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Technology Enhances Learning at King's
Teens who attend King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville, Ontario, love going to school.  What do they like best?  Their teachers.

Visitors to the expanded facility at King's Christian Collegiate are typically amazed when they first enter the independent high school in northwest Oakville, Ontario. " 'Wow', 'this is beautiful'...I had no idea' - these are the kinds of remarks we hear," says Director of Admissions Sharon Roebbelen, who conducts two or three tours of the school on an average day.

King’s mathematics teacher Melissa Kirkpatrick uses SmartBoard technology to communicate concepts and enhance learning.

But the important work at King's is taking place behind the scenes – behind the classroom doors – it's the committed Christian teachers who are doing the truly impressive work, Roebbelen explains, "I recently interviewed a dozen of our students, a few from each grade. I merely asked them to describe their experience at King's. Without exception, the first thing out of their mouths was some complement about their teachers. Words like 'amazing', 'incredible', 'awesome' – this is how these teens were describing their teachers. Everyone loves the gym, the art studio, the weight room, the SmartBoards, the atrium, the food – but it's the teachers who are really impacting these young lives."

Strategic hiring has been the key to success, according to King's Principal Jim Vanderkooy. "We have a rigorous set of qualifications and qualities that shape our hiring practices," explains Vanderkooy. "In terms of qualifications, a King's teacher must be fully certified – that's a given. We seek out committed Christians who enjoy living out their faith through their work. We look for specialists in the subject areas and programs we offer. So if we're looking for a Math teacher, we look for someone who not only majored in Mathematics, but is passionate about the subject.

"We also look for teachers who love to teach, who understand the art of teaching and are gifted in it. And we look for people who love teenagers and enjoy working with them – whom the students can consider role models."

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The strategy has worked. King's students recently achieved a 99 percent success rate on the Ontario literacy test, compared to the provincial average of 84 percent.

Technology is a key component of a teacher's daily life at King's, with SmartBoards in every classroom. Vice-Principal of Administration and Information Technology Rick Dykstra elaborates. "Every teacher is provided with a laptop and prepares their lessons using technology to enhance student learning. The SmartBoards combine with interactive software to display the material on live and interactive whiteboards so that each lesson can be displayed and then modified during the class. Notes and assignments can then be uploaded through the school's online communication system and students can access all this from home."

To ensure that the teachers are continually improving their skills, Research and Development sessions are part of the weekly routine. Academic Vice-Principal John De Boer explains, "We require our teachers to be on the leading edge of research and technique when it comes to their craft. So we carve out a two-hour period every Friday morning for R and D – we bring in specialists, we share best practices, we refine teaching and assessment strategies. It's an effective way of keeping us all sharp."

And the best part of the deal, as far as the students are concerned? They benefit from an extra hour and a half of sleep each Friday morning while their teachers are hard at work. "The Friday morning "sleep-in" has been an appealing feature for the students, to be sure," says Roebbelen. "But the teachers are still our greatest asset."

Ken Bosveld is the publisher of The Beacon.

Originally published in Beacon, March/April 2008.

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