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Recently retired longtime teacher receives national recognition

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Melanie Beebe stands with students in the outdoor gardens at École Oriole Park Elementary

A recently retired teacher at École Oriole Park Elementary has been recognized at a national level for her excellence in teaching.

Melanie Beebe has received a Regional Certificate of Achievement from the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM. She was nominated by the school’s Principal Lori Irvine.

“It’s an absolute honour to be recognized,” said Melanie. “Many names belong on this award. I have to give many people credit for this award because I couldn’t have done it alone and without the support I had from admin, my colleagues, parents, students, and the community.”

Melanie, who retired last June, began her teaching career in 1992 in Edmonton before spending the last 13 years in Red Deer Public Schools. “I’ve worked with some incredible teams throughout my career who have created some rich learning environments for students,” she said.

Teaching was always something she knew she wanted to do after having experiences in the educational system following the completion of her Bachelor of Science in Psychology Degree.

“I have always loved kids. I love their energy, and I love that they just give,” said Melanie. “Something that was really important to me was to create a classroom that was safe and caring where students felt that I loved them.”

She said she was fortunate enough to spend many years of her career in a French Immersion setting.

“Giving kids the opportunity to learn a second language is a gift. It opens your mind to learning a whole new language and a new culture,” she said. “French Immersion is challenging as it adds a layer in education, but students learn to problem solve and to work as a team, so I think it adds a good layer. It gives them a gift at the end of their school career in that they can converse in a second language.”

Some highlights of Melanie’s career include the Rethink Red Deer Capstone Educational Program which saw students plant and harvest vegetables at the Capstone Gardens beginning in the spring of 2022.

“I think giving kids opportunities and experiences to do different things really helps them grow and learn,” she said. “I saw this as a really exciting opportunity outside of the classroom and it was something that was hands-on. I saw a real difference in my classroom when we started the gardening project. My classroom changed and the kids became really cohesive and became a team.”

The project received national recognition in that Melanie and her class won the Canadian Geographic Queen’s Jubilee Classroom Challenge grand prize for their community involvement in gardening and native plant research.

“All of these successes came about through teamwork and collaboration,” she said. “The food that we helped grow was donated to the Red Deer Food Bank and Mustard Seed. It was an adventure in global citizenship and community involvement.”

She was also instrumental in bringing the Northern Coding Academy to Oriole Park. The program, funded by the Government of Canada’s CanCode program and administered out of the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, saw online instructors guide students in a 10 week coding school.

“It was an incredible technology learning experience for all of my Grade 5 students and for myself. This project incorporated the Social Studies Canadian history curriculum, French Language Arts, English Language Arts and Math,” said Melanie. “Students learned to code video games with Makecode Arcade about historical figures and moments in Canadian history.”

For Lori, she said nominating Melanie for the prestigious award was a no-brainer.

“When a teacher steps up and goes that extra mile and looks for opportunities to connect students to the community like Melanie did through the Capstone Garden Project, and when you have a group of students who you want to do right by each and every day, that is what Melanie does, and that is deserving of recognition,” she said. “She ran a very respectful and rigorous classroom and taught her students first and foremost to be good human beings. Academics are very important, but Melanie wanted to ensure her students were good people in society, too.”

 

Education

Bad student visa policy is no solution for bad student visa policy

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From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Ken Coates

Making matters worse, a Statistics Canada report released in November of 2023 found that the number of postsecondary students actually enrolled at Canadian Universities was 20% to 30% smaller than the total number of individuals with international student visa’s.

Post-secondary education is in turmoil, thrust into the headlines by the Government of Canada’s decision to cut back on international student visas and work permits. The near panicked response by colleges and universities across the county has attracted attention. The federal decision is poor public policy, with flawed timing, significant negative impacts, and potentially serious long-term implications. But the ‘solutions’ implemented in January 2024 are a classic example of using bad policy to address bad policy.  The fallout from this mélange of policy decisions could severely damage Canadian post-secondary institutions and the Canadian economy.

Governments, colleges, and universities have come to rely on international students, now numbering close to 1 million in Canada, particularly their tuition fees and the money that they bring into the country. The tuition fee revenues freed governments from the obligation to provide adequate funding to post-secondary institutions. Colleges and universities, for their part, used international student funding to avoid difficult, painful decisions related to the level of provincial support (the territories are not strongly affected by these processes).

The current controversy reflects more than a decade of poor and ineffective federal policies. Canada opened the gates for immigration, reaching unprecedented levels of refugees, formal immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of international students. Making matters worse, a Statistics Canada report released in November of 2023 found that the number of postsecondary students actually enrolled at Canadian Universities was 20% to 30% smaller than the total number of individuals with international student visa’s. Pointing to significant abuse of the study permit system, the report states, “It is unclear whether [the international ‘students’] stayed in Canada and, if so, what their main activities were.”

Our rapidly rising population is now blamed, not always accurately, for a serious national housing shortage and sky-rocketing prices, particularly in the major cities. The international student debate highlights the shocking shortcomings of the nation’s approach to housing and the absence of a thoughtful plan for population growth and rapid urbanization.

Bad federal policy is more than matched by poor provincial decisions, particularly in Ontario.  The Liberal and Progressive Conservative administrations in Ontario have underfunded colleges and universities, dramatically so, relative to the other provinces and territories.  Frozen tuition fees only added to institutional fiscal challenges. Several provinces, again led by Ontario, doubled down by authorizing many for-profit private colleges, most operating in league with public universities and colleges, to recruit international students. At the provincial level, the influx of international students, coupled with high tuition fees, masked the deficiencies of provincial funding, leaving underlying financial challenges unaddressed.

Colleges and universities had bad policies of their own.  Without the government funding to meet their salary, administrative and capital costs, post-secondary institutions became addicted to international student fees, the crack cocaine of advanced education.  Dozens of colleges and universities, enrolled thousands of international students, feeding the bottom line but increasing the reliance on international students and high tuition fees.  They assumed, over-optimistically, that the steady flow of international students would never slow, let alone stop. They are now paying the price for that miscalculation.

Some institutions, particularly small institutions in northern and small-town locations, eve established satellite facilities in big cities to capitalize on strong student demand and to supplement small and stagnant enrollments on the home campus. International students and satellite operations were lifelines for institutions that would otherwise be in severe difficulty.

The Government of Canada’s response to the convergence of multiple bad policy streams consists of additional bad policy decisions. International student visas have been slashed by 35% and student-friendly work permit arrangements have been cut back dramatically. Canada’s once wide-open doors for international students have been partially closed.  A carefully cultivated reputation for being receptive to foreign students has been degraded, if not dismantled, in one quick federal move.

The federal policy, announced with seemingly little coordination with provincial authorities and institutions, is a plainly political move, an urgent step taken by a Liberal government reeling in the polls. The decision was released in January 2024, at a key stage in the international student cycle. Colleges, public and private, are vulnerable to dramatic shifts in enrollment and they now face catastrophic losses of income. The implications go much further.  Residences will want for students and employers of the eager international students will struggle to find replacements.  Many college and university faculty and staff, particularly vulnerable short-term and sessional workers, will likely lose their jobs. And the national economy will lose out on a big portion of the billions of dollars spent annually by the international students.

The problem has been years in the making. The government may have been trying to make up for lost time but the hasty federal decision has already had an impact. Colleges and universities are already reporting sharp drops in applications. The message that Canada is no longer friendly for international students is out globally. The damage to student enrollment might be greater than anticipated.

A more appropriate approach would have been to announce a gradual reduction, starting in 2025, giving the colleges and universities time to adjust to a potential fiscal disaster. Another sensible alternative could have been to take aim at the abuse of the student visa system and to ensure those who entered the country under a study permit were actually enrolled in and attending classes. Bad policy often comes from knee-jerk reactions to political processes; good policy takes careful thought and, often, time.

Canada’s large international student recruitment industry brought billions of dollars into the Canadian economy.  Thousands of students worked while they studied and made successful transitions to permanent resident status.  Many people who came to Canada as high fee-paying students have become Canadian citizens and taxpayers.  The students followed the rules, as did the colleges and universities that capitalized on clear and long-standing government policy. The federal and provincial policies may have been poorly designed and inappropriate, but governments set the parameters and expectations and shouldn’t punish others for their shortsightedness.

Bad policy, to be succinct, is no solution for bad policy, but that is what is happening to international student education in Canada.

Ken Coates is a distinguished fellow and director of Indigenous affairs at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a professor of Indigenous governance at Yukon University.

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Entertainment

Hunting Hills High School presents Ranked The Musical

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Students at Hunting Hills High School are excited to bring a relatable musical to local audiences next month.

Ranked, The Musical runs March 13-16 at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer. The show is rated PG.

“We looked at a number of different shows and we knew we wanted to do something contemporary,” said Piper Rempel, Director. “The show is extremely relatable in that it talks about struggles that teens go through with their parents, school, expectations with friends, anxiety, learning how to balance life and fitting in.”

Because the show is not as well known as past productions, Piper said students had to dive in head first, and as rehearsals have evolved, they have lived up to that challenge.

“We have really talented kids. Our poster design, our technical design – it’s all things the kids have to come up with,” she said. “Our pit band is playing parts that have never been played before. It’s all really incredible to see.”

About 70 students between the cast, tech and pit band have been rehearsing since last fall.

“When we introduced the production to them, they were surprised because it wasn’t a big name,” said Taryn Martinek, Choreographer. “We told them there were lots of reasons that we picked the production, and as soon as we started rehearsing they got it and they have never looked back.”

Both Piper and Taryn encourage the community to come out and support the students as they bring this new story to Red Deer.

“People can expect for songs to get stuck in their heads – it’s great music you have never heard before,” said Piper.

Taryn added the production was a risk, but it has been extremely rewarding to see it unfold. “We want to get the community out and take the risk with us,” she said.

For tickets or for more information, click here.

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