It’s year three of a trailblazing literacy program at Weledeh Catholic School in Yellowknife called Intervention Block, and its results on school-wide student literacy are beyond promising.
“It’s definitely making a difference,” said Simone Gessler, principal of Weledeh and program champion along with teacher Rachel Gauthier.
The program sees students separated into three tiers of learning, covering enhancement, extra support and special needs. Each tier dedicates half an hour a day to a literacy activity.
New results from year three of the program have shown 80 per cent of students in the school are at or above grade level literacy and close to 100 per cent have progressed.
“The students are really excited; we never hear students say, ‘Oh I don’t want to go to intervention,’ like they do other things. For us that’s as rewarding as the progress they’re making,” Gessler said.
Gessler and Gauthier were honoured last week as literacy champions at the Adult Learners Luncheon hosted at Aurora College in Yellowknife by the NWT Literacy Council. The teachers both received a NWT Ministerial Literacy Award for Educators, one of four awards given out.
“I was honoured to receive recognition of what we are doing here at the school, but I’m accepting it on behalf of the whole school because it really is our staff as a team that has made the program come alive and be as successful as it is,” Gessler said.
Other award winners included Bertha Goulet, who won the Council of the Federation Literacy Award as an adult learner; Kathleen Taylor, who won in the youth learner category; and the Tuktoyaktuk Public Library, which won a Ministerial Literacy Award for organizations.
Awards were presented by Gabriela Eggenhofer, deputy minister of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE).
Janet Grinsted, director of Education Operations and Development at ECE, coordinated the awards presentation, which has been an initiative of the GNWT since 2002.
“Literacy is a really important skill for people to be able to fully engage in society and to lead productive lives and contribute to society, both in terms of the workforce and in different activities in our communities,” Grinsted told The Journal.
Future ECE literacy initiatives
Currently, ECE is rolling out programs across the territory focusing on out-of-school youth. The programs, in partnership with the NWT Literacy Council, will work with young adults up to the age of 25 in developing workforce skills outside of school.
Changes to adult learning being piloted this fall are an adult recognition model, which allows those in adult education to have their courses assessed and recognized towards a high school diploma, and course modularization, which will allow students to track their courses and complete them in increments around their daily schedules.
“In terms of literacy and adult education itself, it increases opportunities for residents so that they can enter the workforce, lead productive lives and contribute to society, and allows them to actively participate in their community and also be a positive role model in their families,” Grinsted said.
ECE is also supporting financial literacy programs in partnership with the NWT Literacy Council, branching out from the standard reading and writing definition of literacy.
“Literacy has a broader definition than just reading, and financial literacy is certainly something that is being looked at across the country. It’s something that typically has not really been taught in school,” Grinsted explained. “When you have people who are perhaps entering the job market for the first time and having to deal with finances, it can be very helpful.”