Our faculty are at the centre of the educational experience at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS). We hire talented, innovative and committed subject matter experts. We look for those with the extraordinary ability to forge connections as they mentor the students, both in and out of the classroom. The connections STS teachers make with students are meaningful beyond nurturing each of them as learners. So many of the relationships between students and faculty endure long after graduation — our alumni and faculty reunions are frequent and joyful.
How do we make sure we can not only attract but also retain such inspiring teachers? Indeed, we provide a stimulating workplace with keen students. However, because of your donations, we can also prioritize satisfying professional growth for faculty. Each time we invest in expanding teachers' knowledge and skills, the ripple effect is almost impossible to calculate. But we all see the benefits on the faces of engaged, creative students.
"The body of knowledge that informs teaching practice is rapidly expanding and now includes the fields of neuroscience, and cognitive, behavioural and environmental psychology, to name just a few. Technology also continues to create new challenges and opportunities for student learning. As with other professions, it is increasingly challenging for educators to keep abreast of the most current knowledge and to understand its applications and implications within the classroom." - Mrs. Carol Grant-Watt, Head of School
A teacher shares his experience
We spoke to Ryan Unterschultz, a leader in the areas of computational thinking and new technology. It's a role he grew into while STS planned the new facilities. He sat on the Maker Space Committee, a group that thought deeply about how we use design and computational thinking styles in our classrooms - and how the practice would influence the final shape of the new maker spaces. The School asked the committee to send a member to an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference to learn more; Ryan took the baton. He says:
"We believe that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or STEAM (science, technoloy, engineering, art and math) are essential in today's world. That focus keeps us a cutting-edge school. We aren't working with technology for the sake of technology - it's really to prepare kids for the future.
Typically, we do our own research on conferences or courses that will benefit our individual goals, then apply to the STS Centre ofr Excellence in Teaching for funding. This time, it came from the other direction - the School came to me, understanding that the information that I brought back would benefit the entire school. It was lovely to be invited to represent the Elementary School.
There was so much at the conference. I attended sessions specifically to gather ideas for our maker spacers, to formulate strategies to apply to our committee work, and those that were of personal interest to me."
Food for everybody's thought
Ryan returned to STS and shared what he had learned with the Elementary Leadership and faculty, Through presentations and idea-sharing, all of the stakeholders in the new facilities could understand the critical aspects of a makerspace - both in the physical space and activation with students.
"It overwhelmed and surprised me to see the uptake in tools and techniques, and the enthusiasm! Our faculty found the work engaging and exciting, and then worked in the summer in preparation for the new fall term. I asked STS to purchase certain tools that worked across the board, not just in one niche area. We now have 3D pens, Robots and 3D printers"
Ryan works with different communities in school and leads activities to help us all gain the capacity to fluently use the space and technology.
What happens in our makerspaces?
The Elementary teachers are developing skills in the use of new technology, along with the design and computational thinking styles. Ask your children what they're making at school these days!
How your giving grows
Current students benefit daily from programs and facilities provided through the generosity of past donors. Our families pay it forward when they improve today's School. Together, we make sure STS remains an educational experience unlike any other in the future.
When we invest in our teachers, current students benefit immediately. Students of the future benefit too, despite the natural evolution of the faculty roster. Our process of sharing and growing together means new faculty also benefit from every professional development activity undertaken today.
What donations for Teaching Excellence mean
In Ryan's words, "There's so much we can do within our school. Some things just need another perspective - we can't all be experts in every area. The chance to learn from expert practitioners, and to be around them, means so much to us, and our students.
"What's most remarkable to me here at STS? The level of dedication to our practice, the expertise within the faculty, the willingness to embrace new opportunities and future thinking. The faculty at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School is amazing."