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june 2014




As this issue of @OECTA goes to print, Ontario is entering the third week of the provincial election campaign. The choices facing us as voters are growing increasingly clear. In the first week, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak revealed his plans for the publicly funded education system. His promise to cut some 19,000 teachers and education workers from our schools James Ryan by increasing class sizes and changing staffing arrangements should worry us all. So should Hudak’s commitment to a new standardized test. OECTA believes these moves will harm students and reverse many of the gains made in our education system in the past decade, gains documented and admired by international groups such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). As a teacher, I am alarmed by the consequences of removing many thousands of teachers and education workers from our classrooms. You and I know that parents are clamouring for more support for their children in Special Education. They are asking for more arts education, for beefed up math instruction, for programs that address bullying, mental health issues and much more. How can Ontario respond with 19,000 fewer teachers and education workers in our schools? Putting three more students in a class does not sound like much to someone who has never visited today’s classrooms, but that increase can make a significant difference in the progress and wellbeing of an individual child. Teachers know that our classrooms reflect society. They are highly integrated, with students from a broad spectrum of abilities — physical, intellectual, emotional — learning together. Achieving the right balance of teaching and support for each student is a daily challenge. Two or three more students in the mix without sufficient support can prove detrimental to the whole class. As a teachers’ union, OECTA’s concern and responsibility is for members and publicly funded education. This is where we are focusing our efforts during the campaign. With our “Speak for Children” website, ads, billboards and television spots, we are asking voters to pause and think about what Ontario’s education system needs before they cast their ballot. I encourage you too to visit our “Speak for Children” website,, and find out what the parties are saying about our education system to prepare your vote. What happens on June 12 will affect your classroom life and the lives of your students for years to come. Follow me @OECTAPrez


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OECTA delegates at the CLC Convention in Montreal May 5-9, 2014.


OECTA ATTENDS CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS CONVENTION The 27th Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress took place from May 5-9, 2014 in Montreal. Fifty delegates from OECTA attended, joining the more than 2000 delegates from unions, labour councils, and labour federations from across the country. Over the five days, delegates heard from numerous guest speakers including Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada and Susan Delacourt, author and political columnist. Many OECTA delegates spoke on resolutions dealing with labour rights and fairness, gender equity, and mental health. The highlight of the week was the election of Hassan Yussuff as CLC president – the first new president in 15 years. Read the synopsis of the event and view photos on OECTA’s Facebook page or at in the News & Events section.

EDITORIAL BOARD Michelle Despault Communications Director Diana Thomson Associate Editor Delia Tavares Production and Advertising Adam Lemieux Writer/Researcher Elizabeth Price Website Administrator

James Ryan President Ann Hawkins First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary Pat McKeown Executive Resource Assistant

@OECTA is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in @OECTA are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. @OECTA is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media. Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 | PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 | FAX 416-925-7764 | Publication Mail | Agreement No. 0040062510 | Account No. 0001681016

OECTA: Birth of an Association By Pat McKeown Speak for Children campaign at Toronto’s Union Station.


JUNE Canadian Environment Week | June 2-6 Council of Presidents | June 4-6 Fall AQ Course Registration Opens | June 10 World Day Against Child Labour | June 12 30th Anniversary of the Announcement of Full Funding For Catholic Education in Ontario | June 12 Last Day of School | June 28

JULY OECTA Summer Institutes | July 2-11 Canadian Teachers’ Federation AGM | July 9-11 OECTA Provincial Office Closure | July 28 to August 8

AUGUST Ontario Teachers’ Federation Annual Meeting | August 18-20 Committee Chairs Workshop | August 25 New Unit Presidents Workshop | August 26-27

SEPTEMBER First Day of School | September 2 Provincial Executive Meeting | September 17-18 Grievance Officers Seminar | September 24-25 OTBU Presidents Workshop | September 25-26

OCTOBER Beginning Teachers’ Conference | October 3-4 World Teachers’ Day | October 5 Collective Bargaining Seminar | October 14-15 Provincial Executive Meeting | October 16-17 When Faith Meets Pedagogy Conference | October 23-25

Seventy years ago, Catholic teachers in Ontario were only months away from receiving a charter for their new professional association, on September 8, 1944. Delegates had held their founding meeting in February 1944, in Ottawa. They came away satisfied with the need to create OECTA and knowing the steps needed to achieve their goal. What was the situation of Catholic schools in Ontario in 1944? The first separate school clause appeared in Ontario legislation in 1841, enabling residents of a township professing a religious faith different from that of the majority in the area to establish their own schools. The whole Catholic community supported the creation of separate schools in which their religious beliefs would permeate the school day. The constitutional guarantee of separate school equality with public school boards was enshrined in the British North America Act of 1867. Nevertheless, financial inequality plagued the separate school system until the advent of provincial per pupil funding in 1997. Many forget, for example, that full funding of Catholic high schools only began in 1985. Lack of funds meant that, compared to the secular public boards, Catholic school boards had greater numbers of teachers with no or lower qualifications. Programs such as kindergarten and special education were more limited. Boards’ survival depended on the large numbers of sisters, priests and brothers. They were half of the teaching force in 1945. In those early days, OECTA was mainly concerned with the welfare of its members, including salaries, job security and pension. Lay teachers earned less than their counterparts in the public system, religious teachers even less. In 1947 the Association decided to push for a minimum salary of $1500 per year for lay teachers, $800 to $1000 for religious. In comparison, the average wage of a male manufacturing worker that year was $2176. Balancing the diverse interests of lay and religious, male and female teachers, required all the skill of OECTA’s first leaders. Summing up the educational climate of 1944, Dr. Robert Dixon wrote in his history of OECTA prepared for the Association’s 50th anniversary: “It was a world rich in human resources, Catholic tradition and practice, and dedication, but wounded by financial hardship, by a program truncated by the courts at the end of grade 10, by the necessity of tuition and narrow programs in Catholic high schools, and by a consciousness of injustice.” Pat McKeown is the Executive Resource Assistant in the Administration department at OECTA Provincial Office.

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New Era of Collective Bargaining Begins By Michelle Despault

This past March, Bill 122, the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014 was passed, ushering in a new era in collective bargaining in Ontario. The legislation codifies several ad hoc processes that had been followed since 2005, where the provincial government facilitated and even participated in discussions between teacher unions and school board associations on provincial issues, while still allowing for local bargaining. There are, however, key differences that members should be aware of. WHAT’S NEW • All collective agreements now contain both a central and a local agreement component. Any provincial agreement will require a province-wide all-member vote to ratify the provincial component. Local components will require a ratification vote by local bargaining unit members. Only when both portions are ratified (and by all parties), will the collective agreement be final. • School board associations (e.g. Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, OCSTA) are now statutory bargaining agents representing all of the boards in their sector in central bargaining and all boards will be required to pay fees to them. • There will be several central tables – the provincial government and OCSTA will form the employer side of the English Catholic central bargaining table and all parties will be bound by the duty to bargain in good faith under the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA). • OCSTA and the provincial government must agree on employer positions at the central table as well as any move to lock out or unilaterally change the terms and working conditions of members. • Government ratification of agreements will be through a decision of Cabinet. • School board associations’ (OCSTA) ratification will be by a double majority vote at the provincial level (majority of the boards representing a majority of the teachers) and by a trustee vote at the local level. • The parties at the central table will determine the scope of central bargaining. Anything not bargained centrally can be bargained locally. Any disputes over the scope of bargaining will be referred to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for resolution. • When notice to bargain has been served at the central table, it shall be deemed to have been served at all local tables. Central and local bargaining can happen concurrently, once the central table discussion items have been determined. • All collective agreements will be for three years unless otherwise agreed. • The employer/government and union must give five days notice prior to any strike or lockout. • Grievances may be filed and arbitrated at the central and local levels.

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ISSUES EMERGE OECTA welcomed the certainty that Bill 122 brought to the bargaining process, which had been lacking in previous rounds. OECTA also recognized that it made sense to have the government, which controls education funding, at the bargaining table and accountable under the OLRA. While this new process brings structure and accountability, it does not necessarily mean negotiations will be easier. The announcement in March of the Grants for Student Needs (GSNs), which is the annual budget for the education sector, has already provided a glimpse of what OECTA will face at the bargaining table. The budget only provided funding for grid movement to take place on the 97th day of 2014-15, and no funding was provided for other enhancements. The delay in grid movement negotiated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), in 2012, was intended to be a temporary two-year measure to help save money in a time of extraordinary economic hardship. This was clear for both parties at the time of signing the MoU. OECTA considers this budgetary gamesmanship by the government to be a violation of the MoU and will be exercising its rights under the OLRA to ensure that members are paid their increments on the first day of the school year in September. The government’s stand ensures that grid movement will be a major item of discussion at the provincial table. This is sure to cast a shadow over the coming negotiations. WHAT’S NEXT When Bill 122 was passed, the Minister of Education met briefly with the teacher unions to discuss moving forward under the new regime, but official discussions to determine provincial table issues have not yet occurred. With a provincial election under way, who will represent government at the bargaining table after June 12, or when discussions will get underway is unkown. We can be certain, however, that with slower than anticipated economic recovery and continued calls for austerity, the next round will be tough regardless of who is at the table. As more updates on collective bargaining become available, they will be posted to the Collective Bargaining Updates section in the Members’ Centre at Read the full text of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014 at

Michelle Despault is the Director Communications at OECTA Provincial Office.


– Andreas Schleicher, OECD

TOBI | Grade 12

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WorldPride Why OECTA is marching in WorldPride 2014 By James Ryan

Last March 10, more than 600 delegates representing 45,000 members at OECTA’s Annual General Meeting adopted the following motion: That the Association show its support for Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited and queer (LGBTTQ) members by registering for and marching in the WorldPride Parade on June 29, 2014. There is no doubt that students and teachers in Catholic schools, like other publicly funded schools in Ontario, face bullying and discrimination that sometimes has fatal consequences. Few in our society would disagree that more must be done to change the culture of our schools in order to allow individuals, without exception, to lead healthy lives free of harassment and prejudice.

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OECTA believes that taking the public stand of marching in the WorldPride Parade 2014 will provide comfort and support to our students and teachers who frequently struggle in a hostile environment that does not offer them the support and protection they are owed as citizens of Ontario and Canada. OECTA’s participation in the WorldPride Parade should not be viewed as endorsement of behaviour not in keeping with Catholic Church teaching on chastity and public decency that some individuals may exhibit during the parade. Instead it should be viewed as reflecting our ongoing conversation and engagement with our multicultural and increasingly secular society in the pursuit of the common good. Another example of our involvement in society-building was our participation

in the labour demonstration against unregulated capitalism during the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010. While looting and vandalism – some organized, some spontaneous – occurred that day, OECTA’s visibility in the labour walk was not an endorsement of the violence, nor would anyone of good faith have suggested it was so. OECTA members who choose to participate in the parade will be walking with individuals from the labour movement, including teacher unions, as well as school board representatives, political leaders, Olympic athletes and thousands more – all of them united in a common cause, that of promoting respect for diversity and human rights. James Ryan is the President of OECTA.


Professional insight Dealing with those everyday issues By Doug McCarthy AVOIDING A HARDENING OF THE ATTITUDES

Teachers do not live easy lives. Higher expectations, increased responsibilities and intense accountability have made the job challenging and demanding. Theirs is a difficult task that few people would be willing, or even able, to shoulder professionally. And the expectation is that teachers are to be perfect, in spite of the imperfections of others, and they are not let off lightly when they are perceived to be less than perfect. Although many teachers find their work to be rewarding, exciting and fulfilling, the challenges they initially tackled with enthusiasm can eventually wear teachers down. Original teaching goals can seem out of reach, encumbered by bureaucratic hurdles and lack of resources. The danger is that a teacher may become more passive in his or her role and less likely to be a risk-taker. The result, in spite of best intentions, could be – a hardening of the attitudes.

William James, philosopher and psychologist, said, “The greatest discovery is that human beings can, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, change the outer aspect of their lives.” Most experts in this area suggest a three-step process to bring about change: • Examine our attitudes and determine in which direction they lie; • Decide what changes need to be made; • Behave and respond in a manner that is compatible with our decision. We can avoid a hardening of the attitudes. Building on success and new confidence will produce optimism and enthusiasm in what we do, in our teaching careers and in our lives. Doug McCarthy is a retired OECTA member and principal, and currently a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau.

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Bob Conklin, founder of the Human Dynamics Institute, and author of a program called “Adventures in Attitudes” says, “It is apparent that these attitudes of ours are our very life. What we are going to get out of life depends on the attitudes we hold in our minds.”

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Earl Nightingale, American motivational speaker and author, also believed in the power of personal attitudes. He said, “It is our attitude towards life that will determine life’s attitudes toward us.” Either consciously or unconsciously, we have attitudes about most aspects of our lives that program the way we think about people, events, and ourselves. Attitudes influence our behaviour, our feelings, the personalities that we project, and how we feel about ourselves. Negative attitudes can erode our effectiveness, cause us to respond harshly, and keep us from living up to our own possibilities. Positive attitudes help us seek new levels of achievement, gain more favourable responses from others, and live more effective daily lives. Conklin says, “Attitudes shape the visible reflection of our person.”

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Beginning teachers Surviving and thriving in the first five years By Claire Laughlin


June is one of the busiest months every school year, no matter if you are an elementary, secondary or occasional teacher. Throughout this year, I’ve been encouraging you to get involved, whether through personal professional development, leadership opportunities, or new teaching assignments, and in your interactions with students and colleagues. This column also encourages you to take action. The final weeks of the school year overflow with the hustle and bustle of marking, reporting, class trips, student projects, and more. When it’s all over, I urge you to indulge in what I call the Big Four: REST, RELAX, REFRESH, REJUVENATE!

I have always loved that the Canada Day long weekend follows the end of the school year. It’s the call to rest and relaxation. Make the most of the July long weekend and look forward to all the wonderful sunny days of summer. After this unusually harsh winter, we deserve no less. At this time of year, many of you will be facing an uncertain future, such as a change in grade assignment or school, or waiting for a possible long-term occasional position in the fall. It is important that you use the summer to refresh and rejuvenate yourself for next year’s challenges. Consider taking an OECTA AQ course, developed for teachers by teachers. They are accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers and cover a wide range of topics.

CLASSIFIEDS Acceptance of advertisements in @OECTA neither endorses nor warranties any products or services.


Easy online rain barrel sales. Raise funds and environmental awareness. We provide step-by-step instructions and assistance. • or 905-545-5577 We welcome ads for teacher resources, travel, and teaching overseas. Personal ads are not accepted. Rate: $50 for the first 25 words and $3 per word thereafter.

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Take one of our math AQ courses, and upon successful completion you will be reimbursed $450 of the $600 fee, thanks to a subsidy provided by the Ministry of Education. Visit the Courses section at for information about course choices and registration details. Ministry funding has also permitted OECTA to offer a summer program this year based on the model “for teachers by teachers.” Nine summer institutes in technology and five in mathematics are being offered at sites across the province. Registration closes June 9, 2014 and is on a first come-first served basis. A $30 dollar registration fee will apply to cover the cost of lunch and break refreshments. All participants will receive a travel subsidy based on the distance from their unit office to the nearest site. Further information is available on the website, However, before you start to implement the Big Four tasks, be sure to vote in the June 12 provincial election. Model the Catholic Graduate Expectation of responsible citizenship for your students. Share with them and your colleagues your pledge to take action and vote. I challenge every beginning teacher to be a leader. Get the facts at Claire Laughlin is a secretariat member in the Professional Development department at OECTA Provincial Office and liaison to the Beginning Teachers Committee.


From Sault Ste. Marie to Sochi St. Basil Secondary School supports Mac Marcoux’s Olympic Dream By Michelle Despault

No athlete makes it to the Olympics on his or her own. It takes a big team of family, friends and trainers to support an athlete. For Mac Marcoux, gold medal winner at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Russia, his teacher Tianna Babic and his school, St. Basil, are key members of his team. This past March, the 16-year-old skier from Sault Ste. Marie won gold in giant slalom and two bronze medals in the downhill and super-G in the visually impaired category at the Sochi Games. Legally blind, Mac has no central vision and only six per cent peripheral vision. He skis with the aid of a guide – usually his older brother BJ – but due to injury, Robin Femy guided Mac in his Paralympic races.

“Accommodating Mac was new to us at St. Basil,” she adds. “We weren’t sure how it was all going to work out, but we were determined that it work out well for him. It has been a really positive experience for Mac and the whole school.” And how does Mac feel about his Paralympic experience and his amazing achievement? “I’m pretty excited,” he says. “It is the accomplishment of a lifetime.” An accomplishment he hopes to repeat again in 2018 and 2022, hopefully with his brother BJ by his side.

Tianna Babic first met Mac when he was in Grade 5 at St. Paul Catholic School in Sault Ste Marie. Mac had just been diagnosed with Stargardt Disease, a severe form of juvenile macular degeneration, which causes progressive vision loss. Tianna was a learning resource teacher assigned to work with Mac’s classroom teacher and assistive technology teachers to ensure that Mac’s disability was accommodated and his learning needs met. Tianna was also involved with the Searchmont Ski Runners, where Mac skied after he began to lose his sight. Tianna left St. Paul to work at St. Basil Secondary School and a few years later, when Mac graduated to high school, he joined her there. Mac’s parents chose St. Basil because of the level of support their son had received in the Catholic system and they wanted the continuity that Tianna would bring for him. Mac devotes long hours to training and competing on the World Cup ski circuit, which requires time away from the classroom. In preparation for Sochi, he took Grade 11 off to focus on training.

Canadian skier Mac Marcoux and his teacher Tianna Babic with medals won at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. PHOTO CREDIT: ADRIANO DICERBO, ARTS TEACHER, ST. BASIL SECONDARY SCHOOL

“The level of support I have received from the school and staff has been unreal,” Mac says, “especially Mrs. Babic, who has really gone above and beyond. Without their support I would not be able to take the time I need to focus on my sport. It’s just not something I need to worry about.”

“The advice I have for others is to not hold yourself back,” says Mac. “You just don’t know what you are capable of until you try. My parents never held me back – they let me discover my own limits. If you work hard it will payoff in the end. Maybe not right away, but it will come.”

“Mac is an inspiration, both physically and academically,” says Tianna. “He gives his all, and never uses his disability as an excuse – and for that he has been rewarded.”

Michelle Despault is the Director of Communications at OECTA Provincial Office.

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OECTA’s Olympic connection An OECTA member recalls her Olympic experience By Adam Lemieux

Shawna Jacobs strongly believes that positive thoughts lead to positive results. She certainly has good evidence to support her conviction now, after optimism (and lots of hard work) helped to fuel her husband Brad Jacobs and his Canadian men’s curling team to a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games in February. Shawna says she never had any doubt that Brad’s team would be representing their country in Sochi, Russia. As they began piling up big wins in pre-tournament events, she told her husband, “You can definitely do this.” And once they had secured their place as Team Canada, she was sure they would be bringing home the gold.

Shawna and Brad Jacobs

Of course, although she maintained her confidence, Shawna says that the final matches were quite difficult, especially for the fans in the stands. While the curlers on the rink are immersed in the game, their friends and family can only watch, and fret. Luckily, her husband is a good listener. “Please make this game easy on us,” she told Brad before the final draw. He and his team obliged, defeating the team from Great Britain by a score of 9-3, giving everyone the opportunity to truly savour the experience.

Shawna also says she has never felt so patriotic. The hotel where she was staying housed the friends and family of a number of Canada’s athletes, and their distinct clothing certainly made them stand out in a crowd. They were regularly stopped by fans from all over the world to pose for pictures. They also spent a lot of time at Canada Olympic House, where they were pleased to meet several current and former Olympians, including two-time silver medalist Elvis Stojko.

Despite the flood of concerns raised in media before the games, Shawna had no trepidation about traveling to Russia. She felt safe and comfortable throughout her stay in Sochi and enjoyed strolling the boardwalk of the coastal resort town.

Shawna was sure to bring her exciting extra-curricular adventures back into her role as a Kindergarten teacher at St. Francis French Immersion Catholic School (Huron-Superior). Her class took part in Olympic-themed activities in advance of

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Brad Jacobs, skip of Canada’s Olympic Men’s Curling Team, savours his gold medal.

the games, and afterward she brought back pictures and Russian souvenirs for the students to explore and discuss. She also hopes that Brad will be able to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to the students about achieving his dreams. Now that her belief in positive thinking has been confirmed, Shawna is looking forward to exercising it again. She is already anticipating the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. This time, she hopes her parents will be able to make the trip to help her cheer Brad on to a second golden moment. Adam Lemieux is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.

How we make the FDK teacher/ ECE partnership work Two teacher/ECE teams share how they make the partnership work By Diana Thomson

Amanda Sarria (ECE) and Monica Faye (teacher)

Stephanie Pascarella (ECE) and Mary Day-Mauro (teacher)

When we were paired together in 2010, the role of the ECE was not defined nor was there a clear outline of the program for us to implement. Meeting in August, before school began, to set up the classroom together helped us get to know each other and set the tone for our professional relationship.

Our relationship is a success because we are open to the ideas we both bring to the class. We met in June, prior to starting the school year, and began to develop a rapport. In August we began to plan our first few days and weeks, to consider some long-range plans, and establish how we would share our gifts, abilities and interests to meet our students’ needs.

St. Josephine Bakhita Catholic Elementary School, Brampton (Dufferin-Peel)

Our partnership is based on mutual respect. We discovered that our philosophies about classroom and behaviour management are very similar. After seven months into this school year, we are very pleased with our FDK program. We touch base daily to discuss how well the program is running, the needs of the students, our observations and more. We both communicate with parents (although we do find that sometimes one of us will develop a rapport with a particular parent and therefore will be their first contact) and we always communicate with each other about what is discussed. We do assessments, anecdotal notes and plans together – we’re still working on the best way to organize them. We are partners and value what each of us brings to our shared classroom.

St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic School, Barrie (Simcoe-Muskoka)

As an experienced teacher, Mary provides a clear sense of the structure of the school day and general school expectations. We worked on setting up our classroom together and set ourselves up for success. Being flexible, respectful and considerate of one another as we engage in this working relationship has made it easy to say, this is “our class.” From about our second month together we were on a roll, working together to interpret the play-based learning environment and implement best practices. When we’re having a difficult moment, we help each other out. We are now in our second year together in FDK and we look forward to each day! We feel quite blessed to have this amazing opportunity as educators.

OECTA BELIEVES THAT it is critical for Ontario to continue to invest in and maintain the integrity of the Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) program. Research by education experts in several countries shows that children in FDK programs experience substantial gains in problem solving, language, literacy, and social and emotional development; all of which prepares them for early future academic success. As it is currently implemented in schools across the province, OECTA supports the FDK program led by a qualified teacher, certified by the Ontario College of Teachers, and an Early Childhood Educator (ECE). Integral to the success of the program is an effective partnership between teachers and ECEs, which reinforces the pedagogy of play-based learning.

Diana Thomson is the Associate Editor in the Communications department at OECTA Provincial Office

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Making technology fun By Diana Thomson and Adam Lemieux

Although he remains humble about his work and accomplishments, OECTA member Rolland Chidiac is on the frontier of 21st century learning. Now in his thirteenth year of teaching, Rolland currently works with Grade 2 students at St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener (Waterloo). His class is leading the way in demonstrating how to meaningfully incorporate technology to provide a rich, forward-thinking education.

Follow Rolland Chidiac’s class on Twitter @g2goldenstar

About a year ago, Rolland participated in a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program conference. He received a grant for 13 Chromebooks; small laptops that have the most popular Google products plugged in. Using this technology, he is opening up new possibilities for teaching and discovery. The students are learning how to research, collect, organize, collaborate, create, and analyze data. They are able to

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knock down the walls of the classroom and solicit global responses to what they are doing. As they chart this new territory, they are taking risks and overcoming obstacles, becoming comfortable with the idea that frustration and failure are normal parts of learning and growing. Of course, Rolland’s program has not been without hurdles. For one, there needs to be a reliable internet connection that can accommodate the required number of users. Logins and passwords are another problem, especially for young children. He also has a diverse group of students, some of whom have academic difficulties or are still learning to be socially appropriate. To help with some of these issues, Rolland incorporated a Digital Boot Camp routine into his everyday practice and sought advice from his project partner, Ferdinand Krauss, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board’s 21st Century Learning and Information Technology Consultant. He has also endeavoured to present a program that is respectful of where the students are at individually. Rolland’s methods align with many of the best practices identified by researchers examining 21st century learning and the use of technology. Without professional insight and focused pedagogy, it can quickly devolve into play. “Ninety-eight per cent of the students have a connection to technology,” says Rolland. “They use it at home all the time.” The trick, he says, is to reinforce the underlying principle that in the classroom, the Chromebooks are used to assist learning.

For example, in one of his lessons, Rolland has his students use the Google Drawing application to visualize the text he has provided. The technology enables them to employ colours and images that they would not be able to draw. The students work in pairs, which gives them the opportunity to develop their social skills and ability to collaborate. The class also engages in “rich talk”: asking and answering questions, connecting what they are drawing with the learning expectations, and explaining what is meaningful to them, and why. So, while the technology catches the students’ attention and allows them to do more, they are still guided by solid teaching, learning goals, and instructional wraparound. Rolland is constantly striving to improve his pedagogy. He blogs about his experiences at He also shares experiences and ideas with his social networks, including his popular Twitter account, @rchids. “I’m reflecting about my work anyway,” he says. “Now I can go back and revisit and generate new ideas. I document my practice.” In the end, Rolland is trying to appropriately prepare his students for the complex world in which they live. It is all about working together, talking together, moving around the room. In the process, the students learn skills and solve problems. In the midst of all the fun, Rolland’s 21st century class is having a truly transformative experience.

Diana Thomson is the Associate Editor in the Communications department at OECTA Provincial Office. Adam Lemieux is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.

In the greenhouse with Allan’s Specialist High Skills Major horticultural students.

Feeding minds and communities By Elizabeth Price

An aquaponics project with horticultural students at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in Burlington (Halton), which grows sustainable organic food from a fish farm, has morphed into a crosscurricula, student-owned program feeding the community. Allan Nasan is a Specialist High Skills Major Horticulture and Landscaping, Green Industries and Aquaculture teacher at Notre Dame CSS. He started the project six years ago as a hands-on experience for his horticultural students to learn about and study aquaponics – a food production system using the bio-waste water from Tilapia fish as liquid ‘soil’ to grow a greenhouse garden of hundreds of vegetables and greens. Water is then recirculated back to the fish tanks.

monitoring sensors located in the aquaponics lab and greenhouse every 15 minutes, seven days a week,” says McGuire, who volunteers his technological expertise to the program and to mentoring Computer Science students. Students contribute and share findings on the project website:

Tilapia, greenhouse vegetables, and harvests from the school summer community food plots are shared with the Burlington community and donated to local food banks.

The group solution was a business plan submitted to the Halton Catholic Board for the Ministry of Eudcation 21st Century learning funds to support and expand the aquaponics program. “Allan’s program honours and attracts students to all four pathways to success – university, college, apprentice and workplace – and students achieve college credits,” says Robert De Rubeis, Education Officer, Ministry of Education (former Halton curriculum consultant and OECTA member). “It is beautifully aligned with 21st Century learning and unique, fostering creative and critical thinking, collaborative inquiry, multi-disciplinary curricula and continuous learning,” notes De Rubeis.

As the project grew, so did the number of fish tanks and the size of the greenhouse, until Allan and his students developed a business problem. The water and air temperatures in the fish tanks and greenhouse required regular monitoring and adjustment of PH levels to successfully sustain the system. At a water temperature of 81 degrees, the 800-900 fish begin to over-populate.

Allan’s horticultural and agricultural program has been a huge transformational boost for many students, who otherwise would not be engaged in high school. “Students are signed as apprentices in the program,” says Allan. “When they leave high school, they have a foot in the door and a jumping off point for acceptance to competitive and over-subscribed college programs.”

In education, the key to problem-solving is collaboration with group sourcing. Allan approached math, science, computer science and information communications technology teachers about getting involved with the horticultural project by gathering, retracting and analyzing aquaponics data. It was also about this time that Dan McGuire, a local computer data programmer also interested in aquaponics, approached Allan.

For his collaborative program, students’ success, community support and local business sector partnerships, Allan was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and Teacher of the Year Award in 2014 from the Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association.

Technology is the key to data monitoring and collection, but facing an expense of over $30,000 for a private sector proprietary solution, McGuire and computer science students came up with an inexpensive, remote, student-controlled model. “Students use a Raspberry Pi ( credit-card sized computer to remotely gather, sort and analyze water, PH and air data from

Despite his initiative, Allan thinks the best thing about the program is that it’s a student-led collaborative project. “The students will keep it going, with or without me,” says Allan. “Students will drive to own it and keep it alive… the teacher is secondary to the program.” Elizabeth Price is the Website Administrator in the Communications department at OECTA Provincial Office.

APRIL 2014 | @ OECTA 13



FALL 2014 September 29 to December 19, 2014 Registration: Opens June 10, 2014 Closes September 9, 2014 SPRING 2015 March 23 to June 5, 2015 Registration: Opens December 2, 2014 Closes March 4, 2015 SUMMBER 2015 July 6 to July 31, 2015 Registration: Opens April 8, 2015 Closes June 5, 2015

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Why I deserve to pay more taxes By Robert Smol

It is the financial reality of my growing success as a teacher and freelance journalist that, every year as I earn more money, I owe more taxes. This year was particularly brutal, as I owed the government hundreds more than I did last year.

burden on labour income” (term used by the study) among the 31 OECD countries surveyed. When it comes to taxes, we trail noted economic powers such as Japan and Germany. And Canada’s tax burden actually decreased by 1.8 per cent between 2000 and 2013.

Yes, I am frustrated and angry at my situation. This is not what I deserve!

But there are more “economic realities” to be learned here. Compare the 10 most business friendly countries (according to U.S.-based Forbes Magazine based on a variety of criteria beyond simply taxation) with their respective tax burdens, as compiled by the OECD, and we find that five of the eight OECD countries on the list have notably higher tax burdens than Canada.

Instead, I deserve to pay more taxes – much more! What is making me say this? Truthfully, it is because I am a selfish person who, with the onset of age and a growing list of health issues, is becoming increasingly concerned about how I can ensure the secure, healthy and happy life I would like to enjoy for many years to come. What is the best guarantee of this? Will it be provided by the business sector, which will always measure my needs against its inalienable right to maximize profit? Help! Or, will it be the public sector, which will strive to meet my needs regardless of my perceived economic usefulness? Knowing the tragic turns that life can make, I will always choose the latter. I believe that it is appropriate that I generously contribute to the public service legacy that I have so generously benefited from and continue to draw from. If I do not continue to aggressively buy into it, then I am bound to lose it. It is a generally accepted business practice that better quality products or services cost more. This applies to hotels, clothes, cars, and wine and just about everything else we purchase. Why then are we so afraid to apply the same business reality to the taxes that pay for publicly funded services, such as education, infrastructure and health care? The quality of these services should be a far greater concern to most of us than hotels, clothes, cars and wine. To counter the beliefs of people like me, those on the right claim that the tax rate in this country is “way too high” and that any further increase to our individual tax rate will “stifle business” and bring “pain and misery” to the population. In fact, economic data paints a very different picture. According to a 2013 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey, Canada ranked 26th in the level of individual “tax

And noted “tax-and-spend” countries also seem to be beating us at business! Though Canada ranks a respectable seventh on the business-friendly list, we still trail Denmark, Sweden and Finland – all three of which have noticeably greater levels of taxation. By way of reference, Forbes ranks the United States 14th as a business-friendly environment, just behind Belgium, which, according to the OECD, has the highest tax of all OECD countries. We often hear, “but higher taxes will stifle our well-being, our freedom, and our opportunity.” Again, the facts prove this rightwing economic prophecy false. Of the 10 happiest countries in the world, also compiled by Forbes – with happiness being the level of opportunity, quality education, good health care, peace and freedom – six are taxed higher than Canada.

I WANT GOOD QUALITY HEALTH CARE AND PUBLIC SERVICES, SO, NEXT YEAR, PLEASE LET ME PAY MORE! Robert Smol is a teacher with the Dufferin-Peel Secondary Unit, who also works as a freelance journalist and columnist.

JUNE 2014 | @ OECTA 15


The Politics of Education By Adam Lemieux

Democracy is a messy business. Many competing interests are involved in electing governments and making policies. Ultimately, the outcomes are supposed to reflect the will of the people. However, in order for this to be true, citizens need to make their views known. Unions have a legitimate role to play in this exercise, which is why OECTA invests so much time and energy in the political process. When it comes to issues that affect children, the education system, and the common good, we want the voices of our tens of thousands of members to be duly represented. Education is funded and regulated by the provincial government. No party or politician would say that education is not important, however, they often differ greatly in how they prioritize the education system. The experiences and worldviews that decision-makers bring to the table can significantly impact how policies are designed, implemented and funded. OECTA strives to keep education top of mind for all political leaders. We also want to ensure that debates and policies are based on facts and reflect the knowledge of experts in the field, especially the teachers who deal directly with students and the curriculum.

most: making serious investments that will reduce poverty and inequality, enhance our publicly funded education system, and provide all students with the best possible opportunity to succeed. Some believe that the union’s role should be limited to contract negotiations, but politics are also integral to collective bargaining. Parties and members of the legislature vary in how they view teachers, public employees, and unions. This shapes the positions they take, including their willingness to support the collective bargaining process. These factors have become even more important with the enactment of Bill 122, which gives the provincial government a formal seat at the bargaining table. Building positive relationships and working to elect respectful governments helps to create the necessary conditions for a successful round of bargaining.

oualiFied teacherS matter to me. conSider that when you vote.

Leadership and staff from OECTA’s provincial office spend a lot of time at the provincial legislature speaking on behalf of members, but we must remember that local issues and grassroots action are equally, if not more important. All members are encouraged to voice their concerns to MPPs and get involved with campaigns to elect candidates who are committed to a strong, publicly funded education system.

Elections are the most publicized form of political activity, and certainly much depends on what happens at election time. A change in government can usher in a The current economic climate in totally new direction – positive or Ontario has increased the call for negative – for Ontario’s education austerity policies, generally fasystem. Even an incumbent party voured by big business. These selfcan offer an approach that departs interested and often influential from how they have acted previously. OECTA’s Speak for for Children Who SpeakS Children? voices do not speak for children or public services. This is a role that campaign encourages voters to take stock each party’s platform, unions Getofthe faCtS before eleCtion day.such as OECTA can and must play. Of course, we will not get understand the issues and make informed choices at the ballot box. everything we want all of the time. However, if we are not involved in the political process, we will have no sway in decisions that can The real work of government happens between elections. This is have long-term consequences for our society. With the stakes so when ministers and public servants go about translating promises high, we cannot remain on the sidelines. into actual policies by balancing a wide range of ideological and practical considerations. We need to be in regular communication Adam Lemieux is the Writer/Researcher in the Communications and with decision-makers, keeping the focus on what should matter Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.

Speak for Speak for children here:

Authorized by the CFO of OECTA. Photo by Liam Sharp. Creative by

16 @ OECTA | JUNE 2014

When you vote, ask yourself, WHO SPEAKS FOR CHILDREN? By Adam Lemieux

On April 26 and 27, a group of 14 young people from around the province gathered in Toronto to speak out about education; students from Grade 9 to university, as well as recent graduates, who want to Speak for Children. Most are too young to cast a ballot, but each of them is committed to celebrating and protecting the quality of our publicly funded education system. Their unscripted comments are captured in a series of four videos that have become the foundation of OECTA’s latest Speak for Children campaign. The youth speak passionately and articulately about the education they receive, their dreams and the future they envision. “I’m getting a great education. It’s the perfect balance of book smarts and people smarts, and being able to collaborate with others.” Jennah “My first great teacher was the person to tell me I was good at writing and it made me want to do that for the rest of my life.” Darlene “My education has provided me with the skills and opportunities to do what I want to do … and I’m doing it!” Sofia “Moving here from the Philippines six years ago really helped me understand the value of an education.” Carlos Ontario’s future prosperity will be predicated on our continued ability to give all of our children these same opportunities. As we look to navigate our globalized, technology-driven world,

we need to be graduating students with advanced knowledge and skills who can address increasingly complex issues. This cannot be achieved if we are only focused on reducing expenditures or going “back to basics.” We need investments that will eliminate child poverty, foster innovation, and enhance our publicly funded education system.


• maintain investments in publicly funded education to maximize our potential growth and resist cutting or overhauling a system that continues to improve; • maintain and enhance a robust Full-Day Kindergarten program; • support an educational environment that recognizes diversity, discourages bullying, and provides all students with the freedom to discover their own identity; and • implement policies to reduce inequality and eliminate child poverty. “… when I do get a chance to vote, I hope that our choices will help the next generation with their education.” Daniella

This June 12

Who Speaks for Children?

JUNE 2014 | @ OECTA 17


Keeping the Promise By Patrick Flanagan

In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously resolved to eliminate child poverty in Canada. We are coming up to the 25th anniversary of that promise, but there has been little progress made over the years. Nearly one million Canadian children continue to live in poverty. Enter Keep The Promise (KTP), a movement of children, for children, to remind politicians that in 1989 they promised in an all-party resolution that they would end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. This national campaign is built on an initiative begun by the late journalist and social activist June Callwood, and on key partnerships with Campaign 2000: End Child Poverty in Canada, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA).

The Campaign

Keep The Promise, CTF and OECTA are collaborating to engage students in Grades 5 to 8 across Canada to reignite awareness and passion about this unfulfilled promise. The goal is to teach students about citizen engagement, and link them to organizations working on poverty issues. KTP is about encouraging children and youth to take leadership roles in calling for government action to end child poverty.

How can you help?

1. Have a discussion in your classroom about child poverty and ask students how it impacts their community. 2. Engage students in guided local research to answer prepared questions about the local face of poverty. Add their findings to an interactive map of Canada. Prepared questions and the interactive map can be found on the KTP website 3. Register your school with the Keep The Promise campaign, which will launch officially in August. Identify a local project related to child poverty that your students/school can complete during the 2014-15 school year. Pre-register before June 30 on CTF’s Imagineaction social justice platform, Keep The Promise is planning to send a small delegation of students from participating schools to initiate the campaign at events in Ottawa, in November 2014. These students will remind federal politicians of the need to recommit to the 1989 promise and will engage in a town-hall style conversation with them. Though this initial delegation will be small in number, it will be representative of our diverse nation, and the meeting will be live streamed so that all participating schools can engage, hear, and be heard. A second and much larger delegation will visit Ottawa in November 2015. To support teachers in implementing KTP projects and activities, KTP and its partners will provide curriculum guides, website support and subsidies for school and student projects, and the mission to Ottawa. If you’d like to add your students’ voices to this new national campaign, visit after June 5 to learn more and to register your school. With your help, your students can make a difference for children and youth in poverty. Patrick Flanagan is the program coordinator with the Keep The Promise campaign.

18 @ OECTA | JUNE 2014

Field trips aren’t A VACATION, but they sure make me want one. By understanding you better, we can help you best. Our knowledge of your dayto-day means that we can provide expert advice on the things that make up your world, from minimizing potential pension income gaps, to alleviating cash flow concerns during the holidays. It’s the kind of support reserved just for you, because after over 35 years of working exclusively with educators and their families, we have an intimate understanding of your unique financial needs and goals. To chat with a specialist, call 1.800.263.9541, or visit us at

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@OECTA June 2014 issue  

Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) member magazine

@OECTA June 2014 issue  

Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) member magazine

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