What Sault teachers recently learned at school

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Promoting positive mental health in the classroom was a key topic during recent PD Days for Algoma District School Board educators

Sometimes teachers need to go back to school.

Professional Development days – or PD Days – are held throughout the school year, giving students a day off and teachers a chance to improve at their profession.

Two such days were held recently – on Oct. 27 and Nov. 10 – for approximately 1,500 Algoma District School Board teachers, educational assistants, e-learning teachers and principals across the geographically vast ADSB system. 

Morning sessions were devoted to math instruction while afternoon sessions involved promotion of good mental health in students.

Educators learned more about teaching math, especially fractions.

Fractions are important in the skilled trades, an area in which students are being strongly urged to explore.

One strategy for younger math learners is talking fractions out, known as “choral counting,” said Marcy Bell, ADSB superintendent of early learning and K-12 curriculum and programs speaking to trustees and administrators at a board meeting held Tuesday.

Teachers learned about literacy lessons that can be taught through the use of sight and sound, including songs and poems. 

Every ADSB school has a school improvement plan and every classroom teacher has a classroom improvement plan, Bell told the board.

Afternoon sessions during the two recent PD Days addressed mental health.

“Our focus was on our educators and their role in promoting positive mental health in schools, what the role of the educator is, what we do and what we don’t do. Schools are uniquely positioned for mental health promotion, early identification, prevention and intervention,” said Brent Vallee, ADSB superintendent of special education programs and services.

ADSB educators were taught to maintain their classrooms as welcoming environments.

“We really stress that as an educator you’re not a mental health professional. You’re a caring educator. You help students learn and you do that in a welcoming and inclusive and caring environment. When you do that you not only increase academic skills, you help students build confidence, social and emotional skills and a sense of belonging.”

“When we’re looking at a student who might be experiencing a mental health difficulty there are some key things we look for and we call them the four Ds: disproportion, duration, disruption and distress,” Vallee said.

Vallee said that teachers were told what resources are available in encouraging good mental health in students while looking for warning signs of bad mental health.

For math, ADSB educators are using tools such as MathUP, an online learning resource that provides professional development tips in teaching math, and are also using MindUP, which encourages students to practice deep breathing and other exercises to reduce stress in order to preserve good mental health.

“PD days are energizing. I think that’s what the system needs at times, to be energized, get back in the classrooms and do good work,” said Joe Santa Maria, ADSB associate director of corporate services and operations.

Santa Maria was sitting in at Tuesday’s board meeting for ADSB Director of Education Lucia Reece.

The board’s next meeting is Nov. 28.

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