Newsletter December 2011

Math and where
we go from here!

By: Dave Najduch, WTA President

Over the past few months, the Vice-President and I have deliberately visited elementary schools during the CAP season. We have continued to hear concerns from the membership related to the implementation of the new Math CAP as we move from school to school. The topic does not want to disappear. For me, the membership comments have more resonances now than ever given the recent media attention that is being focused on the teaching of math across the province.

Some of what I understand about CAP …

The Math CAP has been around for over a decade in both the old and the new format. If it has been successful at improving the teaching and learning of math in the WSD there would/should be mountains of data in the division to support this. I believe if the data does exist, it will not demonstrate a significant improvement in student learning or we would have heard about it by now.

The old Math CAP and now the new Math CAP is very time intensive for teachers who are already very busy. Teachers understand that assessment is important. The problem with CAP, in general and the new Math CAP in particular, is that many members still believe that the assessment component takes significant amounts of time away from the preparation of teaching materials and the instructional component. Even with the WSD insistence that CAP is part of regular classroom instruction, some members continue to believe that a child will have lost almost a year of instruction time from grades 1-6 because of the implementation of the CAP.

CAP (both Math and ELA) provides mountains of information about individual children. The problem continues to be at what price? (Loss of teaching time and learning time with no clear increase in student performance.)

The WSD has held steadfast to the CAP process. Their belief is that good assessment drives good instruction which improves student learning. On the surface this belief is an excellent model for teaching. The problem continues to be an almost pathological focus on the assessment component at the expense of the instructional component. How might student skills have improved in a clearly measurable way if the WSD spent the last decade focused on improving the instruction of ELA and Math rather than putting all of the time, human resources and money into development of the CAP assessment tool?

The feeling among some of the membership continues to be that those driving the CAP issue have lost touch with the realities of the classroom. The CAP process is seen as a top down, central office based initiative. The WSD will argue that teachers have had input in the development of the process through surveys and committees. The problem is that many members who work with students feel their voices, concerns and ideas are not reflected in the divisional-decision making process related to CAP.

The recent media discussion related to the teaching of Math and the reporting of educational progress from the Council of Ministers of Education will probably add to the current discussion related to student learning across the division and the province. The WSD focus may require a lot less time and energy spent looking at the assessment component and much more time and energy committed to the improvement of instruction across the board.

Where do we go from here?

It might be time for the WSD to seek the input from those who are working with students every day in the classroom. Ask the classroom teachers what they need over the next 6 months, the next year, and the next five years to improve the instruction and learning of Math and English Language Arts across the division. Use a professional outside organization to seek their input. The rationale for using an outside organization is that many members are afraid to “speak truth to power” as it relates to the CAP. Have the outside organization ask the hard questions and then publish the results for everyone to see. Once the information has been obtained, take action. Provide the supports and resources that classroom to improve instruction.

Finally, the WSD needs to let the CAP go as it currently exists. Keep the portions that work and reduce significantly the portions that do not. Once again, ask the teachers, they will tell you what needs to stay and what needs to go.

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments, concern and questions about this or any other topic of interest. Please take the time to e-mail me if you have specific comments either positive of negative about the CAP in general or the new Math CAP specifically.

The Winnipeg Teachers’ Association Social Event

(Open to WTA Members ONLY)

Hosted by The WTA’s Reception Committee


Location: Rumor’s Comedy Club
190-2025 Corydon Avenue
Date: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Time: Doors open at 6:00 PM.
Comedian: Kelly Taylor
Cost: Free for WTA Members

Only 118 Tickets available!

Burger and fries or a vegetarian option will be served.
Please e-mail Kyle Le Blanc no later than February 15th, 2012 to reserve your ticket. Please indicate if you would like burger and fries or vegetarian meal. Dinner will be served from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. Menu and drink list available upon request. Tickets available on a first-come first serve basis.

Reminder: Call For Nominations For the 2011/2012 WTA Executive Election

The Executive Nominating & Elections Committee is calling for nominations for the 2011/2012 WTA Executive. If you are interested in running for a position on the Executive please contact the Association office at 831-7104 or Fraser Oakes, Cecil Rhodes School.

What is the WTA?

The Winnipeg Teachers’ Association represents all teachers, including substitutes, clinicians and lab assistants in The Winnipeg School Division. The Association negotiates for its members with the Winnipeg School Board. The WTA actively supports the well-being of all members through various committees such as Teacher Welfare, Professional Development and Public Relations.

Who can be an Executive member?

Any member who indicates their willingness to run for election to the Executive when the call for nominations goes out. Candidates may be asked to speak at the Election Forum during the March WTA Council meeting. The new Executive year begins on June 15th.

What will I do if elected?

All Executive members attend a retreat/workshop to become familiar with current issues and to determine (based on interest and experience) which committee they will Chair and/or sit on. There are committees which require less time and are ideal starting points for new members.

What is the time commitment for an Executive member?

There is one Executive meeting per month. The meeting starts at 4:30 PM and runs between two to four hours (supper is served.) There is one Council meeting per month commencing at 5:45 PM. Committees meet at times determined by their mandate, or need, and can vary from two to three times per year to once a month.

What do I get out of it?

Some rewards are extrinsic. Members are reimbursed for travel to Executive meetings and for dependent care. The opportunities for Professional Development are many and all are encouraged to take advantage of them. Substitutes are paid for by the Association when individuals attend PD opportunities.

Some rewards are intrinsic. Members of the Executive play an important role in achieving improvements in the working lives of teachers. They gain an insider’s view of the politics; negotiations and goals of those involved in education throughout the Province. Executive members know that they have helped all their colleagues by serving their Professional Association.

Is that all?

No. You will get to work with a group of fun-loving, hard-working, supportive people who may soon become a group of trusted friends.

For further information please contact either the Association office or Fraser Oakes.

Dental Plan Benefits Coverage

Plan Covers:

  • spouses of eligible contracted teachers/lab assistants
  • dependent child under 18 years of age
  • dependent child under 25 years of age if fulltime student
  • dependent child who was incapacitated for a continuous period beginning before age 18 or while a fulltime student and before age 25

Annual Deductible:
$15.00 person/$30.00 family. If both spouses are WTA members the maximum deductible is $30.00 in a calendar year. (Note: There will NOTbe a deductible holiday for 2012.)

Annual Benefit Maximum:
Routine and major combined = $2,500.00 per person
Orthodontic = $1250.00 per person
Total = $3750.00 per person

Any Routine or Major Treatment expected to cost over $300.00 and all Orthodontic treatment must first be submitted to Great-West Life.

Great-West Life Office Mailing Address:
Winnipeg Benefit Payments
P.O. Box 3050
Winnipeg, MB
R3C 4E5
Phone: 942-3589
Plan No. 51001
The 2012 Dental Fee Guide is in effect as of January 1, 2012.

Routine – 100% Coverage Major – 60% Coverage Orthodontic – 50% Coverage
cleaning, bitewing x-ray, fluoride (limit twice in a calendar year) crowns, bridges, implants, dentures, etc. correction of malocclusions of teeth
oral examinations replacement of prosthodontics (dentures, etc.) if appliance is at least 5 years old appliances
full mouth x-rays (once every 24 months) procedures involving gold if no reasonable substitute at lower cost could be rendered observation adjustments
extractions repairs
fillings bands
dental surgery (excluding orthodontic or extensive procedures) consultations
diagnostic x-ray and lab work
general anesthesia
endodontic treatment (root canal)
periodontal treatment (gum disease)
treatment for relief of dental pain
injected medication
space maintainers (not used for orthodontic
consultations – relines, rebases and repairs to existing dentures
pit and fissure sealants (up to age 19)

Benefit payments for orthodontic treatment are spread over the treatment period.

General Information

The Distinguished Service Award Application form is available under the “Forms” section of the newsletter. If you are interested in nominating a WTA member or an “Honourary” member for receipt of the Award please fill out the application form and forward it to the WTA office by: February 15th, 2012.


The following electoral units were absent from the November 2011 WTA Council meeting: Absent: Adult EAL, Andrew Mynarski, Children of the Earth, David Livingstone, Garden Grove, Inkster, Isaac Newton, J.B. Mitchell, Kelvin, Luxton, Montrose, Mulvey, Norquay, R.B. Russell, Rockwood, Sacre Coeur, Shaughnessy Park, Support Services, WAEC, and Wolseley.

The views expressed in all articles in this Newsletter are not necessarily those of the Association.

School Visits

Nathan Photo

By: Nathan Martindale, Vice-President

The primary role of the WTA Vice-President is to chair the Negotiations Committee. Our contract has been ratified, copies have been signed by both the WTA and the WSD and a digital version of the Collective Agreement will soon appear on the WTA website. With those formalities nearly complete, I am turning my attention to one of the many “other duties as assigned” (several of which Dave is pleased to “assign” me!).

One task is to co-ordinate the school visits for the President and Vice-President. This job involves both logistics (keeping track of which schools have been sent the initial letter regarding the visit, the schools that have confirmed the suggested date of the visit and the location of the meeting) as well scheduling (we don’t schedule visits on staff meeting days, Admin/PD days or other days where staff would be otherwise unable to meet). With over 80 locations where WTA members work, this is no small task!

Having grown up in Winnipeg School Division’s North District, I am very familiar with the schools I attended (Ralph Brown, Isaac Newton and Sisler) as well as the schools I worked as an Educational Assistant (Lord Nelson, Sister Mac and Inkster), where I student taught (Faraday, Ralph Brown and Strathcona) and where I worked as a teacher (Shaughnessy Park). When planning school visits, I recognize the names of the schools, but realize I had not been inside the majority of them! Therefore, one of the personal rewards of school visits has been viewing the inside of schools that I had never been in before and being able to associate the name of the school with its physical presence. The other reward is meeting WTA members as I am a people person, and I enjoy visiting with teachers I already know though friendship, university, or other connections. I also enjoy making new connections with people, so don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and chat!

During our visit, various topics are discussed that are of interest to our members. Currently, the new Math CAP, Provincial Report Cards, and WSD technology have been hot topics. As Collective Bargaining chair I also give a report on the current status of Negotiations. We ensure that members are given an opportunity to ask questions and raise topics they feel strongly about. School visits also play an important role for allowing the membership to make personal contact with the WTA leadership.

If we have not yet made our visit to your school, we will be there between now and the end of May. Please ensure that you attend this meeting as there is important information presented. A colleague may ask a question that you also would like answered or a colleague could ask a question that you may have never thought of asking, but the answer could still be helpful to you.

The WTA utilizes the website, the newsletter, Council Meetings, and Council Reps to spread important information. School visits function as another crucial component in communicating with our members.

To our members we have visited thus far – thank you for taking the time out of your lunch hour to attend the meeting. To the members we have yet to visit – we look forward to meeting you!

Helping Is What We Do

By: Winston Blakey, WTA Group Benefits Committee Chair

I remember when I began my teaching career not too long ago. I was a young man confident in the ways of the teenager and figured I could handle anything. During my first practicum, I remember my cooperating teacher and I picking up .22 bullets from the floor at the end of the day along with several baggies of an illegal green substance.

Upon return to university, I shared this experience with my classmates. We talked a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a teacher that year. We shared some crazy stories about breaking up fights, students throwing any object they could pick up (pens, pencils, chairs, books, toys, you name it and they could throw it), the language some students used to express any level of displeasure (or pleasure) and many other experiences that made us wonder about the profession we were getting into.

In hindsight, I think we were more worried about being unprepared for the day-to-day worries than we were of anything else. How would we cope with the daily pressure of all the expectations being placed on us; ranging from students, parents, administrators, colleagues, consultants, along with the curriculum always floating in the background?

My first year of teaching was full of self-doubt, anxiety, worry and tears. Thanks to an incredibly supportive team leader, three brand new teachers survived. We went through our first year together with a mentor like no other. He gave us the answers we needed to hear and the Kleenex when we needed it. He helped us write report cards, countless referrals, incident reports, accident reports and all the other paper work in our job.

Today, a few years later, I see new teachers struggling in some of the same ways and more. They now struggle with Adapted Education Plans, Individual Education Plans, Behaviour Plans, grant applications to have funds for classroom activities, daily interruptions by students and colleagues, expectations to be involved in an extra-curricular activities, meetings, technology failures and the increasing expectations of our employer to do more (often with less).

We face new and varying challenges everyday. These challenges are amongst the many aspects that make our career special. They keep us on our toes. They make our lives interesting, but can simultaneously increase the feelings of self-doubt in a new teacher. If you have the privilege of working in a building with a teacher new to the profession, take the time to say hello. Ask them their name. Ask them what they’re teaching or whether they need anything. Bring them a cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps invite them to your classroom for a homemade lunch. Listening to them might make their day and encourage them to ask for help. Helping is what we do.

Winston Blakey