Valleyview Secondary SD#73 Kamloops/Thompson

School Name: Valleyview Secondary

School District: SD#73 Kamloops/Thompson

Inquiry Team Members: Barb Hamblett;
Mike Faisthuber;
Corina Waage;
MJ Johnson;
Roberta Regnier;
Serena Reves;
Brandy Turner;
Eric Haffenden;
Tracy Ned;
Melody Tompkins;
Danielle Harris;
Dianne Bell;
Mark Virgo;
Jaymi Daniels:
Erin Price:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

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

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Not applicable

Focus Addressed: First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy, Social and emotional learning, Transitions

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? The focus this year has been on being, belonging and becoming by exploring well-being as a whole school community.

Scanning: At Valleyview Secondary we continue to use Téxemnem-kt to advise, guide and co-construct where we need to go next as a school community to improve Indigenous transitions for students. Téxemnem-kt, or paddling together as one, is comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff at all levels of the school organization and Indigenous students. Despite the impact of a global pandemic, this group has taken on many pieces of action this year which we refer to as “paddles in the water”.

Scanning occurred in expected and unexpected ways this year. As in the past, we reviewed the following data which helped us to understand what was going on academically for Indigenous learners at VSS. The following data is based on this current school year:
• There is no difference in course failure rates in the first half of this year between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
• Although there has been some success in this area, equity gaps continue to be found between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students when we look at those students who are fully meeting course expectations. As a District we use C+ as the benchmark indicator for those who are fully meeting expectations.

  • 8% gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous rates in ADST electives
  • 16 % gap in English
  • 14% gap in Math
  • 11% gap in Social Studies
  • 24% gap in Science

Scanning also occurred in unexpected ways.

  • During Orange Shirt Day, students in Tracy Ned’s Secwépemctsin class began to express identity as ninth generation survivors of the Residential school system through the use of blue hearts. They used the tag blue generation to help others understand the impact of intergenerational trauma. In response to this, Talise Seymour, a grade 11 student, made presentations to classes throughout the school, and with the encouragement and support from family, put her words into video which has been shared all over the planet.
    • Xeykt Xexweytep, by Talise Seymour.
    • As a scan, Talise was interviewed in order to better understand how this type of learning impacted her, and what Téxemnem-kt hoped to achieve at Valleyview. This was shared at ICSEI.
  •  Being, Belonging, Becoming: Improving Transitions For Indigenous Learners
    • Scanning has also occurred along the way. Téxemnem-kt guided two action plans or new paddles this year. The first was our response to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc’s tragic discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The second was in relation to National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Focus: We saw through Talise’s experience a connection between belonging and well-being. When given an opportunity to explore identity, she set roots into the VSS community and found her voice to educate others. How could we foster this for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students?

Hunch: There are a number of things that have come into our thinking this year that may be contributing to the experiences of our learners. Some good, some perhaps not so good. These will continue to be explored further next year:

  • A scan of all students in the first week back to school, indicated many students were feeling anxious and missed their friends. We wondered whether staff had the skills and knowledge to help students’ well-being. We asked teachers what they were doing in their own classes, and found that our collective understanding of well-being was at a surface level.
  • Well-being and Belonging in our learning environments

New Professional Learning: It was clear to us that we needed some new professional learning if we were going to begin to nurture well-being in a purposeful way at VSS. It was also very important that whatever new learning we did had to have an Indigenous focus.

As the school leader, I brought forward Jennifer Katz, Ensouling Our Schools as a resource. This was also used at the District level in the Aboriginal Education Leader Series. In particular, we focused on Chapter 7: “Addressing Mental-Health Needs with All Students”. The intent was to move this focus into a broader school context so we could support all teachers and all students. To do this a few supports were put in place:
1. Katz’s Framework on Well-Being, on page 108 of her book, was highlighted and used as a checking tool at all staff meetings from November 2020 onward.
2. Katz’s Framework was also used to guide where to go next in all instructional leaders’ meetings.
3. Professional learning this year was all centred around well-being for teachers and students.

Taking Action: Some of the ways we took action were purposeful structures used in staff meetings and instructional leaders meetings. I believe these helped to create the conditions for a strong leadership from Téxemnem-kt. Here are a few highlights that include both actions taken as part of the whole school community and those that were supported and guided by Téxemnem-kt:

  • Staff meeting learning agenda consistently focused on Katz’s Framework
  • Instructional Leaders also focused on Katz’s Framework, but also used the criteria in the Katz Framework as a way to check staff progress and see where to go next.
  • Strong examples from teachers that used learning design to nurture well-being were showcased on the staff meeting learning agenda as “Learning Bursts”. These were followed up with a connection back to the Katz Framework.
  • Nurturing Well-being by Connecting to the Community
    • The announcement at the beginning of June this year from Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc brought Téxemnem-kt together again. Collectively, the team guided a much-needed response from the school community. “Love”, “support”, “nurture” and “well-being” now had crept into our vocabulary as a school community, which aided in the school’s readiness for facing these hard truths. Téxemnem-kt co-constructed a mini learning and reflection experience for the whole school on June 3, 2021. This featured Talise’s earlier video as well as one of her peers who also has Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc ancestry.
    • A Day of Acknowledgement: Walking with Tk’emlúps Te Secwépemc Community and local First Nations
    • The response was positive from the June 3rd session. This was followed up with a video project on June 21 to celebrate Indigenous diversity at Valleyview and explore what it means to be an “ally”. This was viewed on National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD). It was a broader, purposeful step to exploring identity.
    • Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day at VSS

Checking: Again, we used some expected and unexpected ways to check to see what difference we were making.

  • Quantitative data will come in shortly, however, we have not seen much movement in the equity scan this year comparing the percentage of Indigenous students fully meeting course expectations to that of non-Indigenous students.
  • Indigenous staff and student voice is elevating at VSS
    • Tracy Ned is sharing story and language on her YouTube channel, The Smart Owl.
    • Talise and Skylah both agreed to share their artistic understanding of the impact of residential schools with the whole VSS community and beyond.
    • Staff self-identified as Indigenous in the NIPD video.
    • There has been an increase in staff who are trying new Secwépemctsin words.
  • After viewing the NIPD video, the student population was asked what 3 things they were thinking about, 2 things they had learned, and one act of reconciliation in a Padlet.
    • Almost all students had thoughtful things to say: “I am thinking about all the lives lost. I carry on my days with a heavy heart… that there are so many people that we don’t know are a part of this issue and that have stories they might choose not to share.”
    • Many students indicated that they learned, “that there are many diverse students and staff at Valleyview”.
    • Predominantly, students indicated their act of reconciliation was to “listen more, talk less.” Although this is encouraging, this response was given to them earlier. Perhaps more learning around TRC is needed for us as a school community.
    • A few racist comments were found in the Padlet, and a few used the space to post inappropriate social media links.
  •  One third of the student population was scanned using the Katz Framework for Well-being.
    • 93% of students surveyed indicated that their teachers were nurturing their intrapersonal well-being, 75% indicated they could see their interpersonal well-being was being looked after.
    • 55% felt their spiritual well-being, or sense of purpose, was being nurtured by their teachers.

Reflections/Advice: Using video to capture authentic voice is a powerful tool. These videos can be used as unexpected evidence that can reconnect witnesses viscerally to the moment when the video was taken. They are timeless artifacts that can create a sense of urgency in the scanning phase. The process of collecting story through video can also be transformational for the producer/editor because you hear the voices over and over. You will also get an opportunity to work with the humans behind those voices. You need their permission and their input along the way. This can create the conditions for building deep, trusting relationships.

Working through Indigenous transitions can be complex “heart work”. Gathering a team, (even if it is small), defining your purpose (even if you aren’t sure what it is yet), and using local language even if you need help from other language experts (especially if you need some help) will help you with your inquiry.

And finally, celebrate everything… every micro-move, every time one of your staff or students shows bravery, every time a team member takes a risk and tries something new, or speaks up to engage in a courageous conversation. This will encourage you to come together as a team and give you the energy to be creative when you are feeling you still have miles to go.

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