(Fredericton, NB) – End Exclusion. That’s the goal of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL): to end exclusion for New Brunswickers who have an intellectual or developmental disability, and build a strong, inclusive society where everyone belongs. One of the cornerstones of this goal is inclusive education, from early learning right through to post-secondary – and inclusive education is based on the values, work and effort of educators dedicated to the belief that everyone has the right to belong.
The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) announced seven of the best “exclusion busters” New Brunswick’s educational community has to offer at today’s 2018 National Inclusive Education Awards ceremony at Government House. The event, organized by NBACL on behalf of CACL, is the focal point for celebrations marking National Inclusive Education Month.
The seven recipients of this year’s awards represent the continuum of inclusion throughout the educational cycle: the owner-director of several early learning and child care centres; a Grade Two teacher; a teacher and teaching team at the K to 2 level; a K to 5 resource teacher; the entire staff at a K to 8 school; a Resource and Methods high school teacher; and an instructor with the New Brunswick Community College.
“Each of these honorees works every day, in so many ways, to end exclusion for students at some of the most important ages and stages of their lives,” said NBACL president Moira Wilson as she opened the awards ceremony. “They join an impressive group of past recipients of the awards, whom CACL has recognized over the past 11 years for their unwavering efforts to make sure that no student is excluded from experiencing school life and learning with their peers. As they say, these folks don’t just talk the talk when it comes to inclusion, they walk the walk, too, always extending themselves to be the best they can be so that every student they have contact with knows that everyone belongs.”
Danny Soucy, NBACL’s Executive Director and co-presenter for the ceremony, remarked: “Education isn’t an easy profession, at any level, in any classroom, anywhere. Teachers – by which I mean all educators – mold our future and should be admired for what they do: not only assuming responsibility for teaching required subjects, but also informing and guiding our children’s thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and actions.”
Joy Bacon, president of CACL, took a moment to reflect upon how far New Brunswick has come over the last 60 years with respect to inclusion.
“It wasn’t all that long ago that children with a disability were not allowed to attend a regular neighbourhood school,” she reminded those in attendance. “Parents fought long and hard for their children’s right to belong in the classroom with their peers, something that is now guaranteed by two UN Conventions, the one on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the one on the Rights of the Child, both ratified by Canada. Those parents, and the social justice leaders who penned those conventions, understood how important inclusive education is, because exclusion from school lasts a lifetime as excluded children become adults with little or no education, with limited social capital and at best dim prospects for employment, and are thus likely to face a destiny of living in poverty.
“Unfortunately, it seems that some people have very short memories,” Bacon cautioned. “It is very disturbing to see the media reporting on, and even supporting, people who advocate for separate facilities for children with a disability or with complex needs. We must remember to learn from our history, not repeat it.”
Julie Stone, an education consultant and the other co-presenter for the ceremony, agreed, adding, “This is why it’s so important for us to showcase how inclusive education can be done well and be effective. It is about leveraging the collective strengths of educators, students, parents, and the community for the betterment of all.”
The Canadian Association for Community Living has been recognizing the outstanding inclusive practices of individuals working in Canada’s education system annually since 2007, with provincial and territorial community living associations like NBACL charged with accepting nominations and selecting recipients.
New Brunswick’s recipients of the 2018 National Inclusive Education Awards are:
Michelle Talbot, owner and director of Wee Colleges, early learning and child care centres in Moncton, for believing that exclusion is not an option for any child registered in her centres, and for assuring that her staff receive current professional development in inclusive practices. Find out more about Michelle Talbot here.
Janet Flood and the K to 2 team at St. John the Baptist-King Edward School in Saint John, for believing that everyone belongs, for not resorting to excluding students at any time, and for never leaving a student unnoticed or without the support they need. Find out more about Janet here.
Sarah Hoyt, a Grade Two teacher at Liverpool Street School in Fredericton, for her deep respect for children as diverse, equally valuable individuals, and for thinking “outside of the box” when finding ways to approach inclusion of children with complex needs so that she can assure that they are not excluded from her classroom.
Nicole Priest, a Resource Teacher at Nackawic Elementary School, for being a strong advocate not only for students who have an intellectual or developmental disability, but for all students, and for being an instructional leader by coaching and organizing professional development on inclusion for her peers so that they, too, can work to end exclusion in their schools.
The Forest Hills School staff, Saint John, for believing that promoting and celebrating inclusive education is “Why we exist,” and for fostering a school community where, as one parent noted, “children see beyond disabilities, diagnoses and exclusion, and think of all their classmates as normal kids.”
Mary Kim Schriver, Resource and Methods teacher at Nackawic Senior High School, not only for completely rejuvenating the Best Buddies Club at her school, but also for finding ways to engage students who may be disconnected, disenfranchised or choose to be excluded from school, by organizing teams and activities through which she can establish a rapport that makes all students become included and more interested in learning.
Nancy Hallihan-Sturgeon, an instructor at the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) in Miramichi, for building a legacy for inclusive education in New Brunswick through the students she has taught and the partnerships she has formed with those working to end exclusion, and by demonstrating inclusive practices in her classroom, where students who have an intellectual disability have received instruction and are now working in the profession.
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