Tag Archives: manitoba

Octogenarian Story Teller Extraordinaire

I read in the Winnipeg Free Press on the weekend that Roland Penner had died.  He was a high-profile lawyer, a professor at the University of Manitoba, member of the Manitoba legislature, and served as the province’s attorney general.   I knew him however as a storyteller.  

Photo by Joe Bryska/Winnipeg Free Press

In 2012 I took a course from Roland at the McNally Robinson Community Classroom called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction where he told stories about events from Winnipeg history and then introduced us to books that had those same events as their focus.  I remember three of the classes in particular. One in which he taught us about the Winnipeg strike and we looked at Margaret Sweatman’s novel Fox.  Another where he described famous criminal cases tried in Winnipeg and introduced us to Heather Robertson’s biography of robber Kenneth Leishman The Flying Bandit and another where we examined the Winnipeg immigrant experience and Fredelle Maynard’s memoire Raisins and Almonds. 

In 2012 I had just moved to Winnipeg and taking the course from Roland was a great way to connect with the history of the city that was to be my new home. He made every class so interesting.  He was 86 at the time. In one of the blog posts I wrote about the course I described Roland as an ‘octogenarian story teller extraordinaire’. It is clear from his obituary Roland Penner lived his life story to the fullest and left an extraordinary mark on our province’s and city’s histories. He was 93. 

Other posts……..

Winnipeg General Strike

The Flying Bandit

 Winnipeg Mennonite Immigrant Fiction


Filed under History, People, Winnipeg

Improving Education in Manitoba-Someone Thinks They Have The Answers

mural of children broadway avenue saskatoon by denyse klette

Michael Zwaagstra in December articles in the Winnipeg Free Press and The Carillon bemoans Manitoba’s results on national and international academic tests that show our students performing poorly. According to Zwaagstra there are three keys to improving education in our province

1)more tests

2)teaching basics

3) direct whole class instruction.

Mr. Zwaagstra’s articles fail to report however on the three areas where our province gets top ranking.

1) Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. I suspect we have more school kids who live in families lacking the basic necessities for healthy living than any other province.

2) Manitoba has the highest rate of adult incarceration in Canada. This leads one to believe we have more school kids with a parent in jail than in any other province.

3) Manitoba’s percentage of children in foster care is one of the highest in the world. It follows that we would have more school kids who are separated from their families than in any other province.

Could those three things impact children’s ability to learn and do well on standardized tests? If we focused on eradicating child poverty, on finding alternatives to such massive incarceration and looked for ways to improve foster care might that affect test scores more than the three remedies Mr. Zwaagstra suggests?

child-wearing-glasses- free photo pixabayAs a university education supervisor I have spent a fair bit of time in the last five years in inner city Winnipeg schools. Just before Christmas children in one school got free eye- exams courtesy of some caring Manitoba optometrists who volunteered to come and test children suspected of having vision issues. They discovered forty kids who should have been wearing glasses and provided them all with prescription lenses. One wonders though how those kids’ inability to see properly might have impacted their education and subsequently their scores on standardized tests in the past.

The six core area schools I know well devote time and money to providing breakfasts for children, setting up and staffing parent rooms where families can come for counseling and support, providing after school programs to keep kids out of gangs and off the street, arranging for kids to have dental work done at school by volunteer dentists, obtaining a stock pile of winter outerwear for children who come to school dressed improperly and the list goes on and on. These shouldn’t necessarily be the things teachers and administrators focus on but they know they are vital to their students’ ability to learn so they make them a priority. Could finding ways to relieve educators of those responsibilities allow schools to spend more time, energy and money on actual teaching?

hoop dancer hugh john mcdonald school winnipegThat being said I am curious about the statistics behind Mr. Zwaagstra’s contention that regular assessment, teaching basics and direct class instruction is lacking in Manitoba schools. In the six weeks before Mr. Zwaagstra’s article was published I made nearly forty visits to Winnipeg classrooms. The education students I supervise must include a plan for assessment in every lesson and they do. During almost all lessons I observed, teachers were doing some whole class instruction and they were teaching the basics as best they could even though they had students whose reading and numeracy competencies were spread over as many as six different grade levels and every class had newcomers to Canada just learning English.

It is indeed troubling that Manitoba’s students have a low standard of academic achievement. Many of the reasons for that stem from long standing societal issues and addressing them will be much more costly and complicated than doing more tests or telling teachers they aren’t using the right instructional methods.

Other posts………

What I Saw in a Classroom Yesterday

Rap, Reimagining Winnipeg and Designing Fishnets

A Pen or a Wing?


Filed under Education

Manitoba is Metis


Manitoba by Joe Fafard- 1988- Winnipeg Art Gallery

One of the art works I’ll talk about with high school students on an tour I’m leading tomorrow at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is this landscape/portrait by Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard.  His piece is called Manitoba.  Fafard has chosen a Metis man to represent our province. I will ask the kids why Fafard would do that. Was it because the founder of our province Louis Riel was Metis?  Might it be because Fafard grew up in a French and Metis community on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba border? Why has Fafard depicted a geographical place with a person? 

I’ll ask the students to come up with adjectives to describe the man. How has Fafard used color, shape, line and texture to give the sculpture personality and provide insight into the character of the person portrayed? If the sculpture was a Metis woman instead of a Metis man how might that woman be depicted? 


Manitoba by Joe Fafard- Source Mackenzie Art Gallery Teaching Guide– from the personal collection of Joe Fafard

I’ll show students a clay and acrylic version of Manitoba which Fafard made in 1975, thirteen years before he made the bronze piece in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection. How are they the same or different?  How are the differences related to the different materials used and how might the differences reflect different ideas about the sculpture’s subject, message or audience? 

I am very curious to hear how the students will answer these questions.  I always learn so much from them. 

Other posts…….

Between Dog and Wolf

Whale Bone Sculptures

What’s a Bandolier Bag?

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

The T-4’s Go Mennonite in Neubergthal

mennonite dress upOn Friday my three friends and I who call ourselves the T-4s, set off on another one of our adventures. This time we headed for the tiny Mennonite village of Neubergthal, Manitoba which was named a National Historic Site in 1989. neubergthal streetWe started with a drive down the streets of the village lined with cottonwood trees planted by the original Mennonite settlers  in 1876. They brought the seeds with them from Ukraine when they emigrated.

friesen house barn neubergthalFirst we toured the Friesen Houselooking at the brick oven with our very knowledgeable guide Paige. floor tiles friesen house neubergthalShe showed us the beautiful way Mennonite women used to handpaint the floors in their homespie shelfIn the pantry we saw the pie shelf, a handy way for the Mennonite housewife to cool a whole oven full of fruit pies at one time. honeymoon suite neubergthalWe looked at the honeymoon suite. It got its name because at one point two of the children in the family that owned the house got married in the same year and couldn’t afford farms of their own yet. So both couples stayed in this room together for a year before they set up their own farms.  The sides of the narrow wooden beds did pull out to make them a little wider. dressed as MennonitesAfter trying on some traditional Mennonite garb we headed to the barn which is attached to the house. This meant farmers didn’t have to go outside in cold or blizzardy weather to tend to cattle. washing machineThe barn also offered a sheltered place for doing laundry and……….

outhouse neubergthalthere was a traditional outhouse in the barn, also handy for winter use. The heat of the animals’ bodies in the barn kept you warm and there was no need to go outdoors to the bathroom. Newspaper was supplied for toilet paper and there was a toilet for children too. ray and marilyn hammThen we were off to the Hamm house across the street. Marilyn and Ray Hamm still make their home in the traditional Neubergthal house barn Ray’s grandparents once lived in. The Hamms were excited to meet my friend Esther who used to work at MCC with Ray many years ago and was a frequent guest in the Hamm home. 

playing the pump organRay and Marilyn told us about the history of their house and Marilyn even showed us how the old pump organ in the livingroom worked. 

jasmine tea roomLater we had lunch at the Jasmine Tea Room in Altonaat the jasmine tea room a perfect place to talk about our adventure soup and salad jasmine tea roomover homemade soups, fresh salads and warm biscuits with jam. 

Paige will still be giving tours in Neubergthal for the next couple weeks so check out their website if you are interested in learning more about Mennonite history in a ‘hands on’ interesting way. 

Other  Posts…….

Introducing Friends from India to Mennonites

Should the T-4s Get Tattoos

Mennonites in Gone Girl



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Filed under History, T-4s

Athena- Finding Greek and Roman Gods in Winnipeg

Athena is a leadership group for Manitoba women based in Winnipeg. Through mentorship, networking and philanthropy they provide women with personal and professional development and an opportunity to network, share expertise and enhance leadership skills.  A look at their website reveals a long list of influential Manitoba leaders who have acted as mentors for the group.

One of the group’s projects is Dress for Success an annual drive to collect gently used women’s professional clothing for women re-entering the work force who may not be able to afford the proper business attire for job training and interviews.

They give an annual leadership scholarship to a deserving young Manitoba woman.  This year’s winner was Acqueline Masvikeni a science student at the University of Manitoba who wants to become a doctor and has volunteered for many humanitarian organizations.

Athena also sponsors an annual group build for Habitat for Humanity.

Although there is no information on the Athena website as to why the group chose to share a name with the Greek god Athena I’m guessing it could be because Athena was known as a wise, strong and courageous woman, the inventor of nearly every kind of work in which women are employed, and a defender of law and justice.

This post is the second in a series inspired by the current Olympus exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in which I look for cultural connections to Greek and Roman gods in Winnipeg.

Other posts …….

Mercury- Finding Greek and Roman Gods in Winnipeg

Thanks Dr. Scholl


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Filed under Winnipeg

White Tailed Deer Keep Delicate Their Counsels Wild

white tailed deer lake of the sand hillsWe saw so many deer! On our recent golfing holiday at Lake of the Sandhills at Buffalo Point we saw an abundance of  white-tailed deer on the course.white tailed deerI suspect at times my golfing companions thought it was time for me to put down my camera and concentrate on my golf game. But the deer were so fascinating and beautiful . white tailed deerI was surprised we saw so many deer since I had read that our bitterly cold winter in Manitoba had been tough on the deer killing 30%-40% more of the population than during a normal winter. 

white tailed deerAdult white tails have reddish coats in summer. 

white tailed deer eatingWhite tailed deer are herbivores eating leaves, twigs, fruits, nuts, grass and even lichen and other fungi. white tailed deer We were lucky to see so many deer since apparently they are primarily nocturnal. They graze at dawn or dusk and only occasionally venture out in daylight hours. deer white tailed lake of the sand hills

Deer  by John Drinkwater

The fallow deer keep
Delicate and far their counsels wild,
Never to be folded reconciled
To the spoiling hand as the poor flocks are;
Lightfoot, and swift, and unfamiliar,
These you may not hinder, unconfined
Beautiful flocks of the mind.

white tailed deerOther posts about animals on golf courses…….
Guess What I Saw On  A Golf Course In Mexico

Maybe an Iguana Ate My Golf Ball

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Filed under Nature

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

My Dad in 1947 - he is in the centre in the first row of men

                     My Dad in 1947 – he is in the centre in the first row of men

Although my father Dr. Paul Peters enjoyed a long career as a family physician, his first job was not in medicine, but education. He was a permit teacher.

Manitoba employed permit teachers during the 1940s and 1950s. They were new high school graduates hired for one year, to fill vacant teaching positions in the province. There was a shortage of educators because of the many male teachers who had gone to serve overseas in World War II, as well as women who had left the profession to assume jobs vacated by soldiers.

The Mennonite Collegiate Institute graduating class of 1948

The Mennonite Collegiate Institute graduating class of 1947- a number of the graduates became permit teachers -my father is sixth from the left in the first standing row of men

When Dad graduated from Gretna’s Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) in 1947 he agreed to take a permit teaching position. His only training was a six- week summer course at the Normal School in Winnipeg. Here he was introduced to basic teaching methods, shown how to write lesson plans, and was taught square dancing, a skill he never got to use in the small conservative Mennonite community of Silberfeld where he was hired for $90 a month and given the use of the two room teacherage. He had thirty- four students from grades one to seven and a grade nine correspondence student to supervise. After Easter three little kindergarten students were added so they could get introduced to school before beginning grade one the following year.

Besides teaching reading, spelling, math, writing, history, science, religion and German, Dad had to stoke the stove with coal on winter mornings to warm up the schoolhouse. He needed to attend to this early enough so the ink in the ink wells could thaw before the students needed it.

Dad became a teacher right after his high school graduation

Dad became a permit teacher right after graduating from high school 

Dad’s first task after firing up the stove was to write the assignments for each grade on the chalkboard, except the group first on his teaching agenda for the day. That way the other students were kept busy while he worked his way through the rotation of all the grades.

Although twenty- five of his thirty-four students consisted of a pretty lively group of boys, Dad told me discipline wasn’t really a problem. He decided on the rules for the classroom together with his students. Sometimes he made kids shovel snow or stay after school as a consequence for misconduct. He does remember spanking one boy who didn’t follow the rules. The young man’s father came to see Dad the next day and told him not to waste his time spanking his son. He knew from experience that it didn’t help.

My Dad's family lived in Gnadenthal which was too far for him to go for regular weekly visits

My Dad’s family lived in Gnadenthal which was too far for him to go for regular weekly visits

It was too far for Dad to always go home to his parents in Gnadenthal on the weekends but sometimes he walked the ten mile round trip to Gretna or Altona to visit friends. Dad started out cooking his own meals in the teacherage, but then a Mrs. Brown who lived nearby invited him for supper one night and told him she’d be happy to make his dinner for 25 cents a day. He figured it was a good deal. In spring he organized inter-school soccer and baseball games with his fellow MCI graduate Mary Regehr who was permit teaching in Gnadenfeld.

Although an inspector came around a couple times to check up on Dad he was basically on his own. Dad still has a copy of the final report that he had to send in to the Department of Education in June of 1948. He has very good memories of his permit teaching year and looking back marvels how he was a hundred percent confident that he could do the job right from the start.

Dad when he was in college

Dad when he was in college

Dad did consider a long- term teaching career, but after landing a part time job as an orderly at the Misercordia Hospital in Winnipeg during his college years, decided he was more interested in medicine.

At one time Manitoba had as many as 250 permit teachers. They served an important role in keeping the province’s education system functioning during challenging times.

Other posts about my Dad…….

Today’s My Dad’s Birthday

Thanks Mom and Dad

Diamond Anniversary

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Filed under Canada, Education, Family