”

The museum plans to be working with groups such as  the Asper Foundation’s Holocaust and Human Rights Program, Rotary International’s Adventures in Citizenship Program and the University of Winnipeg’s Adventures in Global Citizenship program.

“And we plan to forge others,” says Lamontagne.

“Outreach will be the least developed branch of programming at the time of inauguration because, among other reasons, it is the most expensive to produce. We have a schedule where we can manage costs over time to offer edu-kits and resource, video-conferencing that could link classrooms across the country with experts in the field.”

The educators’ program would reach out to teachers and faculties or education across Canada, providing workshops, professional development opportunities and the opportunity to dialogue with other teachers.

Soon the museum expects to create a Manitoba- based advisory committee made up of teachers from all regions of the province.

“We have created a five-year strategic plan for education programming that will take us through pre-inauguration, inauguration, and beyond in consultation with you, teachers, curriculum consultants from across the country, museum educators, and other museum staff. “


Province keeps public schools funding commitment

Jan. 28, 2013
Today’s announcement of an additional $27.2 million for public schools in 2013 - 2014 is truly commendable, says Paul Olson, president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “For 14 years the provincial government has kept its commitment to fund Manitoba’s public schools at or above the rate of economic growth. Teachers are grateful that our schools, students and classrooms have benefitted for so long from that level of commitment and stable funding.”

"Broad social issues such as poverty still create daunting challenges for our members and their students, however.  The best curriculum, teaching, and resources in the world are only part of the solution for kids who arrive at school cold, tired, and hungry.  These challenges need to be addressed by a broad, engaged public.  Education and educators cannot do this alone."

Much of the new funding comes in the form of equalization for school divisions — a mechanism intended to address the inequities in a funding model that relies on locally levied taxes. Olson says it’s now up to divisions to draft budgets that allow them to access the available funds.

“A division’s first priority is to ensure its schools receive the resources they need to deliver excellent programming to students. Getting funds into our classrooms is always paramount. With increasing expectations placed on our schools, divisions must help teachers maintain the excellent quality of education they’ve been providing to students."

School divisions across the province have until mid-March to finalize their budgets.


A letter from MTS President Paul Olson ran in the Winnipeg Free Press, today, Dec.19. Since newspapers regularly edit submissions depending on available space, we’ve also included the original below.

WFP Letters, December 19, 2012

Embracing diversity
Re: A critical examination of human rights (Dec. 10). Dan Lett doesn't raise a "good" point in his Dec. 10 opinion piece on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, or even a "great" one. He raises the point.

As teachers, and as parents ourselves, we work, pray and dream of leaving our kids a world that's worthy of them. We work to create an understanding that what we owe them (both as parents and as teachers) is a social legacy where diversity is embraced and celebrated as a strength -- not just tolerated.

If the CMHR doesn't unleash outrage, frustration, nausea, disagreement, inspiration, admiration, love and hope, then it has failed utterly in its purpose. In my opinion, the purpose of the CMHR is to do what it is already doing: create a space for the most important conversations of our time.

Manitoba Teachers' Society

Dan Lett doesn't raise a “good” point in his Dec. 10th opinion piece on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, or even a “great” one. He raises the point.

Manitoba's public school teachers, through The Manitoba Teachers' Society, have donated significantly toward the creation of the CMHR over the past few years. We didn't do this because we suddenly forgot how to work with Winnipeg Harvest, or Siloam Mission, or any of a hundred other anti-poverty, anti-bullying, or aboriginal education initiatives. We still do all that, and much more, and will continue to do so.

We did it because all of those things, for the most part, are battles. The war—if you'll forgive the military metaphor—is about equity and social justice.

Every day, teachers welcome children of every creed (and none at all), of every country, language, values system, and personal and collective history, and we do our damnedest to help them find the good in themselves, and each other, and in the power of the community they can build in their classrooms, on the playground, in their schools, and in their towns. We teach former child soldiers and sex trade workers. We teach kids who've been used as slave labour in the drug trade and in diamond mines. We teach kids who've escaped with their lives, but not their families, from some of the worst hellholes that humanity has ever created for itself due to its lack of humanity. We teach kids in a province with serious child poverty challenges; statistically speaking, Winnipeg is the child poverty capital of Canada more often than not.

For many people, thinking about human rights violations is an academic abstraction.  For us, it's called "going to work.”

As teachers, and as parents ourselves, we work, pray, and dream of leaving our kids a world that's worthy of them. We work to create an understanding that what we owe them (both as parents and as teachers) is a social legacy where diversity is embraced and celebrated as a strength—not just "tolerated.”

If the CMHR doesn't unleash outrage, frustration, nausea, disagreement, inspiration, admiration, love, and hope—then it has failed utterly in its purpose. In my opinion, the purpose of the CMHR is to do what it is already doing:  create a space for the most important conversations of our time.

What does it mean to be human, and what are our birthrights? What do we owe each other? What is the best we can be? Where have we gone wrong? What did we learn?  Where might we be off track now? What paths can we walk as individuals? And perhaps most importantly, how do our many overlapping communities share the road ahead?

In my view, this is precisely the Museum's purpose. This is what Manitoba's teachers have supported, and continue to support. It's our honour and privilege to be involved both as financial backers and as professionals dedicated to supporting high quality educational programs at the CMHR for students throughout Canada, and around the world.

Truths change in step with our understanding and experience. For this reason, I hope that people continue to disagree about exhibits, emphasis, interpretations, and presentations.

Only then will the Museum truly be living up to its mandate.

PAUL OLSON, President
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society


New anti-bullying initiatives announced

Dec. 4, 2012
The provincial government has announced an action plan aimed at protecting students from bullying in school, on the street and on the Internet.

“Our government is committed to supporting schools and communities in providing safe and caring learning environments for our students," said Education Minister Nancy Allan. "We all share a responsibility to work together to provide safe schools where all students feel respected and can reach their full potential. Our anti-bullying plan will further protect students and provide a safe environment while fostering understanding and inclusion.”

The broad anti-bullying strategy includes:

  • help for teachers including expanded training supports, workshops and other professional learning opportunities, and ongoing support for the Respect in School initiative;
  • help for parents including new online information and resources online on how to recognize, deal with and report bullying; and
  • help for students including strengthened anti-bullying legislation and the Tell Them From Me Survey to allow schools to hear directly from students about bullying.

The minister also said the province will move forward with strong legislation that would further support students, broaden reporting of bullying and respect diversity.

“New legislation will also address the role of social media in bullying and allow student-supported initiatives at schools aimed at promoting an inclusive environment such as clubs and activities that promote gender equity and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, anti-racism and respect for people who are disabled by barriers,”  said Allan.

The minister said, in the months ahead, she will meet with schools, students, teachers, parents and principals across the province to discuss further bullying prevention measures and creation of safer environments for students in and out of school.


Province agrees to change legislation to allow increase in penalties for unprofessional conduct

Nov. 27, 2012
The Manitoba government has introduced legislation which would improve the process by which the Manitoba Teachers' Society investigates complaints, conducts internal disciplinary procedures and recuperates costs in cases of proven unprofessional conduct by a teacher.

"We are committed to working with the Manitoba Teachers' Society to continue to ensure all teachers adhere to the highest professional standards," Allan said.  "This will help ensure our students receive the quality education they need to succeed."

The amendments come following the last MTS annual general meeting. The society requested an increase in the range of penalties for members found to have engaged in unprofessional conduct or conduct unbecoming a teacher.  Following an MTS internal disciplinary review panel hearing, the society would be able to suspend or terminate a teacher's membership in the society or impose a fine to help offset the costs of hearings related to investigations.

"Any profession worthy of the name is one that holds itself to the highest possible standards of conduct.  Teachers recognize the need to work together professionally and effectively, and never forget our duty to remain worthy of the public's trust.  This legislative change is intended to provide our Professional Conduct and Review Committees with a greater and more nuanced ability to uphold those standards in those rare cases when infractions occur," said Paul Olson, president, MTS.

"Along with initiatives, like the standardized report card and class size reductions for kindergarten to Grade 3, this legislation is part of a broader framework to work with teachers and parents to improve the overall quality of the education system in Manitoba and move the province to the top tier of educational achievement in Canada," said Allan.


YHA recipients honoured with 2012 human rights commission award

Nov. 22, 2012
Two recipients of MTS Young Humanitarian Awards are now 2012 recipients of the Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award.

Ayla and Van Hamilton of Major Pratt School in Russell, Manitoba, may be two of the youngest ever to receive the Human Rights Youth Award, sponsored by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and named for long-time teacher and human rights activist Sybil Shack.

Ayla, in Grade 8, and Van, Grade 3, formed Kids Helping Kids, a project dedicated to raising funds for newcomer moms and dads who work in Russell and struggle financially to buy plane tickets to bring their children to Canada.

With the growing number of Filipino men and women in Russell who have left their children back in the Philippines, Ayla and Van felt there was a need to help them re-unite. With the support from their family, classmates and the Russell community, Ayla and Van raised over $6,000.  The money has been used to purchase airline tickets for travel and also to help with immigration costs. 

They plan to reunite nine children with their parents this year, and raise enough funds to bring another nine next year.

Other recipients of this year’s Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award are Muuxi Adam and Chelsea Caldwell.

Adam, 23, is a former Somali refugee who came to Winnipeg in late 2004 and has since been involved in working with the newcomer communities in Winnipeg and serves on a number of boards and committees in Winnipeg including the Recreation Task Force of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council and the Manitoba Ethno cultural Advisory and Advocacy Council.

Caldwell is a second-year student at the University of Winnipeg and Co-Chair for the Global College Student Advisory Council and helps lead weekly group meetings that help to organize events and encourage students to engage in activities pertaining to human rights at a local and global level.

She is also helping to form the Winnipeg chapter for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace’s, aiding in the formation of a new group, Manitoba Women Moving Forward, formerly known as UNIFEM, and she volunteers for the local chapter of Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan. 


Facebook and other groups launch online effort against bullying

Nov. 20, 2012
Facebook, in partnership with a number of groups, has launched a campaign called Be Bold: Stop Bullying.

The campaign centres on an interactive social media pledge app that enables teens, parents and educators to make a personal commitment to help stop bullying and recruit their friends to join them in this commitment.

Paul Taillefer, president of the Canadian Teachers Federation, expressed support for the initiative.

 "Educators deal with the after-effects of bullying every day. We regularly see kids who are often already struggling on the social margins and even more emotionally vulnerable than most, wrestle with plummeting self-esteem, failing grades, and depression.

“As educators, we believe that the welfare of vulnerable students in every community warrants collaborative and pro-active effort on their behalf."

The new social pledge app and other elements of the campaign are accessible at facebook.com/beboldstopbullyingca.

"Promoting safety, online and off, is a top priority for Facebook," said Jordan Banks, Managing Director, FacebookCanada. "Our goal with Be Bold: Stop Bullying is to raise awareness of the simple, yet powerful, actions that teens, parents and educators can take to prevent bullying.

Other groups involved in the campaign are Family Channel, PREVNet, Concerned Children's Advertisers, Kids Help Phone, MediaSmarts, Free The Children and STOPcyberbullying.org.


Province making progress on cutting class sizes, 79 new teachers hired

Nov. 14, 2012
MTS President Paul Olson said he is pleased to see some progress made in the first year of the implementation of class-size limits in early years.

The provincial government says it is making “significant progress” toward reducing class sizes with 79 new teachers hired by school divisions this year.

Premier Greg Selinger said those teachers are currently working in 31 school divisions and are having a direct impact on class size, resulting in:

Olson said that must continue.

“To a great idea we must now add careful implementation.  The next challenges will centre around Government equitably providing the promised funding, and school divisions setting meaningful plans in place to make the initiative work.”

The province announced earlier this year that school divisions in Manitoba will be required to cap their kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms at 20 students by September 2017.  While 10 per cent of classrooms per division will be allowed the flexibility to go beyond the cap of 20 students, no classes will be permitted to have more than 23 students in a kindergarten to Grade 3 classroom.

In June, the province provided funding to hire additional teachers, provide professional development or commence planning to support and implement the initiative.

“Our plan for smaller class sizes is ensuring Manitoba students will benefit from more individual attention from teachers in the vital first years.  This is a step in the right direction for education in Manitoba,” said Selinger.  “Special thanks to the oversight committee which continues to provide valuable advice to government as we move forward.

“Today more than ever, success in life depends upon receiving the best-possible education and training. Investing in smaller class sizes is an important step we can take toward ensuring our children have the attention they need to learn and reach their potential."

The Class Size Oversight Committee includes representatives from the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Manitoba Association of Parent Councils, Manitoba School Boards Association, Manitoba Association of School Superintendents and Manitoba Association of School Business Officials.


Student town hall on privacy, Internet safety

Nov. 5, 2012
The Winnipeg Free Press News Café was humming with lightning-fast presentations and lively discussion at today’s Privacy Matters student town hall.

Teachers and students from St. James Collegiate, Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, Collège Louis-Riel, and Henry G. Izatt Middle School listened to five classmates present IGNITE style - 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide. The topics ran the gamut from Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies at school to learning languages online – all tied back to the theme of Internet safety.

The panel discussion that followed was a model of authentic student voice. Many students pointed to the usefulness of online tools and mobile devices in education, argued for continued progress in incorporating them into their classes, and recognized the important role of teacher guidance in learning to use the tools responsibly.

Society President Paul Olson and Manitoba’s Education Minister Nancy Allan both brought greetings. Noah Erenberg, Convenor of the Winnipeg’s Community News Commons, was emcee.

The event was part of this year’s Media Literacy Week and was sponsored by The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, the Manitoba Association of Computing Educators and Manitoba Education.


Anti-union movement gains steam, teachers squeezed two ways

By George Stephenson

Oct. 23, 2012
Almost two years ago Manitobans Jim Silver and Errol Black warned of the increasing battery against unions and workers in the public service in the U.S., predicting its inevitable arrival in Canada.

Silver, director of urban and inner city studies at the University of Winnipeg, and Black, a retired economics professor, were reading the tea leaves south of the border where supporters of the so-called Tea Party were making gains in loudness and legislation to curtail unions and cut public services.

For many, it seemed the wars of Wisconsin or Ohio or Tennessee or Idaho or Michigan were a world away in distance and dogma.

However, since then:

“It has worsened considerably,” Silver and Black said in an email interview with The Teacher. “The Canadian Auto Workers has just agreed to a dual wage structure with lower wages for new hires. Private sector retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and IKEA are anti-union and becoming more prominent in Canada. At the federal level there are cuts of a wide variety.”

Now, Manitoba appears to be the one of the few placid, silver linings of a roiling, darkening cloud.
But there’s no guarantee that will last.

While the current provincial government has shown a commitment to stable education funding and continued efforts to increase graduation rates, such progress can be transitory. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was once widely thought of as the “education premier.”

Silver and Black, both board members of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, also say that a change of government in Manitoba, could see a change in the approach to the public sector, including teachers.

“In Manitoba a lot of small gains have been made under the NDP that have benefitted the labour movement,” they say. “However, if the Conservatives were to win the next election under Brian Pallister, unions generally and public education generally, would be at risk.

“Pallister comes out of the Reform Party and appears to be a hard-line, right wing guy with anti-public sector views. There would likely be provincial cutbacks and reduced education funding.” (The Teacher has attempted without success to arrange an interview with Pallister.)

In the current climate, teachers and education have been doubly targeted. As public servants who get paid from taxes, they are among the scapegoats of the anti-government, anti-tax lobbies. As teachers, they are the marks for the education reform movement.

The convergence of those streams was especially clear recently in Chicago.

Teachers went on strike there in what Atlantic Magazine headlined The Super Bowl of School Reform. The Chicago Tribune said the strike “is not only – or even mostly – about money. It is about who controls schools and classrooms.”

When the nine-day strike ended, little was said about wages and benefits, but there was an avalanche of discussions about other issues that were decided.
Teachers fought back attempts to bring in merit pay and the evaluation of teachers based on student test results. At the same time, teachers agreed to extend the school day, meaning that a student entering school today will spend two and a half more years in the classroom by the time they graduate.

As well, teachers won the right to develop their own lesson plans and beat back attempts to cut non-core teaching positions such as art and music.
Chicago Union President Karen Lewis said in a broadcast interview that one of the keys to stifling the so-called reform movement was the support the teachers received from the community.

“We have reached out into the community, worked with parents, worked with students and when you build relationships like that, it just grows,” she said. “So, to us, the whole idea of a union movement in school means you have to have all the stakeholders there. And that’s something that’s been missing, I think, from people in general across the country, that unionism has been sort of like the school system: it’s been very top-down.”

Errol Black and Jim Silver say the Chicago teachers’ strike is “an important harbinger.”

“There, the move has been to eliminate public schools especially in low-income areas and replace them with charter schools; let teachers go to be rehired in the non-union charter schools at much-reduced levels of pay; link teachers’ evaluations to standardized student testing ... and all of these right wing U.S. ideas are migrating north of the border to Canada where many are finding a ready audience.

“However, the other important thing about the Chicago teachers is that they fought, they organized, a more militant group won election in the union and they struck on issues that were not limited to their own personal pocketbooks, but had to do with the quality of education.

“This shows what is possible. People care about their children’s education, and an appeal can be made to parents on these grounds.“

Andrew P. Kelly, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, seconds the motion from the other side of the ideological spectrum.
“This is a war for hearts and minds across the country,” he said of the Chicago situation, in an article in the Atlantic magazine. “In the Chicago saga, the side that wins hearts and minds will be in a stronger position next time around.”

It is an issue faced by all public sector unions, but teachers are in an especially unusual situation.

Poll after poll shows that while there is strong support from parents for the teachers of their own children, support declines somewhat when they are asked about teachers’ unions or teaching overall. There can also be a gap between those who have children in school and those who don’t.

For example, in a recent poll done for Global News, 44 per cent of respondents said that professional development days should be eliminated for teachers. But when the question was limited to parents with kids in school, support for PD days climbed to 65 per cent, with only 35 per cent opposed.

In Chicago, the strategy of the city, which oversees education, was made clear by Bruce Rauner, a venture capitalist, leader of a drive for more charter schools in that city and an advisor to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“The critical issue is to separate the union from the teachers,” he said. “They are not the same thing. The union is basically a bunch of politicians elected to do certain things – to get more pay, get more benefits, less work hours, more job security. They’re not about the students. They’re not about results. They’re not about the taxpayers.”

The union’s Karen Lewis said that was a key misunderstanding by the city.

“We purposely tried to change the culture of the union so that the union is about education, is about empowering teachers and paraprofessionals and clinicians. We didn’t do the union the way the old union was done because those days are over because then people like Bruce Rauner can separate the union from the teachers. And this is where they are wrong. Absolutely wrong.

“Our main focus is trying to make education better because we feel like we can solve some of the problems. We’re teachers. We’re problem solvers. And Bruce Rauner has to remember, I’m two years out of the classroom, so, for me, not a bureaucratic union hack. Sorry, that tag just won’t hang on us.”

The sentiment and idea of separating the union from the membership by the venture capitalist isn’t unique. Even in Manitoba, the Opposition in the legislature has continually attacked the government and The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, while at the same time praising teachers, all of whom are union members.

Overall, Errol Black and Jim Silver say the political right is winning the message war at the moment, “although we think that many Canadians would be open to a different message, one that emphasizes the value of public services and the need to create a society that is characterized by a much greater degree of equality.
“There is there is now a wealth of academic evidence that society is better off by virtually all measures—health, educational achievement, levels of crime, for example — when there is a greater degree of equality.

“This ought to be a very big issue for teachers and the MTS, since there has for many decades been overwhelming evidence that high levels of inequality and poverty adversely affect educational outcomes. We think that unions, the MTS especially, would be well advised to make this case.“

Overall, it is a difficult hill to climb, especially during the current blizzard of anti-union rhetoric and legislation.

In a poll done last May by Angus Reid Public Opinion, 49 per cent of respondents said unions had too much influence; 26 per cent said unions had just the right amount and 16 per cent said they didn’t have enough influence.

It’s against this backdrop that Conservative MPs are passing around a chocolate box of measures to hobble unions in Canada.

There’s MP Russ Hiebert’s private members’ bill to force unions to disclose any transaction or payments they make of over $5,000. They would have to disclose who got paid for what and reveal their addresses.

One, promoted by MP Pierre Poilievre would see the elimination of mandatory union dues, something that’s been in effect since 1946 when Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand ruled all workers in a union shop had to pay union dues because all benefited equally. The “Rand Formula” has been challenged in court since then and upheld.

Few think either measure has any chance of being adopted and will remain as trial balloons or further beats in what Althia Raj, the Huffington Post’s Ottawa bureau chief, described as the “war drums of a Tory-led campaign against big labour.”

Teens Against Drinking and Driving turn spotlight on distracted driving

Pat St. Germain

Oct. 23, 2012
Teens Against Drinking and Driving (TADD) is shifting gears to catch up with the times.

With more focus on texting and driving, the TADD chapter at Stonewall Collegiate Institute has changed its handle to Teens Against Distracted Driving, and the entire organization may follow suit.

“I really believe that texting has become a larger ongoing issue than the alcohol,” says Stonewall teacher Elaine Johnston.

During a meeting in late August, Rex Virtue, who has volunteered with TADD since he helped launch it in 1986, asked a group of eight teenage girls for input on the TADD name, its website design and outreach strategies.
TADD/Safe Grad chairperson Keith Thomas says many rural high schools have TADD programs, but it’s been a struggle to maintain TADD chapters in Winnipeg.

In the past, teachers who were interested in working with TADD had often lost a friend or family member to a drunk driver. But when those teachers retire, new teachers may not have the interest or the time to invest in the program.

Stonewall Collegiate’s TADD chapter is one of the most active in the province. Student Amy Martin, 17, says there’s no transit system to rely upon in rural Manitoba and teens often have to travel relatively long distances, so it’s important that they have a plan for getting home safely.

But Johnston and fellow teacher Chelsea Meier — who was a TADD member when she graduated from the school in 2003 — say they may scale back activities this year.

Johnston says there are too many other school activities competing for students’ attention, and even TADD members stop attending the group’s events by January.

Virtue, a former school principal and MTS president, has been retired for 18 years, but he’s still committed to TADD, which was inspired by a student who was taking part in a Safe Grad seminar he and Thomas were running in the early 1980s.

“He said, ‘Why are you old guys concerned only one night of the year?’ And so we went from there.”

TADD is modeled after U.S. organization SADD, which now stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions.
He says he’s still inspired by the kids who get involved with the program. And he saw proof at the August meeting that his efforts are making a difference. 

Virtue helps arrange to have speakers from MPI’s Friends for Life program visit schools across Manitoba.  He estimates they’ve racked up more than 100 presentations over the last two years.

One speaker from Selkirk, 18-year-old Dustin Vernie, is permanently disabled after crashing his car while texting in 2011. And Vancouver-based speaker Cara Filler lost twin sister to a drinking and driving accident the day after their 18th birthday.

St. James Collegiate Grade 12 student Simone Jourdain says Filler’s presentation motivated her to try to get more kids involved in TADD. Portage Middle School’s Makayla Timony, 13, attended two of Filler’s speaking events, and she has a personal reason for trying to form a TADD chapter at her school.

“One of my best friends got in a vehicle with a drunk driver,” she says. “She crashed.”

Her friend survived, but the accident highlights another potential danger for kids. The driver was the girl’s own mother.

 Timony says kids have to say no to riding with dangerous adults, adding she sees parents driving and with cellphones in hand all the time.

MPI reports that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to have an accident and, according to 2010 statistics, distracted or careless driving is involved in 38 per cent of traffic fatalities. And more than 87 per cent of traffic fatalities involving teens are alcohol-related.
Virtue would like to round up student leaders to plan a large two-day conference next year, but more kids have to be involved — and that means more teachers and principals have to help out.

There are several suggestions for TADD activities at www.taddmanitoba.com, and the group is eager to train students to take TADD presentations to high school feeder schools.  MPI, which is TADD’s main financial sponsor, also offers a range of resources, from videos, activity kits and merchandise for giveaways, including neon thumb rings to remind kids not to text behind the wheel.

“It’s amazing what the kids can do when you give them a little bit of encouragement and guidelines,” Virtue says. “They’ve got a good head on their shoulders if you give them an opportunity.”


Lack of visible Aboriginal people in leadership positions in education, say First Nations teachers

Oct. 19, 2012
According to recent research conducted for MTS, Aboriginal teachers believe there is a lack of visible Aboriginal educators in leadership positions in Manitoba’s public schools.

“I see very little representation [of Aboriginal persons] at all and definitely not in leadership roles. They are not visible because they are non-existent,” said one teacher.

Another teacher said: “My kids have gone through K to 12 and have not seen a single Aboriginal person in a leadership position.”  This lack of visibility and participation, he explained, results in discrimination which administration, as non-Aboriginal people, may not even be aware of.

These comments are included in a report on focus group research conducted in May 2012 on behalf of MTS in partnership with the Aboriginal Education Directorate. Aboriginal teachers, principals and vice-principals from elementary, middle and high schools were invited to participate in two-hour discussion groups in Winnipeg and The Pas. Three quarters of the participants were women. The report and facilitation was done by AMR Planning & Consulting, which is 100 per cent Aboriginal owned and operated.

MTS intends to use the information gathered through this research to improve resources to help increase the number of Aboriginal teachers in leadership positions in their schools, school divisions, teachers’ associations and at MTS.

The barriers and challenges Aboriginal teachers faced when seeking leadership positions in their schools or at MTS were described in the focus groups.
The AMR report says: “Aboriginal individuals tend to not boast about themselves or display self-interest, as they are oriented more towards collectivism than individualism. A participant noted that most interviewers have “a picture of a good leader being the loudest person in the room. That’s not us.” She went on to ask “how do they know I’m the best if I’m not the loudest?”

The teachers said there is a real or perceived notion that Aboriginal students and teachers have to put in more effort to get ahead. Referring to the work required while completing her Masters, a participant stated “you have to write double for your thesis. You have to go above and beyond just to make sure. As Aboriginal people we have to work doubly hard.” 

The limited number and high standards for administrative positions were also mentioned as barriers. When additional qualifications are required for leadership positions in school divisions, these Aboriginal teachers felt that professional support in terms of additional schooling was too lengthy and difficult for them financially especially if relocation was involved. Working full-time and taking courses was also a challenge. The rigid course structure, the weight of course workload and lack of focus on aboriginal culture, was also cited, as was the difficulties of online learning.

“As Aboriginal people we work better in a circle, talking and seeing each other.”


Special Needs pilot project in Seven Oaks panned by teachers

Oct. 19, 2012
If what is happening in Seven Oaks School Division becomes the norm throughout the province then teachers’ workloads will increase and support for special needs students will deteriorate.

These are the findings from recent research conducted by MTS into the effects of the block funding pilot project in SOSD.
In June of this year MTS hired Viewpoints Research to conduct a telephone survey of Seven Oaks Teachers’ Association members to gauge their experiences after two years in the block funding pilot project.

In September of 2010, SOSD eliminated funding applications for Level 2 special needs students. Instead, the school division receives a lump sum from the province based on the historical frequency of Level 2 students in the division. Individual Education Plans still must be completed, but the funding application is gone. It is the school division that decides how to distribute the money for Level 2 students. Seven Oaks is the only school division in Manitoba that is currently funding Level 2 students in this way. This is the final year of the three-year pilot.

MTS has heard many complaints from teachers about the consequences of block funding in Seven Oaks and both SOTA and MTS have asked the government to stop the pilot, to no avail. At the 2012 MTS Annual General Meeting a resolution was passed asking MTS to conduct research into this issue.

“No surprises,” said Leslie Deck, President of SOTA.  “The results of the survey support what SOTA has been hearing from classroom teachers, and what SOTA has been communicating these last two years to the government and the division.  At its inception, we were told ‘block funding would result in better and more supports for students’.   However, teachers and students of Seven Oaks continue to bear the day-to-day challenges of less consistent and less available support in classrooms. This was a decision made without teacher consultation or, to date, any evaluation mechanism.”

During the last two weeks of June, 233 randomly selected SOTA members participated in the telephone survey.  Fifty-nine per cent were classroom teachers, 24 per cent subject teachers, 10 per cent resource teachers and seven per cent were others, including specialists and administrators. Respondents were also asked the grades they taught, their years of experience and the number of special needs students they had in their classroom. There are approximately 730 full-time equivalent teachers in SOTA.

When asked about support for special needs students in the division, 33 per cent said that support for special needs students had deteriorated in the last few years, 40 per cent said it stayed the same and 15 per cent said it improved.

However, 38 per cent of classroom teachers and teachers with more than 15 years of experience (47 per cent) said it has deteriorated. Specialists and administrators were the only group where the preponderance of members felt support has improved (33 per cent).
There is a striking contrast in the opinions of classroom teachers, those with more than four special needs students and experienced teachers compared to specialists, administrators and newer teachers throughout this research.

When asked specifically about support for Level 2 special needs students, educators with four or more Level 2 students in their classroom were most inclined to think it had deteriorated (50 per cent).  A high proportion of those who had been teaching for six years or more also feel support has deteriorated (48 per cent). Those who participated in the survey were told that Level 2 special needs student have severe multiple disabilities, psychotic issues or behavioural difficulties or have moderate autism.

Teachers were also asked whether block funding had a positive or negative impact on Level 2 students. Classroom teachers (63 per cent) and those who have been teaching for six years or more  (64 per cent) were the most likely to report that block funding of Level 2 students has had a negative impact on support and services for these students, compared to teachers overall  (54 per cent).

Only specialist teachers and administrators were more likely to say that block funding has a positive, rather than a negative effect on Level 2 students (48 per cent positive).

What did teachers say about the impact on other students in the classroom? A majority of teachers with four or more Level 2 students in their classrooms concluded that block funding has a negative impact on other students (56 per cent)  compared to all educators (45 per cent).
When asked about the impact on teachers and their workload,  classroom teachers (66 per cent), those with four or more Level 2 students in their class (61 per cent), and educators with six or more years of experience (67 per cent) were more likely to say block funding has a negative impact on teachers and their workload compared to respondents overall (58 per cent). In fact no sub-group was more likely to say block funding has a positive rather than a negative impact on teachers and their workload.

The teachers who were surveyed were read a number of statements related to the impact of block funding of Level 2 special needs students and asked whether they agreed or disagreed with each statement, and whether they felt strongly or moderately so. Agreement with statements related to the negative impacts of block funding was consistently stronger and more prevalent than agreement with arguments related to the benefits of block funding.

For example, teachers agreed that they now have more responsibility for special needs students, but less support and access to specialists for help to meet these expectations.  Teachers disagreed that there is increased flexibility and access to resource teachers and other specialists that would reduce the workload of other teachers.

They also agreed that it has changed the role of the educational assistant, but disagreed that block funding offers the opportunity for EAs and teachers to work more effectively together.

"Seven Oaks members are telling us that what may have looked good on paper to the school board and government has become something of a train wreck in practice,” said MTS President Paul Olson. “If the problem was onerous paperwork for funding applications, then that is what we should have fixed, and indeed still need to fix.  The teachers who spend the most time with the kids in Seven Oaks have made it clear that block funding has failed to deliver for the kids and teachers in Seven Oaks. Our students and our members deserve better."

A similar pilot in seven Manitoba school divisions occurred in the early 2000s. The final report from the Minister’s Advisory Council on Education Funding concluded, “Although the Committee has spent a great deal of time on this topic and has spoken to many different stakeholders, the Committee believes that there are still too many unanswered questions to make a recommendation on an appropriate funding formula.”

Interviewing for the MTS survey took place between June 19 and June 28, 2012. The confidence level is plus or minus 5.28 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


Dark incident the seed for shining Aboriginal program in Sunrise School Division

By Mark Halsall

Oct. 19, 2012
Almost 10 years ago the Sunrise School Division had to confront an ugly, racist incident.

It’s decisions at the time built the path to an innovative approach to Indigenous education at Springfield Collegiate Institute (SCI).  The approach is reflected in the Ojibwe name for the program: Gakina Awiya Biindigeg, “everyone is welcome.”

The incident at the Oakbank high school in 2003 was far from welcoming.

Aboriginal elder Garry Robson was invited to address a social studies class at the school. After speaking to the students, Robson was stunned by what he found in the parking lot – his truck vandalized and defaced with racist slurs.

Ken McCorkle is a school counselor at SCI. He says the incident sparked a “turning point” in the school’s approach to Aboriginal relations.

School staff, along with support from the Sunrise Division school board, vowed to make something positive out of an undeniably damaging situation.

“Basically we decided that we would start an awareness group that would go beyond what we were looking at in terms of anti-racism but would encourage an appreciation for Aboriginal issues, Aboriginal people, Aboriginal culture,” he says.

Joining SCI a few months after the 2003 incident, McCorkle had lived and worked in Indigenous communities and he welcomed the opportunity to take a leading role in getting Gakina Awiya Biindigeg off the ground.

He describes the program as multi-faceted, in keeping with its goal of promoting and understanding indigenous cultures in all their aspects. It also represents a major shift from an “event-based” approach (such as Aboriginal crafts days or powwow exhibitions) to a year-long programming model that supports Aboriginal students on a constant basis.

“If you have a smattering approach, you’re giving just a little nod now and then to Aboriginal education, Aboriginal programming, Aboriginal issues, whatever,” McCorkle says, adding that some studies have shown this may actually be detrimental to Aboriginal students.

“I think the reason is that when you do a now and then approach, it actually is probably patronizing. It’s sort of like: We’ll get this out of the way because we have to but we don’t really want to do it,” he says.

“When this thing is front and centre from the start of the year through to the end, when there’s excitement and a valuing of these perspectives – that’s completely different.”

At the core of Gakina Awiya Biindigeg is a student-led, teacher-guided group headed by a junior chief and council, who are elected from among the school’s grades 9 to 12 students. The school provides space where First Nations, Metis, Inuit and all interested students can hear from Indigenous speakers on various topics, as well as study traditional Aboriginal art forms and the Ojibway language and culture.

In addition, there are field trips and other activities like drum groups. Students can also experience sweat lodges, vision quests and other traditional ceremonies. Program members helped erect a teepee at SCI that’s used for traditional teaching, and two years ago they built an authentic Metis ox cart with the help of Armand Gerome.

All those interesting activities may explain why Gakina Awiya Biindigeg is the largest student group on campus.

“It consistently has about 100 to 120 members, and in a school of 600 that’s a good chunk,” says McCorkle.

He believes the appeal for indigenous students is that “they’re being affirmed – who they are, their history that’s so often been denigrated by cultural mainstream.”

McCorkle says even those Aboriginal students who don’t get involved because they’re busy with sports or other things stand to benefit: “The fact that the group actually exists is enough because it values who they are.”

Learning and belonging are two pillars of the Gakina Awiya Biindigeg program; the third is parental involvement. McCorkle says SCI has a Parents for Indigenous Education group that gathers at a banquet twice a year to provide their input and meet teachers, as well as hear presentations from different speakers.

“The interesting thing is that in so many cases in our area, the parents have lost contact with their culture themselves so they’re as eager to learn about these things as their kids are,” he says.

Janine Lafreniere-Vicente has two daughters who are graduates of SCI and a son currently attending the school. She says all three have benefitted greatly from the Gakina Awiya Biindigeg program which has taught them to “be proud of who they are.”

She says it’s important for youth to understand and reclaim Aboriginal history, traditions and culture that have been taken away and lost over the generations.

“Even my generation, we are still just learning. Our kids are learning with us, and (at SCI) they’re learning from different elders from different perspectives,” she says. “Ken (McCorkle) is really good like that, bringing in different elders who can give their teachings to the kids.”

She also applauds the program for exposing Aboriginal culture “to the general public and the general population of the school, which I think is also invaluable. It’s just so important that people understand who we are as Aboriginal people and this program really opens those doors.”

McCorkle says overt racism – like the ugly incident in 2003 – has been virtually eliminated at the school, adding that the program has helped boost graduation rates, attendance and grades for its indigenous students.

SCI’s success with Gakina Awiya Biindigeg has led to the introduction of similar groups throughout the Sunrise School Division.

McCorkle says that a result of a 2007 division directive to move from event-based programming to a “continuing thread” of indigenous education throughout the school year, the SCI model is being “reproduced not just at the high school level but also at the elementary and middle school levels.”

“Each group will be a little bit different in terms of the reality of where they are. For instance, our group is quite different from the one that is going to exist in Powerview because Powerview is almost entirely Aboriginal students,” he says, estimating that SCI’s indigenous students comprise between 15-20 percent of the total student body.

McCorkle says building linguistic and cultural awareness are important aspects of Gakina Awiya Biindigeg, but underpinning these activities is an understanding of the importance of belonging for Indigenous students.

Fitting in was certainly a prime consideration for Travis Lang, a Cree student who participated in the program last year after moving to Manitoba. “

“I had come out from B.C. and was just new to the school (but) everyone welcomed me with open arms,” Lang says. “It was awesome. It wasn’t what I expected at all.”

Gakina Awiya Biindigeg turned out to “wicked,” he says, adding it opened his eyes “to a bunch of new stuff that I walked past through my life and I never even thought twice about.”

Lang is particularly grateful to Ken McCorkle, for convincing him to join and passing along some books that “showed me how to respect my elders and really changed me personally (and my) view on life.”

“Mr. McCorkle is awesome. I’m really glad that I met that guy.”


U of W and MTS undertake national study into sexual and gender inclusive education

Oct. 11, 2012
The University of Winnipeg, in partnership with The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, has begun a national study on LGBTQ ((lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, Two-Spirit, queer and questioning). inclusive education.

Every national, provincial, and territorial teacher organization in English Canada has signed on to support the project.
"It's imperative that we create schools that welcome and celebrate diversity, and recognize it not as a liability or a problem, but a strength, said Paul Olson, President, The Manitoba Teachers' Society. “The Manitoba Teachers' Society is incredibly proud to be taking the lead on this project with UWinnipeg.

“From coast to coast to coast, teachers are standing up for all their kids -- not just those that fall into some comfortable majority demographic. This study will be vital to informing that work."

The Every Teacher Project is designed to identify and make widely available the collective expertise that exists among Canadian teachers on inclusive education practices for sexual and gender minority students. The project will explore what educators think about the climate of Canada’s schools for LGBTQ students; which approaches to inclusion seem to work, and in what contexts, and which don’t; what teachers need in terms of supports in doing this work, and what holds educators back.

“We are very excited to see this level of participation which is clear evidence that teachers across the country are moving strongly to improve the school climate for LGBTQ students, students with LGBTQ parents, and other students who suffer the toxic effects of homophobia” said Dr. Catherine Taylor, director of academic programs in the university`s Faculty of Education.

Taylor also served as lead researcher in partnership with Egale Canada Human Rights Trust for the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia and Transphobia in Canadian Schools. That three-year study, which concluded last year, involved 3,607 Canadian teens and found that public schools are a bleak place for LGBTQ students.

That study found that 21 per cent of LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted while almost two thirds – 64 per cent - felt unsafe at school.

“We learned from that study that teachers’ efforts to support LGBTQ students can make a big difference,” said Taylor. “But LGBTQ-inclusive educators often work in isolation, or in small clusters, without the benefit of the nation-wide teaching community’s experiences, insights, and expertise. That knowledge needs to be made available throughout the school system, from Nunavut to British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, and everywhere in between. That is what the Every Teacher Project sets out to do.”

The Every Teacher project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Teachers, students focus on human rights and social justice

Oct. 5, 2012
Teachers and students in Manitoba celebrated World Teachers’ Day Oct. 5 with a focus on human rights and social justice.

“The theme for this year is all about taking a stand,” says MTS president Paul Olson, “and it couldn’t be a better fit.”

“Students want and do create meaningful opportunities to serve in all of their communities: classrooms, schools, towns and world,” says Olson. “We see this among the amazing students we honour with Young Humanitarian Awards, the teachers and students who support Winnipeg Harvest, and the many classrooms and schools that run humanitarian projects all year long.”

Olson says this kind of education starts in the classroom, and can be done with all ages. “It starts with teachers showing students the importance of kindness and courtesy. Talking about human rights and social justice is a natural off-shoot of that. These aren't just external "projects" either. This is education on how people can and should interact with everyone and everything around them on a daily basis."

One of the many Manitoba teachers who have embraced social justice issues is Orysya Petryshyn. She teaches Grade 11 at Sisler High School and through the years, she has involved her students, in many social justice and humanitarian relief projects locally and in places as far-flung as Haiti, Pakistan, East Africa and Japan.

“Many of the students here have connections to other children around the world because of where they come from. So, we talk a lot about issues like poverty, natural disasters, hunger and human rights. And many come with a knowledge of, or experience with, the issues already.”


Manitoba teachers recognized by Prime Minister's Awards for teaching excellence

Oct. 5, 2012
Seven Manitoba teachers were honoured this month by the 2012 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence

Four received certificates of excellence and three certificates of achievement under the program, which honours outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers who help students develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in the digital economy.

Receiving certificates of excellence were:

Receiving certificates of achievement were:

“Good teachers help lay the foundation with which we interpret and navigate the world. They make a valuable contribution to Canadians being among the brightest and most innovative citizens in the world,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in announcing the awards.


Students, school centre of donor recognition event for human rights museum

Sept., 25, 2012
The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights held a rocking donor recognition event Sept. 25 to kick off their 2014 fundraising “tour” in support of the Friends.

About 350 people packed the room at the CanadInns Polo Park for the party which featured Gail Asper, National Campaign Chair for the Friends; Wayne Davies, Principal of École Selkirk Junior High School and B.O.S.S. Guitar Works; and local entertainers Keith and Renee.

Dozens of guitars signed by celebrities such as Pearl Jam, Roger Waters, Blue Rodeo, Alice Cooper, Jeff Beck and Jann Arden ringed the perimeter of the room.  The instruments, built by students, will be auctioned at a gala evening at the school on May 30 with proceeds going to the CMHR.

Naturally, those same students were in demand for interviews by every TV outlet in the city. Two were even tagged as designated tweeters for the event.

The big reveal for this event came complete with lights, a drum roll and confetti canons. To date, Friends have raised $136 million dollars from a myriad of non-government sources – including The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. “Teachers have always led and supported their students in doing social justice work in their communities and in the broader world,” said Society President Paul Olson. 

“MTS members have donated significantly to the CMHR, and I'm thrilled to see the work that Wayne Davies, Kris Hancock, and Scott Sampson are doing at École Selkirk Junior High School to build great guitars and even better citizens by supporting the Museum as well.”


Students in Interlake looking at sending experiments into space

Sept. 24, 2012
More than 450 Grade 5 and 6 students from Interlake School Division will be competing to send one experiment up to the International Space Station next spring - a first for a Canadian school division.

The Interlake project is sponsored by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) which, in Manitoba, is overseen by the Arthur C. Clarke for Space Education. Funding is coming from the Government of Manitoba and a number of private firms.

Both Ashley Brad and Halle Chester have been part of Woodlands Elementary school teacher Maria Nickel's "Space Knights" program since its inception three years ago.

"Ms. Nickel is very good at doing cool things," says Ashley. "She was my science teacher before and I always loved what we did in her classes."

"We've built robots in her class," says Halle, "and every year they would get harder and harder."

The two of them are excited about the possibility that their experiment may be chosen to ride a Falcon 9 rocket up the International Space Station next spring. But because of the competitive nature of the event, they're reluctant to divulge too many details.

What they will say is that it might have to do with whether various compounds react differently in microgravity than they do on Earth. And they know that anything they do develop must fit within a standard-size test tube.

As for the larger questions about space exploration, both girls agree that what really fascinates them is the Big One - whether there is life on other planets. "Even if it's just bacteria," says Halle.

"Yes, there must be," says Ashley. "Bacteria, insects...there must be something."

Grade 5 and 6 students in the division have until Oct. 19 to hand in their proposals to Nickel.


Breakfast program keeps kids in school, expands in the community

Sept. 4, 2012
When students routinely don’t show up for class, it might seem ridiculous, let alone impossible, for educators to worry about teaching them about a balanced diet. But Eugenia Lehmann has a delicious angle to help solve the problem: Offer them food.

Lehmann is the Community Liaison at Donwood School and a strong believer that to have a successful school day of learning, students need nutritious food for stamina. According to Lehmann’s philosophy, the way to students’ minds may be through their stomachs.

Her theory has already been tested to success in the North Kildonan area. When a breakfast program was put in place at Donwoood school a few years ago, the school’s truancy issues were soon curbed. Students started showing up for breakfast and staying for school. For Lehmann, the breakfast program’s success highlighted the fact that many of the school’s students came from families who struggled with nutrition.

Lehmann then approached Jubilee Church and pitched the idea to run a community kitchen out of a kitchen in the church’s basement, and so the Donwood-Jubilee Community Kitchen was born. Lehmann said that having the families join her in the kitchen’s “neutral” territory outside of Donwood School alleviates some of the stress or intimidation some parents feel on school grounds.

Working with Jubilee Mennonite Church’s Community Ministry Director Anna-Marie Geddert, Lehmann runs the program weekly. The community kitchen caters to the families of Donwood School and area residents by operating on funds from a grant. None of the participants are charged a fee.

Lehmann’s participants are mostly recommended by school staff, and although about a dozen families have been invited, participants vary week to week. A solid five or six show up on a regular basis, all of them women, and the group prepares a meal together that they divide to take home to their families. Each session lasts few hours and everyone helps with the planning, preparation, cooking and cleaning.

Before each session, Lehmann goes grocery shopping. She buys bulk quantities of all the ingredients, trying to keep the bill under $100. Because the food is divided between all participants and any volunteers present, this means each family-size meal will be prepared for about $10.

“Meat is expensive,” Lehmann explained, adding that cold cuts, hot dogs and ground meats are the least expensive options available. The recipes they prepare have an emphasis on beans and lentils and are much more affordable, she said.

“I’m a real food snob,” Lehmann said. She buys whole foods, tries to stay away from processed food, and each recipe is reviewed by a dietician to check for balance and nutrition. All the meals prepared out of the community kitchen are vegetarian, with instruction on how meat may be added if desired.

Also, Lehmann said many vegetable donations come from the Donwood School’s garden program, which is run by teachers and students. So moms of some of the students who grow the vegetables at Donwood get to enjoy their harvest in meals prepared at the community kitchen every week. Those families in particular gain an awareness of the benefits of eating more sustainably as the garden program and community kitchen work off each other.

Participants also leave with recipes and tips to plan healthy meals on a budget. For instance, Lehmann encourages participants to limit the addition of heavier, fattier and pricier ingredients like cheese, suggesting shredded cheese for just the top of lasagna, instead of layering cheese with the sauce vegetables and pasta throughout the dish.

She said the community kitchen has been so popular that in the past year, another church in the area has organized a second community kitchen.

In addition to increasing access to healthy food, the participants practice teamwork, leadership, communication and interpersonal skills together. Taking it one step further, arrangements have been made to have a life-coach talk with the women about building strong relationships.

“We’ve expanded the project. It’s not just kitchens and food anymore,” Lehmann said. Geddert and Lehmann look forward to treating the women to a “spa day” during the year by inviting skin and hair specialists to pamper the group. Lehmann said that reminding the women that allowing time and others for self-care should also be a priority.


Public school students dominate provincial mathematics contest

Sept. 4, 2012
Manitoba’s best-known private school, St. John’s-Ravenscourt, has a well-earned reputation for producing the top student mathematicians in the province.

But this year at least, the honour belongs to J.H. Bruns Collegiate.

One of its graduating Grade 12 students – Vera Deng – took first place in the 48th annual Manitoba Mathematical Contest held in the spring. Understandably, administration and math teachers at the Winnipeg public school are a proud bunch.

“We’re very, very pleased; very proud of her results,” said Bob Town, principal at J.H. Bruns. “She’s a really nice kid, always smiling. She’s just a great kid.”

For top place, Deng won $1,000 and a $1,000 entrance scholarship to the University of Manitoba (Deng, however, chose to attend the University of Toronto this fall).

An MTS affiliate – the Manitoba Association of Mathematics Teachers – helps sponsor the competition. Other financial supporters include the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Actuaries’ Club and the Canadian Mathematical Society.

A total of 190 students from 32 high schools participated in the 2012 contest.

In addition to J.H. Bruns, two other Winnipeg public schools had students in the top four.
Kyle Lee and Jerry Liu from Fort Richmond Collegiate placed second and third respectively, while Winnie Wu from Murdoch MacKay Collegiate was fourth.

Sheeva Klassen taught first place winner Deng Advanced Placement Calculus at J.H. Bruns. She attended the awards banquet celebrating the top four finishers and admitted to being surprised there was no one there from St. John’s-Ravenscourt, which traditionally dominates the competition.

"SJR got shut out of the top four for the first time in like forever," Klassen said. "I’ve been here 16 years, and I believe only once before we had someone in the top four, and he came in fourth. So to have number one is huge."

Commenting on the rivalry between her school and SJR, Klassen joked that she and her public school cohorts at the banquet weren’t terribly broken up by the private school’s absence:  “It was like: woo hoo!”

Town, the J.H. Bruns principal, agreed that “public schools always feel good when they do better than the private schools.”

He acknowledged it’s a bit of a sore point when public schools lose kids in their community to SJR and other private schools: “We like to think that we have as good a product.”

MTS President Paul Olson said that as a public school teacher, he was “thrilled” to hear that J.H. Bruns, Fort Richmond and Murdoch MacKay had done so well in the competition.

However, Olson was quick to point out that it would be unwise to view this year’s result as anything resembling a shift in the education landscape.

“A contest winner, be they private school or be they public school, is by definition an outlier,” he explained.

“I mean any school that can field a student who does really well can be justifiably proud but at the same time, a lot of individual effort on the part of individual teachers and individual students is very much going to be part of that. So the idea that it’s somehow indicative of systemic change is a bit of a stretch.”

Olson believes competitions like the Manitoba Mathematical Contest fill a valuable role.

“These things are wonderful in terms of promoting math education and the importance of math and how it is one of those foundational knowledge areas that can go into engineering and sciences and so on,” he said.

Olson added that math’s importance is also “underrated in terms of the non-mathematical areas – things like social sciences, education, even the arts, have some basis in analytics and math and so on.”

Dr. Robert Craigen, a mathematics professor at the University of Manitoba and a member of MAMT, is the director of the contest. Craigen said J.H. Bruns usually fares quite well and he was particularly pleased to see a school like Murdoch MacKay “come out of nowhere” to finish fourth in the contest.

He acknowledged it was “a bit of anomaly” not to see a private school student in the top four. Like Olson, Craigen stressed that in all likelihood it was nothing more than a normal fluctuation in the year-to-year competition results, pointing out that SJR did have several honourable mentions this year.

Klassen said one of the highlights of the awards banquet was hearing Dr. David Barnard, University of Manitoba president and vice-chancellor, talk about his own experiences competing in math contests.

“I found math competitions in high school to be stimulating and fun, and participating in them led to my first contact with universities a couple of years before I graduated,” Barnard told the Manitoba Teacher. Barnard went on to study computer science at the University of Toronto.

Deng is similarly grateful for the opportunity to shine at the 2012 Manitoba Mathematical Contest. When interviewed shortly after her win, she gave a big chunk of the credit to her “wonderful math teachers” at J.H. Bruns.

Deng completed Grades 11 and 12 there, after coming to Winnipeg as an international student from China. Before that, she’d heard stories about how Canadian students didn’t study as hard as their Chinese counterparts.

"Since I came to J.H. Bruns, it’s not like that,” Deng said. “Everyone is very focused on their studies and they want to achieve something, to reach their full potential."

The school’s principal joined Deng in heaping praise on J.H. Bruns teachers.

“Our math people are always available for kids,” Town said. “They’re in their classrooms at lunch hour all the time, and kids are always coming in for help.”


Many beginning teachers entering second and third careers

Sept. 4, 2012
Recent MTS research on beginning teachers shows the traditional picture of the novice teacher is changing; the wants and needs of these new teachers may be changing, as well.

First of all, many beginning teachers aren’t spring chickens. They may be new to teaching, but they’re not new to the working world. When 400 teachers in their first five years were surveyed by MTS in a telephone poll in April 2012, 30 per cent said teaching wasn’t their first career. Men especially were likely to have had other careers (43 per cent). While 80 per cent of beginning teachers surveyed were under 35, fifteen percent were 35 to 45 and five per cent were 46 or older.

New teachers usually rely on other teachers at their school as an important resource. However, when asked about their most useful resource, 85 per cent of beginning teachers named the Internet. This compares to 68 per cent who named other teachers at their school. Forty-four per cent said administrators were a very useful resource and 37 per cent said professional development seminars were very useful.

We then asked these teachers, “What would you like to rely on more? “ “Teachers from other schools who teach my grade or subject” was mentioned by 18 per cent. “Other teachers at my school” was mentioned by 17 per cent.  “Books” was mentioned by 15 per cent.

Prior to conducting the survey of beginning teachers, MTS hosted discussion groups with new teachers in The Pas, Steinbach and Winnipeg to get a picture of the challenges they face.  We asked them where they go for ideas, answers and support. They told us that they most often turn to colleagues who teach the same content or grades in their school for assistance. They often receive specific plans and ideas.

“I always go to the other Grade 6 teacher. She is great, she’ll say I tried this and it really works.”

“We have a group of social studies teachers at my school and we all work as a team. A lot of them are experienced teachers. They know what works and they are willing to share.”

Specialist teachers, like vocational and physical education teachers, told us they try to build connections outside their school with teachers in the same specialty areas. “I have developed a network of other electronics teachers outside my school and I am in contact with them a lot.”
Another new teacher said: “I teach phys. ed. I would like to go to other teachers and see what they are doing, but I don’t have those connections yet.”  Many also said, “I use the Internet. Everything is there.”

Some new teachers felt isolated. Several feel their older colleagues criticize them behind their backs.

“Sometimes I feel no one in my school wants to do anything differently than they have done for decades. They just want to keep doing what they’ve been doing.”

When asked to summarize their needs in writing, beginning teachers said they needed:


MTS election planning begins, members should update info.

Sept. 4, 2012
It won’t be decided until next year, but work begins this month on preparing for the next possible MTS presidential election, in which all members can vote.

Under current bylaws, the president’s position comes up for election every two years, the last one being held in 2011.

General Secretary and Chief Returning Officer Ken Pearce says election years are important to the Society and for members.

“It is one way members have a direct say in the direction of the teachers’ society,” he says. “All members can become engaged; it’s an exciting and invigorating time.”

He emphasizes that it is also important for members to keep their contact information with MTS up to date, so they are not missed when ballots are sent out. Information can be updated through the MyProfile link on the MTS website (www.mbteach.org) home page.

President is the only position elected by a ballot of all members. The vice-president (a position also up for election in 2013) and other members of the provincial executive are elected by delegates at the MTS Annual General Meeting. Those too are part of the election planning this year.

While it is never certain there will be a competition for the positions, preparations have to begin early, said Pearce.

Within the next six weeks Pearce will name a management committee for a possible presidential election and teacher association presidents will name school representatives. The deadline for that is Oct. 29.

Some other important deadline dates for the presidential election include:

Pearce said members will be kept up to date as election preparations proceed with material and information sent to schools, printed in The Teacher and posted online.


Portage teachers' human rights project has impact on students

Sept. 4, 2012
Some are magical hand-drawn masterpieces – others, simple expressions of gratitude. But they all carried a heartfelt message to Portage la Prairie teachers that contained some variation of “thanks for the books!”

Last April, the Portage Teachers’ Association (PTA) supplied every Grade 5 student in the division with a copy of either Human Rights Activist or Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger. Their classrooms got single copies of The Color of My Words (Lynn Joseph), Parvana’s Journey (Deborah Ellis), and Lives Turned Upside Down (Jim Hubbard).
The gifts were made possible with a public relations grant from The Manitoba Teachers’ Society and funds from the association.

So, did the books have any impact on Portage students?

You bet - according to well over 100 thank you notes received by the PTA.

“I learned a lot about human rights,” said one young boy. “Now, I can’t stop thinking about it!”

“I got the one about social justice and it is REALLY interesting,” said a girl. “I like the page where it talks about racism.”

Yet another was moved to action. “Thanks for the great book on social justice! I was very inspired by it. I’m going to work in a soup kitchen once a week.”
“It accomplished what we were hoping it would,” said Tim Lehman, public relations chair of the PTA. “It could make a big change individually in students’ lives and that interest could follow them right up into high school.”

Lehman says it wasn’t difficult to make the project happen. The project had help from two members of the Portage Collegiate Institute’s social justice committee and other Grade 5 teachers in the local association.

“We really appreciated the Society’s PR grant. We couldn’t have started the project without MTS being willing to provide funds. It was a great feeling to help make a little change in the world.”

To see more of the students’ comments click over to our slideshow.


Teacher-librarians becoming endangered species despite research

Sept. 4, 2012
By Matea Tuhtar
Even as more and more research illustrates their worth grows, teacher-librarians face cuts in numerous areas as jurisdictions look to cut school costs. And Manitoba has not been immune.

“In 1985 there were 209 teacher-librarians in 17 Manitoba school divisions,” says Jo-Anne Gibson, a teacher-librarian in Pembina Trails and advocacy chair with the Manitoba School Librarians Association. “This would look a little bit different now since the amalgamations, but we are nowhere near close to 209.”

Only four of six Winnipeg school divisions have school teacher-librarians and in rural Manitoba there are only two. One is Thompson and the other is Brandon, though even there the hours for teacher librarians have been cut back significantly, says Vivianne Fogarty, another teacher-librarian in Pembina Trails and past president of the school librarians’ association.

Part of the decline has been because school divisions are hiring library technicians to fill teacher-librarian roles.

“Part of our belief is that school libraries need to be staffed with a qualified person. There are great deviations across the board as to what a teacher librarian is.  That is a real problem in our field – it’s a Catch 22. If you don’t put someone qualified in the position, people say ‘Well, they’re not doing anything’ and they get cut,” says Gibson.
Gibson and Fogarty say there are misunderstandings about the different roles of a teacher-librarian and library technician.

“The two work together and both are important,” says Gibson. “The technicians are doing the everyday running of the library – they’re the ones checking out books, cataloguing, physically maintaining the library but they’re not in front of the class teaching information literacy, literacy ICT and technology. We are the information specialists.”
Gibson and Fogarty say there are some school divisions in the province whose libraries are totally run by technicians only, and some rural school divisions are only hiring library clerks who have no training.

“There have been many, many studies done and lots of research has been put into school libraries and we don’t understand why there’s this disconnect between this research and resources,” says Fogarty.

“We would say that every school division in this province has literacy as one of their mandates or goals. And yet it is not followed through in terms of school libraries and how much we can support that mandate. It doesn’t make sense to us.”

School divisions in Manitoba have been allocating more and more money towards technology over the past few decades, and although much of teacher librarian training is about digital citizenship, teacher librarians aren’t mentioned in the province’s Literacy with ICT Continuum.

“There is a definite confusion to the role of the 21st Century teacher librarian,” says Gibson. “Part of our job is teaching how to properly access the information on the Internet, how to evaluate the value of it and how to use it. We teach digital citizenship, how to do research and access databases and how to efficiently collect and organize that information.“

An article in the Canadian Education Association Journal entitled Ignoring the Evidence: Another Decade of Decline for School Libraries written by Dr. Diana Oberg says: ‘Four decades of research from Canada, the U.S., and Australia indicates that well-staffed, well-stocked, and well-used school libraries are correlated with increases in student achievement on the order of four percent to 20 percent, as measured on student performance on standardized tests, overall school performance, and student performance in reading comprehension and in academic subjects’.

Oberg writes that ‘While in parts of Canada we are cutting back on school libraries and teacher-librarians, in parts of Europe they are being supported as a force for educational reform, for improving reading education, and for developing students’ abilities in information handling and knowledge creation.’

The provinces that are doing the best in Canada are B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario. Alberta, despite offering a teacher-librarian university program has cut its own teacher-librarians from 500 at one point to 50-60 currently teaching. 

Gibson and Fogarty say that they’ve tried to obtain current accurate statistics on school library personnel in Manitoba without luck.
“The information is very hard to obtain,” says Fogarty. “Eventually we would like to meet with Nancy Allen to share our concerns and we’d like to go with current and valid statistics but it’s been proving difficult to obtain the data.”

According to Gibson and Fogarty, the school library is still a popular place.

“If you read the research kids are reading now more than ever. When you look at research over and over again that school libraries and the access to literature and non-fiction and kids having choice is huge in terms of literacy development,” says Fogarty. Both teachers also work with community libraries to promote further reading and library programs.


The care and feeding of introverts and extroverts in the classroom

Sept. 4, 2012
Pat St. Germain

Silence is golden in the classroom.

Quiet kids who get a few seconds to think about questions in class perform better, according to former K-12 teacher and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instructor Lou-Anne Buhr.

“There is research that shows that if a teacher waits 10 seconds, the introverts do this much better, and 20 seconds, the introverts do better again,” Buhr says.

“Just wait a second, even to say, ‘Now I’m just going to give you time to think about this.’”

Introverts need to process responses and sometimes even mentally rehearse them. But teachers don’t like to wait, and quiet kids may get lower grades as a result.

“Participation is another one. If you’re awarded marks for participation and the teacher is basing that on instant answers then your introvert is penalized unfairly,” Buhr says.  “The introverts’ productivity and their answering and their participation increase with a little bit of patience and wait time.”

Portage Collegiate Institute teacher Mark Essay has studied American non-verbal communications expert Michael Grinder’s cat and dog model of behaviour.  He says teachers who behave like dogs — barking out questions or taking an in-your-face stance — scare off the cats in the room.  
Cats and dogs display both introverted and extroverted personality traits, but while it doesn’t take any finesse to get a dog’s attention, cats have to be enticed. If you can find something to intrigue them — Essay uses the Twilight books as an example — you can use it like a string toy to draw them in.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, urges parents and teachers to help introverted kids find a passion and feed it.

And Buhr says extroverts need help finding a positive direction for their energy as well.

Buhr, who took up Myers-Briggs training 30 years ago, says it’s based on a continuum from extremely introverted to extremely extroverted. She says it’s generally accepted that 70 per cent of the population falls on the extroverted side, but introverts may be undercounted. When people type themselves they have to be encouraged not to “fib” about extroverted traits, which are seen as more positive.

A raging extrovert herself, Buhr she says the essential difference is in how introverts and extroverts spend their energy and recharge their batteries. Introverts focus on an inner world of ideas and creative thought. They’re overstimulated and exhausted by social interaction, while extroverts who direct their energy outward are rejuvenated by crowds.

“If something happens to an extrovert it doesn’t even seem real till they’ve told five other friends — and incidentally they have 25 best friends,” Buhr says.

Extroverts are squeaky wheels, which mean they tend to get more attention in class. They have no problem blurting out the wrong answer to a question because they’re comfortable thinking out loud. And they find it easy to shift gears on the fly and jump to a new topic or rush off to another class.

“The introvert really needs that moment to say, ‘OK, that part’s finished, now we’re going to this part.’ Meanwhile the teacher who is an extrovert particularly has gone on to a third or fourth topic,” Buhr says.

“A teacher that’s sensitive to introverts is more likely to say, ‘Now we’ve got five minutes to kind of get your gear together because it’s class change.’ ”
Buhr says it helps to give introverts an agenda so they can prepare for a class discussion or meeting.

And it helps both personality types to understand one another. Introverts have to learn how to present themselves in group situations so extroverts understand them. And extroverts have to learn to appreciate the value of sober second thought.

“There’s something to be said for throwing out a problem so we can all solve it but ... if an extrovert would take an extra two seconds they would come up with a much better answer. They just don’t care to wait for it,” Buhr says.

“It just takes some thought — and it probably is helpful for the teacher to decide if they’re an introvert or an extrovert.”

Introverts often misunderstood as freaks, snobs

I am not a freak. I am an introvert.

That’s the “eureka reaction” journalist Jonathan Rauch heard from readers after the Atlantic Monthly published his 2003 essay Caring for Your Introvert.

The story drew record traffic on the magazine’s website and, in a 2006 interview, Rauch said it brought a deluge of responses from introverts who were relieved to discover they were normal.

They were also happy to learn there are more of their kind — so-called quiet loners who are exhausted by parties and tormented by small talk.
In a culture that celebrates the garrulous, shoot-from-the-lip extrovert, introverts are constantly cajoled to make more noise, join the party and have some fun. 

Their reserve baffles extroverts, who often think they’re aloof, snobbish and judgmental. 

“They’re misunderstood and all kinds of aspersions are cast,” says Myers-Briggs Type Indicator trainer Lou-Anne Buhr.
On Psychology Today blog The Introverts Corner, Sophia Dembling reports that when one woman explained her introversion to her family, her brother responded, “We thought you were just a bitch.”

Others think introverts are just unhinged. The American Psychiatric Association recently aborted a proposal to include introversion as an indicator for some personality disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The news appeared on the Psychology Today website under the headline APA Gains Sanity: Introverts Not Nuts.

“No doubt it was extroverts that were behind it,” Buhr says.

A self-described extreme extrovert, Buhr says introverts can’t be “cured.” Parents who try to transform kids into social butterflies only create mixed-up introverts.

Introverts aren’t necessarily shy. They can talk up a storm on a subject they’re passionate about and they enjoy other people’s company — just in small groups, and preferably in small doses.  Buhr says their energy is drained by social interaction, whereas extroverts are energized by it.

Dozens of books have addressed introversion since the 1920s, when psychologist Carl Jung concluded people fell into introvert and extrovert personality types. But millions of introverts didn’t get the memo until it appeared online.

Rauch, who wrote that he dreamed of the day when an introverts’ rights movement would make it OK to say, “Please shush,” may live to see it, thanks to a quiet revolution that’s brewing on the Internet.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, tweets, blogs and maintains a website on which she’s posted a 16-point manifesto.

Cain reminds us that many of  history’s deep thinkers — Gandhi, Einstein, Darwin — were introverts, and she urges us to appreciate the introvert gift of solitary reflection. She says schools and corporations are designed for extroverts, with too much forced collaboration and group work that’s dominated by the loudest — rather than smartest — voices in the room.

Cain speaks softly, but she’s being heard. Her TED2012 speech The Power of Introverts has drawn more than 2.5 million views online since March. 
In it, Cain recalls how, at the age of nine, she faked extroversion to fit in at summer camp. Her manifesto calls on adults to let kids know it’s not just OK to be an introvert — it’s a strength.

They should grow up knowing they’re not freaks. They’re just introverts.


Bobbi Ethier new MTS assistant general secretary

Sept. 4, 2012
Long-time MTS staff officer Bobbi Ethier has been appointed as the Society’s new assistant general secretary.

Ethier has been a staff officer at the Manitoba Teachers’ Society since 1998, focusing on labour relations and bargaining.

She had additional responsibilities for representing principals within the bargaining unit. She works with French language services and has worked on Aboriginal education, professional issues and Canadian Teachers’ Federation committees.

“I am so pleased to be working with Ken Pearce, General Secretary,” she said. “We have had the chance to collaborate in many endeavours in the past 20 plus years and we make a great team.”

Ethier is well-known by many teachers, having taken assignments in Winnipeg and beyond.

“As a staff officer I spent a great deal of time defending members rights’ and working conditions and have travelled thousands of kilometres meeting teachers, principals, student support and clinicians in their workplaces throughout the province.”

Before joining MTS Ethier was a high school French Immersion and International Baccalaureate teacher. Bobbi continued her career as a principal in two elementary schools in Winnipeg School Division.

In her new job she hopes to help the “Society be the go-to place on all issues and aspects of education,” she said.

“The MTS has an incredibly talented and creative staff. The staff is dedicated to members and it delivers excellent service day in and day out. In the new position I will be able to assist, support and collaborate with all of the staff more closely.”