This year the Cree School Board implemented three new projects to help teachers support students with special needs and others experiencing difficulties in class.

New educators at our schools often lack the training they need to help special-needs students. For several years, the Cree School Board has benefited from an excellent relationship with Summit School, a school for students with developmental disabilities situated in Ville St. Laurent. This year, Special Education Services of the CSB approached the school’s principal, Gloria Cherney, as well as their education consultant, Glenda Bernstein, to provide a special training program for Cree School Board educators.

The program, developed by Glenda Bernstein, provided the educators with an intensive week of training at Summit School. Working with the school’s professionals and teachers, the educators learned how to assist the classroom teachers to whom they are assigned to help the students with special needs. Workshops on speech and language, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, music and behavior management gave the educators a good training base.

“Watching the confidence build in these educators as the week went on was remarkable,” said Glenda Bernstein, who coordinated the program. “You could just feel the excitement grow as the educators developed new ideas, strategies and techniques.”

This year, two groups (a total of 24 educators) spent a week at Summit School, one group in November, and the other group in January. It is planned to provide the training to more educators during the 2008 – 2009 school year.

Training the teachers

This is the second year that the Cree School Board has contracted the services of the Montreal Fluency Centre, which visits schools in order to diagnose students experiencing speech and communication difficulties. They also provide intervention strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

This year, the Board arranged with the Montreal Fluency Centre to provide training for nine Cree teachers (one from each school) as “Cree Communication Aides.” The nine teachers spent an intensive week in Montreal learning about language development, testing, story-telling and speech. Together the Cree teachers developed a speech sound test in Cree.

Using a distance model of contact, the Montreal Fluency Centre will continue keeping in touch with these teachers to provide them with support and to assist them in sharing the knowledge they have acquired with their colleagues.

Assessment Tools

This year, through the collaboration of Cree teachers, assessment tools have been developed to help teachers evaluate where students may be experiencing difficulties in Cree language and in math.

The Cree Assessment Package was developed for cycle one students in both Northern and Southern dialects by teachers Louisa George (Whapmagoostui), Frances Mark (Wemindji), Annie Gray (Ouje-Bougoumou), and Louise Cheechoo (Waswanipi), and by consultants Lucy Shem (Chisasibi) and Lillian Diamond (Nemaska).

Any teacher will be able to use this tool in class. The package is currently being field-tested in six communities (Whapmagoostui, Chisasibi, Wemindji, Waswanipi, Ouje-Bougoumou, and Nemaska).

Once the results are evaluated and adjustments made, copies will be made available to all schools through the special education department head. The department heads provide assistance and support to teachers and educators to assist in meeting the needs of students in either English or French.

This year a student checklist was also developed for Cree cycle one teachers to use when they are concerned about a student’s language development. It will help the teacher intervene earlier when students are having difficulties in speech and communication.

Special Education Services at the Cree School Board is continuing to work on projects to provide teachers with tools to assist them in helping to find ways to meet their students’ needs, so that all students can receive the best possible education.