Marna Macmillan

School District 43 – Coquitlam, BC


I have been a teacher in SD#43 for the past 28 years, and for the past 7 years I have been a Learning Services coordinator working in the areas of social and emotional learning, curriculum and safe schools. I coordinate the implementation of both the grade 4 and grade 7 MDI in our district and have worked with administrators, educators and community partners to organize and facilitate learning and networking conversations to build our knowledge and ability to use the MDI for further action.

How has your perspective on the middle years changed over time?

I was a middle years teacher for 20 years before I became a coordinator, and during those years I was immersed in the everyday realities of emerging adolescence and their joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams. They are definitely at that crossroads between child and young adult, with a growing need for friends and independence. What I came to understand as a teacher, and what I have had affirmed and clarified through our district’s work with the MDI is that our students want to be seen and understood. They want to have a say in how things happen, and they want to belong. I know, without a doubt, as I’ve watched many of my middle years students grow up, that the way we shape their experiences during the middle years matters, and can have a huge impact on who they will become. With the growing influence of technology and social media in our students’ lives, I believe it is even more important to engage them in ways that help them understand themselves and each other.

What has your local MDI data highlighted for you? How have you been able to make use of your data?

Our MDI data has definitely highlighted the fact that there are pockets of strength in every community, even in places that people least expect to see those particular strengths. AND there are concerns in every community, even in places where people least expect them. The MDI has taught us that there are multiple factors in a community that influence those strengths or challenges – and not just socio-economic factors – and it is important to take the time to look beyond pre-conceived notions and ask more questions about what might be going on. I think it is important to note that even before we started looking closely at our data, the MDI itself was able to articulate for educators and leaders the different facets that influence our students’ wellbeing. This in itself was an important conversation starter for our district, our community partners and our parents. The MDI data has been used by schools to shape school goals that target different aspects of student wellbeing. It is has been used to engage our community partners in a variety of conversations about how to meet the needs of our middle years students. It has been used to source funding in order to target specific programs that meet the needs of our students.

What challenges have you overcome in the process of working with the MDI? What's been most rewarding?

Well, we started with the MDI when it was a paper and pencil survey, so the technological advancements were a huge improvement for us! I think that beyond getting people comfortable and clear about the mechanics of how to administer the MDI, it was really important to have all stakeholders understand the ‘why’ of the MDI – why it matters and how it can be used to improve students’ lives. I think one of the most rewarding things is seeing how student wellbeing and social emotional learning have become a consistent part of conversations about student learning in our district – and the MDI has been a key factor in legitimizing and articulating that understanding.

Resources from Marna Macmillan