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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 2, October 2005

It takes a community to educate a child

by Elizabeth Wilson

Networks of collaboration—local, regional, or national learning communities—are vital to a new culture of learning in the schooling system. – David Miliband

On a beautiful B.C. spring day, 250 educators from around the province met for the Fifth Annual Early Success Symposium, in Smithers, April 28–29, 2005. The opening evening event was a feast honouring education, presented by the Wet’suwet’en Nation. For many who attended, it was a unique opportunity to begin to learn about the significance of culture and history in the lives of their First Nations students.

The symposium emphasized success for Aboriginal learners and showcased successful practices for Aboriginal students. Following an exceptionally moving opening presentation by the Smithers Secondary School Band, David Rattray shared, casually but powerfully, the stories of his students and their struggles and triumphs. His presentation, The Worth of a Student, focussed on the importance of having high expectations for Aboriginal students.

The rest of the day’s sessions centred on educating young children through developing a sense of trust and respect, strength and capability, community and belonging, responsibility and reciprocity, and relationships and partnerships.

Each year, the Early Success Symposium brings together educators from around British Columbia to share effective and breakthrough practices and research, engage in professional dialogue, and renew connections with other educators while focussing on success for young children. The symposium in Smithers was the first to be held in northern B.C. The setting and context aptly suited the focus on enhancing the strengths of young Aboriginal students. Through their evaluation comments, participants expressed the effect of the two days, on their lives and their practice, some indicating that attending the symposium was life-changing.

The symposium was organized by the six-district Northwest Regional Education Network—Nisga’a, Stikine, Prince Rupert, Bulkley Valley, Coast Mountains, and Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlottes. The northwest region of B.C. is culturally rich and diverse, encompassing the territories of the Haida, Tlingit, Tahltan, Nisga’a, Haisla, Gitksan, Tsimshian, and Wet’suwet’en people.

The power of the Northwest Region Educational Network, and other networks elsewhere, is the synergy of a professional learning community. Educational networks are sustained through common challenges, a spirit of inquiry, trusting relationships, and relevant practices and strategies. Through the efforts of the individual districts in the Northwest region and the support of the Northwest Region Education Network, we have developed strong learning communities that contribute greatly to the increasing success of our students. The power of regional and provincial networks and learning communities was evident in the spirit of inquiry demonstrated at the 2005 Early Success Symposium.

The Sixth Annual Early Success Symposium, "Keeping the Dream Alive," will be in Penticton, April 12–13, 2006, with keynote speakers Faye Brownlie and Gary Doi. For information about the Penticton symposium and for proposals for sessions, contact Elizabeth Hoole, ehoole@summer.com, or Sharon Sola, ssola@summer.com

Elizabeth Wilson, Northwest Region Education Network

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