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Improving Education for Toronto’s Diverse Students

November 30, 2009

Annette Henry (left) with colleagues at the Toronto Institute.

Annette Henry is a Professor of Education at UW Tacoma specializing in multicultural and multilingual education.

Based upon an urgent need to improve education for Toronto’s diverse students, York University and several schools in the North York/Toronto have embarked upon a three-year partnership that involves various members of the community (staff, parents, students, practitioners, activists, administrators). In May 2008, I was invited to participate in the project as well as to provide workshops at a two-day “kick-off” institute. I was invited as someone who has conducted research on culture and learning in the Toronto schools and who brings US cross-cultural, multicultural knowledge and practitioner experience. During the institute questions of student learning, mentoring and counseling, parental involvement, curriculum, pedagogy and school organization were also addressed.

I applied for a Canadian Studies Program Enhancement Grant to continue to work and learn with my Canadian colleagues. I participated in a three-day institute with the same teachers and members of the larger community on August 18-20, 2009. The institute was hosted by York University’s Center for Community Engagement, directed by Dr. Carl James. During this visit, I participated as an ethnographer/participant observer. This enabled me to explore possibilities for ongoing researcher, practitioner, or student collaborations/exchanges (either physical or virtual) and to consider ways that my own research and teaching at the UW can be informed by the collaborative project. Importantly, it enabled me to participate in follow-up conversations with some of the teachers from last year. There were also several opportunities for intensive small-group discussions centered on specific issues with a range of community members. Over 80 people attended including York faculty, Toronto District School Board administrators, teachers, school principals, social service agencies, high school students, graduate students, mentors, parents, and community members associated with Brookview middle school, Oakdale middle school, Shoreham K-5 school, Westview Centennial Secondary school, all in the Jane-Finch Area.

This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Program Enhancement Grant, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.