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Wednesday, 01 June 2011 15:10

Chinook gives Hutterian teachers more supports

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Chinook School Division’s teachers who work on Hutterite colonies should have a lot more support next year.

After hearing a recommendation from Dan Kerslake, the division’s Hutterian co-ordinator, on the value of Hutterian learning coaches during a board meeting , the school board granted his wish.

Starting next school year, Sharon Funk and Renae Harkes will assist Hutterian teachers and work with students who are struggling to grasp the material being taught in class.

“Chinook is really starting to show what they mean when they say ‘learning for all.’ This is a big commitment that speaks to the board and senior administration,” said Kerslake. “When they say learning for all, this shows they’re serious about it.”

Each of Chinook’s schools in the various communities already have learning coaches and social services staff, but the colony schools have not had either. None of the colonies had a large enough student population to warrant the funding for coaches or social services staff, causing Hutterian teachers who have problems getting students to understand content to go to the division’s social services co-ordinator.

The co-ordinators, who are spread fairly thin throughout the division, would then go to the Hutterian schools and perform tests which will determine whether a change in the classroom or something else can be done to help the student and teacher.

Next year, any of these issues from any of the 27 schools will be directed at Funk and Harkes, who are both teachers. They will then administer the tests and work with the teachers to solve the problems.

They will also teach the Hutterian teachers the First Steps in Math program, which is part of the new balanced math initiative that’s starting in every Chinook school next school year.

Other than the extensive amount of travel which will accompany the positions, Kerslake anticipates these positions to be similar to that of learning coaches and social services staff at other schools.

“The challenges will be similar,” he said. “The only difference would be with the language. That’s the only real difference whether the students’ language readiness is presenting a layer that’s not allowing them to learn.”

Most Hutterian students only speak German before going to school.

Despite having low school populations, none of which is more than 40 students, Chinook decided to combine the population of all the Hutterian schools into one to determine how many learning coaches the 27 schools could share.

It then went looking to find money to pay for the two newly-created full-time positions. Chinook, however, managed to do it without cutting any programs or eliminating positions.

“There weren’t any other cuts,” said Rod Quintin, Chinook’s secretary-treasurer. “There was maybe a bit of redirection of money. We’re always looking for efficiencies, so we took the efficiencies that we had discovered and we redirected that money into the program.”

Kerslake is excited about the new program.

He feels having Hutterian learning coaches will help create better teachers and improve student learning at Hutterian schools.

“We haven’t totally got it all flushed out, but we have them envisioned working side-by-side with teachers at improving student learning,” said Kerslake. “Math, reading and writing will be our three main areas. Our EAL focus will find its way into there too.”

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