The goal of Christian Schools Canada (CSC) is to develop and promote a Canadian identity for education based on a Biblical worldview. For over ten years the organization has attempted to do that in a number of ways—through curriculum projects, written publications, international partnerships, and involvement in ongoing public dialogue.
Organizations from across Canada make up CSC. The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, the Ontario Christian School Administrators Association, and Edifide from Ontario. The Society of Christian Schools in BC, the Christian Teachers Association of BC, and the Christian Principals Association of BC. And, from the Praires, the Prairie Centre for Christian Education.
Prior to CSC’s formation in 1999 these organizations were (in some respects) operating in silos, says Henry Contant, CSC Board Chair. “We realized it was important to create a stronger national, Canadian voice to talk about things we were all dealing with provincially.”
Contant adds that Christian Schools Canada became the umbrella organization that pulled the three Canadian regions together organizationally. “I think a lot of dialogue happened as a result of that,” he says.
The organization’s desire to foster meaningful dialogue among Christian leaders in Canada was especially evident during this year’s seventh annual Christian School’s Canada Conference. Hosted by the SCSBC in Victoria, the event invited over 200 participants to engage with a number of compelling topics related to Christian education.
The workshops held during this year’s event were varied. Kevin Visscher and Jeremy Tinsley spoke about the opportunity to create a culturally inclusive model of aboriginal learning. Kimberly Franklin made a case of Ontology in education and David Tshishivhiri talked about the challenges facing Public and Christian education post-Apartheid. (These are only a few examples of the engaging seminars that were offered.)
“What has been really encouraging has been to see how the calibre and influence of the conference has grown with each year. The bar keeps getting higher,” notes Contant.
Reflections from Ontario attendees have been overwhelmingly positive.
“I was inspired by the vision of Christian education as outlined by our keynote speaker, James K.A. Smith,” says Paul Marcus, Principal at Knox Christian School. He notes that Smith’s address left him with several valuable points to ponder—among them the realization that “Christian schools are not places of assembling angels, but rather places for the cultivation and care-taking of Christian character”.
“What we have here is a call to hard work,” writes Marcus. “We have a call to develop a Christian way of living that, because of discipline and persistence over time, has become second nature.”
The last seven Christian Schools Canada conferences have been designed to inspire, challenge and strengthen Christian leaders in their personal and communal leadership journey. Although much of CSC’s efforts and time go towards making the event a memorable experience for guests, the organization’s impact stretches beyond one week in September. The board of CSC and both of its standing committees (one of learning and other other of finance) meet throughout the year.
“Every time there’s a Christian Schools Canada meeting, you bring together the executive directors of teachers and principals associations from across Canada,” says Contant. CSC meetings have provided leaders with the opportunity to dialogue about common learning platforms, discuss leadership development initiatives and more recently, explore issues related to finance .
The collaborative spirit behind those meetings is one of the reasons Contant attributes his time as CSC Board Chair as an important part of his own professional growth. “If I had stayed strictly provincially minded, I would not have learned as much or enjoyed the relationships that I did,” he says.
Although each member of CSC comes to the table wearing a different hat (with the specific goals of the organizations they represent in mind) Contant believes there will be ample opportunity for members of CSC to collaborate, to share ideas and to grow in wisdom in the years ahead!
This year, the keynote speaker at the biennial Christian Schools Canada Leadership Conference was James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College and the editor of Comment magazine. Over the next few weeks, the OACS News Service will provide readers with summaries of Smith’s four keynote addresses. Click here to read the first one!