Southern Okanagan Secondary School SD#53 Okanagan Similkameen

School Name: Southern Okanagan Secondary School

School District: SD#53 Okanagan Similkameen

Inquiry Team Members: Rachelle Goncalves
Tracy Harrington

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Transitions (focus on Indigenous learner transitions)

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Other: School Community, School Culture, Indigenous Understandings, Reconciliation

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, Transitions

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Ultimately our focus emerged as determining the needs of Priority Students, developing a plan for addressing these student needs, and ensuring that our team had a systematic plan to help all of our students by attempting to reduce and eliminate barriers and provide more culturally inclusive events.

Scanning: What needs are considered critical for these students? How can we, as the school community, support these Priority Students to ensure physical and emotional wellness? (additional Indigenous counselling; working closely with the Band to provide additional supports – Sonya coming on Fridays for academic and SEL support)

What barriers are in place? How do we identify and minimize the barriers that are in place due to cultural and family considerations? (lack of technology/ WiFi, food disparity, intergenerational trauma affecting families who have not started the healing process yet)

How can we determine a student’s individual sense of academic success, and then help guide and support them in reaching this goal? (recognize success is different for everyone; allow different ways to show success; allowing more time; never giving up on them as we know that sometimes we don’t see the change until much later…. sometimes years later)

  • Success might be getting the counselling they need so that eventually they will be able to focus on school.
  • Success might be elbow bumping kids for doing something awesome or phoning parents when a Priority student passes all their classes when there was some concern that they weren’t going to.
  • We are tracking 5 & 6 year completion rates of our learners; paying more attention to this is having a positive impact on our learners.
  • Now there is more focus on grade 7 to 8 transitions as well – more 1:1 time and multiple meetings to connect with the community and parents.
  • Make all kids feel like they belong – more cultural activities including the whole school (i.e. Red Dress Day, Orange Shirt Day, June Indigenous Month) and doing language every day.
  • More understanding for staff and students around Truth and Reconciliation – through Professional Development (i.e. guest speakers, Knowledge Keepers – Helen speaking at Staff Meeting, and Anona Kampe speaking to S.S. classes.

Focus: Our focus has emerged as we have a lot of Priority Students who are not being successful at school. By focusing on the specific needs of these priority students, we were hoping that these students would find success at school and gain the feeling that school is important and that they belong.


  1. Need to look at each student individually – What are their needs? Strengths? Challenges?
  2. Need to recognize the impact caused by intergenerational trauma – What does it present like in school (i.e. showing up but not going to class; refusing to do work; Difficulty building relationships with others; etc.)?
  3. We have a number of our young students (Gr. 8 & 9) who are using drugs & alcohol daily – extremely worrisome. There are extremely high levels of anxiety for some. The trauma and violence that some kids have seen is incredible.

New Professional Learning:

  • Trauma informed practice, Indigenous focus for Pro D; learning on the land
  • Learning more about the Calls to Action
  • Staff meetings to discuss – will build it in moving forward

Taking Action:

  • Indigenous Advocates made activities more inclusive (whole school) – Orange Shirt Day – and gave more background information… same with Red Dress Day and National Indigenous Day….
  • Gratitude Circle as final exam in EFP – letter from parent- not all success is shown on a report card
  • Notes of appreciation, kindness
  • Multiple days on the land – learning outside


  • Very difficult – seems like not many “wins” this year
  • We did have a student go into treatment after 2 years of challenges
  • Additional academic supports – math boost
  • Getting to know our learners better – what do they need to be successful

Reflections/Advice: We have reaffirmed the fact that understanding each student — where they are coming from and how we can help — through focusing on understanding Intergenerational Trauma and it’s impact on families and what healing could look like, along with understanding Truth & Reconciliation as a school community (teachers and students), can help our students be successful. We will continue to focus on grad rates, but more importantly listen to student voice; what do the students value and how does our school community support their learning and their lives as they move towards healing and experiencing success.

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