Northern Manitoba educators now have access to additional professional development opportunities following the provincial government’s announcement in October to to expand the rural learning consortium in the region.
Education Minister Wayne Ewasko announced $400,000 for the expansion on Oct. 17, a day when he was visiting Thompson.
“By throwing in an additional $400,000, it’s definitely going to make it a lot easier and a little more flexible to respond, to give the opportunities to classroom teachers and school leaders,” the minister, a former teacher, said in a followup interview with the Thompson Citizen Oct. 19. “This is going to be an added tool in the toolbox. Basically to increase their knowledge and professional capacity so they can pass on that information.”
A mechanism through which professional learning informed by data can be shared among cross-divisional networks, the consortium offers virtual and in-person sessions for large and small groups as well as individual coaching. The sessions are informed by current educational research and designed to support the needs of northern school divisions. The consortium, established in 2011, strives to provide collaborative, classroom-embedded learning that can extend over several years.
“Collaborating with Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning to ensure educators in Manitoba’s northern school divisions have access to quality professional learning is both a moral imperative and a practical extension of the work that has been done with rural school divisions since 2011,” said Manitoba Rural Learning Consortium executive director Jonathan Toews in an Oct. 17 news release.
Northern school divisions tend to have lower graduation rates and greater transiency than many southern and urban districts as well as significant staff turnover, particularly among younger teachers earlier in their careers who decide to move on after gaining a few years of experience in the north.
This school year, the consortium will offer services to support learning needs in numeracy and literacy that have been identified by the Mystery Lake, Flin Flon and Kelsey school divisions. Teachers and division staff will also have access to an instructional leadership network for school leaders in the three divisions.
“As a district, we like the focus of the program and the way the programming is being facilitated and supported over the school year,” said School District of Mystery Lake co-superintendent Lorie Henderson when the funding was announced. “Also, we are very happy that the presenters know the Manitoba educational environment. We look forward to the professional development journey with MRLC and to the support provided through Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning.”
The same day as the learning consortium expansion was announced, the province launched a middle years literacy action research project with Frontier School Division to respond to identified needs in grades 5 to 8. It will examine ways to help students become skilful and engaged writers, help writing teachers to increase their effectiveness, and improve the literacy support skills of literacy leads, coaches and principals.
“Our focus, again, and this is what the public's asking for as well, is increasing literacy and numeracy skills, but then also focusing on Indigenous education and inclusion,” said Ewasko. “We need them to be strong on all those three concepts, numeracy, literacy, and just being aware of various things that they need to know when they're becoming young adults and as adults, so that hopefully we get them skilled up, they can get some decent jobs, and they stay in Manitoba. It helps with absolutely everything that you and I and everybody else is going to be doing on a day-to-day basis.”