Student Leadership: Literacy in Action
As we move into spring, life as we have known it has gone by the wayside. As educators, we are engaged in the process of distance education and are suffering the loss of being separated from our students and colleagues. Calling families and checking in, Google Classrooms and online learning are the new reality. This, after a year of job action including strike days, has left us in an uncertain and challenging time.
Yet with all the unknowns that lie ahead of us, the seasons continue to evolve and the months continue to pass. We will all get through this together. Like the months and seasons, the amazing team of volunteers at the East York-Scarborough Reading Association, continue to move forward, and have begun preparations for our 2021 Reading for the Love of It conference.
As we engage in future planning we must step back and reflect on past accomplishments. I would like to congratulate and thank Liz Blake, Programme Chair, and her dedicated committee for a remarkable 2020 conference. Although faced with the uncertainty of provincial job action, the programme team brought us two incredible days of professional learning and allowed our attendees to return to their classrooms invigorated and recharged. We know how hard many of you worked to attend the conference this year and that many of you were left with the disappointment of not being able to attend. As a non-profit organization, your continued support and dedication mean everything to us, and we sincerely thank you for your efforts in trying to attend the conference during such a difficult time.
The outstanding line-up of keynotes and session speakers were indeed just what was needed for much needed rejuvenation. As was our annual Awards Banquet where we recognized and acknowledged two outstanding educators with the 2020 Reading for the Love of It Reading Award, Janice Chisholm and Laura Di Giuseppe. They were nominated by their colleagues for demonstrating exceptional leadership in the field of literacy.
Thank you to Tanya Reilly-Primaylon, Communications Chair, her dedicated committee, and all contributors for bringing us the second installment of this newsletter. The theme continues to be “Student Leadership: Literacy in Action,” and we hope the content and photos within will comfort you and offer you hope as we move forward. Thank you to Natasha Serba, Outreach Chair, and her committee for their dedication in reaching out and supporting local, national and international organizations focused on social justice and equity for all through literacy acquisition.
Thank you to Erica Townson, Executive Administrator and Conference Planner, whose knowledge, efficiency and enthusiasm help us to continue with our ongoing success!
Thank you to the dynamic and hard-working volunteer committee members that make up the EastYork-Scarborough Reading Association. Our passion for literacy and love of reading brought us together as one, and the collective energy we create is what makes our conference so extraordinary year after year.
Finally, thank you to our dedicated delegates who travel from both near and far to join us at Reading for the Love of It. Your participation, support and feedback drives what we do. Although the future is uncertain, please know that we are dedicated to continuing to offer educators an opportunity to learn and become inspired through our programming of authors and literacy experts, no matter what.
We look forward to seeing you on February 18th and 19th at RFTLOI 2021. Until then, stay home and stay safe, and remember “We are ALL in this together”!
A student leader is any student who takes on the responsibility of spreading knowledge through inspiration, tutoring, campaigns etc.
A student leader strives to change the world by starting with their own community, be it their classroom, school, their city, their country or the world!
Real World Opportunities
March Break is often a time for vacation, relaxation, reflection and taking a break from the routines of school. This is not the case for myself and a select group of Grade 11 students from The York School. Every year since 2007, I have embarked on a two week trip in March with between ten and fifteen 16 and 17 year olds to South India. We work incredibly hard to prepare for this trip, spending the academic year fundraising, meeting regularly, attending a weekend retreat to learn about India, participating in book clubs, reading Indian literature and preparing for growth and leadership opportunities. The responsibilities leading up to the trip allow the students to flourish and grow in their communication skills both written and verbal. As teachers, it is our responsibility to guide the students through a variety of leadership opportunities. For some, this will be their first experience teaching and helping small children, for others running a fundraising event. All of this enhances and develops their literacy skills to create advertisements, social media posts and written communication on our events before and after.
While in India, we volunteer in classrooms in a school in the small village of Chettipalayam, on the outskirts of Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu. Global Pathways School (GPS) was founded by the former Head and former Principal of the Junior School at The York School, an independent school in Toronto.
GPS provides excellence in education to the children of Chettipalayam who otherwise would not attend school. The opportunities for this community have expanded over the course of the past 14 years as these students learn to read, write and communicate, all through inquiry based learning, rather than the typical format of rote memorization. Not only are the children learning an academic curriculum, as well, they have learned the value of hygiene and are able to bring this knowledge home, back to their families. Often these children are the first in the families to attend school and to read and write.
The grade 11 students from The York School engage in a classroom setting, each day of our visit, teaching the students the importance of communication through reading and speaking in English. The school is taught in English, and the value of our Canadian volunteers have helped the children immensely. Our grade 11’s create new opportunities for the children at GPS, bringing a variety of different games into the recess yard, or songs to sing in the classroom. We as the visitors are often tasked with completing reading assessments with the children.
Our very short 2 week period each year has added great value to the excitement of learning English and engaging the children at school.
The grade 11 students are encouraged to journal and blog while we are away, an important reflection piece that adds great value to the experience. The students write from the heart amidst the beauty of a country overwhelming our five senses. When tasked with a writing piece about something so foreign and different to their everyday lives at home, it is inspiring to see the words flow so eloquently on the pages of our YorkIndia blog.
Upon returning from the adventure, the team is tasked with creating an assembly to share with our York School community. Showcasing the adventures and sharing the reflections through a video and script, students articulate the value of their volunteer experience. I often say, the work our grade 11’s do over the course of the year is like adding another course onto their already busy schedules. The students are thrilled to be a part of this experience and each year I am so impressed with their commitment as they rise to the challenge with success. I believe our students come away with an incredible experience, having been in a country very different from ours and have grown as leaders that are ready to take on the world.
Article by Barb Prevedello
Grade 5 Teacher, The York School
Writing Skills – Integral to Leadership
Are leaders born or are leaders made? Similar to the skills of writing, an individual with no leadership experience can learn how to be an effective leader with the proper guidance and examples to follow.
I have the pleasure of leading the Catholic Student Leadership department at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Every semester I am fortunate to be able to work with a small team of coop students. One of the most rewarding parts of my role is seeing the maturity and development that occurs within my students as a result of their involvement with the various programs we offer within the department.
Surprisingly, at the beginning of the semester students often do not have any experience writing formal emails, creating professional blog posts, or composing speeches to be performed in front of students, staff, and parents. Hence without this coop placement, these students would have graduated without these formative experiences.
One lesson I teach my coop students is begin with the end in mind. This is also an important factor associated with effective writing. The first question I ask my students is, “What do you want the audience to know after they read your letter or hear your speech?” Before starting any tasks, one needs to identify a goal since you cannot hit a target unless you set a target. In other words, goals help give you direction as well as keep you on track; especially in times when we get distracted due to the natural whirlwind of life.
The second question I ask is, “How do you want your audience to feel after viewing your blog post, reading your email, or listening to your address?” This question sets the tone of one’s composition. Do you want it to be light hearted? Do you want it to motivate people to take action? Does it need to be formal or can it be more casual? These are decisions that need to be made even before writing a single word on the page.
Focusing on these two questions helps my students select both the words and the tone of whatever they are writing. It is also helpful to review these same two questions after completing the composition to see if one’s final product meets the original criteria.
At the end of the semester, when I ask my coop students what they’ve learned from the experience, the results are very consistent. One of those answers is becoming a better writer. Writing is definitely a skill that all leaders need to possess. It is also a skill that can be developed when given the proper guidance and practice. If you are looking for ways to increase a student’s writing and overall literacy skills, one suggestion I have is to put that student into a position of leadership. Giving them leadership type tasks will naturally make them better writers as they strive to reach their leadership goals.
Michael Consul leads the Catholic Student Leadership department at the TCDSB. Check out www.catholicstudentleadership.com for a list of programs offered which include student leadership conferences, student leadership training, overnight leadership camps, overseas service trips, online leadership webinars, and staff professional development.
Article by Michael Consul,
Student Leadership Department Head, TCDSB
Solidarity AND Professional Development
In late 2019 and early 2020, four Ontario teacher unions found themselves in a labour dispute with the province. These ongoing negotiations disrupted the lives of teachers, students, parents, classrooms and opportunities for professional development. The unexpected scheduling of a full strike day on Friday, February 21st, falling on Day 2 of the 2020 Reading for the Love of It conference, was devastating for everyone involved in our event.
Many Ontario teachers who had planned to attend the conference were unable to join us, including a few of our speakers. But there were a few attendees who were able to participate while still showing solidarity for their colleagues at Queen’s Park on the Friday. Referencing the photos in the PDF file copy of the newsletter I would like to highlight Maya Guttman, Tina Milutinovich, and Galina Machtaler, as well as Claudia Muzzi, Tracey Mazzocato Dupuis, and Andrea Traynor.
Taking something very negative and turning it into a positive, these teachers, and others like them, multi tasked both their protesting and attendance at the conference. They found the energy to do it all, making the best of a very challenging situation. Although they missed out on a few sessions at the conference they presented themselves as very good role models. Their students would be very proud of them.
Article by Erica Townson,
COVID-19 and Reading for the Love of It
It was not that long ago that we celebrated together at the Sheraton Hotel in February. I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe during these challenging times!
The EYS Reading Association felt fortunate to have been able to host this year’s conference, which was very successful but not without its challenges.
As you know, we are all facing an uncertain future, especially when we think of having large groups of individuals gather for professional development.
Long term COVID-19 restrictions on meetings and events do not yet exist, and will not exist in a timeline that matches our planning requirements for the 2021 Reading for the Love of It conference. As such we have been moving forward with securing our 2021 speakers and authors.
2021 is our 45th Annual Conference and we have decided to Celebrate Canada! The conference will take place on Thursday, February 18th and Friday, February 19th, 2021 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, in downtown Toronto. We are pleased to be bringing in a few favourite speakers from the USA, but we plan to highlight a broad base of Canadian talent in our programme. To date, we have many beloved speakers, past and new, that you will be thrilled to hear.
If COVID-19 continues to challenge our efforts to host the conference in February next year, we have the option to present the 2021 conference in a virtual format. Speakers are being asked for their flexibility and so far all have agreed to participate at Reading for the Love of It next year, regardless of the platform. Authors, literacy experts, and teachers are quite simply The Best!
Whether we meet again in-person or on-line, the EYS Reading Association promises you that we will continue to host teachers in Canada with the highest standard of professional development that you have all come to expect from us. Until then, stay well and stay safe!
Article by Erica Townson,
Outreach Initiatives – Sharing the Love
The Outreach Committee plays an important role in supporting local, national, and international organizations in their literacy programming. A portion of conference registration fees is directed to providing funding for this initiative. In this way, by attending the Reading for the Love Of It conference, educators are supporting great literacy organizations in our local and global community!
With your help, the Outreach Committee was able to donate to 14 different organizations that provide literacy-focused services to children and families. Some of these programmes offer services for newcomers and English language learners, access to digital resources in developing countries, education support for indigenous youth, and reading materials for women and children fleeing violence.
2020 has confronted us all with new and unexpected challenges. Many educators, as well as the Reading for the Love Of It conference, were impacted by labour disruptions as a result of ongoing negotiations between teachers unions and the Ontario government. Then almost immediately after the conference, people in Canada and around the world were faced with unprecedented changes in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Not-for-profit organizations, like those that the Outreach Committee supports, have been particularly hard hit by the new realities of COVID-19. Employees have been laid off, donations are down, and major fundraising events have been canceled or postponed. Estimates suggest that the potential financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the charitable sector could be a loss of up to $25 million. In light of this devastating blow to not-for-profit organizations, our outreach initiatives are even more necessary and appreciated than ever.
In the new reality of COVID-19 some of the not-for-profit organizations that we have supported this year have found innovative ways to continue to serve the needs of their community. For example The DAM (Develop Assist Mentor) Meadowvale continues to provide services to youth through online drop-ins, chats, phone, and video conferencing. The Forgiveness Project used Facebook Live to run an online community letter writing event as part of their programming for youth in detention centres.
FoodShare Toronto, which is a huge supporter of breakfast programs in schools, has adapted by providing emergency healthy food boxes to families in need. This is one of the food-focused organizations that our organization included in this year’s list of outreach recipients in order to contribute to their efforts to support students and families.
Together, these examples help to show how creative and committed not-for-profit organizations are in their efforts to serve their communities.
Please consider making a donation to an organization in your local community to support their work during these difficult times. And thank you again for helping us to help others. Together we can and do make a positive difference!
3rd Vice President and Outreach Chair, EYSRA
OUTREACH PROJECTS for 2019-2020
The East York-Scarborough Reading Association is proud to support the following projects this year:
- East York Learning Experience
- Jewish Immigration Aid Services
- Parkdale Project Read
- Red Door Family Shelter
- Redwood Shelter
- The Dam (Develop*Assist*Mentor) Youth Drop-In – Meadowale
- The Forgiveness Project
- First Book Canada
- First Nations Teachers
- Azizi Life
- Cotlands (Early Childhood Literacy)
- Hestia Hellas – Supporting Refugee Language & Literacy Programs in Athens, Greece
- Libraries Without Borders
All proceeds are directed toward local, national and international communities. Thank you for your support!
Outreach Organization Highlight
First Book Canada is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides Canadian children and youth with equal access to quality education so that all kids can reach their full potential.
By working with heroic educators, program coordinators, and other professionals working in under-served communities, we provide brand new, high-quality books and educational resources to kids in high needs communities. Please visit www.firstbookcanada.org to find out how to get involved!
Eligible educators, program coordinators, librarians, and professionals serving kids in need can register, for free, at www.fbmpcanada.org/register.
Leaders Are Made: Small Steps to Great Lessons
Leadership is a scary word to some students. They associate the word with a heavy serving of responsibility and a side of hard work. In my 15 years of teaching, some of the best student leaders have been introverts. Leaders need to like themselves first before serving others. In order to cultivate this in a leader, I have a few tricks up my teacher sleeve.
The very first novel study I read in my class is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. This is my go-to guide for the teenage years. It teaches students everything from learning to love themselves to conquering their goals and dreams.
The first three habits are called The Private Victory. In these chapters students are asked to evaluate how well they deal with their feelings, the emotions of others and how well they manage their time. It seems like a tall order for students but Covey breaks it down in manageable baby steps. Similarly in my class, I teach my students small bite sized leadership lessons within short but meaningful activities that allow them to build the skills they will need to realize their leadership potential.
Morning Meditation: When I began meditating with my students 12 years ago I saw a huge difference in their maturity level. I wouldn’t force them to meditate but rather offer it to them. Those who couldn’t focus were allowed to excuse themselves by either reading silently outside the class or at their desk. Students who did meditate, (which was 98% of students), had to learn to be still and silent. They learned that when they moved or made a noise, it would break the concentration of others. This taught them to be considerate of their peers. We did a variety of meditations like guided meditations where I would take them on a journey in their imaginations, music mediations where I either played a meaningful song or just music with soundwaves that would calm them, as well as complete silent meditations. I would light candles for those who didn’t want to close their eyes and ask them to focus on the flame. These mediations would last 5-10 minutes and sometimes during a major test, I would play the same meditation music to help bring them back to that relaxed state.
Afternoon Affirmations: If you want to build community in your class then affirmations will do that. Each student gets an affirmation notebook and at the end of the day everyone gets a chance to write a few words of authentic affirmations to their peers. You have to teach the students what a good affirmation looks like. They could be thanking someone for helping them earlier or just reaching out to an old friend who has grown distant. You want to encourage students to have compassion for their peers. It gives them a reason to lead. I have many rules that I make clear to students about affirmations but my number one rule is that affirmations are a chance to build bridges. Most students need a reminder that they already have strong and sturdy bridges with their friends. The objective is to build more bridges with others and break down walls. The results have been amazing and since it is the last lesson of the day, after reading the affirmations given to them by their peers, students go home on a high note.
Becoming a leader is not a destination but a journey and there are so many ways to bring a leader out in an individual. I tell my students that the most important quality of a leader is to feel compassion for others. This statement gives them a reason to lead. And from my experience, when students internalize this lesson, everything else falls into place.
Article by Merle Gonsalvez
Congratulations to our 2020 Reading Award Winners
EYSRA Past President, Marisa Liscio, presided over the presentation of the 2020 Reading Awards given out at the annual banquet on Thursday, February 21st.
Janice Chisholm of the Toronto District School Board was presented with a 2020 Reading Award by Brendan Browne, Executive Superintendent, TDSB.
Laura De Giuseppe of the Toronto Catholic District School Board was presented with a 2020 Reading Award by Flora Cifelli, Superintendent of Education, TCDSB.
Members of the EYS Reading Association, the respective award winner school boards, teacher colleagues, family and friends congratulate you both on this prestigious recognition!
EYS Reading Association
Remembering Stella Wesley of Attawapiskat
Stella Marguerite Wesley of Attawapiskat, age 57, died on Tuesday the 14th of January, 2020. The East York-Scarborough Reading Association would like to acknowledge and recognize her passing. We worked with Stella for many years while she was the Principal of JR Nakogee Elementary School and she attended our annual Reading for the Love of It Conference in February of each year.
Brenda Stewart, one of our executive members who knew Stella best, said, “Stella was a dedicated educator who loved all children. She gave so much of herself in working towards providing the best education for the children of Attawapiskat and other Mushkegowuk communities.”
As a way to honour and continue Stella’s work, our association has made a contribution to educational improvements for the First Nations children by way of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society.
Article by Michael Francone,
Recommended Reading – Spring/Summer 2020
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
The Secret Guests by Benjamin Black
Middle England by Jonathan Coe
The Topeka School by Ben Lerner
The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes
Great Reads list compiled by Jose Molina, EYSRA
Plan to Attend:
Reading for the Love of It 2021 Conference
We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, February 18th and Friday, February 19th, 2021 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, downtown Toronto.
Click on the Register link in the fall of 2020!
We recommend that you register early!
Visit us online and see what people are saying about Reading for the Love of It
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