2019 Annual Report - Year In Review

Improving Students' Fundamental Skills in Mathematics

Research suggests that students’ math skills still lag throughout Canada. With the jobs of today’s knowledge-based economy demanding science, technology and math skills more than ever, school boards are seeking new ways to help students relate to math. In response, Thames Valley has launched a number of new initiatives to help improve students' fundamental math skills. 

What: Spotlight Sessions - Bridging the Gap Between Elementary and Secondary Math Instruction

In the move from elementary to secondary school mathematics, students encounter substantial changes in instructional materials and approaches, work expectations, school structure, and general level of difficulty in material. These changes are thought to play a role in students’ attitudes towards, and achievement in, mathematics.

In response, Thames Valley offered a number of Spotlight Sessions that focussed on making connections between our grade 7 and 8 teachers and the grade 9 teachers in their family of schools. “A crucial component of addressing the transition from elementary to secondary school math is the vertical alignment of the mathematics curriculum,” says Jeffrey Waite, Secondary Math Learning Facilitator. “Aligning major ideas across elementary and secondary school can help addresses the curricular aspects of students transitioning into high school mathematics.”

During the Spotlight Sessions, elementary and secondary teachers were paired in groups to work on tackling questions that live within the curriculum from both panels. By doing so, teachers were able to discuss how they would approach specific concepts with our students and compare strategies. Above all, it was a great opportunity to work on bridging the gap between panels for our students by focusing on common language and adapting strategies to aid in improving student learning.

Working together, we can improve content and teaching method knowledge, ensure consistency in language and practice and ease the transition anxiety students might feel entering high school math. 

What: Support school-based math leaders to develop their instructional leadership capacity in mathematics.

How:

  • Thames Valley math leads participated in regional sessions to increase their math knowledge and skills and in turn taught professional learning to the educators in their schools.
  • Facilitated several mathematics sessions among staff who work with students with special needs in how to provide responsive instruction. 

What: Provide job-embedded professional learning opportunities that focus on research-based instructional practices.

How:

  • Conducted job-embedded support within the classroom and offered 18 after-school sessions for over 550 teachers.
  • Collaborated with Western University of offer TVDSB-sponsored additional qualification courses in math for 262 teachers.

What: Provide school-based communications and learning activities to engage families in their children’s learning of math.

How:

  • Hosted 164 math events for families.
  • Hosted over 220 regional sessions focused on the transition from elementary to secondary math programming.
  • Provided monthly “Home Connections” math newsletters inserts and math game videos over social media to engage families.

 

Visit our Mathematics page to learn more about what Thames Valley is doing to support our students and their families. 

Pathways Planning and Supports

Teaming up with Community Partners to Expose Students to Skilled Trades

Ask a high school student to name their career aspirations and the results often read like the Game of Life board game: doctor, lawyer, accountant, teacher.

That wouldn’t be a problem, except as boomers increasingly retire, hospitality and skilled trades are beginning to feel the impact of labour shortages. The Hotel Association of Canada estimates a national labour shortfall of 10,000 jobs in hospitality by 2035, while the Canadian construction industry estimates a shortage of 80,000 positions over the next decade. A ManpowerGroup survey from 2018 names skilled trades (electricians, welders, mechanics) as the hardest positions to fill in Canada.

Thames Valley’s cooperative, internship and apprenticeship programs aim to give students important hands-on learning experiences in technology and the skilled trades. Some programs available to our students include:

Build A Dream Career Expo

For the third year, Thames Valley teamed up with community partners to host Build A Dream. The career expo invites female students in grades 9-12 to learn more about careers in skilled trades, engineering, technology, emergency services, or entrepreneurship. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students and their parents to learn more about what is available and to expand their career choices by exploring pathways underrepresented by women. The annual career expo spotlights these careers and equips young women with the power of choice by providing information, resources, networks, and role models. 

Home Build Tour 

In partnership with local home builder, Doug Tarry Homes, the Home Build Tour gives high school students the opportunity to visit homes in different stages of construction. The program enables students to further develop technical knowledge and skills related to residential construction and learn more about building design and project planning.

Heavy Construction Day

In partnership with Coldstream Concrete, students get the opportunity to get a glimpse into the Civil Construction industry and learn from local professionals. Several stations are set up featuring different equipment or materials and London and area contractors, suppliers, and engineers showcase the industry to students and answer questions. 

Thames Valley Skills Competition

The annual Thames Valley Skills Competition invites high school students to put their skills to test in over 17 different trades from carpentry and electrical wiring to architectural design and coding. The competition not only tests their technical knowledge and skills, but their proficiency in public speaking, job skills demonstration and job interviewing. The top scoring students are invited to represent Thames Valley at the provincial Skills Competition.

Jill Of All Trades

In conjunction with the School College Work Initiative, Conestoga College in Cambridge hosts a day-long event to inspire young women in grades 9 to 12 regarding the many opportunities that careers in trades and technology provide. The event includes an array of hands-on workshops led by female mentors to help young women develop a better understanding of the potential of skilled trades careers.

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program

The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a School to Work program that opens the door for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in grade 11 or 12 through the Cooperative Education program. Students have an opportunity to become registered apprentices and work towards becoming certified journeypersons in a skilled trade while completing their secondary school diplomas.

In addition, motivated students can work towards ‘level one’ apprenticeship training, or college delivered apprenticeship training for those students who want to continue their trade. We offer six 8-week courses in trades such as general carpenter, general machinist to welder and hairstylist. 

Supporting Our Students to Transition Out of High School

At Thames Valley, it is our job to make sure that our students are prepared for their futures. An important part of this is to ensure students feel confident and are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed once they leave high school. For the past few years, the Canadian Federation of Students has called for more student access to counsellors to deal with mental health issues at college and university campuses. The pressure to achieve academic success, the sheer number of students attending post-secondary institutions and inexperience facing new challenges or adversity alone are some of the reasons why students may struggle once they leave their high school.

In order to increase our students chance of success we offer a number of different programs and supports. 

University and College Fairs

The Ontario Universities Fair and Ontario Colleges Information Fair gives students and parents an opportunity to speak with university and college representatives about programs, campus life and anything else that may help students make a decision about which school to choose. With over dozens of university and affiliates and colleges to choose from, the fair is a great opportunity to gather a lot of important information.

Fairs are held throughout Thames Valley in London, St. Thomas, Woodstock and in Strathroy.

Each school has its own booth, staffed with representatives who can answer questions and provide additional materials about programs, admission, requirements, financial aid, and student life.

Passages Fair for Developmental Education Students

A joint project of the Thames Valley District School Board, the London Catholic District School Board, the Thames Valley Children’s Centre and community agencies, the Passages Fair offers information to educators, families and youth regarding support services that may be accessed on behalf of developmental education students who are entering, moving through, or leaving secondary school.

International Student Post-Secondary Recruitment Fair

Each year, the Thames Valley International Office and the One World Welcome Centre hosts an annual International Student Post-Secondary Recruitment Fair at the One World International Welcome Centre.

At the Fair our students are connected with the international admissions department at Ontario Universities and Colleges. International students have unique application and admission questions and the International Fair ensures they connect with the right people.

For the 2019 Recruitment Fair, representative from King’s, Huron, Brescia, Ivey, Western, McMaster, Waterloo, Fanshawe, Humber, Mohawk and University of Ontario Institute of Technology attended.

 Aboriginal Youth Career Awareness Fair

Thames Valley students are supported to atend the Annual Aboriginal Youth Career Awareness fair. Last year, the fair was hosted at the Oneida Community Centre and featured information and guest speakers unique to our FNMI students.

 Visit our Guidance page to learn more about what Thames Valley is doing to support our students and their families.

Schools and Classrooms that Support Everyone

Ensuring equity and celebrating diversity is important at Thames Valley. We believe that every student should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of background, identity or personal circumstances. Our Safe Schools portfolio is committed to ensuring positive leanring environments at all our schools.

Here are some examples of what we are doing at Thames Valley to create the best possible experience for staff, teachers and students. The result of this work is a positive learning environment where student achievement, well-being and equity is top priority.

Culturally Relevant Teaching Approach Builds Equity and Inclusivity in the Classroom

Recognizing where our students come from, what they’re facing, and how we can help them is a key component of responsive teaching practices. This approach to teaching and learning was the goal of a Ministry of Education funded project last year at Thames Valley.

Educators from four schools (Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute, Strathroy District Collegiate Institute, Saunders Secondary School and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School) met throughout the year to discuss what changes to educator practices could support students facing poverty.

Celebrating who our students are, using their identities to build learning communities and supporting them in understanding their own potential are key to academic, social, emotional and physical wellbeing and success. It is a shift in how we think about ourselves, our students and their families and how we use lived experiences and culture to ensure equitable outcomes for everyone.

For the 2018-19 school year, the project team chose to focus on building mutually respectful relationships with students and each school created goals to be implemented by the end of the school year. Goals included working to develop caring adult relationships, committing to greet each student every day, and the addition of culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy goals to their School Improvement Plan. 

Taking a culturally relevant teaching approach has proven to positively impact family engagement and student achievement. The schools are now widening the scale of the project to the rest of the staff at each school. 

Building Relationships with Local Faith Based Communities

In the last few years, considerable efforts have been made to bridge the divide between local community groups and the schools within their communities. This aligns with research that shows the ever-increasing necessity of a positive relationship between a school and its community for schools to be successful.

Faith based communities are no exception. Interpersonal relationships built between individuals across these institutions provide the glue for innovative collaborations at the school level. These partnerships strengthen relationships among people in the entire community and has a direct impact on student achievement.

In response, Thames Valley’s Culture for Learning Team continues to develop relationships with various faith based communities. In partnership with these local groups, we have held several staff professional development and community information sessions, designed to enhance cultural competency and humility. Examples include hosting Amir Muhammad from the Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington DC, as part of our recognition of Islamic History Month. Also, as part of Thames Valley's recognition of victims of the Holocaust and our Jewish students and staff, we hosted Max Eisen, Holocaust survivor and author of By Chance Alone, in partnership with Jewish London.

The Culture for Learning Team will continue to reach out to faith based groups for opportunities to collaborate. When community members are engaged in the life of the school, the resources available for teaching and the learning environment expand, positively impacting school and student performance and satisfaction.

Continued Partnership with the Indigenous Working Group

Thames Valley’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education Team meets monthly with leaders from our three local First Nation communities, Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, as well as leaders from N’Amerind Friendship Centre to engage in collaborative development, review, and discussion of the initiatives and projects funded and facilitated through the Board Indigenous Action Plan. 

The Action Plan is aimed at working collectively and collaboratively to improve student achievement, well-being and culturally relevant learning conditions for all Indigenous students in Thames Valley. Last year, a series of “Lunch and Learn” sessions for Education Centre staff provided an opportunity to engage in learnings around indigenous issues.

The FNMI Team values the partnership and will continue to work towards increasing staff and student knowledge and understanding in Indigenous perspectives, histories, current realities and ways of knowing.

Accessibility Action Plan

Last year, Thames Valley's Accessibility Action Plan was reviewed and updated. The plan details how we are making ourworkplace and services accessible to people with disability, and informs the public how it is approaching diversity and inclusion. A number of goals were identified, including:

  • Continue to deliver mandatory online training to all new staff regarding accessible customer service prior to commencing employment. This training, together with system-wide training initiatives, ensures common understanding of accessibility standards across our workforce.
  • Support our employees in accessing comprehensive, accurate inofmration related to accomodation in the workplace to rpovide the best support possible to staff;
  • Review of TVDSB Disability Management processes to ensure these reflect current best practices; and
  • Enhance the diversity of our workforce and inclusion for persons of varying ability within it, through admendments to recruitment, selection and promotion policies and processes.
Promoting a Fair and Equitable Workforce
Ensuring our staff recruitment process supports a diverse staff in a fair and equitable workforce is important. Last year, a complete upgrade to our Unconscious Bias Training was completed. This training ensures that decisions in recruitment and hiring are bias-free. This includes proactively removing  and preventing discriminatory biases and systematic barriers in recruitment, hiring talent management, career mentoring, promotion, retention, and succession planning. 
Everyone Belongs at Thames Valley

Building a strong sense of community in our schools and at our Board is both important and doable. Last year, all Thames Valley employees were invited to voluntarily complete the Everyone Belongs Staff Survey.

The purpose of this survey was to collect quality, relevant, and anonymous demographic data so that we can better understand and support our staff and value their contributions. The information will be used to ensure that our policies, procedures, and practices are aligned with and support the identities, backgrounds, and beliefs of our staff. 

The survey received over 5000 responses, and preliminary results show diverse identities represented among our staff. Survey responses related to barriers in workplace equity and inclusion are being reviewed and a full report will be shared in the new year.

Moving forward, we will work to include more ways to increase the diversity among our staff and to address the barriers experienced by staff.

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