Category Archives: Education

What’s a Yondr Pouch?

I learned about Yondr pouches from an educational leadership group I follow online. They are used extensively in Australian high schools which ban cell phones during the school day. According to an article in The Guardian, more than a thousand schools in the United States have Yondrs too.

When kids walk into school they place their phones into a Yondr pouch and when they close it their phones are locked inside for the day.

As they leave the school they place their phone on a magnetic button which opens the case.

I understand why schools think they need to use Yondr pouches. When I was teaching high school in Manitoba phones were not to be used in class but kids found all kinds of ways to get around that.

I was constantly catching kids using their phones and had to threaten to take them away. I gave them a warning but if they didn’t comply I took their phones away and they had to go to the school office with a parent to retrieve them.

The Yondr removes the need for teachers to police phone use and the need to be the ‘bad guy.’ I had students tell me I was mean and ruining their life by taking away their phones.

Photo by RDNE Stock project on

I am not sure what I think of Yondrs. Students definitely need to limit the use of their cell phones in class. Ontario’s Department of Education has an official policy that phones are only to be used in class for educational purposes and for medical reasons.

I know I find it very difficult to try and give a tour of the Winnipeg Art Gallery to groups of students when their teachers allow them to be on their phones. It’s even worse when the teachers are on their phones too. I think my tours are pretty engaging and interesting but I can’t compete with text messages from friends or Tik Tok feeds.

Perhaps Yondrs are a temporary solution but what we really need to do is teach ourselves and our kids how to use our phones responsibly and wisely, so they don’t rule our lives or turn our attention away from other things that are important.

Other posts……..

The Olden Days

Technology and Family Time

Technology Has Transformed Travel

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The Right Decision?

Last week the Steinbach Regional Secondary School (SRSS) celebrated its 50th anniversary. There was an open house at the school where former students and teachers could connect with each other, look at memorabilia from the past, and listen to special speakers talk about their years at the school.

Although I once taught at the school and our two children were students there, we were on a trip to Alberta for our niece’s wedding so I couldn’t attend the anniversary celebration.

I was never a student at the SRSS. Although I grew up in Steinbach I was already married and living in Winnipeg attending university when the school building opened in 1973. But I do remember my father discussing the building of the school.

My Dad second from the right looks over a model of the new school in the early 1970s- photo from The Carillon

My father, Dr Paul Peters, was a school trustee at the time and so was heavily involved in the planning for the new school. He was adamant that the town should add an indoor swimming pool to the facility.

The town of Selkirk had just built a new high school with a beautiful pool and Dad thought something similar would be of benefit to our town as well. At the time Steinbach only had a relatively small outdoor pool built by the Kinsmen organization in a local park.

Before construction on the new high school began the pool was removed from the plans to cut costs and I remember Dad thinking this was very shortsighted since eventually the town would need an indoor pool and it would cost a lot more to build it as a stand-alone structure at some point in the future. Dad also wondered how many years it would take for that pool to be built. Why wait?

As it turned out a new indoor pool wouldn’t be built for nearly 30 more years in Steinbach.

Elbert Toews former school administrator speaking at the anniversary celebrations- photo Steinbach online

Talking with Elbert Toews who was one of the school’s administrators when the SRSS was built he recalled my Dad’s vocal advocacy for a pool but added that personally, he had been happy to see a large theatre added to the plans for the new building.

Our younger son performing on the SRSS Theatre stage in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2002

That of course was a plus. My own sons both attended the SRSS and I was in the audience for countless musical and drama performances that they participated in on the stage of that theatre.

I was a teacher at the SRSS for two years from 2005-2007 and have many fond memories of my experience there. Our two sons had an excellent high school experience there as well and benefitted from all the sports and other extra-curricular activities that were offered.

The decision to build the school fifty years ago was a good one, but I think my Dad might still argue that the decision not to include a swimming pool was not.

Other posts………..

An Alphabet For My Home Town

Sixties Scoop

Being Dr Peters’ Daughter

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Feeling Left Out

I currently live just a few blocks away from the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg. I often walk or drive there. I lived in St. Boniface for a year as a child and attended Marion School.

Marion School -photo from the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation website

A priest came to visit our class once a week to provide instruction in the Catholic faith. My parents, good Mennonites that they were, asked that I be excluded from these lessons. Whenever the priest arrived, I was sent to sit alone at a desk in the dark and often chilly hallway.

I had only my Dick and Jane reader for company. For thirty minutes I would shiver out there letting my imagination run wild, wondering what the priest could be talking to the boys and girls about that was so strange and disturbing my parents didn’t want me to hear it. 

My class at Marion School with our teacher Ms Bourreau.

Then came the day everyone went to the nearby St. Boniface Basilica with the priest to practice for their First Communion. Off trooped the boys all spiffy in their shiny shoes and dark pants. The girls waved goodbye to me as they flounced out of the room in pretty dresses, with their lace head squares perched atop their ringlets.

That day I was allowed to go back into the classroom after the other children had left. I sat there alone for what seemed like a very long time, with only the hissing radiator for companionship. I felt lonely and “left out.”

We moved to the town of Steinbach in 1960 when I was eight. I knew we were going to live in a predominantly Mennonite community. No doubt it would be a place where I would “fit in” a little better, at least when it came to matters of faith.  

Mural in downtown Steinbach with an image of Kornelson School which I photographed

I was soon to find out that this was not the case. My parents had taken me to see only two movies in my lifetime Bambi and Mary Poppins. I quickly discovered mentioning this to other children in my class at the old white clapboard Kornelson school was a big mistake. “People who go to movies, go to hell,” I was told by another student. 

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

I loved my grade three teacher Mrs Kihn immediately. She was fair and kind and seemed to genuinely like me despite the fact I hadn’t learned how to multiply in my grade two class in Winnipeg and was behind in math. Yet some of my Mennonite classmates made fun of my affection for my teacher and told me in a shocked whisper she was a Lutheran.

Did I realize they wondered, that the tin containers where our teacher kept those colourful little pegs we used to figure out our math problems, were really tobacco cans? Our teacher’s husband smoked. My classmates let me know this was another sure ticket to hell. Although no one in my family smoked, my parents had never told me the behaviour was sinful.

Obviously, I had plenty to learn about what was right and wrong if I wanted to be accepted in Steinbach. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it would probably be best not to mention the fact that my grandfather served homemade wine for Christmas dinner or that some of my aunts wore lipstick.  

The old Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach which I attended- This building has since been demolished

I also learned to keep quiet about which church I attended. The Grace Church was known as the ‘TV Church’ by many in Steinbach because a goodly number of the members had succumbed to worldly temptation and bought television sets.

I had been an ‘outsider’ in my predominantly Catholic school in Winnipeg, but I learned quickly that if I wasn’t careful ‘outsider’ status was just as easy to achieve in predominantly Mennonite Steinbach. 

Reflecting on these childhood experiences as an adult has helped me put them into perspective.  I think probably the exclusion I felt as a child made me try very hard as a teacher to include all children so no one would feel ‘left out’ in the classes I taught, no matter what their cultural or religious heritage.

It has coloured my own faith, making me more open to learning from those of other religious backgrounds. I think it has made me less ready to pass judgement.

My experiences of feeling excluded in both St. Boniface and Steinbach inspired chapters in my new novel Sixties Girl. It is available in Steinbach at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum Gift Shop and in Winnipeg at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Other posts……..

My First Home in Steinbach

Living at the Hospital

Mitchell School Annivesary


Filed under Education, Religion

Talking to Kids About Menstruation

The Guardian newspaper reported this month that…..Florida lawmakers are considering a draft law to strengthen state control over sex education that its sponsor says would ban any instruction in schools about menstrual cycles before the sixth grade.

My sister and I head off to school on our bikes in 1962. In the 1960s children did not receive any kind of sex education in school.

I got my first period when I was ten. I had not heard anything about what was going to happen to my body in school because it was only in 1967 that some Canadian public schools began to introduce the idea of teaching sex education or reproductive health in classrooms.

Fortunately, however, I had a wonderful wise mother who’d had a frank talk about getting our periods with my sister and me.

My sister and I with our grandmother who came to visit after our little brother was born.

I was nine and my sister was seven when my mother became pregnant with my youngest brother. She read us a book that explained everything about what was happening to her body during her pregnancy and made sure we knew about everything that would happen to our bodies when we reached puberty.

I was away from home for a week when I got my period for the first time and probably would have been scared and worried if Mom hadn’t prepared me. I knew exactly what was going on with my body thanks to her and could ask someone to help me.

I taught grade five for several years and remember two occasions when students got their periods at school and had no idea what was happening to them. They were terrified and crying and thought they were going to die.

I’ll never forget being in the school washroom with both of them trying to comfort them and explain that getting your period was a good thing. One girl was inconsolable.

Their parents had not talked to either girl about menstruation. In the school where I was teaching at the time, it was a topic discussed in sixth-grade health.

A recent article in The New Yorker claimed research shows that on average around 30% of girls are getting their first period already at the age of eight.

In my new novel Sixties Girl, a girl gets her period for the first time in one of the chapters. I consulted both a rural and city middle-grade school teacher about whether to leave that incident in the book and they both encouraged me to do so.

They told me how important it was to talk to kids about menstruation in a matter-of-fact way and that both boys and girls needed to learn it was something natural and good and normal.

I hope that Florida as well as other states who are considering changes to their sex education curriculums will take into account the importance of making kids aware of what will happen to them with the onset of puberty. It is not something that should make them scared or anxious. They need to be prepared so they know menstruation is a normal part of growing up.

Other posts…….

Susie’s Babies

Banning Books for Kids

Include Me Please

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Health

A Chocolate Bar Map

Does anyone remember having a Neilson Chocolate bar map in their classroom? I certainly do.

I’ve found out they were a clever advertising ploy that started in the 1930s when they were offered to schools across Canada.

Horses delivering Neilson Chocolate in 1915 in Toronto – Photo- City of Toronto Archives

William Neilson was a dairy farmer from Ontario who started making chocolate bars in 1906. He died in 1915 and his son Morden took over the business. Morden launched the Jersey Milk chocolate bar in 1924.

Advertisement for Jersey Milk bars in the Toronto Transit- 1955- Photo Toronto City Archives

Some bright salesperson for his products knew kids were the prime target market for the bars and where better to reach kids than in school?

So Neilson made a deal with the Copp Clark Publishing Company of Toronto. Copp Clark sent letters to every school telling them they could get maps of Canada and maps of the world absolutely free.

On this map, Newfoundland isn’t a part of Canada yet so it must date to before 1949

Neilson mailed the maps out to the schools but they included a notice that the map could not be removed from the school and the Neilson Chocolate Bar lettering and the pictures of the chocolate bars could not be covered up on the maps.

The maps had a wooden dowel at the top and bottom. In my school classrooms in the 1960s, they were usually placed above the blackboard and rolled up when they weren’t being used to free up the blackboard space they would have covered.

Neilson claimed they sent approximately 55,000 of the maps out to Canadian schools. Schools could have their maps replaced for free if they became too worn and apparently the company updated the maps twice during the years they supplied them to reflect changes in world geography.

For many schools, especially ones in rural areas these were the only maps available.

I am not sure when they stopped making these maps but they have definitely become collector’s items. I found some online selling for $500.

Other posts………….

A Century-Old School Souvenir Book

My Grandmother’s Shoes

My Dad’s Cowbell

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Filed under Education, History, Sixties Girl

Four Schools- Four Great Experiences- Thanks MYRCA

Since returning from Africa at the beginning of March I’ve had the privilege of visiting four different schools to connect with kids and teachers about my novel Lost on the Prairie. It’s been so much fun!

All these schools were participating in the Manitoba Young Readers Choice MYRCA program. My book is a nominee and I’m so appreciative of the way that has resulted in invitations to visit schools where teachers have organized MYRCA clubs and meet weekly with kids to talk about the books they are reading.

The second week of March I went to Clearspring Middle School in Steinbach my home town. It was my first visit to this beautiful facility that opened in 2012. I was warmly greeted in the office by Vice Principal Candace Campbell who took me to the large and brightly lit library where I was welcomed by the librarian Arlene Baldwin who helps facilitate the school’s MYRCA club of some thirty students.

Teacher Alex Nikkel is the driving force behind the club. After I had spoken to the larger group I had a chance to chat with some individual students and sign copies of the book.

Watching Alex hurry into the library on her lunch hour to greet me and the students, reminded me of my own busy years of teaching and how the public often fails to realize all the extra things teachers do to help kids explore their interests and give them personal attention.

I was so appreciative of my husband Dave who acted as my chauffeur for our trip out to Holland Elementary School in Holland Manitoba about a 90-minute drive south and west of Winnipeg.

Teacher Deanne Kuehn organized my visit. She had a special MYRCA bulletin board up in her classroom. I first spoke to all the grades 5-8 students. The younger students were about to begin Lost on the Prairie as a class read aloud.

The older students had already completed Lost on the Prairie as a class read-aloud and novel study so I spent some time with them separately since they had made a list of great questions they wanted to ask me about the book.

Since two of the characters in the book are inspired by my grandparents the kids really enjoyed looking at some of their personal effects I had brought along.

Next up was Ecole St. Avila in the Fort Richmond area of Winnipeg. Here my visit had been arranged by the librarian Paula Jasper Hall through the Thin Air Kids Festival which featured all the MYRCA nominees this year.

What a great bunch of kids in this thriving MYRCA club that meets over their lunch hour in the library. Their questions were fantastic. We talked right till the buzzer rang for class to start.

Paula had made them beautiful bookmarks that featured all the MYRCA nominees and I was busy autographing them. I felt like a celebrity!

My last presentation was on Thursday at École Munroe Middle School here in Winnipeg. Teacher Librarian Sylvia Scott organized my lunch hour visit with her grade six MYRCA club.

One of the students gave a lovely little speech and presented me with a gift to thank me for coming.

The students were so attentive and interested and Sylvia is such an enthusiastic supporter of the MYRCA program! How lucky writers are to have an initiative like MYRCA begun by the Manitoba School Library Association and supported by volunteer teachers and librarians from across the province. They work each year to actively promote Canadian books with young readers.

I’ve loved all my visits to schools in the last three weeks. Connecting with young people who have read a book you’ve written is so rewarding and is definitely an inspiration to keep on writing! Thanks, MYRCA!

Other posts………..

Checking Out the Competition

Sixties Girl Has Arrived

Colleen is Coming

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Filed under Education, Lost on the Prairie, Sixties Girl

They Never Made It to the Manger- Elmdale School 1994

I found a program in one of my journals for Steinbach’s Elmdale School Christmas concert in 1994, nearly thirty years ago. That year the school presented a drama called They Never Made It to the Manger. It was a play written by my husband Dave who was teaching grade five at Elmdale School at the time.

The entire school was involved in the performance and each child manipulated a hand held puppet they had created. My husband’s version of the Magi story included a fourth wise man named Henry and a wise woman named Gertrude who didn’t make it to Bethlehem. I noted in my journal there were gigantic camel puppets for the Magi to ride. 

My husband was a member of the Elmdale School staff in Steinbach for almost a decade beginning in 1990. Craig Cassils the music teacher who coordinated the Christmas musical Dave wrote in 1994 is to the far left in the middle row. My husband Dave is to the far right in the back row.

The show’s music was arranged and conducted by music teacher Craig Cassils. The Elmdale student performers staged a lively party in King Herod’s palace with the puppets dancing and singing Twist and Shout by the Beatles. My husband played the harmonica for one of the songs in the show- Elton John’s Can You Feel the Love Tonight.

My son’s grade four school class that performed with the angel puppets in the musical They Never Made It To the Manger

Proud mama that I was, I wrote in my journal that our younger son who was a grade four student at Elmdale that year, used a Marlon Brando voice in his role of King Herod’s advisor Zeke. He also accompanied a song on an Orff instrument, maneuvered one of the angel puppets and sang a duet at the end of the concert.

This all happened nearly three decades ago but I can still remember sitting in the audience and marvelling at the talent and creativity of both my husband and my son and the enormous amount of work done by the Elmdale School staff to create such a memorable Christmas experience for both the children and the audience. 

Other posts………

Three Wise Women

A Year in My Teaching Life- 1982-1983

Giving Young Writers an Audience

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Filed under Education, Holidays

Do I Need to State My Personal Pronouns?

We are getting new identification tags at my place of work and we have the option to have our preferred pronouns on the tag. Would we like to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them or in some other way?

I realize that for some people particularly in the transgender or non-binary communities this is important. But should someone like me who is cisgender, which means I identify with the sex assigned me at birth, list my personal pronouns as well?

I’ve been reading about this to learn more as I decide whether to have my preferred pronouns she/her listed on my name tag.

I have discovered that listing my pronouns can be a way for me to show I’m aware that pronouns are important and I understand that we all need to be thoughtful about the pronouns we use to address others.

Stating my pronouns on my employment badge can send a message that I don’t assume someone’s pronouns but rather I respect the idea that people should be addressed in the way they see themselves and choose to be seen.

Sharing my pronouns can normalize the practice so those who are in the gender diverse community don’t have to feel like they are in the minority when they do so.

Displaying my pronouns is also a way to show gender-marginalized people that I am an ally. By putting my pronouns on my identification badge I can send a message to trans or non-binary people that they are in a safe space when they are with me.

I did read a number of articles however, by both people in the 2SLGBTQ+ and cisgender communities, that say no one should feel pressure to publicly share their preferred pronouns. It is up to each individual to decide what they feel comfortable doing.

I’ve decided I do feel comfortable having my pronouns listed so that’s what I’ve decided to do.

I will be the first to admit I often struggle with getting people’s pronouns straight in conversation especially if a person’s pronouns change and I have to refer to them in different ways than I did before. Perhaps clearly displaying pronouns can help us all to be more respectful and mindful of one another’s choices.

Other posts………

Pride in Steinbach Isn’t Something New

Proud of the New Words in Canada’s National Anthem

Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them


Filed under Culture, Education, Introductions, Language

A Year In My Teaching Life- 1982-1983

I have been going through all my photos from my teaching career and want to start posting about some of my classroom experiences.

As a start, I’m going to feature photos from the 1982-1983 school year in my grade two classroom at Elmdale School in Steinbach, Manitoba. That was forty years ago and so these former students of mine are all in their late forties. That’s really hard for me to believe! I had a great year with them!

I wonder where they all are now!

My grade two class of twenty-four in 1982-1983.

Making scarecrow seed pictures in the fall.

My Mom came to our classroom and taught us how to bake bread.

Our pretending centre became many things. A hospital for treating patients.

A diner for serving customers and practising coin and money math skills.

An aeroplane to fly us to the different countries we studied.

The children read in a bathtub I had rescued from an old house on my parents’ country property.

An old covered mattress, pillows and a rug also provided comfy reading spots.

We painted.

We planted tulip bulbs and waited for them to bloom in spring.

During our pioneer unit in social studies, we did laundry the old-fashioned way.

We learned to tell time.

We used our class water table to learn about liquid measurements and do experiments.

We had a record player so kids could listen to stories and follow along in the book.

We did a unit about life on the farm and made ranch stew.

We worked on fine motor skills by making Hawaiian leis

And hammering nails into logs.

Here I am with my teaching colleagues at Elmdale School during the 1982-1983 year. Sadly I think seven of the teachers in this photo have passed away since then.

I feel very blessed indeed to have spent three and a half decades as a classroom teacher. Some years were definitely more challenging than others but overall I was lucky to be able to do something that enriched my life so much, fostered a love of learning for me and brought so many interesting people and meaningful relationships into my life.

I have fond memories of the 1982-1983 year at Elmdale School and I hope my students and colleagues do too.

Other posts………….

Giving Young Writers An Audience

I Taught Chisanbop

A Bathtub in My Classroom


Filed under Education

The Best Way To Spend I Read Canadian Day

Did you know that exactly one week ago, November 2 was I Read Canadian Day? It’s a special day set aside to raise awareness of Canadian books for children and celebrate their richness, diversity and breadth.

I got to spend I Read Canadian Day in the best way possible. I was invited to make an author visit to John Pritchard School in Winnipeg to talk about my novel Lost on the Prairie which the grade six kids in Allison Caldwell’s room had just finished reading!

What a delight! Those students knew my novel inside and out! They had come up with twenty questions about Lost on the Prairie that really got me thinking and brought to mind all kinds of stories I could tell them about the writing of the book and my family members who inspired it.

They were so interested in the family artefacts I had brought along and when it was time to go out for recess many stayed behind to ask me MORE questions and to get my autograph.

I felt like a celebrity!

A Canadian author, visiting Canadian kids, in a Canadian classroom, in a Canadian school! What better way to celebrate I Read Canadian Day?

This week I made a pile of middle-grade fiction books by Canadians currently on my bookshelves but it really doesn’t do justice to all the amazing work by Canadian authors I’ve read over the last while.

That’s because I give away so many of the books immediately after reading them. Some go to my grandson who is ten or to my son who teaches a grade six languages arts class. I take them to our church to put in the library there so more kids will have a chance to read them. Many of the books in the stack pictured here will soon find their way to those destinations as well.

The next time you are buying a book for children why not be deliberate about buying Canadian? There are so many FANTASTIC titles out there for Canadian kids by Canadian authors.


Here are the most recent blog posts I’ve done about AMAZING books by Canadian authors!

Harvey Takes The Lead by Colleen Nelson

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael

Elvis, Me and the Lemonade Stand Summer by Leslie Gentile

Sorry for Your Loss by Joanne Levy

The Undercover Book List by Colleen Nelson

Rescue At Lake Wild by Terry Lynne Johnson

Tainted Amber by Gabriele Goldstone

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson

Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young

The Vegetable Museum by Michelle Mulder and Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field by Angela Ahn

The Fabulous Zed Watson by Basil and Kevin Silvester

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Filed under Books, Canada, Education, Lost on the Prairie