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Creating a dialogue about what it’s like to be a new teacher.

The Rookie Teacher

What is Literacy? 1

Posted on July 09, 2012 by Andrew Blake

I am taking the AQ Reading Part 1 over the summer and have decided to blog some of my ideas and the discussion questions being addressed in the course. Our first discussion question was:  Define literacy. Comment on how literacy has changed in the 21st Century and what we as teachers need to consider to be effective literacy instructors due to that change.

Here’s what I think…

I strongly believe that in the traditional sense, literacy can be defined within the realm of reading and writing. However, I believe in the 21st Century we must adopt a more generalized sense of the term, as the mode of literacy changes. I believe in a definition that encompasses the interpretation and creation of communication. We hear of Media Literacy, Critical Literacy, and Technological Literacy. It is the ability to absorb and internalize a message someone is creating (reading) and it is then interpreting that message and creating a response in a variety of forms (writing, oral communication, texting, slogans, etc). In that sense we see Literacy as the ability to infer and interpret images as well as text. In fact Literacy in the broadest sense could be defined as the intake of information, images, signals and then the production of more or new information to be passed on to others.

When we were sitting at my staff meeting yesterday and examining our strategic goal we spent a lot of time discussing a general goal we could apply to JKs to Grade 8s and the connection between image and text as all literacy comes from an image.

clicking away! by eirikso

Clicking away! by eirikso, flickrcc.net

One change in the mode of communication in the 21st Century is the accessibility to a variety of modes of writing.  The Internet and other technology has allowed millions of ideas to be published on a second by second basis with little to supervision or accountability. Even 30 years ago if I had an idea I wanted to write down and show other people I would have to go through the publishing process with countless edits, re-writes and the potential for rejection. In 2012, I can, in less than 10 minutes, share my ideas with the world regardless of validity, quality and restraint. I am by no means criticizing the ability for people to publish their creative, genuine ideas which are truly incredible when you think of all of the things we see on YouTube, Blogs, Facebook on a daily basis. I applaud the accessibility to publish information. However, the concern can exist that we as educators need to teach our students the ability to think critically when looking for information and asking themselves questions like who wrote this, what is their message, which voices are heard or not being heard. We have to teach on the basic level the ability to distinguish fact and opinion in order to ensure our students are able to successfully navigate the massive resources at their digital fingertips. We have to teach children to read for the deeper meaning, which is a daunting task at best.

What is your definition of Literacy?  Comment below, join the discussion on Facebook, or send us a tweet @RookieTeacherCA.

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Being a Rookie means Being Busy 1

Posted on May 03, 2012 by Natasha

3 février 1975 ...  flickr: Môsieur J. [version 7.0.1]

"3 février 1975 ..." || flickr.com: Môsieur J.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret…

When you’re a Rookie with your 1st class…you’re awfully busy!

<wait for it>


In my opinion – it’s a good thing.

It means you’ve done at least 3 things:

  1. You worked really hard to get a Long Term Occasional or Permanent job (university, more university, AQ courses, resume building, interview prep, volunteering, networking, etc…)
  2. You’re working really hard to engage students in rich learning tasks, foster a love of lifetime learning, build community in your classroom, motivate students to be leaders and collaborate in a variety of subject areas, and reflecting on your practices as a teacher (this lesson worked, this one could have used ____, next time I’ll probably leave out _____, etc…)
  3. You’re maintaining your reputation, building new professional learning networks, and getting involved in your school community

So, if things are a little slow around TheRookieTeacher.ca … you know why… we’re busy little beavers.

We would love to hear your stories…How do you find the new workload? How are you preparing for a new job? Let us know in the comment section below.

ps. please feel free to pass this blog post along to your friends/family members who haven’t seen you in a while (maybe they’ll better understand life as a new teacher)

<See you in The Lounge>

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What’s behind the food we eat? 2

Posted on March 08, 2012 by Sarah

Here’s an update on what we’ve been discussing in my Pedagogy of Food course at OISE. First of all, we have a severely broken food system. Do you ever think about just where did your orange come from? Was it handpicked in a developing country? Was the worker paid fairly? How old are they? Are they happy? We partook in a mindful eating experience that reflected on these questions while also slowly, mindfully experiencing one raisin at a time. This blindness is called commodity fetishism. It’s an unhealthy attention to a commodity without regarding the social relationships that brought the commodity to us. It’s a product of our economic and political systems, creating a veil so we are unable to make informed decisions as consumers. We are unaware if the

The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard by lyzadanger

photo: lyzadanger, flickrcc.net

orange was picked by a child or by a woman who was sexually harassed. These types of veils are found everywhere in systems that affect us everyday, but when a small handful of corporations control the entire food distribution of the world, it becomes quite worrisome and dangerous. A phenomenal amount of money is spent selling and buying food, eating out, transporting and storing food, yet such a public necessity stays in a fairly private light, rarely being discussed. So what can we do as educators? Help foster critical thinking! Encourage, nay, praise questions! Excite students to make a difference and challenge them to form values and stand up for what they believe in. Model what active, citizen engagement is and have conversations about food. Plus, the only way you can inform others is to inform yourself.


An excellent resource for more information is “The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food” by Toronto author Wayne Roberts. It’s an essential read for everyone!

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Pink Shirt Day: Anti-Bullying Awareness Campaign 0

Posted on February 29, 2012 by Natasha


In Nova Scotia students banned together to stop bullying.  It all began when a grade 9 boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.  Bullies used homophobic slurs to taunt this boy, for wearing pink.  David Shepherd and Travis Price, two grade 12 students, were sure to stand up and speak out against the bullies.

Article from the CBC.


In Victoria, BC, Canada over 600 students and teachers from Reynolds Secondary School, Arbutus Middle School and Cedar Hill Middle School staged an anti-bullying flash mob on the grounds of the BC Legislature. The students danced to “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga.

For more information, news, and resources visit PinkShirtDay.ca.

A great PDF about The Bully, The Bullied, & The Bystander.

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Occasional Teacher Mini Series: Planning/Prep Coverage: The Lounge Podcast: Episode 7 7

Posted on February 20, 2012 by Natasha

The Lounge is a biweekly podcast brought to you by TheRookieTeacher[dot]ca.

Welcome to our Occasional Teacher Mini Series.  On this episode, two RookieTeachers discuss Life as Rotary (Planning/Prep Coverage) Teacher: When you only have 40 Minutes.  It’s no secret that as rookies, most of us will begin our careers as a supply teacher, 0.## contracts, planning, rotary, long term occasional teacher, etc. Chances are that you will begin your permanent (or LTO) in a part-time contract with prep coverage, even .18, is better than nothing!  Listen in to hear Andrew share his experiences as a French Teacher, including: his classroom management strategies, the routines he built, and how he manages assessment and evaluation for ~200 students.


Each episode features three segments:

  1. Topic Discussion
  2. Quick Tip for Tomorrow
  3. The Rookie Resource Bank

Topic: Life as a Rotary (Planning/Prep Coverage) Teacher: When you only have 40 Minutes

photo: creativeorganizing.typepad.com

photo: creativeorganizing.typepad.com

Quick Tip for Tomorrow: Something you could do the next day in class with little or no prep and is applicable to most grade levels.

  • Andrew: Magazine Boxes (for yourself, for students who require accommodation, and to keep your students organized). As a bonus, you can have students decorate them (according to The Arts: Visual Arts curriculum). There are many DIY magazine box projects on Pinterest.com.
  • NatashaPermanent 4-corner sheets (put them in page protectors with butterfly clips for easy transportability)
The Rookie Resource Bank: any electronic, print, or event resource that we found helpful in our first few years of teaching.  Of course, these are all applicable to all teachers.
  • AndrewIndex Cards on a Ring (assessment/evaluation strategies, observation notes, handy to pass off to someone else). Option: colour code them!
  • Natasha: CDs (or websites) that come with resource/text books – USE THEM!  Often contain lesson plans, printables, assessment/evaluation strategies
Quick Shout Outs
  1. New Teacher Chat <#ntchat> on Wednesdays at 8:00pm EST on twitter > twebevent.com/ntchat [using this website saves you from having to add the hashtag to each post]
  2. Thank you to all the guest bloggers who have submitted an article to the site – we really appreciate your support and willingness to share your stories and experiences
photo: Neon Mic by fensterbme

photo: Neon Mic by fensterbme

Rookie Teacher Online
We are always looking for ideas, feedback, tips and tricks of the trade.  Find us on Twitter @RookieTeacherCAFacebook.com /TheRookieTeacher.  If you are looking to get involved with our team, please contact us!

Thanks for listening. Join us for our next episode when we discuss So, you’re the new one, eh?

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Breakfast for the Brain: Quick Tip for Tomorrow 0

Posted on February 13, 2012 by Natasha

“That’s not a word!

Of course it’s a word.
And unless I’m very much mistaken, I think it’s going to prove a
rather useful one.”

If you’ve listened to The Lounge Podcast, then you’re familiar with our segment called “Quick Tip for Tomorrow.”  This segment is dedicated to building a list of quick, simple tasks that you can do in your classroom the next day with little to no prep AND is applicable to most grade levels.

I wanted to share my most recent post from my classroom blog where I touch on Breakfast for the Brain (problem of the day, morning challenge, etc):

Friday, February 10, 2012.

Each morning when students from 5-1 arrive in the class, we take 10/15 minutes to settle in, sing O Canada, listen to morning announcements, and work on a problem of the day, called “Breakfast for the Brain.”

Today, was Musical Friday!

Because I am a musical buff – I was excited to see where this challenge would take the students.

Recently, I saw the Broadway musical, Mary Poppins…and I just knew that this song would be a PERFECT activity for students.  I developed this Breakfast for the Brain activity with the idea of a word study in mind.  Students were required to use their knowledge of letter combinations and sounds to spell out:


photo: N.Dunn

photo: N.Dunn

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Communicating in Math 1

Posted on February 10, 2012 by Michelle

Why is communication important in mathematics?

Communication is an essential piece in the learning process – it provides students an opportunity to justify their reasoning or formulate a question, leading to gained insights about their thinking. In order to communicate their thinking to others, students must be given authentic tasks to reflect on. Through cooperative learning, students can learn from the perspectives and mathematical processes of others. Further, they can learn to evaluate the thinking of others, building on those ideas for their own assessment.

Check out this Scholastic webinar on “Connecting the Literacy and Math Challenge”.

Teaching Strategies for Mathematical Communication

1. Math Word Walls

The purpose of the Math Word Wall [MWW] is to identify mathematical language that students need to understand and use. If they are unfamiliar with this vocabulary, they will struggle to effectively apply strategies in the problem-solving process and will have difficulty communicating their thinking with others.

♦ Introduce math vocabulary using relevant objects, pictures and/or diagrams. Visuals are KEY!

♦ Clearly explain word meanings and make connections frequently

♦ Do not teach math vocabulary in isolation — use open-ended questions to helping students understand mathematical ideas and model how to use mathematical terms correctly.

Check out these MWW resources – ideas for math walls and mathematics word wall

2. Children’s Math Literature

Using literature in math can spark students’ imaginations, helping to dispel the myth that math is dull, inapplicable, and inaccessible. Reading about math can help reach at-risk students who struggle in the mathematical process, opening their minds to the ever-present phenomenon in their world that is math!

  • Integrate the curriculum — teach mathematical concepts and skills through literacy
  • Helps to motivate and engage students in problem-solving experiences connected with real world
  • Addresses different learning styles and helps to promote an appreciation for both math and literature

Check out these resources for teaching mathematics through literature —

Math in Children’s Literature

Living Math Book List

Children’s Math Literature

Math Book List

Children’s Literature in Mathematics

 3. Writing in Math

When students are encouraged to write in math, they examine, express, and keep track of their thinking, which is especially useful for assessment and differentiation. To enhance and support their learning, students must first understand the reasoning behind writing in math. Further, they need to understand how to write in math – explain and model mathematical writing using details such as pictures, numbers, and words. Students’ writing can be used as springboards for classroom ‘math chats’, highlighting different approaches to problem-solving.

Be sure to provide writing prompts

  • What do you think? What idea do you have?
  • What are you confused about?
  • What did you learn?
  • Describe what was easy and hard for you.
  • What type of math concepts do you find interesting?  Why?
  • When I hear this math word, I think….
  • If I could ask for one thing in math, it would be…
  • Tell me about your prediction.  Were you right or wrong?
  • What strategies do you like to use the most? The least? Why?

Check out Writing to Learn Math to get started with journaling in your math class!

4. Math Talk

When students are given an opportunity to talk about math, they are better able to clarify their own thinking, ‘talk out’ misconceptions, and learn from others’ problem-solving strategies. It is the role of the teacher to facilitate these discussions by engaging students in sharing and listening, questioning and responding, and agreeing and disagreeing. During ‘math chats’, the teacher can further assess students’ understanding of concepts and redirect or differentiate instruction based on the students’ immediate learning needs.

However, the classroom must be a safe and inclusive learning environment so that students feel comfortable to share and make mistakes publically. Students need clear, highly set expectations on what ‘doing math’ looks like, sounds like, and feels like in the classroom. Once the ground rules for respect have been established, then authentic mathematical dialogue and collaboration can evolve…that’s when the real learning begins!

Math think-alouds can engage students and help them to make their way step-by-step through the problem-solving process. Best of all, they can be used quite effectively both in school and at home! For more on getting students to talk, check out these Math Teacher Tools!

Watch as these students from the Calgary Science School ‘talk math’ – thanks to Amy Park for sharing!

– – –

How do you […or will you] encourage communication in math in your classroom?

Original post at The Learning Journey Blog


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Occasional Teacher Mini Series: The Supply Teacher: The Lounge Podcast: Episode 6 0

Posted on February 05, 2012 by Natasha

The Lounge is a biweekly podcast brought to you by TheRookieTeacher[dot]ca.

Welcome to our Occasional Teacher Mini Series.  On this episode, two RookieTeachers discuss The Supply Teacher. It’s no secret that as rookies, most of us will begin our careers as a supply teacher, long term occasional teacher, 0.## contracts, planning, rotary, etc. That’s why Natasha and Andrew discuss supply teaching tips, routines, and networking, we look into the classroom teacher’s perspective, and finish off with a bag ‘o tricks for the occasional teacher.

Roscoe Considers Recording a Podcast

photo: zoomer, flickrcc.net


Each episode features three segments:

  1. Topic Discussion
  2. Quick Tip for Tomorrow
  3. The Rookie Resource Bank

Topic: Occasional Teacher Mini Series: The Supply Teacher

Quick Tip for Tomorrow: Something you could do the next day in class with little or no prep and is applicable to most grade levels.

  • Andrew: Conferencing Notes (Supply): Create a sheet that works for you that shows the classroom teacher who you helped, gave advice to etc.
  • Natasha: Mix up seating arrangements with colour strips
The Rookie Resource Bank: any electronic, print, or event resource that we found helpful in our first few years of teaching.  Of course, these are all applicable to all teachers.
  • Andrew: Centralized Digitized Media Services from your school board
  • Natasha: iTunes playlist

photo: suneko, flickrcc.net

Quick Shout Outs

  1. Any feedback you can give us for TheRookieTeacher.ca or The Lounge Podcast would be greatly appreciated > it’s as simple as commenting on the blog, sending us a tweet, posting to the FB page, or emailing us
  2. #ntchat on Wednesdays at 8:00pm EST on twitter > Natasha recommends using twebevent.com/ntchat
  3. Also check out our friends at CampHacker.org and the CampHacker podcast – camp directors are a lot like teachers

Rookie Teacher Online
We are always looking for ideas, feedback, tips and tricks of the trade.  Find us on Twitter @RookieTeacherCAFacebook.com /TheRookieTeacher.  If you are looking to get involved with our team, please contact us!

Thanks for listening. Join us for our next episode when we discuss Life as Rotary (Planning) Teacher: When you only have 40 minutes…

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Finding the Beauty in Education: My Time as an Educational Assistant 0

Posted on February 04, 2012 by Natasha

One of the great things about running an online community like TheRookieTeacher.ca is that we get to hear feedback from all over the province, country, and the world!  This week we heard from Dante Luciani who asked to share his story about being an EA & the experiences leading him to teaching:

Everyone is different. It is one of the many beautiful aspects of mankind. Everyone is blessed with abilities and face their own challenges. Although at times it seems some face more challenges than others.  For a year and a half I worked with students who faced many challenges, physically, mentally, and emotionally. As an Educational Assistant my job was to educate these students in basic life skills and to modify curriculum expectations to allow them to learn to their full potential. This quickly became the most rewarding experience of my entire life and taught me invaluable lessons that will no doubt assist me as a teacher in the future.

The students I worked with were identified with a number of exceptionalities placed over the entire special education spectrum. The students’ needs varied a great deal. Some students just needed guidance in an inclusive classroom whereas others required a great deal of support and assistance, sometimes the care of up to three EAs. Having myself been a young student that was assisted by an EA, I understood much of the frustration that some of these students felt. With this in mind I knew how far positive encouragement and support could go. Given their circumstances, these students have experienced much difficulty in the classroom often combined with feelings of exclusion.  Providing these students with a positive learning environment goes a long way in helping them feel included in the classroom and the school community. Nevertheless, the students who were of much higher needs required far more than just a positive learning environment to reach their full potential. Many of the students in our Life Skills classroom required much attention and assistance with basic tasks such as communication, feeding and toileting. I was to care for students in ways I never thought I would. It was definitely a learning experience and one that will make me a better person. The high-needs students’ curriculum consisted of learning basic life skills that will allow them to one day possibly be able to assist themselves. The challenges that these students face each day are unimaginable to me. Both the students as well as their families possess a rare strength that many of us could not imagine having. It was the most rewarding experience to see these students accomplish such basic tasks. Everyday tasks that we so often take for granted such as repeating a sentence or taking a bite out of a sandwich on their own became accomplishments that deserved much celebration. Seeing these children learn and develop right before your very eyes was one of the best feelings you could feel and ensured me that there is nowhere else that I would rather be than in education.

photo: D.Luciani

photo: D.Luciani

Over that year and a half, I learned the art of patience and saw its importance in the classroom. Every student is wired differently. They each work in different ways and at different paces. As teachers it is important that we understand and appreciate these differences because that is what makes everyone special. It is amazing what we can accomplish with a little guidance and positive support. I learned more from these students than they could possibly have learned from me. Working with these students created the most genuine positive environment to work in and I will forever be grateful for this experience.

So, next time you are faced with a student who is becoming a challenge for you, try embracing their differences and showing them a little care. You never know what other challenges they face on their own…….. A little love goes a long way!

Dante Luciani, Blog
Twitter: @dlearn12

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Leave the rest to God.

People might forget what you said.

People might forget what you did.

People will never forget how you made them feel.

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Life as a B.Ed Student in Manitoba 2

Posted on January 26, 2012 by Natasha

One of the great things about running an online community like TheRookieTeacher.ca is that we get to hear feedback from all over the province, country, and the world!  This week two pre-service teachers from Manitoba got in touch with us and wanted to share their story.  Here’s what they had to say about attending a Bachelor of Education program:

Life as a B.Ed. Student in Manitoba
Hi, we are Mary Bertram and Taryn Deroche and we are both Bachelor of Education students at the University of Manitoba. After speaking to students from other universities across Canada we noticed there are similarities and differences to be found in teacher training programs across the country. We thought we would share some thoughts and insights into the Bachelor of Education program we are currently enrolled in.

University of Manitoba on Map

Photo: Google Maps

Currently, the B.Ed. program at the University of Manitoba is under review, with a new program planning to be implemented in the next few years. Until then, the B.Ed. program is an After-Degree program that is organized into specific education streams: Early (grade k-4), Middle (grade 5-8), and Senior Years (grade 9-12). In addition to these three streams, they also offer Weekend College program (grade 5-8) and an Integrated Bachelor of Music / Bachelor of Education program. The number of teacher candidates accepted to the program annually is as follows: Early (70), Middle (70), Senior Years (140). The Weekend College program accepts 35 students every three years.

When you apply to the B.Ed. program, you must have a teachable major and minor that satisfies your stream selection. In addition, applicants must also satisfy breadth requirements in English and/or French literature, social studies (history or geography), and science/math. For your application, you must write a statement of interest in teaching, as well as participate in a written skills exercise (essay on an assigned topic in 45 minutes). Three referees or references are also necessary and they must fill out specific forms sent directly to admissions for review. However, points for admission are based solely on GPA (45 points) and the written skills exercise (20 points).Both of us are in the Early years’ stream, which allows us to become specialized to teach kindergarten to grade 4. However, once we are certified teachers we are allowed to teach any grade from K – 12. Our program takes two years to complete in Manitoba. With each year consisting of 9 weeks of classes starting in September followed by 6 weeks of practicum experience and then again with 9 weeks of classes starting in January followed by 6 weeks practicum experience. We spend the two years attending lectures with the same 35 students commonly called your cohort. Once you are in your practicum school you are usually with two or three other students from the University of Manitoba B.Ed. program. During our time in the B.Ed. program we have been required to take courses in: Educational Psychology, Aboriginal Education, Special Education/Diversity Education, Social Studies, Literacy, Math, Science, Technology, School and Society, Art and Drama, Physical Education, and Music. This broad base of academic subjects has allowed us to develop the generalist skills required for teaching in the elementary grades. Every effort is made to place students with experienced teachers as to provide the best possible guidance to teacher candidates. In addition to the cooperating teacher there is a faculty advisor who is there to support and guide students through their practicum experience. Both of us have been lucky enough to be partnered with amazing cooperating teachers and faculty advisors who have helped us grow into the best teachers we can be.  For us, we believe the best part of our B.Ed. program is the

Moleskineh by Amir Kuckovic, FlickrCC.net

photo: Moleskineh by Amir Kuckovic, FlickrCC.net

relationships that we have been able to establish personally and professionally within the faculty, our early years’ cohort, advisors, and with our partnered practicum schools. Although we only have four teaching blocks, with two in each practicum school, we believe that our consistent presence within each school gives us the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with administration, colleagues, collaborating teachers, and most of all our students. Within our program itself, there are faculty members at the University of Manitoba who we hold so much respect for because of the initiatives that they take as teacher educators. They inspire us, intimidate us, and help push us to achieve success, try new things, and develop our philosophy as teacher candidates.

As young professionals we are able to become members of various special area groups for teachers in Manitoba. Once a year all the teachers in the province get the day off to attend professional development workshops held by these various organizations. We are both members of the Manitoba Association Multi-Age Educators (MAME, multiagemanitoba.org) and have greatly enjoyed going to various workshops they have held this past year. We look forward to exploring the other special area groups in the coming years as we progress in our teaching careers.

One of the things we have both found beneficial to our professional development in the field of education is learning about the online education community. Perhaps one of the most promising aspects of the use of social media for professional development is the ability to work collaboratively with educators from around the world. Without social media these partnerships would almost certainly be impossible or very difficult to establish. We have both joined Twitter in an effort to connect and learn from educators from around the world.

Although neither of us were expecting much, we have both found Twitter to be a great way to gather resources, get new ideas and meet other teachers! We have also found that reading other educators blogs is a wonderful way to start thinking critically about our own practice as educators. In addition to this Mary has found that blogging about her educational experiences has given her insight into her growth as a professional. We encourage all education students to start exploring the online education community and join in on all the amazing conversations that are happening each and every day!  With our initiative to be more than just B.Ed. students, we have been able to connect with each other, fellow teachers across the nation, and to the global education community as a whole. As we both prepare to look for jobs as teachers we have started to look back at our program and are thankful for the wonderful experiences we have had and the opportunities we have been given.

See us on #ntchat every Wednesday at 7:00pm CST!  If you want to learn more about the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Manitoba then check out:  umanitoba.ca/education.

If you want to learn more about us or connect with us you can find us at:

Mary Bertram
Taryn Deroche
Mary Bertram
@MLBertram  || mbertram2@gmail.com || prairieinspiration.wordpress.com
Early Years’ Stream, Cohort A21, Graduating 2012
Teachable Major: Biology
Teachable Minor: Psychology
Taryn Deroche
@TADeroche || taryn.deroche@gmail.com

Early Years’ Stream,Cohort A21, Graduating 2012
Teachable Major: History
Teachable Minor: ClassicalStudies

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