President's Message - Fall 2018

​Supporting All Students

As a long time Trustee, I've always looked forward to the next issue of Education Today because it's always filled with interesting, important and enlightening information. I know that this will be no different because in this issue we are focusing on Special Education – an area of education of incredible importance to all of us.

I am one of two children. My brother is 15 months older than I am, and from Grade 3 we were in the same grade. He was held back. It was difficult for him every year after that, not just because we were in the same grade (who wants to be in the same grade as their younger sister?) but because he clearly struggled with academics and at that time, nobody really knew how to help him.

In time, I became involved in education as a parent – first at my children's local school as a volunteer reader, then on the School Council and later as a Trustee. I realized that my brother had an undiagnosed learning disability, but we were in elementary school in the late '60s and early '70s. Things were different back then. My parents didn't know what they didn't know and the school did not have the resources or institutional knowledge to assist.

Why do I share this anecdote?  Because I will never forget how difficult school was for my brother. I will never forget what it was like for him to go to school every day and how very, very hard it was for him.  No one seemed to be able to make it easier or give him the support he needed to find success in the classroom.

I have never wanted any student in our care to feel like my brother did about school. I have always believed that if only somebody had been able to correctly identify why he struggled, his academic career would have had a far different trajectory and ending.  

This is why we must always be working toward an education system that serves all children as they are and where they are, to give them every opportunity to be successful in our schools and beyond. As a system, we've worked very hard to understand and find support for the challenges each and every one of our students face. We know that children and young adults who struggle because of special education needs are a support system away from success.

We have amazing special education programs, teachers and support in our schools. You'll read about some of them in this issue of Education Today including:

  • The Waterloo Region DSB's Rick Hansen Barrier Buster Event
  • Limestone DSB's TechnoMath Pilot Project
  • Simcoe County DSB's summer camp helping students gain confidence using assistive technology
  • Superior-Greenstone DSB's re-imagining of Special Education

You will also hear from one of our very talented Student Trustees, Sean McCloskey of the Renfrew County DSB. Across the province we know that our impressive Student Trustees bring the voice and viewpoint of our students to our board tables. In this issue Sean speaks to us about the importance of Special Education programming from not just a student's point of view but from the point of view of a brother. I am sure you will find it enlightening and inspiring.

We've come a long way from the days when my brother and I were in elementary school.  There is exciting, innovative and proven programming taking place in schools all across Ontario. But we know there is more to do. The truth is – all education should be seen as "Special Education."  Every child that comes into our schools should have programming that meets their own individual needs. The student who would excel with an arts-focused education deserves an education in which they can learn math, English and social studies through the lens of art. The student who would excel in an automotive focused program deserves to learn those same curriculum areas through a lens that best suits their own learning goals.  

As Trustees, we can make this happen. We can work with school board staff to find innovative and affordable ways to provide the "Special Education" each child needs. First though, we need to keep working hard to provide the specialized programming that some of our students who struggle so desperately need. We must level the playing field so that all students find success.

I am so proud to be part of a group of people who dedicate themselves to students every day, at every meeting and with every decision. There is still so much we can do. I look forward to reading about our success stories as we move forward together in education.

Cathy Abraham

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