Oct. 23, 2019Print | PDF
When asked what separates Ontario teachers from educators he has worked with across Canada and around world, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Steve Sider says he sees more commonalities than differences.
“There is little separating ‘here’ from ‘there’,” says Sider, an associate professor in Laurier’s Faculty of Education. “The difference is a single letter.
“My experience has been that the majority of teachers, regardless of where they teach in the world, are highly committed to learning ways to improve their teaching to better the lives and learning experiences of their students.”
During the past 10 years, Sider’s research in special education, inclusive education and school leadership have led to the development of the Educator and Leadership Institute in Haiti, the “Glocal” co-curricular group at Laurier, as well as numerous studies and research grants for his work.
Sider’s latest research project, Lead to Include, explores how Canadian principals foster inclusive schools for students with special education needs. The project builds on years of research on inclusive education in Canada, Haiti, Ghana, Egypt and beyond.
Sider’s impact on international education was recognized earlier this year when he was presented Laurier’s Donald F. Morgenson Award for Teaching Excellence in the internationalization category.
Sider grew up in India, has taught internationally and has visited or worked on projects related to international education in nearly 20 countries. Before joining Laurier in 2011, he spent 15 years working with Ontario school boards as an administrator, special education teacher, consultant and classroom teacher.
Sider is the principal investigator for the Lead to Include research project. His research team is studying the types of special education training school principals engage in and the day-to-day events and critical incidents that principals might experience when supporting students with special education needs. The research project is currently expanding to Ghana and Haiti.
Sider’s project is a response to a limited amount of research examining how school principals support inclusive school environments for students with special education needs. Early results of the research project have been published in the Canadian Journal of Education in the article "School Principals and Students with Special Education Needs: Leading Inclusive Schools."
With funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Sider also worked with the Ontario Principals’ Council to develop digital case studies to support interactive learning for principals about the inclusion of students with special educational needs.
Sider’s leadership in developing inclusive educational environments goes beyond Canada’s borders. The Educator and Leadership Institute (ELI) is a Laurier-sponsored initiative that builds teaching and leadership capacity in developing communities.
Launched in northern Haiti in 2016, the institute runs an annual professional development conference led by teachers and principals from Canada, who offer courses to support educators in science, mathematics, critical literacy, early learning, special education and school leadership. Instructors and teachers in training from Laurier’s Faculty of Education take part in the conference.
“I have been to Haiti twice and both times our team was made up of people from different backgrounds with different levels of understanding of the context of our work,” says Heather Fellows (BEd ’19). “Steve demonstrated that he valued and respected every team member and embraced the diversity of our views, experiences and opinions.”
During their ELI experience, Laurier Faculty of Education students undertake tasks such as supporting English language programming for university students or hosting summer camps for children.
ELI sites have also been established and are offering programming in Nepal and Egypt. New sites will be launched in Ethiopia and Ghana in 2019/20.
In September 2019, Laurier welcomed the first cohort of students in its Bachelor of Arts in International Education Studies program, designed for students who want to teach internationally or immerse themselves in global studies through an educational lens. Sider worked with colleagues in the Department of Global Studies to ensure the program contained a strong experiential learning component.
Students in the program complete a local placement during their second year of study and engage in an international placement experience during their third year.
Sider says global-mindedness is the hallmark of the program. Courses have been designed and are taught from a global perspective with the goal of building students’ global competencies. For example, when introducing an idea such as cultural humility, students are asked to consider what they can learn from the experiences of educators in Ghana, Haiti or Egypt.
“Like our work with the ELI, it is about teaching and learning,” says Sider. “In fact, we are co-learning. We are developing global citizenship through humility.”
“I can't think of a better role model than a teacher like Steve,” says Fellows. “He meets everyone at their level, supports their growth and development from their personal starting point and helps everyone have a genuine learning experience that is tailored to their needs.”
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