May 19, 2024

Early Learning Thriving

By on October 2, 2018 0 970 Views

Jen Hoilund still remembers her daughter, Brielle’s first day of school.

“Brielle is my shy five-year-old, who attended Mrs. Holly Barr’s Kindergarten class at Christina Gordon Public School. When she first started school, she was very excited but also very nervous about what to expect. I’ll never forget the first day when her Dad and I walked her into Mrs.Barr’s class and she saw all her new classmates,” Hoilund recalled.

“We weren’t five steps into the classroom door and she was hiding behind my leg crying because she was overwhelmed and nervous. That’s when Mrs.Barr and Mrs.Piercey stepped in. They calmly introduced themselves to Brielle, and started asking her about what she did over the summer and what she wanted to do while at school this year. She slowly started calming down and I knew she would be just fine.”

Today, Brielle is a confident student, who makes sure she’s at school “a little early every day so she can say hi to the office ladies before her class starts,” Hoilund shared.

“Kindergarten at Christina Gordon has done wonders for Brielle and her personality. We no longer see the shy girl we saw for the first five years of her life. She is outgoing, excited to meet new people and see old friends,” she added.

“I believe Mrs.Barr, and all the staff at the school have played a role in helping her come out of her shell so she can thrive and learn in an amazing environment. We are so glad we chose Christina Gordon as our children’s school, and can’t wait to watch them grow and learn over the coming years.”

Indeed, our excellent programming is the reason why early learning is thriving at the Fort McMurray Public School District (FMPSD). The line-up ranges from Reggio Inspired, French Immersion, to Christian and Islamic initiatives for both Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP) and Kindergarten. We are also offering KEEP – Kindergarten Expanded Education Program, an optional full-day initiative at Beacon Hill, Dave McNeilly, Thickwood Heights, Timberlea, and Westview public schools.

Shannon Noble, Assistant Superintendent, FMPSD oversees Inclusive Education and Early Learning. She has been with the District for seven years, and explains more on the program.

“Our Early Learning program offers learning opportunities in all areas of development. Led by certified teaching staff, educational assistants and specialized therapists, children of all abilities become confident learners,” said Noble.

“Your child will gain skills through play, inquiry, creativity, problem solving, social interaction as well as early literacy, language and numeracy activities. Our programs are designed for ALL students. From severe disabilities, English language learners or our typical developing students all are benefiting from our initiatives.”

In addition, FMPSD students show amazing results. We screen them using the EDI (Early Development Instrument – short questionnaire which measures children’s ability to meet age appropriate developmental expectations) at the beginning of the school year. One year later our students show remarkable improvements on their post-screen.

“Through the data from EDI we know FMPSD’s early intervention program is getting our students ready for grade one,” Noble adds.

Speaking of early intervention, FMPSD’s registered therapists go above and beyond for students daily. Whether it’s an issue with fine motor skills such as the pencil grasp, pre-printing skills, hand strength, or challenges with toilet training, feeding, or sensory processing in the classroom, Jennifer McCray, our Occupational Therapist is always there to help. For speech/sound development, language use or social communication skills, Alanna Keoughan, Registered Speech-Language Pathologist is the go-to.

“Alana and I work in collaboration with teachers. Most of our interventions are done through play so students are able to have fun while working on specific skills. My focus often is ensuring they become successful in printing, self-regulation, and self-help skills,” explained McCray.

“ECDP is designed to lay the foundation of literacy skills. Speech sound development, as well as expressive and receptive (understanding) language skills are key components of later developing literacy skills,” noted Keoughan.

“When children need additional support in their sound development or language development, we work collaboratively with the teacher to ensure continued development of these skills through play centres, daily language centres, and shared book reading etc.,” she explained.

In addition, FMPSD’s focus on play ensures children develop social skills. Rhonda Blanchette, Coordinator of Early Inclusive Education, FMPSD elaborated.

“Teachers facilitate learning through play at our 12 elementary schools. They are able to maximize learning by encouraging children to ask questions, problem solve, work collaboratively, and experiment. Teachers spark children’s imaginations and sense of curiosity throughout their day.  As we give children opportunities to wonder, work as a team, and investigate what interests them, Fort McMurray Public School District is Doing What’s Best for Kids.”

Indeed, FMPSD’s wrap-around early learning services ensure our students emerge as leaders of tomorrow, and excellent citizens of the world. Join the FMPSD family to find out.

For more information on any of our 16 schools, visit: For real time updates: follow us on Twitter: @FMPSD @DougNicholls2 and like us on Facebook: Fort McMurray Public School District. We are also on Instagram @FMPSD.

Rhonda Blanchette, Jennifer McCray, Shannon Noble and Alanna Keoghan are the Early Learn team at FMPSD. 
Last year, Brielle was shy when she started her first year of school, but now she loves it. Supplied photos

About the author

Freelance Journalist

Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.