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B.C. School System Needs Injection of Truth



I wouldn’t have a problem with the collective bargaining of teachers if that bargain also involved an open evaluation of the effectiveness of B.C. school teachers, most especially secondary level studies.

B.C. teachers demonstrate against the provincical government in Victoria in 2012. Photograph by: DARREN STONE , PROVINCE
(B.C. teachers demonstrate against the provincical government in Victoria in 2012. Photo Credit DARREN STONE, PROVINCE)

Madame Justice Susan Griffin’s $2M in damages awarded the teachers for the government’s legislation that affected the teachers’ rights to bargain with terms associated to class size, class composition and support for special needs students.

The ruling, in my humble opinion, was correct.

Who’s entitled?

You cannot—or least, should not—legislate against the use of bargaining chips if the chips pertain to the umbrella under which the negotiations fall under. It’s undemocratic and as Justice Griffin pointed out, unconstitutional. Class size and composition are relative to the conditions of a teacher’s working environment, just as books and supplies are, and so, they should be valid considerations.

But the question isn’t just about what you can and cannot argue. The teachers have a part to play in this decades long charade in pursuit of greater benefits and job security. Lets be clear, there’s no victory here despite the Griffin ruling. There’s still a prevalent issue present.

As a former student and a citizen, I most definitely understand the importance of supporting all student needs, this includes paying teachers and support staff what they deserve.

But, in the wake of the world’s worst recession since the depression, the public ought to know where and how its hard-earned, taxed dollars are being spent especially in an era of in an era bemoaning fiscal conservatism. But, frankly, government has demonstrated its wastefulness and a bloated teacher’s union is a part of it.

It’s the deserve caveat I have grown to detest. Just as Baby Boomers and the like label millennials as educated but entitled you-know-whats, the same runs true to our public unions, the teachers no less.

I don’t perceive anything as belonging to me unless I’ve earned it. It’s that simple. That’s my perspective regardless of the era I grew up in. No one is entitled to an $80,000 salary just because a position is occupied for over a decade. You earn a salary based on how well you perform your job. Raises are accumulated through performance, at least in the private sector.

Why should teachers be any different? It’s time the mirror is held up high for the objective to see. There must be recognition that the teats of entitlement stretch farther than the post-secondary youths of today (sorry, that shot has to be there).

I don’t mind paying my due in taxes and helping to pay the salary of those teachers who are truly involved, are good at what they do and maybe even inspire a few souls to reach into a field they may not have pursued otherwise.

But is being realistic ever an option?

I can list off the handful of secondary and elementary school teachers—B.C. teachers—who were great educators. They pushed me forward and helped me grow and develop into the person that I am today. They warrant the raise, the optimal teaching environment (though, even with 30 or so students, they managed to teach and teach well) and all the additional benefits that come with the profession.

However, that only constitutes a handful out of the many instructors that I met throughout my 12 years in the public school system. I can provide names, corresponding Grade of the class and subject of those teachers who were ineffective and this message comes from someone who did care and can provide transcripts to prove it. The point is, there are poor teachers. That is a fact.

The question is how can we weed out the ineffective and replace with effective, maybe even younger, teacher grads. If the system itself won’t take the measures to pragmatically survey the quality of their secondary level teaching (which, if you haven’t already discerned, I place greater value in over middle and elementary, in which stage I think there’s less robust academic teaching required), then the public, i.e. via the government, must put in place a fair and transparent structure to do so.

Or, maybe the future for teaching grads wouldn’t be so bleak if there were better gatekeeping? Perhaps it’s time to rethink who we accept as the educators of our future generations.

Gatekeeping and evaluation

There are some who choose teaching as a fall-back profession. This is an unsaid truth.

Among other requisites, a minimum GPA of 65% among senior level courses in undergraduate studies is all that is required to get into UBC’s Bachelor of Education program. Teaching is a career available even with mediocre post-secondary academic standing.

The gatekeeping isn’t strict by any means, and with that you allow a certain class of individuals. You get the kind that achieve an average or below average standing in post-secondary academics. This in itself points to a specific kind of attitude and loose engagement in academia. Now, I’m not saying you need to be a PhD holder to teach high school science or history or maths—it would certainly help. What, I’m saying is perhaps the loose requirements to becoming a teacher permit a certain percentage of graduates that may not or ever be worthy of secondary level teaching, or teaching at all.

In short, good police know good police (see: The Wire). This applies to teachers just the same. I’m sure quality teachers know who is competent and who is not.

We must start to provide (if we don’t already) some demarcation of effectiveness and take heed of such results to better refine the public school system. It’s to the advantage of our students. But, teachers don’t want to be judged, at least not by the performance of their students. But, how else?

Ben Levin, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Education Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, wrote a frustrating article in 2011. Levin advocated merit pay—paying teachers based on students results—is a bad idea.

Granted, thinking your livelihood is attached to adolescents may be a scary thought. But that’s not the point nor purpose.

I recognize the inherent problem: how can a teacher’s performance be judged upon students that may or may not care themselves when they take a test. In that instance, it’s a fair concern. But I would contend that on average students perform to the best of their ability. If normal ranges—the bell curve—is exhibited then I would argue a teacher is doing their job to a satisfactory degree. Comparing districts and averages will also give another sample of an instructor’s quality of teaching a curriculum. As well, an examination of a classroom’s composition and student history can be viewed to determine if performance is more of a student’s effort than instructing (chances of running into a consistent stream of poor teachers is something I don’t believe, because I do think there are more good than bad instructors).

The idea: publicly available performance reviews. This would involve standardized testing with independent grading. But, here’s the catch: results are binding. This means they are kept on file and can be reviewed for up to a five-year period (or something of that sort), to be visited and/or revisited during regularly scheduled performance reviews. Perhaps annually or bi-annually.

Furthermore, the results, especially in this digital world, should be anonymized and made available to parents and the public on a per district or regional basis.

This would allow parents to see averages throughout the province. But these cannot be simply grades-based. It must be provincial examinations of a standard curriculum, material the student should know at that Grade. Why? Without something independent to base a student’s true knowledge of material, then a teacher can just go through worksheets, useless activities and create a percentage without having to care if the student knows or doesn’t know content.

Brandon graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in comparative history and a political science minor. After a two-year stint as a compliance researcher at a private financial firm, he moved on to an accelerated journalism program at Langara College. Brandon currently freelances, sharing time at a local startup magazine and content writing.

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Surrey’s Sullivan Heights Secondary opens new expansion for incoming students



Sullivan Heights expansion
The expansion adds breakout rooms, lifestyle labs, a science super lab, an outdoor basketball court, and so much more. ( / Surrey Schools)

Students at Sullivan Heights Secondary will be learning in 28 new classrooms this school year. Construction on a four-storey, $34.3-million expansion has finished and is ready to welcome students for the fall semester. 

“Our board is so excited to welcome Sullivan Heights students into this new addition,” said Laurie Larsen, chair of the Surrey Board of Education, in a press release. “Students and families in the community have been waiting patiently for this additional space, which will allow staff and students to move out of a portable and into a bright, open, and engaging learning space.”

The expansion includes a new outdoor basketball court alongside a gym and a connector to the existing building, so there is a shared main entry and admin workplace. There are also additions to align with 21st-century learning objectives like breakout spaces, education preparation areas, lifestyle labs, a science super lab, large multi-purpose spaces that can be used by the community after hours, and a group of computer labs organized to maximize collaboration and innovation.

Sullivan Heights expansion

The new outdoor basketball court ( / Surrey Schools)

This new space brings the total number of classrooms at Sullivan up to 68, the most of any school in the district, and will provide seating for up to 1,700 students. 

The expansion has been needed for a while—the school had a capacity of 1,000 students but enrolled 1,646 students in October 2021.

The high school was using 14 portables to accommodate all the students, but those will now be removed. 

This expansion will also allow Sullivan to move away from the staggered scheduling system it was forced to adopt to accommodate the growing number of students. 

In the same press release, principal David Baldasso said, “This 700-seat addition means that we are no longer on an extended day, students and staff will more easily be able to collaborate, and extracurricular activities are no longer impacted by the length of the day. These new modern learning spaces such as the tech lab, maker spaces and foods labs will also allow us to offer more choice and opportunities to students for years to come.”

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Surrey Libraries Offers Access to O’Reilly eBooks and Videos



Surrey Libraries is excited to announce the addition of O’Reilly eBooks to its list of online resources. This platform offers over 35,000 eBooks and 30,000 hours of video courses on technology, business, design, science, engineering, travel, hobbies, health and more, all free with a Surrey Libraries card!

O’Reilly has books and videos for makers, gamers and tinkerers. There are more than 100 hobbyist titles including a STEAM Lab for Kids and The Lego Build-It Book, Volumes 1 & 2. More than 900 books from the “For Dummies” series are included, as well as over 150 titles on job-seeking and career development.

The resource also has technology learning paths like SQL Fundamentals – SQL for Data Analysis and Database Design, case studies like “Pinterest’s Journey to the Cloud,” and countless hours of video instruction on topics like Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, Linux Fundamentals, or Amazon Web Services.

O’Reilly is one of many online resources Surrey Libraries offers its members. No library card? No problem! Sign up for a card online or visit any one of ten branch locations.

We’re excited to welcome you back to our branches! Check our website for information on hours and available services and what we’re doing to keep everyone safe.

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Canada’s Top Digital Marketing School Partners with MNBC to Launch Scholarships



online scholarship

Métis Nation BC and Jelly Academy collaborated in order to provide growth within New Collar Employment for Indigenous people and together provided 20 scholarships to Jelly Academy’s digital marketing course. Thanks to this partnership, there will be more Indigenous people with the skills and know-how when it comes to online and digital marketing. 

The Indigenous skills training that have previously been available have typically focused on great blue collar jobs such as construction and trades, but this collaboration provides a chance to diversify the available training for Indigenous people with a new focus within varying industries.

Increased demand for digital marketing

Online marketing has had a huge rise in demand especially since COVID-19 and the increased job opportunities opening up in Canada. Indeed reports that by February 2021, jobs in media, marketing, and communications jobs had clicks higher than the economy average per posting, which is why having the necessary skills and training will give job seekers an advantage. Additionally, Indeed reported 28.9% job growth for digital advertising during a forecast period of 2019-2024. 

Jelly Academy has been operating for 5 years with over 600 grads with a successful hiring rate. Over 82% of grads who come with an existing employment get a raise or promotion within 6 months of graduating the course and over 94% of grads who are students or without employment get a job within 4 months of graduation. This is due to in-depth training within the course as well as the additional skill-enhancing certifications provided through Jelly Academy. 

The program focuses on equipping students with the certificates that hiring managers from agencies and individual brands are looking for. Jelly Academy grads will leave the course with evergreen Hootsuite, Google, SEMRush and Facebook certifications that each have transferable skills.

While these additional certifications can be taken online through providers such as Udemy; data shows about 96% of Udemy students don’t finish a course whereas an official curriculum from Jelly Academy will aid students in completing relevant courses.

By providing these new scholarships for a course that has a successful hiring rate, it allows for further career opportunities for Indigenous members of Métis Nation BC.

Jelly Academy was created by industry expert, Darian Kovacs, in order to have a course that provided the foundation in digital marketing. The course is taught by other industry professionals who provide clear understanding in online marketing topics such as social media, PR, SEO, Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Facebook Ads. Learn more about Jelly Academy here.

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Surrey Students Awarded Scholarships, New Scholarship Created By Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation.



CLOVERDALE, BC: In June 2020, while the world came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair postponed, one of the things that didn’t stop was the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation annual scholarship. Seven grade 12 students from across the city of Surrey were awarded $1000.00 scholarships for post-secondary education by the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation.

“As a Board we collectively agreed to proceed with awarding scholarships during the pandemic, whether there was a rodeo or not, because people are in a time of financial need more than ever, and this is not a time to hold back, but to give and lend a helping hand”, says Foundation Chair Nicole Reader.”

The recipients, all of whom were part of the graduating class of 2020, will use their $1000.00 scholarships for a variety of post secondary institutions across British Columbia.

The 2020 Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Foundation recipients:

  • Vincent Labador – Johnston Heights Secondary
  • Nisha Niijar – Fleetwood Park Secondary
  • Aashna Thapar – North Surrey Secondary
  • Natasha Kalinic – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
  • Alexander Thornton – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
  • Taya Suttill – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
  • Skye Graham – Clayton Heights Secondary

“Each of these graduates are incredibly deserving of these awards,” says Foundation Chair Nicole Reader. “The entire community should be proud of these young people.”

The foundation adjusted its scholarship criteria, so applicants did not require having previous volunteer experience at the Cloverdale Rodeo in order to be eligible, as long as they had volunteer experience with another organization.

The Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation will also be awarding scholarships this year under its new criteria. The application deadline for the 2021 scholarships is Friday, May 21st, 2021.

Scholarship applications can be found here.

Not only has the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation continued to support the youth community throughout the pandemic, but the organization has also been provided the opportunity to establish an additional scholarship through its organization called The Isabella Olson Scholarship Award “Rising Above”.

The “Rising Above” scholarship was established in loving memory of a Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary student, Isabella Olson, on behalf of her loving family. Isabella was an extraordinary and inspirational young individual who strived to ‘Rise Above’ the various obstacles she faced while always remaining determined to succeed.

To honour Isabella’s legacy a $2,000.00 scholarship has been created to recognize an inspiring Lord Tweedsmuir grade 12 student who is “Rising Above” obstacles, whether personal, mental health, bullying, or family related complications.

A student who has the determination to continue doing well in school, who may participate in school activities community services and/or may have work experience.

“Isabella’s inspiring spirit was a source of strength to all who knew her, and it is our esteemed honour to be able to present this award and assisting inspiring students in achieving their dreams, says Foundation Chair Reader.”

The application deadline for the 2021 Isabella Olson Scholarship Award “Rising Above” is Friday, May 21st, 2021.

Scholarship application can be found here.

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Fossil Discovery Deepens Snakefly Mystery



Fossil discoveries often help answer long-standing questions about how our modern world came to be. However, sometimes they only deepen the mystery—as a recent discovery of four new species of ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state is proving.

The fossil species, recently discovered by paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are from a group of insects known as snakeflies, now shown to have lived in the region some 50 million years ago.

The findings, published in Zootaxa, raise more questions about the evolutionary history of the distinctly elongated insects and why they live where they do today.

Snakeflies are slender, predatory insects that are native to the Northern Hemisphere and noticeably absent from tropical regions. Scientists have traditionally believed that they require cold winters to trigger development into adults, restricting them almost exclusively to regions that experience winter frost days or colder. However, the fossil sites where the ancient species were found experienced a climate that doesn’t fit with this explanation.

“The average yearly climate was moderate like Vancouver or Seattle today, but importantly, with very mild winters of few or no frost days,” says Archibald. “We can see this by the presence of frost intolerant plants like palms living in these forests along with more northerly plants like spruce.”

The fossil sites where the ancient species were discovered span 1,000 kilometers of an ancient upland from Driftwood Canyon in northwest B.C. to the McAbee fossil site in southern B.C., and all the way to the city of Republic in northern Washington.

Archibald at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park
Archibald at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park

According to Archibald, the paleontologists found species of two families of snakeflies in these fossil sites, both of which had previously been thought to require cold winters to survive. Each family appears to have independently adapted to cold winters after these fossil species lived.

“Now we know that earlier in their evolutionary history, snakeflies were living in climates with very mild winters and so the question becomes why didn’t they keep their ability to live in such regions? Why aren’t snakeflies found in the tropics today?”

Pervious fossil insect discoveries in these sites have shown connections with Europe, Pacific coastal Russia, and even Australia.

Archibald emphasizes that understanding how life adapts to climate by looking deep into the past helps explain why species are distributed across the globe today, and can perhaps help foresee how further change in climate may affect that pattern.

“Such discoveries are coming out of these fossil sites all the time,” says Archibald. “They’re an important part of our heritage.”

Archibald fieldwork at Mcabee

About Simon Fraser University

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change.

We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems.

With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—SFU has eight faculties that deliver 193 undergraduate degree programs and 127 graduate degree programs to more than 37,000 students. The university now boasts more than 165,000 alumni residing in 143 countries.

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