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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Kern’

lighthouse

Checking in on the blogs across the district is a useful way of getting a sense of the topics that are being highlighted this fall.  I have written several times about the power our schools are finding using the blogs to connect to the community.  At some schools they serve as a news update, at others they tackle issues.  Our metrics indicate they are very well read.

Here is just a sampling of the topics and issues that are being discussed this fall:

Bowen Island Vice-Principal and Program Builder for the outside45 program Scott Slater recently looked a the challenge and opportunities of going deep on a particular topic and the value of extended field experiences – all particularly relevant with the recent release of new draft curriculum in B.C.

Is it worth it?

We assess the value of things constantly.  Is it worth the cost?  Is it worth the time?

For teachers, the latter question, “Is it worth the time?” is an ongoing concern.

Teachers look for a balance between spending enough time on topics so that students can thoughtfully and thoroughly understand concepts, and retain this understanding for the long-term, with obligations to teach many learning outcomes deemed important by the BC Ministry of Education.

Students are also asking the question is it worth it?  Is it worth my attention?  Is it worth my effort?  If a teacher spends too much time on a concept, student interest might decrease; if they do not spend enough time, retention may not occur.

A regular topic on this blog has been the work in our schools with self-regulation. Irwin Park Principal Cathie Ratz recently did an excellent job of outlining the work and the changes, in this area at her school, now in its third year of focusing on self-regulation:

So what is different?

We have been looking at our classrooms and students through a different lens. We have become aware of the need to include regular breaks for our students. We are examining what and when students eat and drink.  Transition times, going from one lesson to the next or moving from one room to another, are used as opportunities to get some sensory work or refocusing done. Staff is also working hard to reframe how they see behaviours. These understandings are then used to help students identify early signs that they need to choose a strategy to help them self-regulate. This comes naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. It has been great to learn as a team and use the new information to make a difference in how we teach and how students learn. Staff is explicitly talking about and teaching to everyday opportunities and challenges. Self regulation is embedded into our daily work. Our teachers are having rich conversations and asking thought-provoking questions. What can we do to help students flourish? What stressors and triggers are within our classrooms that impact student learning? What strategies might be effective in dealing with these stressors? What tools and resources are available?

In her post, Zombies in Front of Screens?  Not Even Close!, West Bay Vice-Principal Brooke Moore tackled another theme that permeates the district – the thoughtful inclusion of digital tools in our classrooms:

Authentic audiences spark a sense of meaningful work and pride in their learning that simply isn’t there if students are asked to present their learning on a poster that gets hung in the school hallway. (Of course, for younger students, the hallway audience can be just as exciting as they are eager to share their work with parents and friends.) Teaching students how to engage safely in conversations beyond our walls is of absolute importance and allows for authentic “teachable moments” about cyber safety as an extension of their learning work through technology.

This shift towards students bringing a laptop to school as part of their school supplies is provoking some thoughtful conversations and it all comes down to both parents and teachers wanting the best for students. That’s a pretty great conversation to be having.

For Pauline Johnson Vice-Principal this fall has been a bit of deja vu – as a former French Immersion student now back teaching in a French Immersion school.   He is finding himself reflecting on his previous student experiences as he returns to teaching Immersion:

I also remember how as students we were constantly encouraged to speak French beyond regular classroom interactions; in the hallway, the gym and on the playground.  As a teacher, I find myself in that same position, pretending not to understand when a student asks me a question in English until they ask me in French.  If only my former teachers could see me now?  Strangely enough some of my past teachers have been able to see me now, former PJ teacher M. Yin and the mother of Mlle. Macdonald were both teachers while I was at Cleveland Elementary and Handsworth Secondary.

Director of Instruction Gary Kern’s work has been highlighted in the blog a lot recently – he deserves much of the credit for the leadership behind digital devices for teachers and creating flexible ways for classes to experiment with Bring-Your-Own-Device Programs.   His latest post looks at the power of active engaged learning:

As we want students to experience learning that is more actively engaged and applied, we need to design learning experiences differently. Students need to be curious and inquisitive (inquiry) and they need the tools to explore divergent ideas and to dig deeper into areas that will be unique and personal (digital access). Inquiry and digital access can help us move our students learning become more active and applied.

Our other Director of Instruction, Lynne Tomlinson has been leading our district’s work with the Squamish Nation.  She recently reflected on Reconciliation Week:

West Vancouver School District sits on the Squamish Nation traditional territory.  It is our responsibility to teach our students about the history of this place and its people, including the Residential Schools and their impact on many of our Squamish community members.  With the help of our Squamish colleagues, including Rick Harry (Xwalcktun), Bob Baker (Sa7plek Lanakila), Faye Halls (Yeltsilewet), Wes Nahanee (Chiaxen), as well as Deborah Jacobs (Snítelwet), Head of Education for the Squamish Nation, we are working to improve our curriculum and program implementation with an authentic focus on the indigenous principles of learning.

With a large population of non-aboriginal students in West Vancouver, it is important to improve their knowledge of local culture and history. Aboriginal Education needs to become a part of the regular curriculum so that it is more embedded in daily work.  This year, we will continue with our goal to increase our students’ understanding of First Nations’ issues seen through the Aboriginal lens.

Namwayut.

These are just a sampling of the stories that our staff are telling for their school communities and the world.  And while they offer insight into their individual schools – they speak to so many of the larger themes of the district:  self-regulation, inquiry, digital access.  They also cover other emerging areas of growth including our relationships with the Squamish Nation and the power of outdoor learning.

It continues to be an honour to be part of a community that takes the risk to share and reflect in the public space.  Blogging is not an easy task, but the stories help grow our community.

The entire West Vancouver social media community can be tracked here – all in one place.

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BYOD Blog Photo

In some ways, this is a follow-up or companion piece to my post last week when teachers have mobile devices in the classroom, on our findings and efforts to ensure digital access for all of our teachers.

While this has proven to be very powerful for teachers, our next step is around finding access for all students.  In a previous post, I shared some thoughts around BYOD and Equity (an issue I think is crucial when looking at getting devices into students’ hands).

In West Vancouver, student access is growing; in some elementary schools students have regular access mainly from devices they bring from home.  In other schools it is less consistent with pockets of classrooms having students on devices.  One key piece of learning we have realized over the last three years is if students don’t have purposeful reasons to use their device in class they will often stop bringing it.

So, before one announces that “everyone will bring a laptop on Monday” there are ways to work toward changing and improving that experience.  The challenges around the recent iPad rollout in Los Angeles schools are a good reminder of the complexity of these kinds of initiatives.

So, what we did rather than focusing on embracing devices and changing practice for the entire year, was to focus on trying it with support for a two- to three-week period.  We tried this last spring and have plans to do it again this fall.

Here is a brief overview of the project:

There is increasing support that access to digital resources and tools combined with inquiry teaching and learning practices improves student engagement, learning relevancy and academic success.  A challenge in today’s classroom is the inconsistent access to digital tools: some students have access some of the time, some have no access and only a few students have access all of the time. Building on the opportunities from the recent Modernization initiative, the Digital Access Action Research project is aimed at understanding the impact of “ubiquitous” or pervasive student access on learning and teaching.

The Digital Access Action Research project is looking for interested Grades 4 to 9 classrooms willing to try “ubiquitous access” for a two- to three-week period.  This would include:

  • Sending home a district letter to all parents asking them to provide a digital device for their students during that period. The device can be an iPad or a laptop. For those who do not have a spare device at home, the district will provide a device the student can use during the project.
  • Attending a morning session (TTOC included for teachers) prior to the start of the project to plan for the action research and to determine how best to utilize the opportunity that every student will have digital access whenever and wherever they need it.
  • Ensuring the students use the device when appropriate during the school day and to have the device taken home at the end of the day
  • Completing a follow-up summary around lessons learned and challenges from the project. This will provide a better understanding of the opportunities available through digital access as well as what challenges we continue to face.

There are many details to consider with this project, including:

  • When the students should and shouldn’t use the devices
  • How to shape the learning activities to benefit most from the digital access and minimize distractions
  • How to secure the devices when not being used
  • How to problem solve technical problems and challenges

If we want to move towards digital access for students, it is not a proclamation of change — even if students bring devices, very little in the classroom may change.  That is why our thinking around this is although some classes and schools are full speed ahead, in other situations we need to scaffold this change and start with  projects like this action research.

So, here is what we found:

1 to 1 action research v2

Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, has also blogged more about these findings here.  There is not a ‘one size fits all’ model around our work. In fact, this particular project has shown that sometimes, before we make big changes, we have to take some smaller steps. Before we say all students need to bring devices for the year, let’s try it for three or four weeks; before we say that teachers need to change their practice to embrace the digital landscape, let’s support them through doing it for a unit.  And, we were also reminded the power of digital access is its interplay with inquiry and innovative pedagogy.

Many of the classes that were part of this trial in the spring have moved to having students bring devices all the time this fall – it is a bit of a continuum.  It is great to say that “all our students have devices” but if nothing else has changed what really is the point?  It will be interesting to see our next group of action researchers take up the challenge this fall.

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Last year, we began a program that can best be described as “classroom modernization” across the district.  Our Board of Education recognized the importance and education need for the modernization and made a commitment through its budget to support the purchase of technology to support the professionals in our classrooms.

The first decision we made was to ensure all teaching staff had access to a current, mobile device.  While often the focus is on ensuring all students have access to current devices (a continuing effort in our district) we realized that if we wanted classes to be engaging with digital tools, teachers needed to have access and feel comfortable with them as well.

The next decision was to give teachers a choice in their devices.  Just as learning is personalized for students, we know that teaching is different and personalized for each teacher.  In previous practice, when (if) we gave out the technology, we would have given everyone the same technology and lockdown the device — with device management being the priority.  Instead, we gave teachers choices that included iPads, MacBook Pros, PC Laptops and PC Tablets.

Another key component of this modernization push has been to install wireless projectors in all of our classrooms from Grades 4 to 12 (and deploying existing projectors to primary classrooms) so teachers could then easily display their screens.

Last and most important, we created ongoing training opportunities and support for teachers with their devices through centrally run training, and access to innovation grants –  teacher teams can now work together in an area of focus and often with digital technology.

Of course,  the projects are more complex than one can cover in a single post, but the general premise was simple — we want all teachers to have a common set of tools across schools and grades to effectively work with students.

And after the first year, this is what we heard . . .

Modernization Update

Thanks to Gary Kern for the infographic

83% of teachers said, “it had a positive impact” on their teaching and more than 85% found the impact on student learning to be “somewhat” or “very positive”. They highlighted a variety of positive impacts on their classrooms; their ability to use current content and resources; the opportunity to be innovative and to demonstrate learning in multiple ways and to be able to communicate this to parents. Some comments from teachers about key benefits included:

“It has allowed me to connect with colleagues and parents more efficiently.  It has allowed me to show videos and images to the classes I teach and has given me a great tool to plan lessons.”

“It’s great having my own laptop that I can use at a moment’s notice.  I also really appreciate being given the choice of platforms.”

“I compose lesson plans, assessment and correspondence on the device.  It is the hub of my teaching practice.”

“I move around the school a lot – so having a device that can come with me has made my job significantly more fluid.”

“My courses have gone completely paperless and I am able to incorporate virtual learning on  many levels.”

“I’ve been able to make using technology seamless.”

Of course, there have also been good lessons for areas of improvement and for better support throughout the process.  The exponential growth in technology has strained some of our wireless networks and choked our bandwidth — both areas we are currently working on to address.  We also realize each teacher has a different learning requirement, comfort level and expertise with technology, and for personalizing their teaching.

A modernization project is never quite complete. But, in giving our teachers the tools they need to teach, it has made a huge difference for our students in their quest for relevant, current and connected learning opportunities.

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tedimage

IF YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS POST VIA EMAIL YOU MAY HAVE TO OPEN THE POST IN YOUR BROWSER TO VIEW THE EMBEDDED VIDEOS.

In April, I wrote about TEDxMania sweeping West Vancouver when we hosted two amazing events, TEDxWestVancouverED and TEDxKids@Ambleside. What has become so powerful about the TED and TEDx presentations is that they take on a life of their own on the Internet. Full credit and thanks to the teachers and administrators who organized the first event and to the elementary school students who organized the second one. Also, a huge “Thanks” to so many students who assisted with the video production — a great example of “real-real” learning.

I have previously written about my experiences – Hopes and Dreams for My Kids Schooling, but I would also like to highlight some of the other presentations from both events. Each one (presentations were a few minutes to 20 minutes) is well worth watching and sharing.
Here are a few presentation highlights by West Vancouver School District Staff at TEDxWestVancouverED:

Provoking thoughts from Gary Kern on what he wanted for his grandson, Jackson:

Scott Slater reflects on the process of change and the implementation of Outside45:

Kelly Skehill gives a changing perspective of math:

Zoltan Virag shares his passion around music education:

Other videos from the day include (click on the link to open the video):

Lauren Bauman (WVSD student) – Accidental Learning
Bruce Beairsto – A Framework for Professional Learning
Qayam Devji (WVSD student) – How Teachers Can Help Students Achieve Big Ideas
Tracy Dignum (West Vancouver parent) –Rethinking Memory & Retention of Learning: Tips for Parents
David Helfand – Designing a University for the New Millennium
Ron Hoffart – Environments for 21st Century Learning
Katy Hutchinson – Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflict and Build Relationships
Dean Shareski – Whatever Happened to Joy in Education?
Shelley Wright – The Power of Student-Driven Learning

Turning to TEDxKids@Ambleside, a couple of videos I would like to highlight:

Kevin Breel – his presentation: Confessions of a Depressed Comic has already be viewed more than 100,000 times at the time of publishing this post:

Alex Halme gives a first hand account — from a student’s view — of the differences between the Canadian and Finnish School Systems:

And again, there are so many wonderful videos worth watching and sharing, and you can see them all from the day here.

Once again, congratulations to all those involved, particularly Craig Cantlie and Qayam Devji. I know people are already excited about TEDx returning to West Vancouver next spring.

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562px-Lighthouse_Lighthouse_Park (1)

I want to check back in and share some of the work going on in West Vancouver.  I last blogged about Some West Van Stories in November.

Director of Instruction Lynne Tomlinson got a boost for her most recent post on our district arts showcase – The Lighthouse Festival – when Sir Ken Robinson shared the post with his 167,000 Twitter followers.  Lynne highlighted the diversity within the arts at our schools:

The festival is indicative of the many programs offered in our district.  The variety of the performances provides a rich schedule of entertaining events as each teacher’s program is unique and highlights different aspects of performing arts.  We have enjoyed performances including: spoken word, theatre, choir, soloist, band, pop musical, flash mob and varied dance.

And she concluded, “This is public education at its finest.” – So true! It is great to expose the larger community to the great work in our schools, and give our students the opportunity to share their work with the “real world”.

Fellow Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, recently shared some of the initial feedback around our 1:1 Action Research.  There has been the good, the challenging and also the surprising.  Included on the surprising list from teachers:

  • It surprises me that people feel that students having 1:1 access to technological devices at any time at school is anything but to be expected. Many have their own iPads, or iPods in their backpacks. At home, although they often must share devices with other family members, all of my students have access to technology almost anytime.
  • How fast it is to find information (instant) when we are discussing things in-class
  • How much having google images supports our ability to “see” what we are learning
  • How many options exist/how many things we can DO with technology to show what we know or find things out
  • For educators too, tech opens up endless teaching and learning opportunities that far-outweigh the frustration of slow Internet, missing chargers, and access denied messages!
  • I was surprised when a teacher said, how can the students take notes from my lesson if they are ‘playing’ with their devices.  I figure the students take snaps and vids when they need to. A paradigm shift needs to be made here.
  • It surprises me that children think that computers are smarter than they are. When they figure out that they are in fact in the driver’s seat of these powerful tools and that the sky is the limit, they begin to see and think over the rainbow!

Sticking with technology, Caulfeild parent Andrea Benton wrote a guest post on Principal Brad Lund’s blog sharing her thinking as to why she supports and encourages the use of technology in their school.  Her post inserts itself into the discussion of what is the right balance in elementary school.  She argues:

Some people believe that technology shouldn’t be in schools. For me, this is short-sighted.  Schools shouldn’t be teaching for today but should be educating students for the jobs of tomorrow. This includes project management, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration. Technology is here to stay and it is only getting more complicated.

Hollyburn Principal Val Brady recently used her blog to nicely outline the WHYs and the WHATs to writing in elementary school.  Her useful post looked at the purpose of writing and what has been changing:

The philosophical underpinnings of teaching writing have shifted over the years. Developing student skills in writing is still important, but engaging students in writing for real purposes leads to joy in writing and at the same time develops communication skills that will serve students a lifetime.  Whether students put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, engaging in writing for real purposes gives voice and structure and develops thinking ability.

For West Bay Vice-Principal Tara Zielinski, a lot of focus in her class has been on Exhibition - the final stage of the PYP experience for grade 7′s:

In one sense, it’s a rite of passage.  However, after having both participated in and led Exhibition for five years now, I know it is so much more.  There have been and will be moments when our students feel like I did on the zip-line platform – fearful, intimidated, and adverse to things they have not yet faced.  Writing a Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry over and over demands resiliency.  Collaboration requires reflection and metacognition. Interviewing experts takes organization and calls for effective questioning skills.  However, each year it is one of the most rewarding components of my job to observe and support our learners as they integrate the essential elements of the PYP and more than six weeks of intense erudition into a final presentation.

At Pauline Johnson, they have just been through the student-led conferences, and Principal-designate Chantal Trudeau shared her thinking around their power:

The student-led conference is a wonderful opportunity for the students themselves to take ownership of their learning and to show their parents and guests what they have learned over the course of a term. Students invariably feel pride in what they have accomplished. They feel independent, confident and important as they read their favorite stories, lead their parents in the calendar routine, show science experiments or Social Studies projects.  Research shows that student-led conferences is a method that better helps students improve their learning, improve parent engagement, and get higher learning results for our students

Ridgeview grade 7 teacher Cari Wilson shared the story of her students inspirational meeting with Molly Burke:

One of the big privileges that comes with being in Grade 7 is the ability to join your school’s “Me to We” group. Last week many students in School District 45 joined thousands and thousands of other students in Me to We’s “I am Silent” day. It is a day of silent protest and solidarity, designed to bring awareness to the plight of the millions of children worldwide who are not listened to. The children who have no voice.

This year, on the day before “I am Silent” day, 5 lucky Grade 6 and 7 Ridgeview students got a chance to meet Molly Burke, a remarkable young Canadian who although blind has found her voice and is using it to inspire young people.

And finally,  also with a large serving of inspiration, West Vancouver Secondary Principal Steve Rauh had his blog taken over by John Galvani a grade 12 student in a wheel chair:

I am John Galvani, I am 17 and I am in a wheelchair. For my Global Education class I organized for wheelchairs to come to my school. I wanted to spread awareness and education about what my life is like in a wheelchair by giving my class the experience of being in a wheelchair for the day.

I contacted BC Wheelchair Basketball Association and arranged for them to deliver 10 wheelchairs on April 10. Ten students volunteered to be in a wheelchair.  They went to their classes, recess, lunch and some even went to P.E.!

We should do this for all grades so that they can see and feel the challenges that people in wheelchairs go through everyday.

Lately I have been seeing a lot of what I do as being the amplifier of good ideas – whether that is done face-to-face or in the digital world, my job is to tell our good stories and connect and network them to others.    And, there are lots of good ideas to share!

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We tried to stop them, but they just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

As a follow-up to my “real-real” learning post (here), last week I had the chance to spend some time with four Sentinel Secondary students, Adam Mitha, Justin Wong, Jun Jeagal and Sailesh Suri, to hear a story, firsthand, of what this kind of learning looks and feels like.

Supported by their teacher, Joel Gibson, the four young men, former classmates in Joel’s Information Technology class, were inspired to develop an “App” for the school that could easily match any created by experts in the field. They didn’t get paid, they didn’t get school credit, but it was some of the best learning they had ever experienced. In my conversation with them, they expounded about the 300 hours of coding, developing and designing that went into the finished product that has just been loaded to iTunes here (it is a free download).

So, just why did they do it?  They wanted to leave a legacy for the school. They described it as a mostly an out-of-school project, but they loved it because they were doing stuff they wanted to do and were interested in learning about. They emphasized the role of their teacher, Joel Gibson, “saying, I believe in you, is the best thing a teacher can do.”  When Joel saw the group needed to obtain more technical expertise for some parts of the project, he connected the students to experts from within and outside the system. Along the way, he connected them to the school PAC and others who could help.

Of course, as I stated at the beginning of this post, we didn’t make it easy for them. We (the system), limited some of their access to computers, were slow to support them technically, and made it challenging to move forward. They said that it was a good thing they had Mr. Gibson to mentor and guide them, but also, that they were part of the hacker culture. The hacker culture, as they described it, is “doing things over and over again. At school, the culture is that you do it right the first time.” One student remarked, “I had 30 failed projects before this one.”

I have been inspired by their inventiveness, determination and passion. How can we help students balance this kind of work with school, or better yet, how do we make this type of work systemic to the work of the school?  These four students were pursuing their passion, creating real work of value, and they were learning — for the benefit and reward of learning.

Often, this type of informal learning can be incredibly powerful. While our current structure does limit this “real world” opportunities, students like Adam, Justin, Jun and Sailesh, describe these as often the most exhilarating school experiences.

Be sure to download the fabulous Sentinel App:  HERE


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Trying  to do something new or different can be a real challenge sometimes.  Last week I had the opportunity to teach a class to students at Gleneagles Elementary School and West Bay Elementary School, and to share my story about how I started blogging. I also had the opportunity to learn about their work and their own digital writing.  The work at Gleneagles is part of a teacher inquiry project that focussed on the following question:

Will students include more meaningful detail and perspective in their weBlogs by focusing on social issues as their ‘purpose for writing’ and will continuous feedback, in the form of threads, lead to deeper understanding of a given issue?

The classroom was both face-to-face and virtual, and teaching students I couldn’t see was new and challenging.  Teachers are accustomed to reading a student’s body language, and receiving cues from the class.  Half of the students were in front of me at Gleneagles, but the other half were viewing the class on-screen at West Bay via Lync, and it was a one-way video.  The students could ask questions, but I didn’t feel the same connection as when they are in front of me, in a room, or at least when I can see them on video.

Of course, the whole topic was quite new for the students as well.  We all agreed that even two years ago, there would have been no way we would be having a conversation about digital writing and blogs; what it meant to have a personal brand, and what kind of topics we would write about if we were going to share our ideas with classmates, or the world.  Out of the presentation came a number of excellent questions:

  • Why do you blog versus using an alternative platform to share your message/knowledge?
  • Where do you get your ideas/inspiration for your many blogs?
  • How do you create an effective blog?
  • Where/how do you find the time to blog so frequently?
  • When you started blogging, were you inspired by anyone/anything in particular?  Do they continue to influence your thinking?  If so, by what/whom?
  • Do you follow other bloggers and use their techniques/messages as a model for your own?
  • How do you decide on the graphics, pictures, and links you embed when there seems to be so many to choose from?
  • How often do you post?  Why?
  • Do you believe the good connection with your readers is because of your transparency as a writer?

It is a different way to think about writing, and I often say that I think in blog posts.  When I sit in a meeting, I write my notes around themes that may later become posts; I can think of the visuals that might go with the words, and this is so different from only a few years ago.  I have started dozens of posts, which may or may not become a blog at some point, but they have helped me organize my thinking.  While I write about one post a week, I think about hundreds. It was great to hear students discussing the stories they would like to tell, because we all have stories; we all have our own powerful narratives to share.

Toward the end of the session, one of the excellent discussions was about commenting. I offered that when I comment on other blogs I try to expand on an idea raised by the writer, perhaps give a different point-of-view, or add additional information the writer, or other readers, may find interesting or valuable.  I am hopeful some of the students who participated in our session last week will do just that with this post — extend and reach out with all of your learning.  So, what did you find interesting/valuable? What are you going to do next?  What questions do you still have?

Thanks again to the students of Gleneagles and West Bay for your engagement.

Thanks also to Colleen Denman for session photos, and all of the teachers and administrators who were involved in organizing and setting up the session.

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