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Kailea Switzer, BEd’10, Teaches Students the Power of Organization

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, November 30, 2017
When Kailea Switzer was a child, her favourite activity was removing books from her bookshelf only to place them back in new categories.

“I have always been like this. I am passionate about organization. My brain just thinks that way; it thinks in categories, so I am happy to find a professional use for that.”

Today Switzer is a student coach. She teaches university students the importance of being organized to help them tackle their academic work with more ease.

“The gap between high school and university can be very extreme,” Switzer explained. “Students had so much structure in high school from their families and teachers. When they get to university, they have so much freedom, which can be really exciting but it can also lead to increased anxiety and procrastination and other self-defeating outcomes.”

Switzer earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at Mount Allison University, a Bachelor of Education degree at St. Thomas University, and a Master’s of Education at Harvard University.

As part of her master’s program, she designed an intervention to support students who are transitioning from high school to university by teaching them how to increase self-regulation and executive functioning skills. This intervention is the framework for her current coaching practice.

Switzer currently lives in Los Angeles but most of her clients attend universities in Canada. Their sessions are virtual and take place via Facetime.

“I think of organization as a skill. For many years I studied piano, and I always think it’s the same as that. You wouldn’t try to learn the piano or a sport just by reading a handout. But often with things like time management, planning and organization, that’s what we give students. It’s a skill set, so we have to learn it the same way that we would learn any other skill. It takes one-on-one attention and time to develop.”

Switzer said often students will begin a session feeling overwhelmed, but she helps them create plans that make their workload more manageable.

“Whenever you feel overwhelmed, it means your first step is too big and you need to know how to break it down into something smaller,” she says.

“Students often end the session saying, ‘I feel like I can breathe now. I have a plan for this week. I know what to do today and I know what to do tomorrow.’ At the end of the coaching session, my goal is that they can breathe a sigh of relief and have a sense of how they can get their work done, with less stress along the way.”

Switzer helps students identify priorities, set weekly goals, and lay out what they need to do each day to stay on track. She teaches students how to make a schedule that balances school work and fun, and uses habit formation and learning research to support students’ unique needs.

Switzer says although she struggled a bit more than her friends with academic content when she was an undergraduate student, her organization skills helped her succeed.

“There were people around me who seemed to master things so much more effortlessly in the classroom, but they weren’t organized and so their grades would suffer. I was extremely organized and it always seemed to work well for me in school. I feel like organization was my secret weapon!”

For more information about Kailea Switzer’s coaching practice or her online course 'Straight-A’ Secrets From a Non-Genius', please visit www.kaileaswitzer.com.

A Challenging but Fulfilling Journey: Emilie Gray Completes her Bachelor of Education Degree just Six Months after the Birth of her Son

PUBLISHED DATE: Friday, July 14, 2017
When Emilie Gray, BEd’ 17, crossed the stage at Summer Convocation it marked the end of a challenging, but fulfilling journey.

The Minto, NB, resident completed her Bachelor of Education degree despite having welcomed her son Avery into the world just six months ago.

“He was born December 22 and that was two days before the end of my practicum,” Gray said. “Having a baby during the program was definitely a challenge, but it was also a really exciting time in my life.”

Gray missed those last two days before Christmas break, but returned to classes two weeks later. Although it was difficult, the new mother said the support she received from classmates, professors, and the university made a big difference.

“We all created these amazing bonds and it was a huge support system for me,” Gray said. “Everyone looks out for you and wants you to succeed. That’s the great thing about STU, they don’t want you to fail so they support you any way they can.”

Grant Williams, Director of the School of Education, said Gray returning to the program so soon after Avery’s arrival was a demonstration of her commitment to becoming a teacher.

“It really was remarkable to see Emilie back in classes in January after having had the baby just weeks earlier” he said. “It’s a real testament to her sense of focus, determination, and commitment to becoming an excellent teacher.”

Gray, who hopes to teach at the High School or Middle School level, is looking forward to making connections with her students and using her own experiences to offer support to those who may be struggling.

“I want to connect with students and let them know that whatever difficulties they’re facing, they can overcome them,” she said. “I want them to know there’s a better path they can find and that they will get there someday.”

For Gray, the “better path” included earning her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees.

“It feels really good to have earned this degree, especially considering how things could have turned out,” she said. “I decided to pursue Education mostly to continue my own learning. It’s a passion I hope to extend to others.”

The learning isn’t over for Gray yet—she’s applied to the Maliseet Immersion course, a two-year program that focuses on reading, writing, and speaking Maliseet. After that, her hope is to work in the public school system.

For more information about the St. Thomas School of Education, click here.

A Great Purpose: School of Education graduate Holly Miller reflects on her experience in the STU program

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, July 6, 2017
This was a speech delivered by Holly Miller, BEd’17, at the School of Education Graduate’s Dinner.

Take a moment and pause.

Teaching is an exhausting, energy-draining, yet extremely rewarding profession, so it’s important to take a moment to celebrate our hard work.

 As we come to the end of our degree, we reflect on one of the biggest endeavors of our lives. We count down the days, hours, and minutes in one of the busiest years we’ve ever experienced. We’ve worked countless hours and late nights for a great purpose—to educate young minds.

I’m certain we can think back to some of the challenges we’ve overcome in the past year. Moments in our practicums and days we thought we would give up, but then there’s a memory of that one student that puts a smile on our face. That one student that smiles, or improves their reading skills, or is excited about what we’re teaching. That one student makes it all worthwhile.

Now that we’ve completed our second practicum and our days in the program are numbered, we have to recall those first day butterflies and our successes along the way. We need to cherish what we’ve learned from our professors, from our students, and from each other.

We did this together.

We wouldn’t have been able to work on countless reflections, projects, or assignments if we didn’t work as a team. As I look around the room, I see the faces of those who started as strangers, but have grown to be lifelong friends.
We’re down to our final days—for now—sitting in the classroom. As we reflect on our year, it’s important to remember that we may forget the topics taught or the essays wrote, but we’ll always remember the experiences and the memories made.

We’ve all changed and shaped our teaching in many ways, and now we are the minds that are shaping the future generation.

Raise Your Hand If.. A reflective lesson from Noah Clark, School of Education Class of 2017

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, July 6, 2017
This article was part of a speech delivered by Noah Clark, BEd’17, at the School of Education Graduate’s Dinner.

Over the past ten months, we’ve learned that we need to engage our students.

For this lesson, I will ask some very simple questions and if those questions apply to you, I would ask that you raise your hand.

1. Raise your hand if you’ve started a sentence with “during my last placement.”

2. Raise your hand if you have more work in a 1.5 credit hour class than you do in a three credit hour class.

3. Raise your hand if you became accustomed to reflecting after every class.

4. Raise your hand if you started a sentence saying “my kids.”

5. Raise your hand if your students wouldn’t get off of technology during class.

6. Raise your hand if during our classes you used technology.

7. Raise your hand if you checked out before third semester even started.

8. Raise your hand if you’ve every expressed frustration with group work.

9. Raise your hand if you dressed super fancy on the first day, but had a steady decline after that.

10. Raise your hand if you second guessed everything you were doing in fear of a 701.

11. Raise your hand if you are thankful for all the hard work, time, and dedication the faculty and staff put in for us.

Now that we’ve completed our lesson, we will finish with an exit slip. I want you to reflect not on the grades, not on the class, not on what stream you’re in, but reflect on the memories we’ve made together. Reflect on how far we’ve come since sitting in orientation to almost being graduates. Reflect on the late night lessons, planning, and countless hours of class work. Reflect on the bonds and friendships we’ve made.

You don’t have to pass this assignment in, but take the time to appreciate the program and everything it had to offer us, personally and professionally.

Now, I am going to give you homework.

Your homework assignment is to go out and be the best teacher you can be using all the experiences we’ve gained in this program.

“What I’m Meant to Do” -- Dominique Caravan’s Dream Becomes a Reality with Position in Anglophone School District

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, June 22, 2017
Dominique Caravan has wanted to be a teacher since she was a child.

“When you were going around the classroom and other children were saying ‘I want to be a Zamboni driver,’ my answer was always teacher,” Caravan said. “I’ve always loved children and helping people, so I feel it’s what I’m meant to do.”

The soon to be St. Thomas University School of Education graduate will officially make her lifelong dream a reality this fall as she begins her career in Anglophone School District West teaching grade one French Immersion.

“It’s a scary and daunting adventure, but just to be able to make my own decisions and do what I want to do will be great,” she said. “Getting to teach things in my own way and having a bit more freedom is what I’m most excited about getting this position.”

Caravan—who grew up in Fredericton and earned her Bachelor of Arts at STU—completed both of her field placements at local Elementary Schools, which only reinforced her desire to teach at the primary level.

“I did my first field placement in Kindergarten and my second in a grade five classroom, so it really allowed me to see the differences between these two levels,” she said. “I think having the two field placements is amazing.”

Teaching for Your Students

The St. Thomas School of Education emphasizes teaching for your students, which is one lesson Caravan plans to put into action in her classroom.

“Being a teacher is a very empathetic career. It’s all about making connections with your students,” she said. “If you don’t make those connections, your students aren’t going to listen to you and they aren’t going to want to learn from you.”

As her 11-month Bachelor of Education program comes to a close, Caravan said she’s ready and excited to begin her career.

“The Education program is challenging, but I think it prepares you for what the teaching profession is actually like,” she said. “Once you’re done, you know what’s expected of you. It really prepares you for what’s to come.”

Hired at Home: Monica Rosvall, BEd’ 17, Earns Teaching Position in Fredericton

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, June 19, 2017
Monica Rosvall always wanted to be a teacher.

“Both of my parents are teachers,” she said. “They always said if I could see the life of a teacher at home and still want to do it that I would make out okay.”

Rosvall, of Fredericton, NB, has made out more than okay—she recently signed a contract with the Anglophone School District West and will be teaching in her hometown this fall.

Hired to teach a Grade 4/5 English class, Rosvall will also be teaching post-intensive French given she is fully bilingual.

“I did my second practicum in post-intensive French—the French class for English students—and it was really interesting,” she said. “It’s really rewarding when you can see kids that have no French be confident enough at the end of the year that they can become bilingual.”

After completing two practicums as a student teacher, Rosvall is looking forward to leading her own class.

“In your practicum it’s a weird transition for the kids because they’ve had a teacher for so long and all of the sudden you show up,” she said. “I’m excited to just start a class in September, to meet the students, let them get to know me, and then start accomplishing our goals for the year.”

Rosvall, who completed her undergraduate degree at St. Thomas, will earn her Bachelor of Education at Summer Convocation in July. Looking back on her time in the program, the collaborative learning stands out as a highlight of her experience.

“The field trips were really fun because going on the trips with other future teachers causes you to see it through a different lens,” she said. “It’s interesting to feed off each other and see the different perspectives from elementary to high school education because you have to teach more complex content in a variety of ways.”

The biggest lesson learned for Rosvall as she moves on to begin her career is to have patience—with her students and with herself.

“You learn patience very quickly when you’re doing your practicum,” she said. “Patience is definitely fostered in this program, and you learn how to create that in the classroom.

St. Thomas University School of Education
The St. Thomas University Bachelor of Education is delivered in 11 months and offers the same course work and certification as a two-year program. It builds on previous undergraduate degrees in arts, science, or other comparable programs, and includes two practicums at different grade levels, and when possible at different schools.

Find out more, here.

Prepared for the Next Challenge: Cody Hamilton Accepts Position at Barnhill Memorial School

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, June 19, 2017
Cody Hamilton is looking forward to the challenge of teaching his own class this fall.

The St. Thomas University School of Education student recently accepted a position at Barnhill Memorial School in Saint John, NB, teaching eighth grade math and science.

“I’m looking forward to having full autonomy inside my classroom and making my own decisions,” he said. “It will be more challenging than our internships, but I’m prepared and excited by the opportunity.”

The Campbellton, NB, resident originally pursued a career in education because he loved sharing knowledge, but over the course of his degree developed a strong appreciation for the learning relationship that’s developed between students and teachers.

“Ultimately, you don’t teach content. You teach kids,” he said.

 “I like helping students see value in what they’re learning. It’s gratifying to get them engaged and asking questions. Really, it’s building that learning relationship with students that I enjoy.”

He also discovered the value of collaboration—something the St. Thomas program emphasizes and will benefit him in his new position at Barnhill Memorial School.

“What we’re taught at STU is that teaching is a collaborative enterprise,” he said. “I saw on their website that Barnhill has a Professional Learning Community, which is basically teachers actively working together to improve student experience and teaching at the school. I’m really looking forward to experiencing that.”

“STU Boasts of Being a Small University Where You’re Not a Number—Well, It’s True”

Hamilton chose to pursue his Bachelor of Education degree at St. Thomas because of the good things he’d heard about the program. He said the degree, and the university as a whole, didn’t disappoint.

“Before entering the program, I asked around and received a lot of feedback about how highly STU interns were regarded. Once I started doing my internships, this was repeated by mentor teachers,” he said.

“Our professors in the program were very easy to get in touch with. Eighty-five students came into the program and our professors knew all our names on the first day. They were awesome, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their dedication and support. STU boasts of being a small university where you’re not a number— well, it’s true.”


“10 Ways to be a Great Teacher” -- Grant Williams, Director of the St. Thomas University School of Education

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
1.  Great teachers are positive: Being a positive teacher can be challenging because you’re often met with difficult problems and limited solutions. However, staying positive has a tremendous impact on your students. Great teachers find ways to see the bright side of situations.
 
2.  Great teachers are builders: A great teacher bridges gaps and builds relationships, friendships, and community. A great teacher seeks to build community in the classroom, and they often find ways to spread that sense of community among the entire school.

3.  Great teachers inspire: A great teacher inspires students—and other teachers—to be better. A great teacher uncovers hidden talents and helps to make seemingly impossible things possible.

4.  Great teachers are confident: A great teacher is confident. This can mean having confidence in what you know and/or having confidence in your ability to teach content. However, truly great teachers have another kind of confidence. That’s the confidence that they are where they’re meant to be, and the time they are spending with their students will benefit everyone in a positive way—even when things get tough. This confidence is vital to being successful in your career.

5.  Great teachers embrace change: School is meant to be a transformative place for students, but it should be just as transformative for teachers. If you expect students to be changed by their interaction with you, also expect to be changed by the interaction yourself. The education system will also change during your career; you will need to adjust your methods and approaches, too.
 
6.  Great teachers value reflection: Every teacher will have things go well, but they will also have things go poorly. Reflection is key to being a great teacher. You have to be ready to be honest to yourself and your students—even when things go poorly because of something you did, and also when things go well because of something your students did. Teaching requires a willingness to cast a critical eye on your practice, your pedagogy, and yourself. This is a challenging but beneficial habit.

7.  Great teachers model risk-taking: A great teacher will bring students out of their comfort zone—to take a risk to try something new or learn something unfamiliar. However, a great teacher shows students it’s okay to take risks by example. Be willing to go out on a limb or be a little “wacky” in the name of pedagogy. Students are more apt to remember the lesson, and also the risk.

8.  Great teachers are kind: A great teacher shows kindness to students, colleagues, parents, and all those around them. The simple act of kindness can make students feel welcomed, cared for, and safe while they are in your class. This directly contributes to their learning, and to the characteristics they are developing as humans.

9.  Great teachers are compassionate: Teaching is a very humanistic profession, and a great teacher shows compassion all the time. Compassion shows students patience, understanding, respect, and concern so they feel more comfortable and able to learn. Receiving compassion also helps students learn to be compassionate.

10.  Great teachers are empathetic: A great teacher is able to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” A great teacher knows that not everyone’s had the same experiences or opportunities and this can affect the way a student learns and/or interacts. Having empathy helps a great teacher be there for students who fail tests, don’t make a team, are teased, lose a family member or pet; who have their hearts broken, experience depression or anxiety, are diagnosed with illness, or who don’t feel loved by anyone. By showing empathy, you will help students feel less judged, alone, or afraid—and you will show others that empathy can change lives.

Mental Health in the Classroom: Teacher Candidates Organize Workshop to Reduce Stigma and Misconceptions Surrounding Mental Health

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, May 4, 2017
Jennifer Purdue, one of the workshop organizers, believes teachers need to stay informed when it comes to mental health.
Students in St. Thomas University’s Bachelor of Education are keeping the dialogue open when it comes to mental health.

The teacher-candidates organized a professional development workshop titled
“The Elephant in the Classroom,” which connected student-teachers with experts from the public school system and non-government organizations to explore ways to reduce mental health stigma, correct misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses, and create safe and inclusive environments for students.

“It was evident many people had questions and a strong desire to learn more about this topic,” said Stacey Hoffe, one of the workshop organizers. “I truly believe the more informed we all are about mental health, the better we can help ourselves and others.”

For Jen Purdue, who spearheaded the workshop, the subject of mental health is personal.

After being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in grade nine, it took years for Purdue to find a successful treatment method. She understands the effect mental illness can have on someone’s life and academic performance if not addressed.

“I needed to juggle the usual academic and social demands of high school with panic attacks. I missed a lot of school and my grades suffered,” she said. “I was afraid to talk to teachers about my disorder because I didn’t want them to judge me, and even if I did work up the courage to talk to my teachers I had no idea what to say.”

Although there’s no set formula for teachers to follow when students encounter mental illness, the workshop made it clear to the class of teacher candidates that listening and creating a safe space for students is crucial.

“Educators play an important role in shaping the mental wellness journeys of their students. Whether it’s by educating students about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health, modeling positive coping strategies, creating safe spaces, or being a listener for those who need to talk,” Hoffe said.

Purdue added getting to know students to have a better idea of when their mental health might be deteriorating is important.

“Like with all exceptionalities, it’s important we don’t try and diagnose our students, but if we know the signs and can recognize a potential mental health problem, we can discuss it with the students and their families.”