Learning and Leading

Experienced teachers who want self-directed advanced PD opportunities are finding support from a new Ministry program

by Leanne Miller

This program is giving my colleagues and me the time and resources to go far beyond just learning how to use new technology. We are doing lesson planning and thinking about ways to engage all types of learners. SMART boards and laptops enable teachers to connect with the visual, the kinesthetic and the auditory learners in our classrooms in ways we never have before.”

Natalie Tessier is one of over 1,000 teachers taking part in the Ministry of Education’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) this year. A resource teacher at École secondaire catholique Trillium in Chapleau, Tessier is using a Ministry grant to become certified to use SMART boards in the classroom and will then train and support colleagues in her school and throughout the Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Nouvel-Ontario. After that, she and her colleagues will develop and share curriculum designed to integrate the technology into the Grade 9 math and Grade 10 French programs, with a focus on improving EQAO test scores.

The Ministry of Education is inviting teachers to submit proposals for next year’s TLLP. Like Tessier, successful applicants will receive funding to expand their knowledge and skills in areas where they already possess relevant background or experience and to share exemplary practices with other teachers within and beyond their schools and boards.

“Proposals should present innovative professional learning topics related to effective practices for student learning and development.”

Camille Chénier, a senior policy advisor at the Ministry, explains that the program is a collaborative effort of the Ministry and the teachers’ federations to provide for time release, learning materials and other essentials to support these self-directed advanced professional development opportunities.

College members are eligible if their primary assignment is teaching students and they are working in provincially funded district school boards, school authorities or provincial schools and are beyond the induction career stage. This includes classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, guidance counsellors, co-op teachers and itinerant or occasional teachers.

Either individual teachers or groups of teachers may submit funding proposals. Groups must be teacher led but may include other education workers such as education assistants and professionals such as social workers, as well as parents and other community members.

Chénier explains that proposals should present innovative professional learning topics related to effective practices for student learning and development. At the same time, they should focus on enhancing teachers’ learning experiences and practices.

“Teachers are encouraged to think about what would help them be better professionals,” she elaborates.

Projects or topics could include but are not limited to:

  • lesson study and the creation of an electronic resource that can be shared province wide

  • action research into innovative classroom strategies and the publication of outcomes in a professional magazine

  • deepening and sharing teaching expertise, for example, math skills and improving boys’ literacy

  • piloting competencies and strategies for teaching in a minority context

  • learning about adapting new methodologies or technologies for students with special needs and opening the classroom to other teachers in a school or board

  • equity of outcome, for example, innovative strategies to address the needs of a targeted student population

  • teaching and learning strategies in and across content areas, for example, innovative strategies to support student achievement in literacy and numeracy

  • enhancing knowledge of the world of work, for example, technology studies teachers returning to industry to update knowledge and skills

  • team impacts, for example school teams, including staff, in education support roles sharing skills and knowledge.

The program aims to take teachers beyond traditional PD activities.

“We asked teachers what kind of professional development works best for them,” says Ontario Teachers’ Federation President Joe Lamoureux. “They told us they value time to learn together and the TLLP provides exactly that kind of opportunity.”

The application process is structured. It begins at the school and moves to the school board and then the Ministry for joint Ministry and federation acceptance. Here’s how it works:

  1. Applicants develop a project proposal and complete an application form, which their principal must sign. They submit their application to their school board TLLP contact. In most cases that’s the director or another senior supervisory officer.

  2. Board selection committees comprising experienced classroom teachers, principals, federation representatives and board staff review the proposals from teachers in their board and recommend two to the Ministry. The selection committees forward to the Ministry the chosen proposals plus summaries of all the other proposals from within their board.

  3. A provincial teacher learning and leadership committee consisting of Ministry staff and teacher federation representatives reviews all project applications recommended by the board selection committees and makes the final selection decisions.

The next round of funding proposals will be due at the Ministry in late fall 2009.

In the 2007-08 school year, there were two cohorts of successful applicants representing 155 projects involving research and work by approximately 1,000 people.

Project selection criteria include but are not limited to the following:

  • the extent to which the proposal is guided by the five characteristics of effective professional learning, which are (1) coherent (2) attentive to adult learning styles (3) goal oriented (4) sustainable and (5) evidence informed

  • the extent to which the topic will affect student learning and development and reflect Ministry, board and school goals

  • the background and experience the teacher or group brings to the subject matter or the project

  • the innovative nature and quality of the proposal

  • the potential of the plan for sharing with others in the school and the board and/or other boards, as well as the potential impact for the learning of other teachers

  • the extent to which the learning and sharing outcomes can be measured.

Funds granted cover the cost of resources specific to the project (not capital expenses after project completion, such as classroom computers), teacher release time and travelling costs.

Successful applicants must:

  • attend a two-day Ministry-led leadership training session

  • carry out the activities described in their proposal application

  • participate in building a community of practice and sharing through a province-wide TLLP network

  • share their learning with colleagues and other education stakeholders

  • analyze what they have learned

  • write a report on their learning and submit it to the Ministry.

The Ministry leadership training focuses on project and budget management skills, SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) and adult learning styles for when it comes time to share research findings with colleagues.

Teachers have a year to complete their projects and submit their reports.

“We know that teachers learn best from other teachers,” says Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. “The TLLP has been designed to help our many excellent teachers further develop and share their particular expertise with colleagues throughout the province.

“Teachers learn best from other teachers.”

“As this network of professionals expands and shares its knowledge and skills with teachers in other classrooms, schools and boards, our students will benefit from their collaboration.”

To learn more about the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, including the application process, selection criteria and timelines, visit www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teacher/pdfs/guideline.pdf.

If you have questions, contact the Ministry of Education at tllp-palpe@ontario.ca.


Nathan Toft is one of the leaders of a project in Stittsville where teachers learn to help students create and use podcasts.




Students interview teacher Jane Smith for their podcast.


Current TLLP projects

Integrating SMART-board technology into your teaching to improve student engagement and learning

Natalie Tessier, a resource teacher at École secondaire catholique Trillium in Chapleau, will become certified and then train and support her colleagues in the use of SMART boards in the classroom. The goal is to truly integrate the technology into the curriculum, with a focus on improving student achievement in Grade 9 math and Grade 10 French EQAO testing.

Tessier’s school has 15 teachers and 110 students in Grades 7 to 12 and she plans to work with all teachers and students during the school year. After her own colleagues, she will work with interested teachers at her board’s elementary school, École séparée Sacré-Cœur in Chapleau. Then it’s on to Wawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Blind River to train interested teachers and support them directly in the classroom as they use the technology. Via the board’s web site, Tessier will co-ordinate the sharing of all curriculum resources developed.

For information contact Natalie Tessier at École secondaire catholique Trillium, 705-864-1211, in the Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Nouvel-Ontario.

Classroom and school podcasting

Teachers in several Ottawa-Carleton DSB schools are learning how to help students create and use podcasts as authentic applications for developing their writing, oral communication and media literacy skills. Nathan Toft and Jane Smith, teachers at A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary School in Stittsville, are leading this project.

To find out more, visit Toft’s blog at www.communit.org/community/nathan/weblog/3841.html or contact Nathan Toft at nathan.toft@ocdsb.on.ca or Jane Smith at jane.smith@ocdsb.on.ca or at A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary School, 613-831-3434.

Sharing oral language strategies – reaching out to Aboriginal/Métis families and organizations

Teachers in the Keewatin-Patricia DSB are working to reduce the gap in achievement levels between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students through community outreach to Métis and Aboriginal parents.

Board data consistently shows a gap in the achievement levels of Aboriginal students compared to their non-Aboriginal peers. As well, Aboriginal students continue to struggle to meet provincial literacy standards. To address this situation, team members are working in their various communities to share best oral-language practices with the Aboriginal community and family members.

Tanis Fisher, Carla Markowski, Candice Holmstrom, Annette Berry, Doris St. Jules and Laurie Pringle are oral-language special assignment teachers at elementary schools in Kenora, Red Lake, Ear Falls, Sioux Lookout and Dryden. The TLLP is making it possible for these professionals to come together even though they teach in schools hundreds of kilometres apart.

Their goal is to improve the language skills of children before they enter kindergarten. The team has created oral-language resource kits and connected with community daycare centres to encourage parents to speak with and read to their pre-school-age children. The funding will also help pay for transportation and babysitting to bring in as many parents as possible to work with their children.

At the same time teachers are learning more about Aboriginal culture, which they are taking back to their schools and classrooms and using with their students.

“It’s a fantastic project,” says Fisher. “We are really excited about working on it this year and are confident that it will help the children who come to our kindergarten classrooms next fall.”

For more information contact tanis.fisher@kpdsb.on.ca or call Lakewood Elementary School, Kenora at 807-468-3131.


Tanis Fisher is one of a group of teachers working with daycare facilities, like the one at NeChee Friendship Centre, to learn about Aboriginal culture and develop resource kits for parents of preschoolers.


Leading learning together

Laurie-Ann Lielkalns, Ravi Vethamany, Erin Ferguson and Andrea Gammon are working on a project they call Leading Learning Together. They teach at Chelmsford Valley District Composite School in the Rainbow DSB.

The group started by attending a 2008 summer institute on Barrie Bennett’s Beyond Monet: The Artful Science of Instructional Integration. Inspired by Bennett, group members are committed to changing the culture of their teaching. They are learning together to build their instructional intelligence and to teach more effectively by co-teaching, peer-mentoring, engaging in lesson study across divisions, grades and subjects, and working collaboratively to establish best practices and continuous improvement.

“The TLLP is giving us the time we need to research, talk and reflect in meaningful ways that will truly help improve both our own practices and student learning and success,” says Lielkalns.

For information contact lielkal@rainbowschools.ca or call Chelmsford Valley District Composite School at 705-675-0225.