KAWARTHA LAKES – For Matthew Beaton, his unwavering passion to assist and encourage students to follow their own paths and goals in second language learning is part of his everyday life.
And as a Second Language Consultant for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) Beaton was recently acknowledged with the Directors Recognition Award for his dedication but also his ability to go above and beyond for the school system and for those in need.
After hearing many concerns regarding students lack of second language exposure during the pandemic and the summer months, Beaton decided to create the first ever, French summer program.
“The basis of second language learning, it lives in interaction and oral back and forth,” he said. “Because our kids were off, teachers and community members were hearing concerns about the worry that kids might not be exposed to the language.”
And so, Beaton decided to provide students with an opportunity to feel confident as they enter back into an uncertain fall. According to Beaton, the program focused on oral competency while offering students a chance to feel confident in speaking with one another, rehearsed and unrehearsed while supported by a teacher.
The program was offered for three weeks and Beaton is feeling optimistic that the program will continue with ongoing interest and parental support.
Beaton works closely with teachers and administrative staff to determine the needs of students and goals through second language programs such as the core program as well as French immersion. All TLDSB schools offer the core program, which guarantees that all students from Grade 4 to Grade 8 will participate in at least one French period, everyday, Beaton said.
Beaton’s day can change on a regular basis but his role is to support administrators and teachers.
“My job is to support what is in the curriculum and to advocate for the French as a Second Language(FSL) and English as a Second Language(ESL)” he said. “In FSL, my role is often trying to look at student retention, we always want to ensure our kids and families are clear about what their learner’s pathway and possibilities to second language acquisition can be in TLDSB.”
The French Immersion program begins with Grade 1 students and continues through to Grade 8. And while not every TLDSB school offers this program, it is available at various schools throughout the district. TLDSB Secondary schools also offer various pathways to continue second language learning for students who choose to do so, he said.
For Beaton, his son, a Grade 1 student, is a thriving example of what learning a second language can do.
“It’s this love of language, he’s coming home and it’s as if the teacher has unlocked this special code that now he feels so confident, even though he’s learning at a very different pace, he feels special,” he explained. “To me, its not that a child can’t experience that in any other program, but in this instance, that’s the power that learning a second language can have. I will continue to support and foster that love of second language.”
According to Sinead Fagan, Communications Officer with the TLDSB, the Director of Education, Westly Hahn first introduced the Directors Recognition Award at the regular board meeting on September 22. The award is now offered as a way to recognize the extraordinary contributions by staff members, students, school volunteers or community members, she said.
Recipients are then recognized at each monthly board meeting. Since the award was first given out, Dylan Sontag, Kirk McFarlane, Paul Starling, Brenda Roberge, Peggy Lawler, Aimée Bulloch-Moore and Matthew Beaton have all been recognized and awarded.
Katherine MacIver, Superintendent of Learning for TLDSB, nominated Beaton for his ability to create innovative programs to support students. Many teachers at TLDSB have also come forward to express their gratitude for Beaton’s work, she said.
“People are so appreciative of his time and work,” she said. “In the middle of school being shut down and with an eye on second language acquisition, he really came up with a program to keep kids connected to the second language, it was well received.”
According to MacIver, the Directors Recognition Award is given to recognize people that are making exemplarity contributions within TLDSB. As a consultant, Beaton is tasked with supporting both portfolio items that are moving forward and supporting the teachers in the classroom as they adapt to new curriculum and teach it to students, she added.
“I think he and all of our consultants are appreciated for the support that they’re able to provide educators,” said MacIver.