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Ontario Association for Mathematics Education
Ontario Association for Mathematics Education

President's Message - June 2020

Strange Times, Final Thoughts and Thanks

PAUL ALVES


paul.alves@oame.on.ca
"Today was more normal than yesterday. Not because it is, but just because it was as strange as yesterday."

That line came from a poem by Kieran Lennon that was shared on the Heavyweight podcast (Heavyweight Check In 2, March 27, 2020). It is difficult to recall living through a more jarring time than what has been our collective reality for the last few months. I cannot think of a moment where the time that elapses from the time of writing to the moment of reading could be as different as the time that I wrote this- my final President's Message. It is a cold April day, and I have just completed my first week of teaching my classes from a distance. Much like every other teacher, administrator, and support staff in the province, I have made this adjustment as best as I could, despite the many challenges that presented themselves. There were many challenges (I truly hope it is "were" and not "are" as you read this). As a community, we had to address the wide range of comfort levels of teachers with teaching online. As a community, we had to address how to teach a variety of subjects from a distance. As a community, we had to address the technological needs of students and teachers. Overcoming these obstacles presented logistical challenges, but individually or at the school level or board level, we did our best to meet those challenges. What came to the forefront in the face of these challenges was being present for our students-providing a sense of routine when everything is anything but routine.

There is always the danger, as we live through a collective trauma, that we let the events engulf us and the overriding emotion becomes despair. However, reflecting on this current pandemic and moments of crisis in the past, I am struck by the resilience of the communities that bond us together. I know I have experienced that in my own math department as we met multiple times, and continue to meet more regularly than we ever did to support each other and to connect. I am certain I am not alone and that teachers across this province can be thankful that they have a community, whether it is formal (such as a school or department) or informal (such as a social media group) or most importantly, families, to lean on during this remarkable moment. It has declared once again the humanity that lies at the heart of all organizations-we are connected, even if that is online, and collectively we can overcome any challenge that presents itself.

This resilience in the face of the current challenges was also evident in the work of the OAME/AOEM Board of Directors over the past few months. Very early on, the Executive Committee recognized the need to act by providing certainty to members and the wider educational community. The decision was made to move all Board of Directors business to virtual meeting platforms. It seems to be too little to just type my gratitude to each and every member who volunteered their time (on top of every other commitment) to meet and work in individual committees and at board meetings. Thank you on behalf of all OAME/AOEM members. Also, through consultation with the OAME/AOEM 2020 conference chairs, the difficult decision was made to cancel the conference. I cannot minimize how difficult a decision this was for everyone involved, but we recognize that this was the right decision. The conference takes three years to plan and that work is done by a host of teachers, who are volunteering their time to ensure that all involved experience substantial professional learning and networking. I want to publicly proclaim my thanks to everyone involved in OAME/AOEM 2020 In Focus. Every volunteer, every committee member, every committee chair, everyone - THANK YOU!

In response to the cancellation, OAME/AOEM wanted to still provide professional learning to everyone by capitalizing on the conference proposals that were submitted. The presenters were asked if they were interested in presenting in a virtual OAME/AOEM conference. A small group met quickly, devised and implemented a plan to provide live interactive sessions and access to pre-recorded sessions that covered a wide spectrum of topics and grades. Thank you to those involved in the organizing, to the presenters who were kind enough to give of their time and learning, and to all those who participated in the conference.

We usually honour the winners of the OAME/AOEM awards at the conference. We hope to still be able to do that at one of our future events. I would like to congratulate the Durham Catholic School Coaches-Trish Maecker, Leanne Oliver, Lisa Salamone, Laura Auld, Lynn Hollingworth, Colleen Morgulis, and Joanna Ooms-as this year's recipients of the OAME/AOEM Award for Secondary School Mathematics Staff Award for Exceptional and Collaborative Teaching. It was impressive to read about the remarkable work of this group of teachers in improving the learning for students in Durham area high schools. The winner of the OAME/AOEM Lifetime Membership Award is Jacqueline Hill. I fondly recall my first OAME/AOEM conference, 2003 Primed for Math, and attending one of Jacqueline's workshops. She made an impact on me and my teaching, and I am certainly not alone. Jacqueline has served OAME/AOEM in a variety of roles, including President in 2007-2008 and currently as NCTM representative. A very deserving winner. If you are reading this and thinking that there may be a math educator or group of educators whom you would like to nominate for an OAME/AOEM award, watch for the call for nominations in November. You can find the full list of awards on the OAME/AOEM website at www.oame.on.ca/main/index. php?lang=en&code=awards.

The OAME/AOEM elections closed at the end of March, and I would like to congratulate and welcome the members elected to the Board of Directors. Sandra Jean Price was reelected as Vice-President, Bart Vanslack was elected as Director (JK to Grade 6), and Hema Khodai was elected as Director (Grades 7-12). Welcome! I look forward to working with you as I enter my term as Past-President.

This is my final President's Message. In fact, this is a bit historic, as it is the final President's Message from a President who is serving a one-year term. In the Fall, Judy Mendaglio will be the inaugural two-year term President. Judy will guide this organization ably as we emerge from these uncertain times, and I can't think of anyone else who will ensure that OAME/AOEM will mark a true course forward. Judy is busy planning the OAME/AOEM Leadership Conference for 2020. Although details are fluid at this time, I know it will be a wonderful event, allowing leaders to reconnect and rejuvenate.

I want to take this moment to thank all the members of the executive committee for providing a steady hand guiding this organization during this year of years. You kept me sane when I felt anything but. The executive directors, Fred and Lynda Ferneyhough, for your dedication and service to OAME/AOEM for a decade now (it has been ten years already... happy tin/aluminum anniversary), thank you on behalf of all OAME/AOEM members. To all the members of the OAME/AOEM Board of Directors who serve on committees, you form the foundation of what we do as an organization. Thank you for your flexibility and continued commitment to the work we have done over the past year and, in particular, the past few months. Thank you to our web team. Many educators first interact with OAME/AOEM online, and you have ensured that what they get is varied and always up-to-date. Lastly, thank you to all involved in the publication of the Gazette and Abacus. The amount of time and work that is required to produce this publication is truly appreciated by our members. I hope the readers have enjoyed the changes in the Abacus this year, with its focus on building number sense. An insightful resource for all members.

I neglected to thank someone in that list. I neglected to thank you-the OAME/AOEM members, who are the backbone of OUR organization. Emphasis on the OUR. This organization is OUR organization. This is our community. As we look to the future and the possibility of more uncertain times, I am buoyed knowing that we will be together in facing that uncertainty. I wish all of you a restful respite during the summer months, and thank you for the privilege of serving as your President this past year. To borrow a line from my favourite Mountain Goats song, This Year:
There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year I am going to make it through this year...

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