Association of Teachers of English of Nova Scotia

ATENS Conference 2018

Keep the Balance


Friday, October 26, 2018


Prince Andrew High School
31 Woodlawn Road
Dartmouth, NS

Click on map for directions:


8:00 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. Check-in/Registration
8:45 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Keynote
10:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Break
10:15 a.m.  - 11:30 a.m. Session A
11:30 a.m.  -  12:30 p.m. Lunch
12:00 noon  -  12:30 p.m. AGM
12:30 p.m.  -  1:45 p.m. Session B
1:55 p.m.  -  3:10 p.m. Session C


Registration is online only.  Deadline is October 12, 2018. 

The fee schedule is as follows:

Conference Fee (workshops, lunch, membership ) $95.00
Student / Substitute / Retiree Conference Fee (workshops, lunch) $85.00

As per NSTU Operational Procedure 13 E. III.: receipts of payment and attendance will not be distributed until the conference has concluded.

If you have any concerns about online registration or payment, please contact us at (

Keynote: 8:45 – 10:00 A.M.

Is There a Test for This?
Don Aker
Maximum Participants:  300

Although retired from teaching, Don Aker continues to spend time in classrooms working with young people in the areas of reading and writing, and he is intimately familiar with the Sisyphean challenges that educators encounter every day. While these can be daunting - even overwhelming - in the face of increasing demands and decreasing support, Don reminds teachers of the one understanding they must never lose sight of as they work to prepare students for the world beyond the classroom.



Biographies of Presenters

During his 33 years as an Annapolis Valley educator, Don Aker worked as a language arts and math teacher, literacy mentor, and university instructor. He is also the award-winning author of more than 20 books, which have brought him invitations to speak across Canada as well as internationally, most recently in Vietnam. Best known for his young adult novel The First Stone, which was chosen one of Nova Scotia’s 150 Books of Influence, Don now lives and writes in Bedford (and doesn’t miss marking).

Evan Barkhouse is a full time Learning Centre teacher and part time hero/miracle worker.  He also has a strong background in working in the ELA classroom. Evan has worked with diverse and unpredictable situations and transformed them into positive learning experiences for all involved.

Kathryn Bruce-Mactavish has a varied career including thirteen years of teaching multiple subjects within the HRSB including Social Studies, English Language Arts, Drama, and Visual Arts. Kathryn studied Fine Arts at NSCAD where she completed her degree in Art, Art History, and English, before completing her B.Ed. and  M.Ed. She has had numerous solo and group art exhibitions and has taught art within HRSB as well as within the Halifax Public Library system. Throughout her career, the promotion of education, creativity, and critical thinking have bound the strands of subject together. She uses art as a way to allow students to explore their own ideas as well as the curriculum, regardless of subject area, in accessible forms. Kathryn currently teaches at Charles P. Allen High School.

Tina Buott has been a teacher with the HRSB since 2001. Most of that time has been spent teaching at the junior high level --- who doesn't love repeating grade 9 forever? In 2016 Tina received her Masters in Literacy Education. She is a mother of two, and a lover of all things creative.

Amanda Connell has been teaching with the AVRSB for 9 years. In that time, she has taught almost every course except for Language Arts! That’s where Krystle-Rae Hall comes in. Krystle has been teaching in the AVRSB for 12 years as a teacher of Language Arts and social studies. Amanda and Krystle are an amazing duo of go-getters. These two team teachers have worked together to provide a strong Middle Level force within their school, creating new practices for 21st Century learners. 

Janice Doré has been teaching since 1990. After acquiring her permanent contract, she was a resource teacher for nearly 15 years and a Learning Center teacher for 5 years, both at the high school level. She is currently teaching in the classroom full time and loving the change.

Returning to the classroom after a 4-year hiatus, Meg Ferguson has never been happier teaching! Meg is a public school educator at Auburn Drive High School, where her assignment includes Music 10-12, English 10 and Sociology 12.  She was inspired by a workshop by Dave Burgess while at ASCD Conference and brought back the book and the ideas to Nova Scotia. Meg has been facilitating workshops + conferences for teachers over the last 10 years and is excited to attend her first ATENS Conference.

Millie George  is a teacher for the Cape Breton Victoria Centre for Education for the past 16 years.  Before returning to St. F.X. to complete an Education Degree, Millie worked as a secretary and as a library technician for the C. B. Victoria Centre for Education.  After completing her B.Ed., Millie completed a diploma in Educational Technology at CBU, and later completed an M.Ed. in Leadership from Acadia.  While teaching, Millie was a homestay coordinator for the N.S.I.S.P and later she completed an M.Ed. in T.E.A.L (Teaching English as an Additional Language) from Mount St. Vincent University.  Presently Millie teaches ESL/EAL in three Cape Breton High Schools. (BEC, Sydney Academy, and Riverview Rural High School).  Millie taught EAL/ESL in South Korea and she taught the EAL/ESL course for St. F.X as part of the M.Ed. in Diversity.

Sandra Jack-Malik is an assistant professor at Cape Breton University in the Department of Education. She teaches English Language Arts to Bachelor of Education students and curriculum studies to in-service teachers. Before coming to CBU she lived in the sub arctic and worked as a school administrator. Prior to her northern life, she pursued a PhD at the University of Alberta. Her research methodology is narrative inquiry. Her research interests lie at the intersections of identities, literacies and pedagogies. For eleven years, she owned and operated a literacy clinic where she worked with students who had not learned to read fluently. Using multi-sensory pedagogies she worked to remediate gaps in reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, organization and penmanship.  Sandra sits on the national board of Dyslexia Canada, an organization dedicated to establishing legislation in each Canadian province, specific to recognizing and remediating dyslexia. She also sits on the board of the Society of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Nova Scotians.

Sara Jewell is an award-winning narrative journalist whose articles and essays have been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada. Born and raised in Ontario, Sara received her Arts and Education degrees from Queen’s University. She moved to Nova Scotia in 2007, and wrote about her experience in her 2016 collection of essay, Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia.

Sandy Keddy has been teaching in the Halifax area since 2002 at both the junior and senior high levels.  During these years, she has worked with the GSA, The Canadian Improv Games, various musicals, board game and writing clubs. Outside school, Sandy is a visual artist, writer, and edits the ATENS literary magazine, Kimberlins.  She does her utmost to blend creativity and hands-on activities in her ELA classrooms.

Tracey Knox completed her 200 hour yoga teaching certification in 2014 from AYTT. She has taught various sciences for 13 years.

An educator in HRSB for 20 years, Heidi Lemire began her career in elementary, teaching all grades from Primary to 6.  After 10 years, she made the switch to Junior High where she spent the next 10 years trying to understand the minds of teens. The jury is still out on that!  She taught ELA, Social Studies, and Healthy Living and loved creating cross-curricular units, especially around themes like the Second World War, The Civil Rights Movement, and Globalization.  Last year, Heidi took a position as Literacy Coach and has enjoyed spending time in a number of schools in HRSB, working alongside some inspiring teachers and kids.  The role as Literacy Coach has allowed her to be much more reflective in her approach to teaching, and feels honored to be able to wear the “Coach” Hat.

Janine MacAulay has been teaching English for over 20 years at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  From her early beginnings teaching EAL learners in South Korea, Janine has served in a multitude of roles in the CBVRCE:  classroom teacher, resource teacher, high school vice-principal, elementary principal, and board-based consultant.  However, she is happiest working in the classroom with students and teachers.  Janine has master’s degrees in Gifted Education and Educational Leadership.

Marjorie MacDonald has been teaching for the last 23 years.  Her experience has been mostly at the middle school level and she is cuurently Vice Principal at Sydney Mines Middle School.  Marjorie also teaches at Cape Breton University in the Bachelor of Education program and has taught M.Ed and B.Ed courses at St Francis Xavier University.  In the past, she was a literacy coach and Coordinator of Cross Cultural Understanding and Human Rights.  She is currently a doctoral candidate at Western University.

Tracey MacDonnell is a wife, a mother of three and a teacher who loves what she does! Teaching English, Yoga and Social Studies at SAERC is where she can be found Monday to Friday and at the Port Hawkesbury YMCA two nights a week instructing a Centergy class in the dance studio. Her personal philosophy is a famous quotation by Maya Angelou:  “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  She is looking forward to seeing all of you on your mats in her Centergy class where she will be given the opportunity to teach like she means it.

Lisa McCaustlin has been teaching within the HRSB since 1998.  She has taught History, Family Studies, and English within junior and high school settings.  She still loves her job.

Matthew McCutcheon has been teaching for 16 years. He currently teaches Grade 8 ELA and SS at Eastern Passage Education Centre. He has been working with digital film and video production for the past decade, but only recently has begun to realize the benefits of having my students use today's technology to tell their stories effectively. Matthew has recently been nominated for the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Aaron Peck has been an educator with HRCE since 2008. Recently certified as a Google Educator, he demonstrates passion for merging technology with the English classroom. He has completed masters in Curriculum Studies and in Technology Integration.

Jeff Schwager is an award-winning actor and educator. He has worked extensively in the Maritimes and across Canada as a professional actor for nearly 20 years. He regularly appears on the Neptune Theatre stage, and has been a resident company member with Two Planks and a Passion Theatre for the past eight years.

Ben Sichel has taught history, Spanish and French at Prince Andrew High School for most of the past 13 years. On occasion he writes on education for a variety of publications and is a founding member of Educators for Social Justice – Nova Scotia.

Alison Walker recently left her teaching gig at C.P. Allen High School to be a secondary literacy coach. Throughout the year, she was continually inspired by her colleagues. Looking to offer something different to the ATENS menu, Alison is organizing a series of Ignite presentations meant to spark reflection and renewed energy in secondary teachers.

Workshop Descriptions

Session A:  10:15 – 11:30

A-1  Yoga and Meditation for Reducing Stress in the Subject Area Classroom
Tracey Knox

Try beginner yoga for de-stressing teachers and students. Learning about incorporating simple meditation and concentration techniques in your subject area classes. Bring or borrow a mat and learn some tried and true methods of being in the moment on your own or with your students.   (All Levels)
(Maximum Participants:  20)

A-2  Write Gooder
Lisa McCaustlin & Janice Doré

Join facilitators for a PLC session looking at how to improve and inspire student writing.
(Maximum Participants:  10)

A-3  The Essence of Experience: Guiding Students in Reading Poetry for Understanding
Don Aker

Reading involves a complex set of skills, and few genres pose more challenges for young readers than poetry. This session, intended for teachers who lack confidence in this area, will focus on specific strategies they can share with their students to help them read poetry with greater comprehension and, more important, become willing consumers of this genre.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-4  Social Justice Education: Practicalities
Ben Sichel

What is social justice teaching? How do we do it? Should we do it? Is it too political? Does it promote an agenda? Does it work? Are there two sides to every story? What do we do about pushback from students or parents? Let’s dive into these questions and some other controversial topics that find their way into our classes as we try to teach for a better world.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-5  Cultural Proficiency: Knowing Ourselves, Knowing Our Students
Marjorie MacDonald

This workshop will explore what it means to be culturally proficient.  Achieving cultural proficiency in schools is an “inside out” approach whereby building relationships is at the heart of its success.  This session will address the importance of developing positive, productive responses to diverse populations in school communities.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-6  Differentiation for Language Learners
Millie George

In this session we will look at the wide range of backgrounds of our EAL students. It is important to understand elements of different cultures and doing so will make us better, more culturally responsive educators. You will learn about English Language Proficiency Levels and why is this important for teachers to understand how language levels affect learning in their classrooms. We will explore practices and effective strategies for working with students at various proficiency levels within your classroom.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-7  Creative Writing for Teachers
Presented by ATENS

Join us to participate in a selection of creative writing opportunities. Hone your own creative voice, instinct, and expertise so that you are better able to facilitate these exercises in your own classroom.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-8  Suit the action to the word, the word to the action!
Jeff Schwager

This workshop will focus on fun and exciting classroom activities to help lift classical text from the page. From Shakespeare to Orwell, we often forget that these texts are meant to be experienced and shared rather than simply studied and read quietly to ourselves, This workshop will offer activities and insights that will encourage you and your students to delve into text in fun, non-threatening and inclusive ways.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-9  Discovering Your Voice in Writing
Heidi Lemire

Finding a voice in writing is not always easy for young students. Having them engage in difficult topics like The Holocaust, Racism, and Discrimination is also not easy. By bringing the two things together I’ve discovered ways that have helped open the minds and hearts of my students, allowing them to find their voices. Let me share with you how themed literature floods, mentor texts, real life topics, and in depth discussions will help your students become empathetic to the injustices of the world around them, and let them use their voices to reflect on new knowledge, emulate victims, and express their own thoughts.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-10  Ignite Talks: Sparking Professional Reflection
Alison Walker & Guests

Teachers will hear from a variety of  HRCE secondary teachers sharing a recent insight  about teaching and learning. The Ignite presentation format is a 5 minutes long presentation with 20 slides and with the slides advancing automatically every 15 seconds. Michael Cosgrove, Susan Gannett, Pamela Alexander, Lara Fawthrop, Christine Emberley and Paul Wozney have all agreed to take the Ignite Stage as part of this PD experiment.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

A-11  Enhancing Comprehension: Using Visual Art in the ELA Classroom
Sharyn Brennan

This workshop will explore the many ways of using visualization and visual arts to enhance comprehension in the English Language Arts classroom, with a focus on the Turtle Island resources.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

Full Afternoon Session  12:30 - 3:10

B-6/C6  The Art of Books (or How to Make Artistic Books when Art Scares you)
Kathryn Bruce-Mactavish

As teachers, we try to bring in new opportunities for learning into our classrooms regularly. We have all had those moments when we thought we had a great hands-on art activity only to have the student who “can’t draw” lose their motivation before it has begun. By making art books in an accessible way that doesn’t require any particular art skill, students can create a visual response to literature that is both interesting and reflective. We will have fun making our own individual art-books incorporating language, visual representation, and personal choice reflection -no art confidence required.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

Session B:  12:30 - 1:45

B-1  Yoga and Meditation for Reducing Stress in the Subject Area Classroom
Tracey Knox
This is a repeat of A1
(Maximum Participants:  20)

B-2  Speaking and Listening
Tina Buott

Join facilitators for a PLC session exploring ways to include more speaking and listening activities in your classroom.
(Maximum Participants:  10)

B-3  Digital Storytelling
Matt McCutcheon

In this workshop, teachers will be creating a movie. They will design, film, edit and publish their videos in the short amount of time available. The entire process comes to life at their fingertips and allows educators to see how quickly and effectively students can make movies with their own technology today.  Teachers are encouraged to bring their smartphones to this workshop and expect to film a movie. Ensuring that your smartphone has the "Google Drive" app would be beneficial for all participants.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-4  The Forgotten Ones: Challenging Gifted and High Ability Students
Janine MacAulay

In an effort to support our struggling learners, we often forget those students who appear to be “doing well on their own.”  Gifted students and students with high ability need teachers’ attention to grow and thrive as learners. This workshop will answer these questions:  Who are these gifted students? How do we engage them? What can I possibly teach them that they don’t already know?  We will explore examples of differentiated instruction strategies from the ELA classroom.   Most suitable for Grades 4-9, but all are welcome
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-5  Teach Like a Pirate
Meg Ferguson

Practical ideas and leading questions to HOOK your students into learning – creative + doable strategies for crafting lessons designed to get students excited about your class. For every grade and every subject. Based on the book, Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess.  It is a treasure chest of golden nuggets that you can start using tomorrow.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-7  Just Google It
Aaron Peck

Have you ever wondered how Google Suite of Apps can be more useful for your classroom? Maybe you just have a nagging question or idea you want to try. In this workshop we will provide a hands-on exemplar of how to effectively set up a Google classroom and make the most of Forms, Slides and Docs to enhance student learning and engagement. Examples include setting up forms for comprehension checks, creating self-guided mini-lessons, making marking more efficient and using apps for collaborative productivity. Bring your own device, as there is time to share and get feedback and help. Alternatively, you are encouraged to get started with your own lesson or start a new classroom.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-8  Literacy Education and Inclusion
Evan Barkhouse

This is a workshop with a collaborative approach designed to support literacy teachers with inclusion in the classroom. Discussion topics will include student-first planning for individualized or PSP outcomes with a variety of supports and adaptations. The goal of this session is to collaborate and supplement everyone's strategies and supports for inclusive education. There will be a general presentation, small group discussion/collaboration, and then opportunity for larger group sharing in terms of challenges and strategies available.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-9  Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis and Vocabulary Instruction
Sandra Jack-Malik

This workshop will begin with a quick and humorous examination of the word pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis. It will then move to a more serious look at the importance of vocabulary instruction in terms of comprehension and the development of skilled readers. Next, it will provide a synthesis of what is required to create subject integrated, engaging vocabulary instruction. This will include teaching students to engage in contextual and structural analysis. Structural analysis is operationalized as the ability to gain information about the meaning, pronunciation, and part of speech of unknown words from their prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Contextual analysis involves inferring a word’s meaning by scrutinizing surrounding text, including syntactic and semantic cues provided by preceding and succeeding text. Workshops participants will engage in activities which develop vocabulary and which can be used with their students.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-10  Ignite Talks: Sparking Professional Reflection
Alison Walker & Guests

This is a repeat of A- 10
(Maximum Participants:  30)

B-11  Everybody Has a Story: Connecting with Meaningful Characters and Narratives IRL
Sara Jewell

Where do stories come from? This session will explore how the people around us – family, friends and neighbours – provide real-life characters and real-time narratives through the simple act of asking “Why?”. By tapping into the human instinct for storytelling, we can discover the compelling true stories that inspire us, connect us and help us better understand ourselves, each other, and our world.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

Session C:  1:55 – 3:10

C-1  Centergy
Tracey MacDonnell (All Levels)

Redefine yourself with Centergy.  Grow longer and stronger in this invigorating 60-minute mind-body workout.  Centergy incorporates yoga and Pilates fundamentals with athletic training for balance, mobility, flexibility, and the core.  Emotive music drives the experience as you breathe and sweat through this full-body fitness journey.  Take the time to Center Your Energy.
(Maximum Participants:  20)

C-2  Literacy and Inclusion PLC
Evan Barkhouse

This is a small group session wherein participants will collaborate and share strategies for successful student-first planning in a literacy context. Topics will range from supporting students with adaptations to individualizing programming and how to best meet a student's needs. The aim of this session is for members to share resources and ideas for meeting student outcomes in the inclusive classroom.
(Maximum Participants:  10)

C-3  Digital Storytelling
Matt McCutcheon

This is a repeat of B-3
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-4  The Forgotten Ones: Challenging Gifted and High Ability Students
Janine MacAulay

This is a repeat of B-4
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-5  How To Be A Pirate & Not Sink the Ship
Meg Ferguson

Tried + true application of the Teach Like a Pirate approach to learning. No need to reinvent the wheel - in this session, Meg will share how grade 12 students’ favourite activity was their cultural investigation research project (not so much in previous years), Music 10 loved their history project and how a mystery bag ensured the only day with perfect attendance in all her classes. Happy to share all materials via Google Classroom. Bring your electronic device because you will have a chance to develop your own ideas or borrow some of hers. Based on the book, Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-7  Just Google It
Aaron Peck

This is a repeat of B-7
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-8  The How-To Guide to Genius Hour
Krystle Rae Hall & Amanda Connell

Project-based learning has become a major buzzword in education. But how exactly does one go about such a method? Our solution: Genius Hour! Genius Hour is a method first pioneered by Google, wherein employees (or in this case, students) use 20% of their workday to create a product, develop a skill, or provide a service in an area of their passion. This program has been shown to increase engagement in other classes, as well as develop collaboration, resiliency, and problem-solving skills. Our session will provide you with an explanation on how we went about incorporating Genius Hour within our grade 7 and 8 classes, as well as our successes and struggles at implementing this amazing program.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-9  Poetry Puzzles
Sandy Keddy

Poetry puzzles are a writing and art activity that fuses text and visual expression with community building.  In this session teachers will work through the poetry puzzle activity themselves.  A variety of poetry prompts and other resources will be provided.
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-10  Creative Writing for Teachers
Presented by ATENS

This is a repeat of A-7
(Maximum Participants:  30)

C-11  Everybody Has a Story: Connecting with Meaningful Characters and Narratives IRL
Sara Jewell

This is a repeat of B-11
(Maximum Participants:  30)

While we encourage members to have an NSTU web account, one is NOT REQUIRED to register for a conference.
You may register utilizing any email account.


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