District Appreciation Lunch Fosters Community Partnership and Engagement

(L-R: Kevin Kaardal, Superintendent of Schools/CEO - Burnaby School District; Dr. Robin Brayne, Director of Field Programs - SFU; Tom Grant, CEO/Superintendent of Schools - Coquitlam School District; Dianne Turner, Superintendent - Delta School District; Dr. Kris Magnusson, Dean Faculty of Education - SFU; Dr. Steve Cardwell, Superintendent of Schools - Vancouver School District)

On May 30, 2014, Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Education Field Programs hosted their first District Appreciation Lunch that brought together representatives from 11 school districts across the Lower Mainland in celebration of the partnerships between the Faculty and BC School Districts.

These community partnerships are key to the professional development of both pre-service and in-service teachers throughout the province. Having researchers, practitioners and administrators working together towards the same goals, enables school districts, teachers and students to benefit from cutting-edge theories and practices. SFU Education Dean Kris Magnusson noted that this gathering was created “in the spirit of collaboration to further this profession in very challenging times.”

This was an event of firsts. It was the first time that the Faculty of Education and Field Programs have hosted such an event. It was the first time that school district educational leaders, Field Programs Faculty Associates and Faculty of Education professors and administrators all met together. It was the first time Dr. Charles Ungerleider, former Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Education, was invited to the Faculty to speak about the challenges facing the professional development of teachers in BC that he gleaned through his many years of experience.

Ungerleider highlighted his enthusiasm for the invitation as well as his admiration for SFU’s community engagement within their Field Programs, “SFU has been an educational leader in British Columbia for as long as I can remember – especially with its field-based programs. In fact, when I began my career at UBC in 1970 I so admired SFU’s orientation that I began a field-based teacher education program at UBC.”

(GDE Program Coordinator and Faculty Associates L-R: Kim Dunnigan, Paula Rosehart, Marlowe Irvine, Kevin Sigaty, Luba Banuke, Lisa Donovan, Valia Spiliotopolous - Coordinator, Paula Howarth, Noralea Pilgrim)

Faculty Associates within SFU's Field Programs deliver in-service professional development programs to teachers through the Graduate Diploma (GDE) in Education. Teachers who undertake a GDE program have the opportunity to work with innovative educational researchers and professionals in the Faculty of Education and also upgrade their TQS qualifications. They also have the option of laddering into a Master of Education in Educational Practice degree at a later time.

"Teachers studying in our graduate programs critically analyze educational issues and trends within their own contexts in a cohort-based, community of practice model," explains Robin Brayne, Director of Field Programs. "Our graduates are well-positioned to lead in challenging times by developing the research strategies, skills and knowledge that can be useful in helping practitioners reflect upon and enhance their practices and repertoire.”

Ungerleider highlighted the importance of the professional development for teachers with community-based research and theory. “Too much of what passes as knowledge in the field of education is really fad, fashion or ideology with little or no evidence that teachers should understand. That’s why field and graduate programs – like those at SFU – are built upon a foundation of inquiry and evidence that is so important.”

According to event facilitator Dr. Valia Spiliotopoulos, Academic Coordinator of the GDE, “Engaging district leaders with Faculty Associates (who are also K-12 teachers) and educational researchers to discuss and share ideas about teacher professional development demonstrates SFU’s Faculty of Education’s commitment to community-engaged research and practice."

See photos from the District Appreciation Lunch: