Getting Back to it – One Word at a Time

I rang in the New Year far from home, but surrounded by love and family. It was time to reconnect, to recharge and start 2019 with a fresh perspective. For me, it was also time to choose my #OneWord for the year – my word to focus on, to put into my every day and to set my direction.

For days, I tried a variety of words, thinking I had found the one, only to realize that it didn’t offer enough range and connection to all facets of my life. It wasn’t until the end of the first week, that I stumbled upon the word RISE. I found it late one night and went to bed with the connections to my life and work starting to worm their way through my mind– rise up, rise and shine, rise against, rise to the occasion, rise and stand tall.

The next morning, I was out on my paddle board and I realized that Stand Up Paddle boarding is a metaphor for life and “rising”.

I start off slow – getting my bearings, making myself aware of my environment, finding my footing and sustaining my balance, and then I rise. Rising isn’t easy – it takes courage and strength. Staying up isn’t easy either – it takes balance and control. I have to paddle. I have to adjust. I have to read the oncoming waves and decide if I will ride them out or take a knee.

Sometimes, I fall. I go under. If I go out far enough into deeper waters (pushing past my initial fears) I am in a place that falling is only a minor setback. I won’t get seriously hurt, but will have to get back up and readjust. If I have let my fears keep me in shallower waters, or lack of planning has caught me in rockier places, the fall can cause damage and getting up won’t be so easy.

While I’m on the rise, I have to encourage myself, reassure myself, push myself. But – in those moments when I am riding high and I have balance –  I can stand tall and really enjoy the view. I know, in those moments, I am seeing things others haven’t because they’ve stayed back where it is safe. I see things from a different perspective – my surroundings, my relationships, myself.

And so, I am going to hold onto this feeling. I am going to use these memories to make my word – RISE –  come alive every day.

I will RISE  – and face each day with determination.

I will RISE – against my fears and self-doubt that I am not enough.

I will RISE and shine – spreading my positivity and hopefulness.

I will RISE to new heights – pushing myself to try new things.

I will RISE and meet the commitment of being a member of #thecompelledtribe – more blogging, more connecting, more sharing.

I will RISE – moving above the pain of the past to greet the possibilities of the future.

I will RISE!

5 Lessons Dad Taught Me


As different or similar as we are to each other, there is one thing we all have in common, we all have a father. Whether that man has been present or absent, whether we have a good or poor relationship with him, whether is in our uves or only lives in out arts or memories. He is ours and the tie we have to him will never end.

I am fortunate, I had a dad who was a wonderful role model and guide for me my entire life. He grew up on a farm outside of Josephburg and raised his own family on the property that his mother had lived on as a child. As a farmer and church going, community man he was known to many and loved by most.

My dad was always sharing his “wisdom” with us, and there are several of his sayings that I find myself often repeating. Each time, I start with, “My dad always said…”

“If you can’t do it right the first time, when are you going to have time to do it over?”Take the time you need to complete a task with pride and diligence. Going slower and getting it done well, was always better than hurrying, not meeting the standards and having to make corrections/modifications.

“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”- Being polite, respectful and kind will get you further when dealing with others. As well, people are drawn quicker to a happy, positive person than one who is bitter and sour.

“You are never further behind by asking”Don’t be afraid to make requests, ask for clarification or more information. Worse case scenario – after you ask, you are still in the same place you were. Best case scenario – you have moved ahead and gained ground or obtained something you needed/desired. Being humble enough to ask is a sign of strength, not weakness.

“There are no such things as strangers, only people you haven’t met yet.” My dad was the type who could walk into any room/event and find someone to talk to. In his open, friendly way he often found connections with people and made them feel comfortable and welcome. It was a habit that helped him learn more about others, about the places he was visiting and about life in general.

“In our jobs we are fingers in a glass of water – take the finger out and the hole fills in, but in the lives of those we love we are nails in a fence – you take the nail out and the hole is always there.” It was what he said on his retirement day and what I remind myself of often. It is easy to think work is so important that we say “no” to spending time with our family and friends, thinking the time will be there in the future. But trust me, when those people are gone and you can’t be with them, you’d wish for one more visit over coffee, not one more committee meeting.

Each time I share one of my “dadisms” I remember the lessons behind each saying and the numerous other ones taught through his actions and deeds. His impact on me has created ripples through my life that reach many others. I hope he knew how much I admired him, how grateful I was to call him my dad and how I still live each day to make him proud.

When Writing About “It” Makes it Too Real

img_20161123_071452_editedIf you have been following this blog, or just arrived here by chance, you’ll notice that there has been a big gap in my posts (the last one being over 16 months ago). And there is a good reason-FEAR. I have been afraid to write, and even more afraid to share, and the reason is, that when I wrote about the “whys”, seeing it in print made it overwhelming and I needed to stop.

So where have I been and what has been so hard to face? I’ll blame that on Fear again, my biggest Fear (read: Terry’s Run Is Everyone’s Run ).  In November 2015, I started on a journey that still continues today. A visit to my doctor to check into my fatigue and cough, led to a Cancer diagnosis: T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. In the following March, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, and in April my dad, who had been a 3 time Cancer survivor to that point, was told that he wasn’t going to beat the latest one. He passed away in late October. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot going on. 

I knew in my heart that I should be turning to my writing through all of this – to record what was happening, to work through it, to maybe share it with others to help them on their journey. But each time I sat down to write, I found that putting the words onto paper just made me cry, and crying got in the way of my Positivity and Hope, so I would stop. 

But May was a game changer for me. It was the “good news” month I had been waiting for! My Cancer was in remission. I knew I wouldn’t be in the clear for another two years (during which time I would take 19 doses of chemotherapy -some oral and some IV – each month as Maintenance Treatment), but I was ready to get back to the business of living fully – with gratitude!

At that point, I was suffering from a chemotherapy side effect – extreme numbness in my right hand – and holding a pen was difficult. To work through it though, writing the “old fashioned” way (with pen and paper) became physical therapy I forced myself to endure. Over time, the writing became easier, but the sharing was still not happening. I questioned “Who would want to read this?” and “How much do I want others to know?”

But this morning, I was pushed into action. I joined #satchatwc with @bethhill2829 as the moderator. And as we worked through the 6 questions she posed, I felt myself opening up again – to that amazingly kind and positive PLN, to the others who were following and reacting to my Tweets, and to my own mind.
The last question Bethany posed this morning was: “Trending the positive is more important than ever. What is your commitment with #JoyfulLeaders in your PLN?” I tweeted: “Spread it! Live it! Write about it! Been away from my blog and it’s time to get back to it. Thanks for the push”.

So, here it is. I am back! I will be sharing. Topics will be varied – Leadership, Teaching and Learning, Family, Positivity, Hope, Post-Traumatic Growth and much, much more! I hope you’ll join me. I hope you’ll find something worth reading. And I hope I keep my fears (all of them) at bay!

What No One Tells You About Heroes

Wednesday  was  “drIMG_20151018_194606ess like a hero” day at school and, while some people donned capes, professional jerseys and superhero costumes, I wore my son’s motocross jersey, personalized with his name and number. Some of you may question my choice, by asking, “How can a 17 year old be someone’s hero?” Let me explain. By definition, a hero is “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities”, so, in my eyes,  my son fits the bill .

He is a man of character – he sees the best in everyone, speaks kindly of them and attempts to see their perspective when others are quick to judge and react.

He is a man of good values. Family and commitment are first and foremost to him. He can make a three year old feel comfortable and speak with him as he does an 86 year old. He always takes time, to stop, to listen and to smile. People feel connected to and understood by him. Not because he says so, but because they see it in his kind eyes, nodding head and genuine smile. He is a man of few words, but the ones he shares are meaningful and worthwhile.

He is a man who demonstrates passion for what he loves. His passion is now, and has been for years, motocross racing. It has seen him win and it has seen him lose. It has beaten him up, taken from him people he worshipped and let him soar. Through it all he has persevered -never quitting, never relenting on his quest to reach the goals he set.

Heroes aren’t just always people who do great things that garner attention from media and people across the world, but rather heroes are the people we look up to, are grateful for and realize that we would miss immensely if their support and presence wasn’t in our world. Heroes are the parents who work long hours on turnarounds, and the ones who keep the house running in their absence – taking kids to activities, ensuring the meals hit the table and the homework is getting done. Heroes are the relatives who help out with childcare, casseroles and encouraging words when the day seems overwhelming. Heroes are the friends that you don’t see for years, but who know exactly when to text or call and put a smile on your face in a busy day
filled with responsibilities and chores. Heroes are the kids, who quietly battle each day, sometimes carrying the weight of adult worries, concerns or fears, yet look up at an adult with empathy and concern, and slide their little hand into the larger one and squeeze.

Heroes are everywhere. They are around us and they are in us. I hope that this in the weeks ahead, you notice their presence in your life and that that knowledge gives you something to be thankful for. I know I am surrounded by them and, for that, I feel truly blessed.

Have you seen the Curiosity Machine?

Each year, our staff undertakes a book study to engage us in collaborative, focused discussions about learning and teaching. This year, our book is entitled, Sparking Student Creativity: Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving” by Patti Drapeau. As a staff, we look forward to learning about the ideas presented in the book that will help us to prompt and support creative thinking in the classroom through the infusion of creative and adaptive lessons.

One exciting website that will work to promote this creative and inventive spirit in EPE and at home is the Curiosity Machine. “The Curiosity Machine is a community of scientists, engineers and children creating together. Through this online learning platform children are inspired and equipped to create their own inventions with the support of trained and qualified mentors. In each challenge, children progress through the Engineering Design Process with support from a trained mentor who guides and encourages them to persist through failure and bring their ideas to reality.”

Challenges include activities in the following topics: Aerospace, Art of Science, Biomechanics, Biomimicry, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Food Science, Materials Science, Mechanical Engineering, Neuroscience, Ocean Engineering, Robotics and Satellite Systems. There is a wide choice of projects and the suitable audience ranges from K-Grade 12. In each one, students are challenged to create a unique invention to solve a specific problem.

Most challenges take about 90 minutes to plan, build, test and submit to the mentor for feedback. The mentor will reply within 3-5 days and then the student can rework his/her idea and resubmit for feedback. The students can go through the feedback loop as many times as he/she wants until the desired final product is achieved. Through the process (inspiration, plan, build, test, redesign, reflect) the student is encouraged to record their ideas and progress. As well as reviewing their own projects, students can also see solutions posted by other children, and refer to guides, which provide advice on how to approach the design process. Each challenge requires different materials, but most are low cost and easy to find

Accounts can be created by students, parents and educators. Students can be supported by their parents through the Parent site where parents can log in to get information on the science concepts being covered and ways to promote innovative thinking

To get a better understanding of what the “Curiosity Machine” offers, click on the links below to short videos which outline and explain the site.

Introduction to Curiosity Machine

Curiosity Machine: A Learning Community

Please share your stories of exploring as you encourage your students to be creative, curious and imaginative. Let’s help build the next generation of inventors !

The Skills Students Need to Become Successful in Life

This weeken2137737248_e9f3e429d1_b (1)d I failed, and failed miserably. It was in a Breakout room. A room designed to challenge people to figure out ways to escape the room they are locked in. Puzzles have to be solved, challenges have to be overcome, the group of people in the room  have to work together to a solution in the 45 minutes given before the game is over.

We were a group of 4 adults, and in that moment all of our personalities collided. We were competitive, and focused. We were curious and ingenuitive. We talked, we plotted, we struggled, we suggested, we planned, and we failed. Not only did we not get out of the room, we only got through a portion of the challenges planned. But still we learned. The more creative of us saw the unique solutions. The literal and practical of us, saw the obvious. It is only by combining all of our strengths and our individual clues that we could move ahead in the process. Our teenage children (in a different room) had more success. They were almost out and felt that, if they had five more minutes they would have succeeded. Regardless, we all left with lots to talk about, to puzzle over and reflect on.

It is an interesting and unique experience for most adults. It is, in some ways, what students experience every day as they puzzle their way through the challenges thrown at them in school – tackling the tasks they need to complete. Although in many, they may chose to work alone, in some they are forced to work together. Each curriculum in grades K-12 has some focus on group work. Skills like “cooperate with others, assume various roles, contribute to group knowledge, and devise alternative solutions” (Government of Alberta, 2015) are just a few of the ones to be addressed and evaluated. Often parents think that much of the curriculum does not have “real world” practicality, this component, often unknown and less openly evaluated goes unnoticed.

Additionally, on the new report card which we are piloting in Elk Island Public Schools, there are “Learner Attributes” which are being focused on. Children’s abilities will assessed in the following categories:  Cooperates With Others, Demonstrates Responsibility, Participates, Respects Self and Others, Shows Organization, Strives for Quality Work. Through observations, anecdotal notes and checklists, teachers track the students’ abilities and agilities in these skills. As valuable as the core subjects and their outcomes are, so too are these items valuable. They are the skills that will make a student successful in life – both in the world of work and in their relationships with others. They are soft skills, “those everyday ones we develop over a lifetime. They enable a worker to communicate, think strategically, make decisions, problem solve, and network. They are the skills that are often reflected in an employee’s attitude and level of professionalism. Young people who have these skills are more likely to be hired and less likely to be fired and will perform better in school. They are also the skills that employers often say they can’t get enough of. “ (Murden, 2012)

I encourage teachers and parents to look closely at these attributes, to discuss them with teachers and children alike. To consider how can we can look at Soft Skills and the Path to Independent Learners and consider that there are ways of Helping Students Cultivate Soft Skills. Let’s work together to create a generation who build work skills for job success ! And yes, I will go back to Breakout. I will try another room. I have to!

“Programs of Study – Alberta Education – Government of Alberta.” 2015. 4 Oct. 2015 <>

“Teach Your Kids Soft Skills – Tidewater Women Magazine.” 2012. 3 Oct. 2015 <>

Math: Make it Fun!

wpid-wp-1442158882619.jpgMath is a four letter word, but it shouldn’t strike fear in the hearts of children and parents alike. However, it is constantly a point of conversation – in the media, at parent-teacher meetings and in homes over homework debates. This week, as I was visiting classes, I saw the grade 5s happily practicing math facts – smiling and screaming with delight when the answers were correct. Of course, this wasn’t over worksheets covered in questions and filled in with pencil, but rather through card games planned by the grade 5 teacher (Mme Sollitt). Their enthusiasm had me searching for other game ideas to share with all grades and reminded me of why they should be included in school and home practice.

There are several reasons why the following activities are a good way for students to practice math:

  1. By using the cards, a variety of learning styles are being addressed – they are moving the cards, saying the numbers aloud, and looking at the patterns and numbers displayed. “Cards provide a manipulative that is inexpensive, easily stored and kinesthetically accessible to most humans. The standard deck is imbued with a rich mix of patterns and symmetries that are visually recognizable” (Baker, 1999).
  2. Repetition helps solidify the skill/concept – There are four of the each number in a deck of cards, so the numbers will reappear throughout the game, giving the student a chance to review and repeat in a variety of combinations. In the interactive games, the rotation of numbers happens as well, and the repetition has the same benefits.
  3. Gamification – By making the activity into a game, the student is innately more engaged and doesn’t feel like the activity is “work”, but rather “play”. Through this they will actually practice the facts longer and stay more engaged. Depending on the student, the sense of competition/achievement (scoring points)  may also push them to continue.

I have linked a number of resources (both digital and print) that can be used in the classrooms or at home to practice math facts and concepts with students of all ages.

Resources for Using Cards and Dice: 

Games for Practicing Math Facts – Card games to play with grades 1-2, but easily adapted to other grades.

Dice and Card Games to Practice Math Facts – 13 games which practice various skills and concepts

Making Math More Fun – a resource filled with games to play using a deck of cards or printable cards included

Acing Math One Deck at a Time – A complete resource (with 50+ games) created by “The Positive Engagement Project”, The index divides up the games by concept and grade level suggested.

Interactive Websites: 

IXL Learning – Interactive math activities aligned directly to the Provincial Math Curriculum. Simply choose the grade level and the concept to practice.

Math Playground – A site filled with a variety of choices: interactive math games (sorted by concept), math videos (explaining math concepts), and word problem activities. – Interactive, grade level activities sorted by concept. As this is an American site, not all of the concepts align with Canadian Curriculum, however the activities are universal and metric is included. – This website is filled with resources for parents, teachers and students. It includes printable flashcards, explanations of math concepts, games to play, and articles to read.
Obviously, it is all about balance and too much “gamification” is not the healthiest math diet either. Adding these activities to other ones (textbook/worksheet practice, performance tasks, etc.) will create a well rounded program in which all students can succeed. Let’s subtract the pain, add some fun, multiply the variety and divide the work. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist:)


Baker, Robert N. “Cards in the Classroom: Mathematics and Methods.” (1999).

Combined Classes: A Positive Learning Opportunity

Treehouse2This spring, after extensive consultation with staff, parents and district personnel, it was decided that EPE would have two combined classes in the 2015/16 school year (a grade ½ and a grade ¾). As this scenario is new to several families and quite different from the experience many may have had when there were combined classes decades ago, I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify why combined classes are created, how they function and how they impact student success.

A combined class often becomes a necessity when the number of students in a particular grade is such that it would mean one very large class or two very small ones. In a large class it is difficult to meet all students’ needs, and very small classes are not possible using the funding formula that schools must operate within. All classrooms include students with a range of skills and abilities, and a combined class is just one variation of that.

“Teachers use many different strategies to teach students in combined grades. They may:

  • Introduce a common topic, then give each grade a different task or problem.
  • Break students into groups to study different problems and report back to the class. These groups can be flexible, including students with varied interests and skills.
  • Bring students together for activities like health, physical education, and the arts.” (Ontario Ministry of Education). 

All EIPS teachers have developed strategies that reach a range of learners and have been trained how to differentiate instruction for a range of abilities, skills and development in any classroom. These strategies are also employed in the combined class.

Students in combined classes receive as good an educational experience as their peers in same grade classrooms and researchers have even found some added benefits. Joel Gajardharasingh, a Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, is considered an expert on combined classes and he says that “students in split grades “do just as well, if not better” academically, thanks to repetition and exposure to another grade. He adds that their ability to behave and get along with others is also superior. They’re more independent, confident, responsible, dependable, respectful, collaborative and tend to develop better study habits, regardless of whether they’re in the younger or older grade. “They’re not simply left alone,” says Gajadharsingh. “They have assignments to do and it’s these things that teach them independence and dependability to do their work. They also learn to collaborate in this kind of environment, where they either give help or seek help.” (Kadane, 2014)

If you are interested in further reading, you may consider the links in the footnotes below, as well as:

Combined Classes – Myths and Realities       Combined Grade Classes: Learning Together


Ontario Ministry of Education. “An Introduction To Combined Grades.” 2007. 7 Sep. 2015 <>

Kadane, Lisa, “Are split grades really so bad? – Today’s Parent.” 2014. 8 Sep. 2015 <>

4 Steps to Make Change Happen


“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.” – S. Covey.

That’s some good advice to keep in mind as we look around us and see things that we admit are not as we’d like them to be.

Often we wait for the “right time” to make change, and we have many excuses for not starting:

“The time isn’t right.”

“I don’t have the time required”

“It can wait until next week/month/year”

“It won’t work.”

“What if I fail?”

However,  this procrastination just has us continue on the same trajectory we were going – a static line with no change and no improvement. We sit in a holding pattern waiting for something to be a catalyst for us to move upward. And our success stays at the same level.

Recently, our school staff took some time to reflect on what is happening in our school – regarding students, parents, staff, teaching, learning, planning and visioning. One question of focus, was: “What are we doing that isn’t succeeding and what are we going to do about it?” We reviewed and discussed, and we’ve started to make new plans with a six week cycle in mind.

This approach is influenced by  the Carnegie Foundation and President Tiny Bryk’s Six Core Principles of Improvement. One of these principles reminds us to “Engage rapid cycles of Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) to learn fast, fail fast, and improve quickly. That failures may occur is not the problem; that we fail to learn from them is.”

The Institute for Innovation and Improvement further explains the four stages of the PDSA cycle: steps:

Plan – the change to be tested or implemented

Do – Carry out the test or change

Study – data before and after the change and reflect on what was learned

Act – plan the next change cycle or full implementation.

Is there something you’ve been thinking about changing? What could you try between now and May25th?

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” – Jack Dixon

“Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) – NHS Institute for Innovation …” 2009. 8 Mar. 2015

Help Grant a Wish!


This week, thousands of students in Northern Alberta will shave their pink heads to support the Hair Massacure and raise money for children who suffer from life threatening disease. Several charities will benefit from their efforts, including: The Stollery Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House and Make a Wish Northern Alberta.

For me, their efforts hold special significance, as I attend the funeral of one of my students who lived with a debilitating disease for most of his life and succumbed to it last week at the age of 20. I remember vividly when he was granted a wish through Make A Wish and travelled to Disneyland. It was a week where he was able to put the rigors and demands of his treatment aside and instead got to be a kid. He returned happy, bubbling over with stories, and proudly passing out gifts to many. I was given a Tinkerbell necklace which I have kept it all these years, moving it with me from school to school in my collection of memorabilia of and from students.

Brynn, Justin, Brittany and Danielle are four students who I watched battle life threatening illness, and from each of them I learned more than taught. Their strength, hope and perseverance was unmatchable. They often demonstrated a sense of humour and a “Never Give Up” attitude that is uncommonly seen in someone that age, let alone adults much older. And behind each of them were parents who loved, fought, laughed and cried right along with them. They had to do what none of us ever wants to imagine, they had to deal with the realization that they would outlive their child.

I know, from these families, how important and impactful the granting of a wish can be. Wishes come in various forms – “to be”, “to go”, “to have” and “to meet”. Each wish brings with it new happiness, hope and strength to get through the next phase of the journey. It is both a respite and a renewal for the child and for the family.

I want to thank and acknowledge Lachlan K, Emery N, and Lochlan M as they raise awareness and funds through their efforts! So far these three (grade 2 boys)  have raised over $3900.00!!!

If you have a little something to spare, I encourage you to donate through the website Hair Massacure – Northern Alberta this week, in the names of our students who are shaving their heads and in the names of the hundreds of children and families who benefit from those donations each and every day.  Thank you all for the difference you are making in the lives of children and their families.