Provincial ruling to end 30-year program at ODSS

December 7, 2016   ·   1 Comments

A tradition that has spanned three decades and grown to become synonymous with Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) will come to an emotional close next summer.

For over 30 years, students at the local high school have had the opportunity to learn about children and how to properly care for them through its Teddy Bear Preschool program. A key part of the program sees students work with pre-schoolers twice a week in order to “fully experience” what it’s like to take care of a child.

Following a recent change in its policies, the Ministry of Education served notice to the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) back in 2015 that ODSS would no longer be able to bring in pre-schoolers as a part of its child care programs. Over the past few years there have been many changes relating to child care regulations in Ontario, specifically with regards to unlicensed child care providers or centres. The Ministry of Education identified the Teddy Bear Preschool program as a child care program and as such were said to be concerned that the program was not licensed. Under the new Child Care and Early Years Act, the UGDSB is not able to run a day care without a license.

As a result, the “80 or so” Grade 11 and 12 students currently enrolled in the program will be the last to benefit from the “unique” education it provides.

Since taking on the mantle of program coordinator at the turn of the millennium, ODSS teacher Gina Brusch has been a huge ambassador the Teddy Bear Preschool program. She shared her thoughts with the Citizen on the Ministry’s decision to shut the program down at a recent special class outing at the Lord Dufferin Centre.

“I can’t imagine learning about children and how to care for them from a text book, I really can’t,” Mrs. Brusch said. “I’m not saying there aren’t other ways to learn, but in my opinion there’s nothing like the real thing. It’s definitely going to be more challenging trying to teach these programs in the future.”

Currently, ODSS offers its child care-related programs to senior students only. Those in Grade 11 can sign up for Working with Infants and Young Children, while Grade 12 students have the opportunity to enrol in Working with School-Age Children and Adolescents. According to Mrs. Brusch, the programs provide the perfect platform to students interested in pursuing a post-secondary education in child care.

“A lot of the kids we’ve had come through this program have gone on to become Early Childhood Educators (ECE), elementary school teachers and so much more,” Mrs. Brusch said. “There are so many college and university programs out there relating to children these days, what these courses at ODSS have done is to truly give students exposure into what it’s really like to interact with a child and what it’s really like to take care of them.”

She added, “The first couple of weeks are spent learning about child development, what they should be expecting and how they should be interacting with and handling the kids. From there the students then really take over the program and run it themselves – they take turns setting up lead circles, putting notes up on the bulletin boards and assist with the day to day needs of the pre-schoolers. Essentially, while also learning, they themselves become the teachers.”

Those features were on full display as a class of roughly 25 Grade 11 students led the 16 pre-schoolers involved in this year’s Teddy Bear Preschool through a sing-along performance for seniors at the Lord Dufferin Centre.

Amongst those taking part was Grade 11 student Hannah Bellai, who said she was really going to miss interacting with all of her “little buddies” when the class comes to a close.

“I’ve loved every minute of this class. We develop such a strong bond with all of our little buddies that come in – it’s great being able to spend time with them, learn from them, but to also teach them too,” Ms. Bellai said. “I’ve always dreamed of being a teacher and because I’ve enjoyed taking this program I was looking forward to moving on to the Grade 12 curriculum, so I was really disappointed to hear (our buddies) won’t be back.”

Fellow Grade 11 student Kristian Manzerolle has a long history with the Teddy Bear Preschool program having been a “little buddy” himself back when he was in pre-school in the early 2000s. Having now experienced the program from the other side, Mr. Manzerolle said he’s learned an incredible amount about what it takes to care for a child.

“I’ve always had an interest in moving into teaching in the future and this class has been a fantastic platform for me to build on,” Mr. Manzerolle said. “You really learn about what it’s like to care for a child in this class. Mrs. Brusch has done a fantastic job in leading this program for a number of years now. Overall, it’s been a great experience for me.”

Upper Grand District School Board representative Heather Loney told the Citizen the board would be doing all it could to ensure ODSS students continue to receive the high quality education that Teddy Bear Preschool provided.

“We do recognize the value and learning that has occurred for students in this program and will look for opportunities to work with existing or nearby child care centres that would continue to provide opportunities for our students to gain practical work experience in early childhood education,” Mrs. Loney said.

With Teddy Bear Preschool nearing its permanent slumber, Mrs. Brusch was adamant that this final year would be the best one yet – a fitting way to draw the curtain on what has been such a popular and hugely beneficial program.

“It’s going to be sad, but hopefully it’s going to be a great final year. We’ve got a fantastic group of students together so I’m looking forward to ending what has been an incredible journey with them.”

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Jonathon says:

    why was it cancelled?


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