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Celebrating Inclusion

WSD educators gathered at École Stanley Knowles School on April 20 for an exploration of ways to foster inclusion in our schools.

The Celebrating Inclusion Conference saw Stanley Knowles host staff from Champlain, John M. King, Lord Nelson, Luxton, Norquay, Shaughnessy Park, Tyndall Park and William Whyte schools for a day full of information, strategies and the sharing of success stories.

“Whether our students are struggling with disengagement, gender identity, anxiety, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, behavior challenges or autism, they are ours. They are welcome in our classrooms,” said Stanley Knowles Principal Darryl Stevenson. “Perhaps Myra Laramee, our WSD Traditional Knowledge Keeper, said it best: ‘diversity is a gift we have been given in our school division…and everyone is welcome.’”

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Photo: Tec Voc's Dance Tec Company 13 perform "Who We Are" to kick off the Celebrating Inclusion Conference.

Session topics included Autism Spectrum Disorder, Truth and Reconciliation, anxiety in the school setting, speech and language development, Indigenous perspectives, mindfulness, Rainbow Resource Centre and more.

Keynote speaker and social activist Michael Redhead Champagne told those in attendance that sometimes it was small gestures of support that made the most impact on students.

Mr. Redhead Champagne, who dealt with bullying in his childhood years, said he was once contemplating suicide because of his personal problems. But his classroom teacher bought him a book from the Scholastic Book Order—a luxury his family couldn’t afford at the time—and that small gesture made all the difference on a day he was considering taking his own life.

“My teacher saw me struggling, she could see the darkness I was going through,” he said. “Inside the cover of that book was a note in my teacher’s handwriting…it said ‘keep it up Michael. I am proud of you.’ A simple message in a book. And what that said to me was Michael, don’t do your plans today. I had a book to read and I had someone who believed in me.”

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Photo: Michael Redhead Champagne addresses staff during his keynote speech.

Stanley Knowles Vice-Principal Ainslie Loria said inclusion could be any small step an educator takes to make a connection with their students.

“Inclusion can be something like knowing that your student doesn’t have anyone to watch them play hockey, and then going to one of their games on your own time. Or buying food for a classroom breakfast nook, because you know some of your students don’t have food,” she said.

“We hope that people here today get some different perspectives on how they look at the children in their classroom. Hopefully, they find something they can take back to their classroom and use.”

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