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Onoway student shares insight with NGPS administrators

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Drew, a Grade 9 student at Onoway Jr/Sr High School (OHS), recently accompanied one of her former teachers to work this month on Bring Your Child to Work Day! A passionate student who is considering a career in Education, Drew wanted to see what a day was like in the life of Stephanie Damery, a former teacher of hers from Rich Valley Elementary, who now works for NGPS as a Learning Services Coordinator.

Drew commented, “Her job sounded really interesting and I was curious to know more about what she does for the Division as a teacher who works on division projects as opposed to working in a classroom.”

Damery, who has spent the past year working with Alberta’s provincial curriculum prototyping team, and represents NGPS on that team, was excited to share her work with Drew. She knew Drew would appreciate the experience but was truly amazed at what transpired over the day.

“Drew had the opportunity to accompany me on visits to a number of schools, and the Division Office, during our 8 or so hours together,” Damery commented.

Drew continued, “We started out at Division Office where I met staff and the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Kevin Andrea. He was really personable. He listened to my ideas and answered all of my questions. It was neat to put a face to the names that I hear and to meet the people who are responsible for the whole school division.” Drew shared with the Superintendent her innovative idea to combine her study of the French language with her love of cooking, to create an alternative option at Onoway Jr/Sr High School.

From there, Damery and Drew made their way to Percy Baxter Middle School and that is where the magic of one student’s voice and perspective began to take root.

A self-professed “band geek”, who takes great pride in the label, Drew, in conversation with Percy’s Band teacher, was curious why the interest in Percy’s band program seemed to wane at the Grade 7 and 8 levels. The school has in fact modified the program in Grades 7 and 8 to a Band Club that meets over the noon hour, as opposed to a class that is built into the regular school day. The move was in response to student feedback expressing a desire to take other options in addition to Band and couldn’t fit both into their regular timetable.

Drew also learned that some students felt that continuing to take band was limiting because when they go on to high school there is no band option. Why take band for 3 years and then not have anywhere else to go with it?

This got Drew’s wheels turning. On her next school visit to Hilltop Jr/Sr High School (HTH), Drew brought up her concern and ideas with Principal Egbert Stang.

“Like everyone I had the chance to speak with that day, Mr. Stang was incredibly open to hearing my ideas,” Drew shared. “We talked about the elements that are required to have a successful band program, the issue with student engagement and timetabling in the higher grades at Percy Baxter, and ways in which a band program could potentially be created and flourish at Hilltop High.”

The conversation included discussion about student mentoring, cross-school mentoring between OHS and HTH and funding. The conversations Drew had with the band teacher at Percy and Mr. Stang at HTH, also got other wheels turning and by the end of the day Principal Stang had an appointment with Percy’s Principal Haugjord to discuss Drew’s ideas and band programs further.

There are a lot of elements that go into creating a successful band program including student engagement, the ability to find and secure appropriate staff and, of course, funding; but Drew is excited to have had the opportunity to share her ideas and to find out that she will be included in the process of exploring partnerships within and between schools in Northern Gateway. Her passion for band, and her day on the road with Mrs. Damery, certainly served as catalyst to revisiting band possibilities in Whitecourt between Percy Baxter and Hilltop Jr/Sr High.


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