Palliser staff better together
VULCAN – Just two months into his employment with Palliser Regional Schools, the significance of the division-wide Summit may have been lost on Brian Beveridge.
The event was the most inclusive professional development opportunity ever offered by the school division, with something for teachers, educational assistants, caretakers, administrative assistants, Central Office staff and school bus drivers, like Beveridge.
Whether it was out of the norm or not, he was appreciative of the opportunity to expand his knowledge.
“I think the more opportunities we have and take to better ourselves, or look at ways that maybe we can improve on what we’re doing, it’s to our benefit and the job we do,” said the Barons School bus driver. “It can’t do us any harm, and it might just help us.”
Beveridge attended the day-long Student Behaviour Management session. The information shared there confirmed his experiences working with disaster services and critical stress management in some 30 years as a Salvation Army officer.
Staff was surveyed to find topics of interest , with speakers from within the Palliser ranks, Alberta Teachers’ Association and community partners sharing their expertise. Sessions ranged from literacy to robotics, and mental wellness to working with immigrant students.
Superintendent Dave Driscoll welcomed the gathering of more than 750 staff members, his first division-wide event since joining Palliser just weeks earlier.
It is important to expand such professional development opportunities, he said, because education is more than what happens in the classroom.
“It’s the bus drivers that get the students to the schools. It’s the caretakers that make sure the schools are clean and safe to be in, and all the people that support the students,” said Driscoll. “It takes a team to get those students through school and this is a way to make sure they all share the same vision and mission and they all have the same information.”
Barb Vos, a long-time administrative assistant at Coalhurst Elementary School, was also appreciative of the chance to share.
“Being with secretaries from other schools and being able to touch base with them, and finding out their little secrets and how they handle things, you can’t buy that,” she said, between sessions on Palliser’s computerized student information system. “You can’t read that in a book.”
Vos and her colleagues already have an information pipeline in when someone needs help with a problem. Getting together in person offers greater opportunities than a conversation over the phone or through emails.
“When you can put six or seven or 22 heads together, you get so many different insights on how to handle things,” she said. “And you get to talk to the newbies and give them your knowledge, and also learn from what they’re doing.”
The Summit’s keynote speaker was David Bouchard, a literacy champion and best-selling author. In a wide-ranging address, he touched on mental health, how every child has something special inside, his Metis culture, and the experiences which make “prairie people” unique.
Although Bouchard is severely dyslexic and never read a book from cover-to-cover until he was 27, he acknowledges reading is fundamental to a student’s success. The good news? Everyone can read and it starts with just one book.
“If you can find one book and get hooked on it, the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. And the better you get, the more opportunities that are going to develop,” said Bouchard, adding it’s crucial that adults model for students the importance of books in their lives. “If you want your kids to be literate, pick up a book and read.”