Professionally Speaking welcomes letters and articles on topics of interest to teachers. We reserve the right to edit letters for length. To be considered for publication, all letters must be signed and provide the writer’s daytime phone number. Letters should be addressed to: The Editor, Professionally Speaking, 121 Bloor Street East, 6th Floor, Toronto ON  M4W 3M5; e-mail:


Remarkable Tips

The last issue's article on Chantal Hébert's remarkable teacher was not as pleasing to the eye as previous articles. It was downright drab! Go back to the previous format - it was visually attractive and made me look forward to reading about a remarkable teacher.

The Remarkable Teacher articles are my favorites and I use them to inspire the student teachers that I work with, but they would be even better if you included a photo of the remarkable teacher. It's sort of like describing the latest SUV and not showing a picture of it!

Mark Summerfield
Mark Summerfield is a retired elementary Phys Ed teacher from the Thames Valley District School Board in London.

Asperger's Syndrome andthe ISA Profiles

What exquisite irony lies in the juxtaposition of two of the articles in your Look at Special Education issue. (Professionally Speaking Dec. '02)

"Asperger's Syndrome: the Invisible Disability" is placed immediately before Special Education at the Ministry.

The first piece faithfully describes students with "the mother of all neurological disorders" as being easy to not support, because they show no outward signs of their disability. It goes on to describe successful transition programs in which extra, informed staff are provided (in an 8:2 ratio) to modify, accommodate and support these students on an ongoing basis.So far, so good.

Next comes the ministry piece, which speaks of Intensive Support Amount (ISA) grants for students with severe needs. The extra money most often buys extra staff support and is based on student profiles. Here's the problem: there is no ISA profile that fits students with Asperger's (AS).

I have spent much of the last year intensively involved in the Toronto District School Board's ISA process for students with autism. It became frustratingly clear, very early on, that students with AS are not sufficiently language-impaired to meet the "clear descriptors" of the autism profile. Naturally, they do not fit the intellectual, behavioural or physical profiles either.

Information concerning this serious omission was passed on to ministry auditors, but no changes were made to the profiles. To my knowledge, no student with AS has a successful (profile 4) ISA claim.

My own personal experience has taught me that these students, when not given adequate support, can often be amongst the most challenging to serve. Just as they have the potential to succeed, they have a high potential for (self) destruction. Despite this, it seems crystal clear that our Ministry of Education is wilfully refusing to see Asperger's Syndrome: The Invisible Disability.

Linda Stacey
Linda Stacey is a Special Education consultant with the Toronto District School Board.

Bravo Betsy Ramsay-Currie!

It was the familiar smile that caught my eye as I paged through December's issue, "For kids to be successful, they need..."

Who other than my former colleague Betsy Ramsay-Currie? For two years I had the incredible learning experience of teaching beside and below Betsy (we taught in stacked portables) while in Singapore.

When a teacher works with Betsy, they have the opportunity for daily professional development just by walking into her class, seeing the excitement of her students involved with their work and observing her teaching methods.

How can you not get caught up in the excitement of kids studying Space while they are busy tracing themselves in spacesuits on mural paper which will later be hung from the ceiling as if floating? This is Betsy!

One aspect that makes Betsy an outstanding master teacher is her willingness to learn something new that will enhance her program. For us, it was the fun we shared while learning to use the computer for developing activities.

My time spent teaching with Betsy has forever changed my approach with children. On a daily basis I smile to myself and think, I just did a "Betsy," and for my students, this is a really good thing!
Thank you Betsy for the invaluable lessons.

Mary-Lou Dunnigan
Mary-Lou Dunnigan teaches Grade 5 at St. Bernard Catholic School in Ottawa.

Paying for the PLP

The proposed fee increase amounts to a 50 per cent hike in the few years since the College's inception. I am trying to think of another part of my budget that has risen so high, so quickly. Certainly not my salary.

My drinking water has skyrocketed 400 per cent, but that was caused by the Walkerton hysteria and the government's need to make work. Hmm ... some similarity here.

Perhaps teachers on the College Council are not the best persons to make these decisions. Business is not our strong point. Ask members on the board who are in business how they behave when an agreement is made, then funds withdrawn after the foundation is laid.

If the government has pulled the plug on funding ongoing costs of the Professional Learning Program, perhaps they are no longer serious about its need. The simple, common sense, business answer to them is that if they, the government, are not willing to fund the structure, we, the College, are not willing to take part in it at our cost.

As a teacher and as a citizen of Ontario, I am antagonized to the nth degree with picking up the ball where this government has intentionally dropped it. Tell the government we are willing to do the job of running PLP but we must be paid for our effort.

John Mason
John Mason is a retired elementary teacher from North Bay.

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