My first year as Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board opened my eyes to the great work being done in every corner of the District. The year has also given me the opportunity to engage in collaborative work with colleagues to help build a clear direction for the future.
At HWDSB, trustees and staff have worked to craft a new, succinct set of Strategic Directions for 2009-13. They include a vision of all students achieving their full potential, and a mission that sees the Board “providing relevant, responsive education so that each student becomes a lifelong learner and contributing citizen in a diverse world.”
To achieve this, the Board is embracing three overarching themes in its Strategic Directions: Achievement Matters, Engagement Matters and Equity Matters. These are guiding our specific actions in the year ahead, as we implement the blueprint for the future.
You will be hearing more about specific work that flows from this blueprint, such as our kindergarten to Grade 2 literacy plan, our work to engage youth no longer in the school system, our enhanced math programming, our push for equitable resources for schools, and much more within the pages of this annual report.
Our commitment is that all students will achieve their full potential. For us to achieve this commitment we must believe that all students can learn. Further, we believe that all students can learn because we, as the educators, trust that we will meet their needs.
We are focusing on knowing our students in HWDSB. By knowing our students, we understand their strengths and their needs. We are able to plan effective instruction for each student because we are aware of how well they are achieving in relation to the Ontario curriculum expectations.
This way, we will also know their learning style and will feel confident that we can plan effectively to meet the needs of each student. We are aware of personal challenges that our students may be facing and we invite all of our students to excel by honouring the talents and strengths that each of our students possess.
We simply will not allow students to ‘fall through the cracks.’ It is so important for us to determine what the curriculum expectations are asking our students so that we can then create the roadmap for how to teach each and every student. This will ensure that they will succeed.
When we all hold high expectations for our students we know that some students may take a little more time to arrive at the goal while others will need additional challenges because they achieve goals quickly.
Regardless, our attitude is key. Staff who hold high expectations for students know how to rely on each other to determine successful learning strategies for each student.
It is imperative that the system also provides appropriate support to staff so that they may hold high expectations for their students in a realistic way. This is why we spend time at the system level inviting staff to collaborate with one another, to learn from one another and to share expertise with each other.
Everything we do is based on the strengths and learning needs of our students. Our plans guide our work so that all students are learning. We know our students so that we know the starting places each and every day for our students’ learning. And, as a Board, knowing our students makes our system exemplary.
This is an exciting time to be an educator, because we have more information about our students than ever before. But it is a worthwhile job – the job of knowing every student – because each step moves us closer to our vision of seeing all students achieving their full potential.