Tomorrow Begins with Empowered Teachers
By Dr. Michael Simmonds, Assistant Head of School: Academics
What do we do well? What can we do better? How do we ensure academic excellence, rigour, and deep learning remain at the core of what we do? And how do we gauge how STS is meeting its mission and value-driven goal of continuous improvement across multiple fields?
One metric we can look to is the commitment and willingness of STS teachers to reflect on and improve their pedagogical practice through onsite and external professional growth and development opportunities made possible by the school.
In a 2013 white paper, executive summary authored by the then Director of Curriculum and Instruction and now current Director of Library Services at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir’s Centre for Excellence in Teaching, Zubair Kassam noted, “... teaching and learning require practitioners to be simultaneously teachers in the classroom and students in their own rights. An evidence-based approach to teaching and learning that relies on the best research is increasingly becoming the expectation and not the exception among parents who value and take a keen interest in their children’s learning” (p.1). This insight continues to be as relevant today as it was prescient when it was published nine years ago because it acknowledges that excellent teaching practice does not occur in a vacuum.
Teaching excellence is a relational encounter that places at the centre the cognitive, social, emotional and well-being needs of students. It also recognizes the critical role that teachers and schools have in advancing the understanding of their strengths and limitations as professionals and as a broader learning community.
I see countless examples of STS teachers stretching beyond their comfort zones throughout the year, passionately pursuing knowledge, skills, experience and opportunities to grow. They do this not only because they are dedicated teaching professionals - and I would venture some of the very best educators in the country - but also to meet the high standards of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, which, as Calgary’s only full continuum, Kindergarten to Grade 12 IB School, is the foundation of all that we do. STS supplements the standard, Alberta
Education curriculum with the IB Programme, beginning in Elementary with the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), moving to Middle School with the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and ending with the IB Diploma Programme (DP) in Senior School. As IB learners, STS students thrive in a culture of academic excellence fostered through critical thinking, inquiry, and incorporating new and effective practices, current research, and literature into all of our courses.
Students are empowered in their learning and strive to exceed their own expectations for achievement - much in part because their teachers model that behaviour, too.
WHEN STS engages a published author and international educational and communications consultant to work with K-12 faculty on stretching their learning edges in a sustained way over 18 months, it signals to colleagues the importance of breaking down silos of professional practice that can limit growth.
WHEN a colleague presents at a peer-reviewed international symposium that brings together educators from around the world to learn about innovative teaching ideas for students at all levels, our students and faculty benefit.
WHEN PYP, MYP, and DP teachers expand their understanding of instructional and assessment practices by attending and – in some cases, leading – IB workshops, they bring back to the classroom an expanded pedagogical toolbox that promotes inquiry-based learning opportunities for all students.
WHEN Kindergarten to Grade 12 faculty attend online instructional and leadership courses offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), they honour the School’s commitment to invest the time, money, and resources necessary to promote teaching excellence.
WHEN STS hosts teacher-focused, programme-specific IB training experiences for Albertan educators working in different IB public and IB independent schools, it reinforces the school’s place as a leading institution in the diverse landscape of Albertan schools.
WHEN STS teachers are seconded by Alberta Education to mark and develop Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) and subject-specific Grade 12 Diploma Examinations, it demonstrates the high regard ministry officials have for our colleagues’ subject matter expertise, pedagogical acumen and professional wisdom.
WHEN the School submits a winning grant to Alberta Education that makes possible human and capital resources that expand and deepen its commitment to supporting the social, emotional and mental health needs of Kindergarten to Grade 12 students and their families; it demonstrates the School’s resolve for continuous improvement that unapologetically places student needs at the centre – the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
Published in the 2023 edition of Optimum Magazine