Teacher, Parent & Presenter Testimonials
Having the opportunity to experience this year's group has been wonderful. Since its inception in 2007 I've watched this program grow, thrive and evolve into what it is today. Indeed I love teaching mathematics, but working with these kids is incredibly rewarding, as they help make me a better teacher and listener, giving me something to bring to my classroom in September. Time and again I have to come to grips with the fact that these kids are giving up half their summer to improve their math and English skills, while the sun shines outside. Their eagerness to learn is admirable.
Day one I try to pinpoint where students are in their learning, without judgment, and then put together a curriculum specific for that individual. The relaxed environment allows the student to work at his/her own pace as well as receive plenty of one-on-one assistance (I certainly could not do this without my volunteer helpers they're amazing!). Our daily math riddles and logic puzzles are definitely a hit too.
In my opinion what most of these kids need, especially in the math classroom, is confidence; the belief they can do it. I've worked with some fine students in the past, but as a group this year has been the most gratifying. In the long run it's not that you learn to factor trinomials, simplify radicals, or tackle logarithms for the first time, but that you experience what it means to succeed in something that at one time seemed impossible.
- Mr. Jordan Forseth, Math Teacher
What is story?
It seems like it would be a simple enough question to answer, but as one begins to explore the meaning and the idea of story it seems to get more and more complex…and what a perfect topic to dive into with a group of kids of different ages, who come from all over, each with a story of their own.
Together, the IRMACS Camp students and I have looked at Pixar short clips to see how story can be shared through animation without words. We have discussed still images and frames to analyze how a picture; a single moment captured, can tell a story. We looked specifically at director Tim Burton and his unique style that comes through in almost every story he tells, his characters, sketches and films. At the same time, we learned about Tim Burton’s own personal story of his life and career.
What makes a story ‘true’ or ‘authentic’, can a story be truly true? The students analyzed DC Comic character Joker and how the comic character is portrayed by three very different actors, how each actor told a varying story, of the same story.
In our last two weeks together, the student’s began to scratch the surface of the complex story of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Student’s shared their own experiences, knowledge and perspectives with each other and as a class, considered what the future of Aboriginal peoples might look like and how we could help shape it.
In our final week, the students have begun to investigate their own story. Their final assignment is called an "Inquiry Journey", students inquire about a story of either their own life or one of others. As they consider, imagine and look into their particular story, they are at the same time creating a story of their own journey in learning.
Teaching through inquiry learning is truly rewarding and fascinating, both for the students and myself. Inquiry in and of itself personal and unique; students begin to develop an individual thirst for learning and knowledge. It is a privilege to guide these students as they experience the stories of the world, and make discover their own.
- Ms. Carley Henze, English Teacher
What a privilege it has been to work with the students and staff at this year’s academic summer camp at SFU. They are all such fabulous individuals.
I have been helping the students with their mathematics and love to see their commitment to learning and the success they have achieved. It will set them up well for school next year and I know it has changed, for the better, how many feel about mathematics and their abilities. Thanks Jordan, I love to watch you teach and inspire these young people.
I also facilitated the opportunity for the students to complete their own Independent Directed Studies while at camp, which can earn them up to four credits towards their high school graduation.
These studies culminated in the students each presenting a portfolio detailing the connections this camp experience has allowed them to make with their aboriginal heritage and how it has helped them shape their goals for the future.
The presentations were humourous, engaging, thoughtful and detailed. The students are clearly grateful for the opportunities they have been given and the friendships and connections they have made. They have each made their own unique connections and will, I am sure, put them to good use.
And thank you to Veselin and Sheryl. Your hard work is making a world of difference to these young people.
- Ms. Kay Lever, Directed Studies Teacher
I would like to start off by saying thank you from the bottom of our hearts for this opportunity for our son.
When he first started we really didn’t know what to expect but we knew that he’d get something out of it: new experiences and a few new friends so it was worth taking a risk and putting in an application. What we didn’t know is how wonderfully passionate, dedicated and inspiring all of the teachers, coordinators and guest speakers would be. There is a new confidence in our son and an excitement for university that he has never had before. He always knew he wanted to further his education after high school but this is the first time he has actually believed he could do it and that he belonged there.
His experience, especially in math, since the first grade, has been a struggle, and we knew at an early age that he was struggling with the same learning challenges as his father with Dyslexia. We spent many years attending appointments with Children’s Hospital, Sunnyhill and with our local paediatrician. None of them could agree on how to best assist him or how this would affect him in school but all could agree that he was intelligent, creative and wouldn’t have any problems socially. Although that sounds like great news, what that really meant was, “Your child is too well behaved and not struggling enough to receive funding or support for the extra help he needs and will most definitely fall through the cracks.” And they were right, he is a perfectly “normal” kid who makes friends and does well enough academically to get by.
However, what no one can predict is the hit your child is going to take to his self confidence and the frustration he’ll endure in every Math class for the next 11 years. Teachers just don’t have the time to be working Math in reverse with one child when they have a classroom full of students and plenty of other subjects to get through. And to be blunt, some of them just didn’t care, or felt he should just focus and try harder. Even with two parents behind him as advocates we got nowhere. Even with years of tutors he still felt stupid.
In high school he became involved in the Drama program. It was the first time he felt like he was more than just a struggling student. He really came out of his shell and was appreciated for his compassion, quick wit and entertaining personality, the attributes that were buried in low self esteem, that only we saw at home. If it wasn’t for Drama we believe he would have been at risk of dropping out of school, if not physically, mentally. … But still, when he looked at his post-secondary future he still felt anxiety because he still didn’t feel good enough, he didn’t feel like he truly belonged with the “smart people”, the A’s and the B’s.
But the day he was accepted to participate in this SFU camp his entire world opened up. He was reintroduced to Math by Mr. Jordan Forseth and for the first time in his life he understood it and now feels optimistic toward his academic future. It literally has been the answer to prayer for us and the boost that he has needed to feel positive about his abilities. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it because hearing my child say, “Mom, I get it now!” with a smile on his face and confidence in his voice is the best moment to witness as a parent. I don’t know what Jordan did, what his approach was or how he made it all make sense but whatever it was, it was something that no one has ever been able to, or took the time to, do before. We are so grateful he is teaching in this program, he has made a profound difference in our son’s educational journey.
And if this was the only thing that happened, the camp would have far exceeded our expectations, but there have been many, many more inspiring experiences our son has learned and grown from. There hasn’t been one day that he hasn’t come home with at least something that he wanted to share with us. The field trips, the speakers, the facilitators and the friends he has made have made this the best summer he’s ever had. He has even found a new love for English, a subject he has enjoyed but snoozed through (ahem, Shakespeare) through most of high school. He enjoys the darker, quirkier side of literature and stories that play into his love of Drama, music and movies. Ms. Carley Henze won him over the moment she mentioned Harry Potter, Tim Burton and Edgar Allan Poe. He is excited for university now, now that he has been treated so respectfully by the teachers at SFU and valued for his interests and individuality.
The entire experience has been a huge blessing to our family and the only complaint we have is that (because of my husband’s father being adopted) we didn’t know about our family’s aboriginal heritage sooner. We look forward to our other son joining the program in a couple of years as well.
My only suggestion would be that there be a similar program created for teens in foster care, as so few children in care go on to post-secondary for a variety of reasons, a lack of self-confidence and inspiration being at the top of that list. It would be the most empowering way to break cycles in that at-risk group, and with 55% of children in care being of aboriginal heritage, I think it’s an important issue to look into by the right contact people (whomever that might be).
Once again, thank you to everyone involved in this program. Thank you for the opportunities, the education, the experiences, the welcoming environment, the variety, the inspiration, the meals, the transportation and for including our son in this program. We feel so lucky!
Tanya & Kevin Barrett
I want to thank you for all the work you put into the camp for our kids. It was definitely a very positive experience for my son and I was also motivated by the opportunities available for him for post secondary. It was great to see that there are possibilities for my son at SFU in the future. I was happy to hear about the bridge program for aboriginal students and also to learn about the new faculties opening up. I am confident that the experience of being up there this past summer has made university a very attainable goal for my son and that it has helped him to feel like he can belong there. This camp is am incredible experience and I hope that you can continue to run it for many years to come.
Thank-you once again, I look forward to seeing you next year if he makes it in again.
Thank you for all of the updates on the SFU Summer Camp for students who have Aboriginal ancestry. Stephen emailed me at the end of July to say he had the most enjoyable summer ever. It is so wonderful that you provide students with this great opportunity. I believe it changes lives and I do hope it continues.
Thank you again for all you do,
Aboriginal Education Asst.
Just wanted to say that I had a really good time with the group yesterday - there were really engaged, lots of questions and discussions!
- Dr. Howard Trottier, Department of Physics
It was a great experience. You and your team are doing such important work. The students are gaining so much. What a honour to be part of this.
-Ms. Loretta Todd, Filmmaker
I was so moved by the closing ceremony of today. How talented the students are, how eager they want to learn, their initiative, kindness . . .
-Ms. Fumiko Suzuki, Retired Engineer
Here are the collaborative poems the English classes made during my visit.
Thanks for the opportunity to meet the group, and good luck with fundraising for next year!
- Ms. Joanne Arnott, Poet
As a volunteer for this year's math camp, I assisted Jordan Forseth in his classroom by providing students with extra one-on-one support. I found this experience to be extremely rewarding. Each of the students had something unique and wonderful to offer the classroom community. All students maintained a positive attitude throughout their time together, and it was clear that many strong friendships were built during this time. Jordan's easy-going attitude and sense of humour was well-received by the students - they clearly enjoyed their time in his classroom. I was pleased to witness several students who arrived early to class just to get a head start on their math problems. Both the students and the teacher were dedicated to success, making my own experience working with them a very positive one. I am confident that each of the students who attended the camp has a bright future ahead of them as they continue their academic journey and beyond.
- Ms. Alana Blake, Student in The Professional Development Program (PDP) at SFU
I feel so fortunate to have been able to be a part of the SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal Students. Over the past four weeks I have had the pleasure of helping an incredible group of students improve their understanding and confidence in mathematics and have been impressed by how far each and every student has come over the course of the program. No matter what level each student started at they have all improved their understanding of mathematical concepts through their own hard-work and desire to learn. I was also impressed by the work ethic that each and every student has shown; often there is at least one student, if not more who arrive in the classroom early to ask questions or begin working ahead on the math lesson for the day. It is truly a testament to their commitment that they are there and working hard not because they have to but because they want to. In addition, each day we take a little bit of time out of the lesson to have some fun and work on problem solving skills. I think this part of our math lessons has been the most rewarding for me as a volunteer because these activities allow everyone to come together and collaborate to find a solution to the day’s problem. Often the students will surprise all of us by putting forth brilliant ideas or solutions that we as teachers never considered before which makes the activity that much more interesting for everyone as we discuss the multiple ways to approach a problem. Overall, I think this camp has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved and I can only express my absolute admiration for how hard each and every student has worked to improve themselves over the last month and I believe that their hard work in apparent when you take into consideration the starting and ending points of each student in the program.
- Ms. Alannah Blouin-Summers, Student in The Professional Development Program (PDP) at SFU
Over the past 5 weeks, I have learned so much being involved with this camp. The students involved in this camp are great kids and full of energy. They are confident but if they struggle, they are not afraid to ask for help. I think this is very important because many adults are afraid to ask for help when they need it. I feel this camp gives a very safe and welcoming environment where these students can be comfortable enough to express their emotions and ask questions. I have really enjoyed helping and learning from these students. I learned new ways of explaining concepts and helping students with math problems. Sometimes, I found it difficult to explain concepts that I already know very well but that allowed me to learn as well. I learned that not all students will understand the first time through or even believe you when you are explaining how to do a problem but that taught me to think of new ways and to prove what I was doing was true. It was amazing to see students understand concepts that they have struggled with in the past. They would look proud and have a sense of accomplishment. This camp is a great opportunity. Many of these students might have given up on math because they struggled so much in the school year. I feel this camp helps students get help with many challenging concepts so they can do better in the school year and can continue taking math throughout their high school education.
- Ms. Kim Hinton, SFU Alumna