Bernard Constant School selected for unique literacy initiative

Bernard Constant Community School on James Smith First Nation has been selected to be part of the Model Schools Literacy Project (MSLP), which is part of the Martin Family Initiative.

“To be a part of a national program, especially one of our former Prime Ministers, it’s an honour in itself and it places recognition for the efforts of our teachers and school. It emphasizes the opportunity for addressing literacy within the boundaries of our school,” Randy Constant, director of education for the East Central First Nations Education Partnership, said.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin founded MFI, which works with Indigenous People to develop new approaches to the education and well being of their children. MFI focuses on bridging gaps by weaving Indigenous knowledge together with the most current research and evidence-informed methods.

In November 2019, First Nations schools from across Canada were invited to apply for the Project as Cohort 3 schools. According to Constant, the application was made through the work of many teachers at the school including the literacy catalyst teacher Christina Lorentz.

In a release, principal Cecilia Twist said the school was proud to be selected for the program.

“Our students Kindergarten to Grade 3 will enhance their learning in (English Language Arts). Students and staff at Bernard Constant Community School are so very excited to be part of this unique opportunity. We sometimes can’t even believe we were selected as one of the schools out of all the applications that were submitted,” Twist said.

“We’ve already placed a significant focus on literacy the past few years, and truly believe this program will help assist our children in thriving when it comes to literacy,” she added.

According to Constant, the school is already having success with students well within range of reading at grade level but every little bit helps.

“The opportunity to address and emphasize our successes both in the nursery, kindergarten and the primary years of Grade 1, 2 and 3 is going to provide the foundation for our students as they continue with their education in the later years,” Constant said.

The purpose of the MLSP is to ensure that First Nations students read and write well enough by the end of Grade 3 to support continued school success. This is because reading proficiency by age 9 or 10 years predicts high school graduation in schools around the world.

For the next six years, Bernard Constant Community School and the community will continue their ongoing initiatives in early literacy and work in partnership with MFI and the other partner schools.

“We are looking at a commitment of at least six years so I anticipate great things from this added resource for our school and it’s a tremendous opportunity for our community to address literacy, not only for our school but also for our nation (James Smith First Nation),” Constant said.

Each school day will begin with 100 minutes of reading and writing for Kindergarten to Grade 3 children. Through innovative use of technology, teachers and principals will be engaged in group professional learning and will work with the other schools and the project team across time, distance and First Nations.

 “The past three years, BCCS has made a significant contribution to increasing literacy scores at the school. I was hired to be the literacy catalyst for the school and was provided with two literacy tutors/e.a’s to ensure that all students who need intervention receive it,” Lorentz said in a release.

Constant thanked all the people involved in the application process including Twist, Lorentz and the Kindergarten, Grade 1, 2 and 3 teachers at Bernard Constant.

 “The opportunity now to address literacy on a national level is in our midst and we expect great things from participating wholeheartedly in this endeavour,” Constant said.