Tag Archives: Hanover School Division

What A Difference

school trustee
Here is a photo of the board of trustees of the Hanover School Division in the 1960s. This is the school division where I attended school and worked almost my entire career as a teacher.
Here is a photo of the current board. Notice any difference? This second photo includes three men who serve as the division’s superintendents. If you factor that in it means that in 2018 there are more female trustees than male trustees.

In an interesting article called Why Women Need to Be Elected to Office writer Dawn Hucklebridge notes that the United States has an abysmally low record when it comes to electing women to political office compared to other countries. But the one exception is that women comprise 40% of elected officials on school boards. 

The same article makes some interesting claims.

    1. Women are more likely to run for office because they feel called to serve and want to make a difference in their community. Men report running to fulfill a life long dream.
    2. Women are more productive and progressive in political office than their male counterparts.
    3. They are more likely to champion policies that support women and families.
    4. They are more likely to work across the aisle with political opponents.
    5. They introduce more new legislation and policy.
    6. There is less corruption during their terms of service.

The article suggests that women’s desire to serve and make a difference on school boards should make those boards fertile ground for candidate recruitment for other offices. Women who have served on school boards view political office as a way to fix problems and improve their communities. And those are exactly the values needed in higher political office.

Other posts………

Thankfully Times Have Changed

Women Were Honored? Think Again. 

Are You This Determined to Vote?

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Filed under Education, Politics

Hopeful Diversity- An Elementary School Class So Different From Mine

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

I was guiding a group of students from a school in my hometown through the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently. At one point during the tour I watched the children busy making clay sculptures. Suddenly it struck me how very different this class looked than the classes I’d been part of in that same community as a child. Check out the photo above of my grade three class taken on the steps of Steinbach’s Kornelson School in 1962. All forty students in the photo are white. I can still remember the surnames of almost every child in my class. Virtually ever one was of Mennonite heritage.

The group I was touring at the art gallery fifty years later was incredibly more diverse.  The children came from a wide variety of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds.

I’m glad the community I grew up in has become much less homogenous in some important ways. Children are receiving a more realistic, balanced view of the world right in their own classrooms as they interact with youngsters who come from very different backgrounds than their own. That gives me hope for the future of our country and our world.

Other posts……..

Kornelson School

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Skin Color


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Filed under Education, winnipeg art gallery

Responding to Changing Understandings of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

carillon photo hanover school board presentation

Photo by Ian Froese- used by permission

Last week the Carillon, a newspaper I work for as a columnist, featured this photo that graphically illustrated different local attitudes towards changing understandings of gender identity and sexual orientation. 

In the photo, one school trustee listens attentively to a young woman asking the Hanover School Division for a more supportive environment in local schools for young people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. The trustee looks right at the high school student speaking and appears to be near tears. Her empathy for the speaker is reflected in every line of her face.

Another trustee is expressionless and has her eyes down not even looking at the young woman speaking. The photo caption tells us she has been a spokesperson for constituents concerned about allowing Gay-Straight Alliance groups to meet in division high schools.

Behind the two trustees sits a high school graduate who has advocated for a voice for LGBTQ teens in division schools in the past. He has become something of a national hero and has received a generous university scholarship for his courage.

Handsome and Majestic

Handsome and Majestic

As I read The Carillon online last Thursday the photo jumped out at me. I was in Toronto and had just seen two documentaries at the city’s Hot Docs film festival. The first was called Handsome and Majestic. It was about a teen from Prince George British Columbia who decided to be honest about his transgender identity in his school. This led to so much bullying, including death threats, that his parents had to pull him out of school and his mother quit her job to educate her child at home. The documentary traced the family’s journey through this difficult time.

When the film was over we were introduced to the transgender youth whose story is featured in the movie. He had traveled to Toronto with his mother for the film’s premiere. The Toronto audience gave him a standing ovation. The part of the Handsome and Majestic documentary that had me in tears was when the father of the transgender teen talked about the transformation of his own attitude from anger and intolerance to acceptance, understanding and love for his child.



Suited was the second documentary I saw. It was about two New York tailors, who specialize in providing well- fitted suits for people in the transgender community. As various clients come into the tailor shop the audience is introduced to them and then the camera takes us into the clients’ private worlds as they prepare for special moments in their lives.

One is getting married, another interviewing for their first job, a Jewish teen is celebrating a Bar Mitzvah, a lawyer is presenting a case to the Supreme Court and a popular cab driver is throwing a grand fortieth birthday party. They all need a suit for these events and the ones they find on racks in stores just don’t fit their transgender bodies so they have turned to the specialty tailors for a custom made suit.

What brought me to tears in this documentary was the way the families of these people supported them. The grandmother adamant her transgender grand child will look great in a suit at their Bar Mitzvah. The parents of the groom who say their transgender child will receive their unconditional love and support to their dying day.

We’re on a sharp learning curve when it comes to understanding the biological, social and psychological factors that cause human beings to identify with various gender roles and sexual orientations. How can we best support each one? Films like Handsome and Majestic and Suited offer an informed and compassionate perspective. Could they be shown at a future Hanover School Division board meeting?

Other posts…….

Teaching Kids About Diversity 

Crossing the Line

Take Time to Listen

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Family

Teaching Kids About the Diversity of Families, Gender Identities and Sexual Orientations

Last week The Carillon, the southeastern Manitoba newspaper where I work as a columnist,  reported the Hanover School Board had said no to a request from a parent to include discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in younger grades. The parent voiced her concerns because her child was being bullied at school for having two mothers. She proposed that more open discussions in younger grades about things like families with same sex marriage partners, might help change the attitudes that led to the bullying. The school board decided to continue their policy of saving such discussions for high school classrooms where they are part of the mandated provincial curriculum.

This means parents in the school division who want their young children to be accepting of a diversity of family arrangements, gender identities and lifestyle choices, will need to teach their kids those values at home. Luckily there are plenty of great books that can act as helpful resources for parents.

The Pilgrims is a group of people in my church who meet regularly to explore how our faith community can respond supportively to the spiritual pilgrimage of LGBTQ people. Since I am our church librarian a group member approached me recently wondering if I might be open to having them donate some books for children to the church library. These were stories that introduced the idea that all people are unique and make different life style choices, and that all families are unique and some include two mothers or two fathers. I said I would be happy to have these books in our church library. The request sent me off on a search of my own and here are some good books I found that parents of young children might want to consider.

 morris and the tangerine dressMorris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino is about a little boy who loves to wear a dress from the classroom’s dress up box. His friends say he isn’t welcome in the space ship they are building because astronauts don’t wear dresses.

TangopenguinAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is a true story about a pair of male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who adopt an unwanted baby penguin and provide a loving caring family for it.

donovan's big dayDonovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman captures the joy and excitement of a family wedding through the eyes of a boy who is acting as the ring bearer for his two mothers.

great big book of familiesThe Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman has colorful illustrations that depict every kind of family; single parent, two parent, blended, multi-cultural, multi-racial and families headed by same sex couples and grandparents.

annie's plaid shirtAnnie’s Plaid Shirt
by Stacy Davids and Rachael Balsaitis is about a girl who loves her plaid shirt and is upset when her mother says she can’t wear it to her uncle’s wedding and must wear a dress instead.

These are just a few of the books available for young children. There are also many well-written novels for upper elementary and junior high kids that address gender identity, life style choice and same -sex marriage in thoughtful ways.

In a Carillon editorial last week the Hanover School Division was characterized as “doing nothing to advance a more compassionate response to discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Parents however can help their children have just such a compassionate response by sharing with them some of the great books for kids that celebrate and explain diversity.

Other posts……

Perfect for Pre Schoolers

Why Adults Are Reading Teen Fiction

Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together

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Filed under Books, Education, Family

Mitchell School Anniversary


mitchell with rhonda, phyllis and wendyOn Thursday I attended a 25 year anniversary celebration at a school where I taught for 15 years from 1986 to 2003. The school is located in Mitchell, Manitoba a small community less than a ten minute drive away from Steinbach, the city where we made our home for over thirty years. I taught grades 2,3 and 4 in Mitchell. Here I am with three of my former colleagues who are still all teachers at the Mitchell School- Phyllis Wiebe , Rhonda Friesen and Wendy Thiessen.

I wasn’t exactly happy about having to transfer to Mitchell in 1986 when I came back to work after a maternity leave. I had taught at Elmdale School in Steinbach for over a decade. I had so many friends on the Elmdale staff and my older son was a student there. However I was low on the seniority list at Elmdale due to my maternity leave and the school in Mitchell needed teachers.

with mitchell parentsI ended up being very glad I had transferred to Mitchell. I had a supportive, caring principal Ron Dueck, great colleagues I learned so much from, and the parents in Mitchell were wonderful, so helpful especially when the school was just getting started.  They volunteered to help the teachers in so many ways. I was one of six speakers at the anniversary and I think every one of us mentioned how invaluable the parents had been in the unstinting support they gave the school in its early years.  Here I am with two of my former parent volunteers Becky Kornelson and Linda Schmidt. 

mitchell classThe children at Mitchell were a diverse and interesting group. I began my job as a newspaper columnist for The Carillon the same year I started teaching at Mitchell and my students and their activities and ideas were often the topic of my weekly column in the Carillon as well as the column I eventually began to write for the Winnipeg Free Press.  In fact at the anniversary they were handing out copies of a column I had written about the school when it first opened.  I mentioned in my speech what a variety of class sizes I had at Mitchell from seventeen students in 1987 to thirty-nine in 1997. 

audrey at mitchell anniversaryHere I am with one of my former colleagues Audrey Loewen. She has since been transferred to another school but has many good memories of her years at Mitchell, just like I do. One of the things I talked about in my speech at the anniversary celebration was the staff book club we had at Mitchell. Audrey was part of that club. One evening a month we would get together at someone’s house, to eat, drink wine and discuss a book we had all read. Educational assistants, vice-principals, librarians, teachers all joined in. Although we always talked about the novel we had read for at least part of the time, our conversation often veered to our personal lives and our school joys and concerns. As I was unpacking my books in our new condo in Winnipeg last month, I thought fondly of our Mitchell book club as I put some of the novels we had read together on my shelves. 

with anne at mitchell anniversaryI wish I’d have had more time to visit with all my former colleagues who were at the anniversary. Anne Johnson who I taught with for many years at both Elmdale and Mitchell had come all the way from her home in New Zealand for the celebration.

judith at mitchell anniversaryJudith Schellenberg was our school secretary and she was amazing!  I called her a ‘organizational genius’ in my speech and it was true. She ordered hot dogs and pizza, made class lists, disciplined kids and taught them manners, ordered supplies, answered endless phone calls, checked for head lice, provided a warm and friendly welcome to delivery people, bus drivers, nurses, social workers and anyone else who came to our school and was always willing to lend a listening ear to an anxious parent or a worried teacher. She is now a secretary at the Mitchell Middle School. How lucky they are to have her. 

wendy at mitchell anniversaryI paid tribute in my speech to three of my Mitchell colleagues in particular. One was Wendy Thiessen who is in this photo with me. Wendy remains one of my closest friends to this day and was my teaching partner in grade four at Mitchell. She was such a warm and loving teacher who took a personal interest in each student’s life. She was my role model in that regard and really influenced my teaching style, helping me to realize that connecting with kids and caring about them was far more important than covering every bit of curriculum.  I also thanked my colleagues Karen Swiderski and Irene Schellenberg who nominated me for Manitoba Teacher of the Year and came to Government House with me in 1998 when I received the award. 

mitchell school

Mitchell School

What next? Well I’m not sure I’ll still be around for the Mitchell School 50th anniversary, but if I am, I’d definitely like to attend. I am glad I had the chance to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and reminisce about a school that played a very important role in my teaching career. Thanks Mitchell School for inviting me. 


Filed under Education, History, Reflections