From last to first: the ongoing work of supporting GSAs in Alberta schools

Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and queer-straight alliances (QSAs) are peer support networks that promote welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) students and their allies.

But misconceptions about what they do and who they’re intended for stoke opposition that may make students, teachers and school administrators hesitant to support their creation, despite the legislative backstop provided by Bill 10, which mandates the formation of GSAs in any Alberta K-12 school where students want them.

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Irena Szmihelsky’s opus

After teaching music in an elementary classroom for 35 years, all it took to reignite the spark of learning for Irena Szmihelsky was an open studies music education course.

“It was an eye-opener,” says Szmihelsky of that first course. “It’s almost shameful for me to say how little I know in music after teaching it for so many years. I thought to myself, ‘I’m doing myself an injustice by ignoring the possibilities before me.’”

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Embracing math raps, Minecraft and Star Wars in the classroom

Step into Jessica Maloughney’s (BEd’11) Grade 2 classroom at St. Patrick’s Community School in Red Deer, Alta., and you may be reminded of a six-year-old’s bedroom. Minecraft posters decorate the walls, Lego figurines are tucked around the classroom, and collections of Star Wars and Frozen books populate the bookshelf.

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Happiness is a warm puppy - to read to

The year Lori Friesen (‘12 PhD) began teaching, she adopted a puppy: a Maltese-poodle named Tango. It was the first dog she’d had since the passing of her beloved childhood dog, and she was thrilled. So were her Grade 1 students, who begged to meet the puppy. Seeing the learning opportunities for students, Friesen agreed to bring the dog to class.

Once Tango had been introduced to the children, pairs of students were allowed 10 minutes with the dog in the reading corner. That’s when the canine magic began. “They started bringing books to read to her,” recalls Friesen.

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An ancient artform meets the digital age

Stories have been part of human culture since humans were, well, human. It goes back as far as cave people scratching images of their lives onto stone, probably further. With storytelling, we recall the past and anticipate the future by weaving events into juicy narratives.

Traditionally, storytelling was a spoken-word or written affair. But with access to computers new ways of sharing stories have emerged — from podcasts and online learning to digital storytelling.

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Can a book club be a catalyst for social change?

In this age of e-books, Kindles and iPads, the idea of reading a book to then discuss it with other readers face to face can seem like an anachronism.

But in-person book clubs are alive and well in 2016—a quick look at the Edmonton Public Library’s website reveals an impressive list of book club meetings scheduled at branches across the city in the next two months alone.

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Get to know Trudy Cardinal

Trudy Cardinal, assistant professor of Elementary Education, has always loved books. As a young girl, she says she was the “quintessential bookworm.” As an academic today, her research interests include narrative inquiry, teacher education and the identity negotiations of Aboriginal children, youth and families in and out of schools.

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Message from the Dean – Fall 2016

With Fall Reading Week and Fall Convocation happening this month and the holidays just around the corner, it is a perfect time to pause and reflect on the significant events and accomplishments of the past few months.

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Class Notes | Fall 2016

This issue of illuminate is devoted to the theme of literacy—after celebrating READ IN Week with partners across the city in early October, we wanted to keep the conversation going and ask our faculty members, instructors and illustrious alumni to reflect on the role literacy plays in their teaching, their research and their everyday lives.

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Comics draw out classroom discussion of hate speech

For some students, school can feel like the furthest thing from a “safe space.” As anyone who has gone through the K-12 system can attest, school is sometimes a site of persistent anxiety and antagonistic social interactions that can follow students from the classroom to the home—especially in the age of social media.

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