Every student voice plays a crucial role in building a public education system that truly serves each of them. We are committed to centring their ideas, feedback and voices as we make decisions that directly affect their experiences at school. All students will be heard, in order to have a sense of connection and belonging at school.
Centring students includes a focus on the success of all students. This means providing increased resources and measures to support the success of Indigenous, Black, racialized and marginalized students. It means holding true to our commitments to address the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.
We saw students centred in many ways throughout the WRDSB in 2022. The students we serve were at the heart of a video created to help all of us reconnect our sense of “purpose” to our work by deepening understanding of “who” our students are. It was also a potent reminder of how diverse Waterloo Region is, with our latest Student Census showing that we serve students from at least 104 ethnic or cultural backgrounds with over 200 languages.
Centring students continued with the incredible work of Conan and Melissa Stark. The two teachers, who are also married, had an opportunity to reconnect with students 10 years after Melissa first taught them in Grade 2, as they had now reached Conan’s Grade 12 class. The resulting photo series centred students and helped to illustrate how much, and how little, students can change during their time developing, growing and learning in the WRDSB.
Students across the WRDSB shared their voices in incredible and inspiring ways this past year. Quinn Plummer, a Grade 8 student at Northlake Woods Public School and disability advocate, felt inspired to help promote acceptance and created a video message to share his personal thoughts on the myths and facts about autism for Autism Acceptance Month.
Quinn wasn’t alone, though. In honour of International Mother Language Day in February 2022, we asked students in our International and Indigenous Languages Program (IILP) to tell us why learning their mother language was important to them. Students of all ages shared their favourite phrases, and what it means to be able to speak and communicate with their family, friends and community members in their own language.
Student ideas and voice are at the centre of our partnership with Smart Waterloo Region (SWR) to bring the Global Innovation Management Institute’s (GIMI) Impact Program to WRDSB classrooms. It gives students the opportunity to take a design thinking approach to solving real-world problems in their communities. Students identify the problem, students work through identifying specific barriers, and students ideate then pitch their solutions to SWR. At every step, students lead.
As we continue to work to strengthen student voice systemically and improve civic participation we have worked with our Student Trustees to change their election process. The new process allows each student in Grades 9 to 12 to vote for who will represent them. We have developed new round tables and included students' voices in policy development such as our Student Dress Code. We continue to explore how we will shift the ways that students are engaged and influence district and school improvement.
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