Patricia Gartland has been Superintendent of Schools for School District No. 43 (Coquitlam) since 2015, British Columbia’s third-largest school district with over 32,000 students and 4,000 employees in over 70 schools and facilities. Patricia instituted what has become one of the most successful revenue-generating International Education Programs in B.C.
When I was young, I was very interested in other cultures and languages. I studied French in grade 5 and every language that they offered in high school: French, Spanish, and German. When I went to the Univerity of British Columbia, I studied German, Italian, and French Language and Literature. I also traveled for four months every summer to Europe to develop my skills in the languages. I really think that studying abroad is a key experience for all students to have to really appreciate the variety and the beauty of the world so they can learn about opportunities that there can be in life. Traveling for me really changed my life and shaped who I became.
I always was thinking I wanted to be an educator, but also be an entrepreneur. International education was the opportunity to bring those two together.
Languages and math can be a mental block for many who think they cannot learn math or a different language. But when you open your mind to it and let it in at any age, you can be very successful.
Journey as an educator
In Canada, the other official language is French. I became a French Immersion Teacher and that gave me an opportunity to speak French all day while living in Coquitlam. I never had to worry about getting a job because there was such a demand for French Immersion teachers and there still is today. I was very interested in multiculturalism and cultural initiatives. I founded the multicultural committee and wrote my master’s thesis on multiculturalism and racism policies.
I was also interested in technology and was at the district level as a Program Coordinator for Technology Implementation. I taught students and teachers how to use computers and another language, Turtle logo. Today, we see how important coding is for everyone to work in this technological world. I was Coordinator for Languages and Teacher Librarian at different times. Then I went into administration and became a vice-principal and then principal. I spent half my career at the elementary level and the other half at the high school level.
When I came to the board office, I really came for the reorganization of our district. We went from elementary (K-6), junior high (7-9) and senior (10-12) highs to the elementary (K-5), middle (6-8), and high (9-12) schools. That was a fantastic process for the development stages to meet the needs of those middle year students more effectively through the middle school model.
Coquitlam School District
Now that the world has become so globalized, language skills are really appreciated. People are realizing how important it is to know other languages and have global competencies to be successful. Global competencies, recognized by the OECD, are key to the future and include intercultural understanding, understanding the different perspectives and world views, understanding the beauty and diversity of different cultures, and being successful working with people around the world in different contexts and roles. There are studies about learning another language that develops the agility of your brain and helps you formulate your thoughts in different ways. When you can interact with people from around the world knowing different languages, you will have far more opportunities in your life.
International Education Programs in B.C.
I started the International Education Program on May 9, 1999, and am still actively involved in the program. We not only invite students to our schools and graduate, but we also have delegations from overseas on a regular basis. We offer teacher and principal training programs as well with our expert teachers. Our expert teachers have planned lessons regarding their instructional practices. British Columbia is quite well known for its 21st-century learning curriculum. Our transformation of education meets the needs of students for the class of 2030. When teacher groups want to learn our instructional practices and make learning more participatory, we devised customized programs for them. Then they study with us for two weeks to two months, visit our schools, and interact with our educators. For the staff, it is a wonderful professional development experience to learn about other cultures and practices around the world. Through that, they really hone their skills and reflect on their own practice. During summer and spring breaks, we send our teachers and principals overseas as well.
Coquitlam SD 43 – Opening Doors to Canada and the World (ENG/日本語 Subs)
Our program is unique because often universities provide teacher training programs, but they don’t have actual schools or practitioners at the universities and we do. Teachers and principals from overseas can discuss practice, observe, and see what is happening in our schools. It is valued and appreciated by overseas teachers and principals and our own teachers and principals. We customize that by grade levels and subject areas so it really depends on what their interest is. We’ve woven technology into a lot of work we do internationally with teaching and learning. That’s a tremendous interest around the world. We have a variety of programs including many in China. Our teachers have gone to Hangzhou to different schools doing presentations sharing their teaching practices, helping use technology, and how they teach English. When they return, they always say it was the best experience and professional development they ever had. The teachers and principals who come to Coquitlam go back and become real leaders in their own country.
Everyone is struggling with how to have all children succeed and to have a personalized, participatory environment for students. So it’s great to share practice internationally and figure out the best way to ensure that all children are successful. There are so many more opportunities for children especially with the importance of technology today. For enhancing student learning in British Columbia, they added another factor which is student agency. Student agency is also highlighted in the OECD learning compass. The Student Leadership council developed leadership skills for themselves and also play a leadership role in various issues in our school district. They have a real voice in our school district by attending board meetings and meeting with our board members. It is seen more and more the importance of student agency and students taking control of their own learning. They have a real voice in meeting the core competencies in the BC curriculum:
- Critical and Creative Thinking
- Communication and Collaboration
- Positive, Personal, and Cultural Identity
- Personal Awareness and Responsibility
- Social Responsibility
Students self-assess on their pathway regarding those core competencies on their report card along with traditional curricular competencies. The core competencies are important for learning across the curriculum.
Preparing for the Future
We know what elements will be there in the future, but we’re not certain how it will come together will really transform the daily experience of life. We’re sure the change is going to be exponential, we don’t know how the elements will be fulfilled. It will be tough to be reading for everything. But we can encourage all learners to:
- Be open-minded
- Be resilient
- Be good problem-solvers
- Be thoughtful users of technology
- Be concerned about world issues
- Build friendships around the world
- Try to make a difference
- Have an impact
- Be entrepreneurial
Hopefully, with these elements, we can make the world a better place.
Ms. Patricia Gartland is the CEO and Superintendent of School District No. 43 (Coquitlam), BC’s third-largest school district. Ms. Gartland has served the district in numerous roles for over 30 years. Ms. Gartland holds an Honours BA in French Language and Literature from UBC, an MA in Educational Administration from SFU, and is proficient in several languages.
Over a decade ago, Mrs. Gartland instituted what has become one of the most successful International Education Programs in BC through the implementation of her vision for the internationalization and revenue generation of the school district and its communities – “guiding global citizens, becoming tomorrow’s leaders.”
Ms. Gartland is a member of the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) Board of Directors. She has made presentations internationally on 21st-century learning and technological innovation, most recently at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Philadelphia, USA; Micro: bit Live in Manchester, UK; Microsoft E2 Educator Exchange in Singapore and Paris; BC Council for International Education (BCCIE) summer seminar; Jack Ma Foundation’s Global Forum on Rural Headmasters in Hangzhou, PRC; at the British Education and Training Technology Exposition (BETT) in London, UK; China Education Innovation Exposition in Zhuhai, China; and at Beijing International Education Exchange (BIEE)’s forum on international education. Ms. Gartland also presented at the Canadian EdTech Summit in 2018 receiving the K-12 School System Innovator of the Year Award presented by MindShare Learning. Her work and achievements have been highlighted in newspapers including the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, the South China Morning Post, and MacLean’s Magazine. She has earned the accolades of her many colleagues and peers including receiving the BCCIE Distinguished Leadership Award in 2012.
School District No. 43 (Coquitlam) https://www.sd43.bc.ca
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