Langenburg inspires a new generation of student leaders
Langenburg–Two years ago, teachers and students at Langenburg Central School won the bid to host the annual Saskatchewan Student Leadership Conference, an event that brings together Student Representative Council members from across the province. From September 19 to 21, they got to see their hard work and planning in action when they welcomed 1,000 students and teacher advisors to their school.
“We value the leadership skills students learn from these conferences because we see how it inspires them to make their school and community a better place,” says Fallon Prince, a teacher advisor and co-chair of the Langenburg SSLC.
This year’s theme was Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, and the song could be heard echoing through the halls as students arrived. The SSLC house band, made up of local students, also helped entertain the masses who didn’t seem to mind rocking out to classics like Johnny B. Goode.
“Being involved in music myself, I’m looking forward to hearing from Jess Moskaluke [Canadian country artist],” says 17-year-old Carter Vosper, a Grade 12 student and social director for the Langenburg SRC.
Taylor Zerr is a teacher advisor from Empire Community School in Moose Jaw. This is the first year she and her students attended.
“We’re building a playground right now, and we’re always looking for new ideas about fundraising,” says Zerr. “Community schools can’t afford to take on all associated costs. Without fundraising, kids would have to pay out of pocket which would greatly impact their experience.”
She hopes the conference helps students develop confidence, networking and leadership skills.
Karlee Andres, a 17-year-old, Grade 12 student and Langenburg’s SRC president, adds that mentioning your SRC involvement on scholarship and job applications is another benefit.
“I used to be a very shy kid, but I’ve changed because of my involvement with the SRC,” says Andres who has been part of the SRC for the last seven years.
“Now I have no problem speaking to strangers or at a conference. My public speaking has improved a lot.”
Moskaluke was one of three keynote speakers at the conference. She recently won a 2018 Canadian Country Music Association award for her album, Past the Past. She grew up in the community and is a former SRC member.
“It’s pretty cool that our keynotes are local,” says Andres. “Our furthest keynote speaker is from Russell, Manitoba. That is only 20 minutes away. When he [Jon Montgomery] won gold, we were all very excited.”
Montgomery, the second keynote speaker, won the gold medal in the men’s skeleton event at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But, some might recognize him from his most recent gig as host of The Amazing Race Canada.
The third keynote speaker was another homegrown talent. Katie Bergman is a published author and advocate for the prevention of human trafficking. She also used to be on the school newspaper.
For many, the conference was somewhat of a family reunion. “My mom was so excited, and she’s not even directly involved,” laughs Christie Kotzer-Milne, a teacher advisor from Turtleford Community School. She and her students travelled seven hours, one-way to attend.
“It could be because she’s hosting me, or maybe it’s the parade and fireworks,” she jokes. Whatever it is, Kotzer-Milne says the entire community of Langenburg should be proud.
About 150 billet families opened their homes to students, with some residents hosting up to 14 kids. Local businesses and organizations sponsored the keynote speakers and tradeshow, and many volunteers prepared meals to feed hundreds of hungry teachers and students.
“A lot of people stepped up to make this happen,” says Vosper. “When I go to events in the future, I’m going to be a lot more appreciative of the people who put it on.”
Members of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation staff attended the event and sponsored a tradeshow booth to promote Re-Imagine Education, a bold initiative to reshape public education in Saskatchewan.
Patrick Maze, STF President, says it’s been 30 years since public education has undergone any comprehensive review and a lot has changed since then.
“As the professional organization that represents teachers, we want students and teachers to know we care,” says Maze. “You are in the best position to make education improvements, and we want to ensure your voice is being heard.
“We will continue to advocate for a sustainable model of education that reflects the day-to-day realities Saskatchewan teachers and students are experiencing,” says Maze.
Phase two of the Re-Imagine Education initiative, launched this fall, involves community conversations about the issues facing education today, what the future might look like and what we need to do to make this vision a reality.
Students at the conference were invited to share their thoughts by participating in a video, or by answering questions and were entered in a draw to win a Tomorrow is in Today’s Classroom t-shirt or tote bag. These items can also be purchased from the STF Arbos shop.
A number of teachers grabbed resources and indicated they plan to weave Re-Imagine Education conversations into their social justice and advocacy classes. The feedback received will inform a final summary report which offers recommendations to strengthen public education in Saskatchewan.