Wednesday, May 6, 2015

CEC Conference Summary

When teachers apply to the Pro-D Fund for conference funding, we ask that they find a way to share what they have learned, pass their professional learning on to colleagues, and make use of new skills or ideas with their students. We also ask them to craft a statement to be posted here. We are pleased to celebrate the professional development of our teachers.

Conference: Council of Exceptional of Children (CEC) Convention

Participant: Shelien Hadfield, teacher, Nusdeh Yoh Elementary

Summary: The workshops at the Council of Exceptional of Children (CEC) Convention helped me to refine my thinking about how I provide support services to students with disabilities/learning difficulties and how I can intensify interventions when students aren’t responding well. Many of the workshops referenced Response to Intervention (RTI) models explicitly (“this is how we designed our tiered intervention”) or implicitly (the intervention described was implemented in Tier 3). In the sessions that spoke explicitly about RTI a common theme was the importance of having universal classroom instruction that is meeting the needs of 70-75% of learners. This allows your school support staff to focus their efforts more intensely on the 25-30% of students who aren’t responding well. Screening two to three times a year allows us to gauge how effective our universal instruction is for our students and identify students that need more intensive supports. To implement this suggestion, I’m going to take a more active role in analyzing data that teachers are already collecting such as Developmental Reading Assessments (DRA) in the primary grades and use this data to gauge whether my support would be more effective in the form of supplemental intervention (small groups) or classwide support (consulting with classroom teacher to decide an appropriate model).
I attended several sessions on how to intensify interventions. A common theme in these sessions was the importance of using valid, reliable progress monitoring tools weekly with students receiving Tier 3 interventions. Progress monitoring data allows us to gauge if our interventions are working. Weekly updates allow us to fine tune the intervention throughout, rather than getting to the end of the unit/term/year and realizing that the intervention didn’t work. A specific approach to intensify intervention is data-based individualization (DBI). Charting progress monitoring data is integral to DBI. When 3-5 data points fall below the goal line, the teacher intensifies the intervention (smaller group size, increase frequency or duration of sessions, increase student response rate, etc.), then continues monitoring the data to decide if the intensity is sufficient or if further changes are necessary. Research on DBI shows that it can help very low performing learners close the gap with their peers. The intensity of this approach highlights why it so important that universal & small-group instruction meet the needs of most learners in our school. Intensive instruction is by nature resource-intensive. I’m planning to use my end of the year assessments to identify five students that I can work closely with next year using DBI.

I’d be happy to discuss these topics with interested colleagues. My preferred contact method is email: Musi!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mental Health First Aid workshop report

When teachers apply to the Pro-D Fund for conference funding, we ask that they find a way to share what they have learned, pass their professional learning on to colleagues, and make use of new skills or ideas with their students. We also ask them (optionally) to craft a statement to be posted here. We are pleased to celebrate the professional development of our teachers.

Workshop: Mental Health First Aid for Adults Working With Youth from the Canadian Mental Health Association - Prince George Branch

Participant: Tracy Larson, Prince George Secondary School

Facilitator: MaryLu Spagrud, Education & Projects Manager

Summary: This is a worthwhile program for all public school teachers. It addresses issues that occur at both the elementary school and secondary school levels. The specific topics covered include:
Substance use disorders, Mood disorders, Anxiety disorders, Psychotic disorders, Eating disorders, Deliberate self-injury

It also teachers crisis first aid skills for: Substance overdose, Suicidal behaviour, Panic attack, Acute stress reaction, Psychotic episode

The course instructs teachers, through the use of discussion, case study, interactive activities etc. how to respond when a student is showing signs of these disorders. The goal here is to empathize with the student (the way he or she is feeling) and put the student in contact with supports. The acronym ALGEE was used - A - assess, L - listen non-judgmentally, G - give reassurance and information and , E - encourage appropriate professional supports, E - encourage appropriate self-help and other support strategies.

An ongoing discussion of the professional, self-help, and other supports available in the community was very helpful. The manual provided is also a goldmine of resources.

Overall this was a great use of time. The program is 14 hours and ran over the Thursday night - 4:30pm to 10:00pm and all day on Friday. A nice mix of SD57 employees (teachers and EAs) as well as other community mental health workers.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pro-D report for January 2015 SRA/AGM

The PD Fund continues to support teachers as they design professional development activities that require advice or coordination, incur costs, or simply need help getting off the ground.  We have funded about 45 out-of-district applications this year, which accounts for about $45,000 of our $110,000 budget.  The rest of the budget is for additional applications in the year remaining, local pro-d, release time for teachers, and the Spring Fling Conference. Last year we spent most of the previous year's surplus of $14,000.  This year we may end up with a surplus of around $10,000. In years long past the Fund would often start with over $100,000 in surplus, but we don't see that anymore -- teachers are using their PD money, and that is a good thing.  The Spring Fling conference planning is underway with about 30 workshops dialed in and room for plenty more.  If you or someone you know would like to present, please direct them to the conference website at We are encouraging a few enterprising teachers or community partners to organize excursions - buses leaving from and returning to PGSS during the Spring Fling for some site-based professional learning. This year we are also adding a 2nd day just for New Teachers, featuring sessions from Provincial Specialist Associations and BCTF professional issues workshop presenters. In between these two days will be a Social for teachers at Hummus Brothers in the Treasure Cove Hotel.  Look for more information about all of these things when you return from Spring Break.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Summary FNESC Annual Conference on Aboriginal Education

When teachers apply to the Pro-D Fund for conference funding, we ask that they find a way to share what they have learned, pass their professional learning on to colleagues, and make use of new skills or ideas with their students. We also ask them (optionally) to craft a statement to be posted here. We are pleased to celebrate the professional development of our teachers.

Conference: FNESC Annual Conference on Aboriginal Education

Participant: Marianne Brown, Nusdeh Yoh Elementary

Summary: After work on December 4th I had the opportunity to fly to Vancouver for an Aboriginal Education Conference. This was an amazing event where people from all over the province and beyond came together to learn effective ways to teach aboriginal youth and the issues facing aboriginal people. It was inspiring to see the 750 people from many different occupations all together for the same purpose.

Thursday evening opened this event with a performance and song. Friday morning we all got together for breakfast, where I met a gentleman from Port Coquitlam and a woman from Yellowknife. It was interesting talking with these people as we each had different perspectives from three different regions. After a song from the Musqueam Nation, the keynote speaker spoke about Transforming Indigenous Education after which the Transforming Education Panel spoke about their hopes and efforts towards transforming education to create success for aboriginal people. After lunch we broke into two workshop sessions. My first session was “Every Child Can Read”, presented by Karen Smith, which is a Response to Intervention model. This session gave me many ideas and programs of which I hope to incorporate into our school, as we are starting a RTI model as well. Session 2 was “I don’t want to go to school!” presented by Eric Wong. From this session I learned that many of the things our school is already doing is on the right track, a lot of which is developing relationships with our students and showing that we care about them. On Saturday we enjoyed listening to Tomson Highway entertain us with his enthusiasm and sense of humour. Tomson Highway is a successful aboriginal playwright and author. My third workshop was a bit of an eye opener as we discussed where the education system needs to financially fix or improve how the funds allocated for aboriginal students actually meet the needs of aboriginal students. My last workshop was “Authentic First Peoples Resources for Grades K-7”. I had the books from this group already, but I was hoping that the workshop will encourage me to actually use this resource, as it currently sits on my shelf. I do plan to use this resource more often… just need to find the time within my hectic schedule to utilize it.

Overall, this was an amazing opportunity, and I am grateful that my union supported me thus allowing me to attend. When I think of the money each student in my school brings into the district, I feel that the Aboriginal Education Department should send one teacher from each pod in our school to this conference. If we truly want to see graduation rates for aboriginal students to improve, we need to continually train the teachers working within this cultural stream. We had 18 administrators from our district out of a group of 24 sent by our AbEd Department. Good experience for them but I wish there were more teachers (other than myself) from our district's Aboriginal Choice School.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spring Fling proposals

The call for proposals now open - if you would like to present or facilitate at the Friday April 24th Spring Fling Educational Conference, please complete a presenter form -- file and conference info at

 This is an annual Professional Development showcase, attracting 1000 educators (from 3 sponsoring school districts), educational vendors and others. We feature a keynote speaker and two break-out sessions or all-day sessions with a choice of about 80 workshops and some local excursions.

This year the Spring Fling is concurrent with a regional New Teachers Conference that will continue on Saturday April 25th -- details to follow.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pro-D Report December 2014

Our PD committee, with 3 new and 3 returning members, has had two dynamic and productive meetings this fall.  We have developed some creative ideas for PD offerings this year, begun planning for the Spring Fling and New Teachers Conference (Apr 24 and 25, 2015), reviewed special applications and post-conference reports. At each meeting we share a professional learning moment from the previous month -- it is encouraging to hear about the diverse ways in which teachers develop their craft.  Our fall budget for out-of-district funding is about 2/3 spent, our Jan-March and Apr-June budgets are less than 1/4 spent, so there are opportunities for conference applications.  We also have a budget for special projects (group applications), inquiry projects, and of course our Zone Conference.  There are two empty spots on the PD committee.  Talk to Glen T., Richard G., or Tina C. if you are interested.

Monday, November 3, 2014

PTA Conference Summary #2

When teachers apply to the Pro-D Fund for conference funding, we ask that they find a way to share what they have learned, pass their professional learning on to colleagues, and make use of new skills or ideas with their students. We also ask them (optionally) to craft a statement to be posted here. We are pleased to celebrate the professional development of our teachers.


Conference: 2014 BC Primary Teachers' Association --

Participant: Debbie Byman, Pinewood Elementary

Summary: In October 2014 I had the opportunity to attend the BC Primary Teachers' Association Conference. The keynote speaker, Regie Routman, specializes in helping students achieve success in reading through writing. She inspired me to spend even more time than I already do on writing, and gave me a place to start to further investigate her strategies, which I will share with our staff as we are always looking for ways to improve our students' literacy skills.

Another speaker, Colleen Politano, shared many ideas for helping students with self regulation, as did our yoga instructor, Tanya Armstrong. Our school is focusing more on social emotional learning as a foundation for personal and academic success, so I am very interested in sharing what I have learned. We are hoping that improved self-regulation, along with greater academic achievement, will give our students the confidence and resilience they will need to feel successful.
I really enjoyed attending these workshops and connecting with other teachers. I highly recommend this conference to other primary teachers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PTA Conference Summary #1

When teachers apply to the Pro-D Fund for conference funding, we ask that they find a way to share what they have learned, pass their professional learning on to colleagues, and make use of new skills or ideas with their students. One of the options for response is to craft a statement to be posted here. We are pleased to celebrate the professional development of our teachers.
Conference: 2014 BC Primary Teachers' Association --

Participant: Lana McGown Rudolph, Pinewood Elementary

Summary: On October 24th, I and a colleague attended the Primary Teachers' Conference. We participated in several workshops concerning reading and math engagement, literacy and learning. We were able to have great teaching conversations with primary teachers from across the province. We saw workshops developed by practicing teachers who are researching and developing strategies and teaching methods that are changing how we teach in our province. We left the conference with a multitude of practical ideas and resources which we are introducing into our own practice and applying to our Learning Team work as well. Specifically, we will be focusing on experimenting with changing how we approach Calendar time in our classrooms to achieve more learning time for all students while also increasing engagement of all learners and decreasing the necessity of managing student behaviour during this learning time. We will be focussing our learning team time on developing new strategies around math to improve our practice and reach more students. I have attended the Primary Teachers Conference twice and I highly recommend it to all primary teachers. These kinds of opportunities allow us to expand our knowledge, improve our practice and develop more effective strategies for our learners. My teaching is already changed due to this experience and I am looking forward to our learning team time as a means of developing both my students’ and my learning.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Scoop on PD Days

With the October Pro-D day approaching, this is a good time to remind ourselves about the expectations for professional development that takes place on Professional Development (PD) days. I thought I would use the FAQ approach -- scroll down to see if any of these questions are relevant for you.

Q1: Where do these PD days come from?

A1: We have 5 PD days per school year -- these were added provincially to the year by mutual agreement (employer/union) a long time ago in recognition of the need for teachers to take the time they need to improve their practice. This is separate from inservice or training (which should occur during instructional time or paid time), and different from the "Ministerial Orders" day (Admin day at the beginning of the year set aside for school, district, and provincial goals). The placement of these days within our calendar is also by mutual agreement in the district.

Q2: Are all PD days the same?

A2: Generally speaking, one is set aside for a Zone Conference, and the one in October is designated as a "provincial day" with many Provincial Specialist Association conferences taking place. The other three are considered "school-focus" days although we sometimes see district mini-conferences taking place. Some consider the late January/early February NID to be a "semester turn-around" day for secondary teachers but this, too, is a PD day and should be treated as such. On all PD days, there are often a variety of PD events taking place, some planned (small group, school, and district level) and some impromptu (usually individual or small group).

Q3: Do I have to attend a scheduled PD event?

A3: On ALL PD days, PD is teacher-directed and voluntary in nature -- you decide on your PD and do it. Schools (or Families of Schools) may make specific plans for a staff PD activity -- these should be organized by mutual agreement between staff and principal. However, participation in these school PD events, while recommended, is not mandatory. There are many benefits to joining in on a school-wide PD session, but don't feel guilty if you have planned to attend something else.

Q4: What constitutes acceptable PD on a PD day?

A4: Do something deliberate and learning-focused that improves your practice, makes you a better educator, and will benefit your students. Consider: teacher study group, action research (inquiry project or learning team), attending or presenting at a conference, participating with a LSA or PSA (specialist associations), mentoring a new teacher, building curriculum, reading professional journals/books related wither to teaching or your subject area, watching professional videos (e.g. podcasts/online talks), taking a non-credit online course, gathering evidence for your own submission to an educational journal, attending or presenting at a workshop or share session, facilitating a staff or small group discussion on a relevant topic, doing a make-and-take with colleagues for a new lesson idea, visiting another school to inspect programs or review resources, connecting with a district expert in your field, have a teacher do a demo lesson for subject-area teachers, create a learning resource for use with your students, inviting a guest to speak to a group of colleagues about a relevant topic, conducting an Ed Camp or Open Space meeting (google these), having a Critical Friends or Socratic Dialogue with other teachers (google these). Some teachers find that good PD can be finishing a curriculum or assessment project was started but never finished, or just sitting down with colleagues to discuss what is happening for you in your class and seeing where the conversation leads. Other teachers prefer formal activities with specific learning intentions. Use your professional judgement and do something cool.

Q5: What does not constitute acceptable PD on a PD day?

A5: Avoid marking, lesson planning for the upcoming week, cleaning and organizing your classroom on a PD day, and parent or student meetings. Avoid extra-curricular activities including coaching and tournament set-up. If you want to give up your PD day (like any other working day) to coach, submit a leave application and seek a release or lieu day from your administrator. Avoid working on school or district improvement plans (the employer should provide time for this or do it on their "admin day"). There are also some grey areas. Teachers working on a Masters Degree, for example, will find that many of their tasks involve professional reading, research, dialogue, writing, and technology. Use your professional judgement, to draw the line between coursework-inspired PD that benefits your practice versus specific tasks required in a course (e.g. writing a paper or participating in an online meeting). Do not put "working on my Masters" on the PD Intention Form that some principals use -- describe a PD activity that anyone could do, regardless of whether they are taking courses. School or department meetings can also be a grey area -- if they advance your individual professional goals and have a learning focus, they can be considered PD, but they can also eat up time that you might wish to spend doing PD you've designed for yourself. It's your call, not your school or department's call.

Q6: Does my principal have to approve my PD or can he/she ask me to submit a plan?

A6: No, although it is fair for your principal to request information about where you will be and what you'll be doing, as long as it fits the description of PD. Having an active PD plan is a great idea, as is sharing with colleagues and your principal what you are doing, but is not a contractual requirement. It is also a good idea for administrators to have and share their personal PD plans. We (all of us) should not be shy about celebrating our professional learning and being accountable for the use of our PD time. The main purpose in dialogue between admin and teachers about where they'll be on a PD day is to establish safety (so that you're whereabouts are known) and provide support (if your admin knows what you're doing they can suggest resources or offer additional opportunities related to your goals). Principals should not be evaluating your PD plans (unless you've invited them to). Ideally, principals are part of your learning network and they will have valuable contributions to make towards your professional growth (goes both ways). If they think your choice of activities does not constitute "valid" PD they can engage in respectful dialogue with you about that and they are also welcome to talk to the PD Chair (currently me) about valid PD.

Q7: Does PD have to take place in school?

A7: It depends. PD usually takes place in schools, but some events are planned for other spots such as a conference centre, rented facility, field location, Friendship Centre, Exploration Place, UNBC, etc. PD can take place outside of the district, but this goes through either the PD Committee, School Principal, or Board Office, and requires a leave application. With very few exceptions, PD should not take place at a location that is not intended as either a worksite or a meeting place (e.g. your house). Rule of Thumb: If your out-of-school PD activity is not an organized/advertised event within the school district designed primarily as teacher PD, you should be at your school or joining an activity at another school.

Q8: What parts of our collective agreement talk about PD days?

A8: See
Section F Article 20.1 -- (summary) PD is voluntary but participation in planned events is encouraged
Section F Article 22.1 -- (summary) Non-Instructional Days other than the "District Day" (Our Zone Conference Day) are to be used as mutually agreed between staff and admin, in other words the whole staff should agree what activities are planned on which days. In recent years, we've formalized the pattern. The first NID to be the admin's day for curriculum implementation, Ministerial Orders (a focus of some kind mandated by the provincial government), and work on school-wide goals. The next 5 NIDs are teacher PD DAYS, one of which is the Zone Conference, and the last day of the year is an Administrative Day where principals can again direct activities (typically it is a staff breakfast or lunch plus a year-end staff meeting). In short, the shape of all NIDs (including our 5 PD days) should be the result of collaboration and inclusive decision-making.

Q9: What does the BCTF say about PD days?

A9: See background reading at

Here is a key bit: 30.A.19 — "That the member, as an autonomous professional, determines, in concert with BCTF colleagues and/or the local union, the content of professional development activities scheduled for professional development days, and further, that professional development days are not used for school goal setting and/or School Improvement Plans, marking accountability assessment tools, or voluntary activities (e.g., sports tournaments, science fairs, music festivals, drama productions.)"

As you'll note, the guiding principle is that your PD choices require you to think about what's best for your teaching practice and your students, and engage in professional learning that you or others have designed to improve your work with students. As professional we have both autonomy and responsibility to each other to engage in professional development, and as employees we have a duty to complete professional development activities on PD days because we have agreed to use these work days for this purpose.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Position Continues

The School Board has reversed their cut to the Pro-D Fund Administrator position. This means that Pro-D Coordination will continue next year and applications for conference travel will now be accepted for Fall 2014. Thank-you to all who advocated for this position by email, social media, and other ways. This includes about 100 teachers who sent individual and group letters to trustees, telling their stories about professional development and explaining how it was supported by the coordination that takes place. Thank-you to the trustees who realized that the relationship between stakeholders (on the Pro-D file) was worth protecting. Spring Fling 2015 is a go, as are the many other Pro-D services that were in jeopardy. And thank-you to the PGDTA exec for applying some appropriate pressure in the form of a motion related to teacher and district-offered pro-d.

The broad spectrum of Professional learning takes many forms in our educational community -- it can be initiated by individuals, teachers, schools, the district, or beyond. Every school district in BC has an arrangement with it's teacher union to provide funds for teacher-directed pro-d in addition to the other activities that teachers can access. Our district has had a long run of successful teacher-directed pro-d made possible by district funding, including the funding of a coordinator position. Like any issues that involves money and control, there is some politics involved and we can be thankful that this issue was resolved, for now, without erosion of teacher autonomy in regards to pro-d. When teachers have a strong support base for personal inquiry and group learning, we all benefit, especially the students. Despite the contention around this funding issue, we finish the year with respect for all forms of professional learning, including the core value that teachers know what they want to learn next, and are the best judge of how to develop this learning. This is a good news story for SD57.