Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association
The roots of the Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association (OMCA) were planted about 55 years ago when mathematics was being scrutinized by educators and politicians. In October 1957 the Russians startled the world by launching the first satellite, Sputnik, beating the USA by several months in achieving this scientific breakthrough. The politicians and the public believed that mathematics and science education had to be improved to overcome the Russian lead. Leadership in the proposed changes was given by the University of Illinois, the School Mathematics Study Group, and the College Entrance Examination Board. In Ontario, the Ontario Teachers Federation (OTF) and the Department of Education funded a large group of teachers to study the implications of the proposed changes for the Ontario curriculum. (paraphrased from the Ontario Mathematics Gazette, Vol. 29, #3, Apr 1991)
In that period of dynamic change, experimental courses and course materials for grades 7 to 13 were developed for Ontario schools. Many of the teachers involved in the writing went on to become curriculum leaders in some of the larger school boards. The first leaders were Wyn Bates (Director of Mathematics, Toronto), John Del Grande (Coordinator, North York), Joe Perrell (Consultant, Hamilton), Norm Sharp (Supervisor, Etobicoke), and Jack McKnight (Coordinator, Scarborough). They met informally, at first, to talk shop over lunch. They were nick-named the “Super-Con-Dirs”, reflecting their varying titles (Superintendent, Consultant, and Director).
After a few lunches, it became apparent that full day meetings would be very useful. The meetings were still very informal and were called whenever one of the members suggested that a meeting was warranted. John Del Grande acted as secretary for about 6 years. Any person with a K – 13 responsibilities for mathematics for a Board was invited to join the group.
As the group became larger it was formally named OMCA. A constitution was written in the mid 1970s and the group was expanded to also include consultants from many smaller boards. In 1989 in recognition of this, the name was changed to include “Coordinators/Consultants”. Then by 2010, with an even greater variety of job titles, the “C” went back to being the generic “Coordinators”. In 1991 there were about 40 members in OMCA, including representatives from the Ministry of Education, plus others with special assignments in mathematics. By 2010 membership was over 100.
Early OMCA leaders included John Clark (Toronto), John Del Grande (North York), Lorna Morrow (North York), Joan Routledge (Aurora), Jim Fencott (Scarborough), Ron Sauer (Kitchener), Brendan Kelly (Halton), Todd Romiens (Windsor), Alex Norrie (Peel), Bob Robinson (Hamilton and Ministry of Education). A listing of more recent Presidents is included at the end.
Recent OMCA Presidents and their Boards:
- 1987 Shirley McIntyre East York
- 1988 Brendan Kelly Halton
- 1989 Paul Zolis Scarborough
- 1990 Ron Sauer Waterloo
- 1991 Jeff Martin Etobicoke
- 1992 Judy Crompton Niagara
- 1993 Peter Saarimaki Toronto
- 1994 Rad de Peiza East York
- 1995 George Knill Hamilton
- 1996 Mary Lou Kestell Hamilton-Wentworth
- 1997 Mike Weirzba Etobicoke
- 1998 Marg Warren Peel
- 1999 Stewart Craven TDSB
- 2000 Tom Steinke Ottawa-Carleton Catholic
- 2001 Ruth Dawson Halton
- 2002 Jay Speijer Niagara
- 2004 Shelley Yearley Trillium Lakelands
- 2005 Pat Milot Niagara
- 2006 Mark Kolohon Bluewater
- 2007 Joyce Tonner Thames Valley
- 2008 Cheryl McQueen & Scott Armstrong Thames Valley (first joint presidents)
- 2009 Jacqueline Hill Durham
- 2010 Amy Lin Halton
- 2011 Sandie Rowell Hamilton-Wentworth
- 2012 Mary Fiore Peel
- 2013 Cam MacDonald Grand Erie District School Board
- 2014 Erik Teather Niagara District School Board
- 2015 Dan Allen Durham Catholic District School Board
- 2016 Chad Richard Durham Catholic District School Board
- 2017 Cathy Chaput Wellington Catholic District School Board
OMCA and OAME have a long history of cooperation and cross-over. The intersections have come about because of the many mathematics educators who have been members of both organizations. Even more to the point, seven people have been president of both OAME and OMCA: Judy Crompton, Peter Saarimaki, George Knill, Mary Lou Kestell, Marg Warren, Stewart Craven and Jacqueline Hill.
OMCA members have also played critical roles (e.g., conference or committee chairs or co-chairs) for OAME provincial and chapter conferences and for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) annual and regional conferences hosted in Ontario. (The 1982 NCTM Annual is the only Annual to be held outside the United States.)
Many members of OMCA are also members of other organizations, such as the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) the Canadian Mathematical Education Study Group, the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (UK), the Fields Institute (U of T), the Mathematical Association (UK), and the Canadian Mathematical Society.
Of special note, the first winner (1983) of NCSM’s prestigious Gilbert Medal was John Del Grande (North York), and he is still the only Canadian to receive this honour. Alex Norrie, Peel Coordinator in the 90s, was a director of NCSM and program chair for the joint NCTM/OAME/AOEM regional conference in Hamilton in May 1990.
The primary purpose of OMCA (from the beginning and reworded in the 2010 constitution) is to provide a framework for sharing of ideas, professional development, and an avenue for a collective impact on the direction of education particularly in the area of mathematics in the province of Ontario.
To further these aims, OMCA held it’s first “consultants seminar” in Nov 1983, with John Clark as the organizer. Peter Hilton from State University of New York was the keynote. Before his talk he walked around and talked to the delegates. Then he started his talk by introducing each and every person there by name and often also with some other interesting detail. There were 40 attendees!!
This annual event has continued to the present as the Annual Retreat, bringing leaders in mathematics education together to participate in the latest in mathematics education with the top thinkers, activists and leaders. Presenters have included such luminaries as Peter Hilton (who worked with Alan Turing on the Enigma Project), Zal Usisikin of the Chicago Maths Project, Father Stanley Bezuszka, Catherine Twomey Fosnot, Makoto Yoshida, Marian Small, Chris Suurtamm & Barbara Graves, Alex Lawson, John Ross, Catherine Bruce & Ruth Beatty, and others too numerous to list.
Retreat locations have varied from the original Toronto Ascot Inn on Airport Rd to North York Board’s outdoor education centre in Caledon, Deerhurst (Huntsville), Prince of Wales (Niagara on the Lake), Hockley Valley Resort, Sheraton (Niagara Falls), Elmhurst Inn (Ingersoll), Hilton (Niagara Falls), Holiday Inn (Burlington), Nottawasaga Inn, etc.
OMCA continues to evolve as the teaching profession evolves. We have moved with the technology. Several years ago OMCA acquired a Polycom which allowed members to participate in a conference call for the meeting, even if they were not in the same room!! The Polycom has since been put on a dusty shelf! Now OMCA is benefitting from members using the cutting edge Adobe Connect for audio and video communication.
We have also reconsidered our constitution and the succession plans of our Leadership team. As boards of education evolve, we have to keep in stride. In the last few years it has become evident that no longer are you hired as the Mathematics Consultant or Coordinator with the expectation that you are in that position for life. Many boards have evolved into 2 – to 5 year terms for their consultants and coordinators. Because of this, a President-elect is nominated each year and only expected to serve (hang in) for 3 years (as PE, P and PP). and tThe treasurer and secretary positions are now continuing positions, allowing Mike Davis for example to stay on for a number of years as treasurer, providing continuity over the long term.
OMCA and OAME have also joined together in many provincial curriculum reviews, curriculum documents and Ministry funded projects. These have included TIPS, PLMLP, CLIPS, MathGAINS, CAMPPP, and other initialled projects. OMCA will continue to work with OAME to ensure that the teachers of Ontario have reasoned, cogent, and coordinated input when the mathematics curricula come up (again) for review/revision.
Printed in the 40th Anniversary Edition of the Ontario Mathematics Gazette (OAME)
Vol 50 #4, June 2012
Author Peter Saarimaki
Past President and Life Member OAME
Past President and Life Member OMCA
Provincial Director and Emeritus Member NCSM