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LTA teacher forges partnerships to enhance learning

Students at Learning Together Anywhere (LTA) School are taking part in land-based learning and field trips thanks to the efforts of teacher Jackie Routhier, who has accessed over $10,000 in grants to support those opportunities.

“The funds have enabled students to participate in activities like swimming, bowling, skiing, land-based learning, public library visits, greenhouse exploration, visits to recreational facilities, and field trips,” said LTA Principal Brandon Isert.

A major focus for LTA is incorporating land-based learning activities from an Indigenous perspective into the curriculum including hands-on learning activities and field trips. Much of the grant funding received has been committed to enhancing these opportunities.

“This has provided students with the opportunity to develop their identity by connecting the land and its elements, listening to stories from knowledge keepers, and having rich and meaningful experiences together as we move forward on our path toward truth and reconciliation,” explained Routhier.

Thanks to a grant from TC Energy, LTA students were able to spend a day at Metis Crossing, taking part in bison base camp, Indigenous crafts and games, an outdoor walk on Victoria Trail, and connecting with a knowledge keeper. They also learned about astrology from an Indigenous perspective as well as fur trade routes and wildlife. Later this year, students will expand their knowledge in this area by visiting the Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park thanks to a grant from Pembina Pipeline.

Routhier also help established LTA as an APPLE Allies School which provides pathways for growth, advancement and exploration in the school’s physical education and healthy living programs. APPLE Schools mentor Tina Skakun encouraged her to apply for a Jumpstart Community Development Grant. The application was successful and has provided funding for students to take part in swimming lessons, skiing lessons, and snowshoeing once there is enough snow on the ground. All of these activities have also been incorporated into the school’s land-based learning focus with students exploring the water cycle in conjunction with swimming lessons, and discussing mother nature and the land in relation to skiing and snowshoeing. 

All of these activities have also provided opportunities for the students, who normally only connect with each other online, to meet in person, helping to develop friendships and social emotional learning.

After 11 years teaching Grade 4 in a traditional classroom, Routhier transferred to online learning with LTA in its second year of operation. At the time she was working on her master’s degree with a cohort from NLPS and was exploring the possibility of teaching online with a college or university.

“I absolutely love teaching at the LTA School!” said Routhier. “We have a strong sense of community that values diversity and inclusivity and celebrates the unique strengths of each student. Through daily online interactions with the students, we are able to create strong and positive relationships that contribute to student success.”

Routhier said those strong relationships and the online setting allow her to explore innovative teaching methods and approaches and create dynamic learning experiences for students. For instance, with the evolutions made in AI she is now working with students on how to use that technology in a responsible manner. In addition, she spent a week of her summer vacation learning about computational thinking so she could teach students the fundamentals of coding. 

One of the common misconceptions about online learning is that students don’t have to work as hard as those in traditional classroom settings. Routhier said while there is a high degree of flexibility in when students are learning and what they are focusing on, online learning still has the same academic rigour and expectations for students.

“The students work really hard. We have high expectations and we want them to succeed and be successful,” she said.

Jackie Routhier is the Northern Lights Public Schools’ Staff Shining Star for the month of January. Each month during the 2023-2024 school year, NLPS is featuring different Shining Stars and celebrating their contributions and accomplishments.