While most future teachers do not go down the pedagogic path until they have entered an education program, UPEI’s pre-BEd Learning Community students are being given a rare opportunity in their undergraduate degree.
Chloé McCloskey, Brynn Van Wiechen and Matt Cox are three second-year Arts majors in the University 100 pre-BEd Learning Community. Unlike many of their colleagues, they are banking classroom hours before they have even hit the halfway mark on their first degree. All three agree that the University 100 Program has given them opportunity to form close bonds not only with each other, but also with the program’s professors and teachers and mentors currently working in the Prince Edward Island school system.
Designed to give future teachers an advantage, the pre-BEd Learning Community students are grouped together while taking certain select courses to form a cohesive curriculum and study groups. The program focuses on hands on learning and application in the classroom, all while receiving constructive feedback not only from UPEI professors, but also from the teachers and mentors they’ve been paired with. Ideally, all three students are hoping to be admitted to the Bachelor of Education Program in two years.
“Nobody else who I have talked to is volunteering. I’m getting work in my field right now, “ says Van Wiechen, who is currently getting hands on experience as a guidance counsellor in a Charlottetown high school through the Leadership 303 internship placement. “Normally it’s only college students who get on the job training.”
Though all three students have always wanted to be teachers, they say the pre-BEd learning community is letting them see the realities of working in education. For Van Wiechen, the experience has slightly shifted her vision of the future. She now wants to focus her efforts towards becoming a guidance counselor. “I find after each experience, I have more courage to do more and more. Whereas if I didn’t have this experience, whenever I did go into education, I would be shy, whereas now I can just jump right into it,” says Van Wiechen.
“It gives us the opportunity to have the reassurance that we are going for the right path,” says McCloskey, who has already logged more than 120 hours in the elementary, junior high and high school classrooms in her second year of university. McCloskey is currently interning in a Grade 6 French immersion classroom.
For Matt Cox, his internship has been slightly off the education path. Instead of being in the classroom, Cox is laying the groundwork with Habitat for Humanity for a future project of the University 100 Program, where alumni, students and faculty will come together to build a home for a family in need.
Though all three are certain they want to become teachers, Cox, McCloskey and Van Wiechen all agree that the experiences they’ve had in the University 100 Program will benefit them regardless of what they chose to do in the future. “Through volunteering and being in the classroom, we’re getting to meet people who could be great references in the future, ” says Cox. “Our foot is in the door.”
When asked if they were involved before arriving on the UPEI campus in the Fall of 2011, Samara MacDonald, Nicole MacLauchlan and Jayoda Tennekone all respond with laughter and a prompt “no.”
Since then, the three students have grown to adopt a strong spirit of volunteerism that they attribute to taking their first courses in the University 100 Program in their first year. It prompted them to connect with their university community as well as with each other, even though they had graduated from high school together but had never been friends.
“I don’t think that I would be here in my fourth year if it wasn’t for that first University 100 full year program,” says MacDonald, who like MacLlauchlan is a fourth year Psychology major. She says it taught them how to learn and enjoy their academic journey.
The team of three was first introduced to community involvement when working together on a project in their first year. Since then, they have teamed up on a variety of occasions, both within the University 100 Program and outside the classroom, including the Student Ambassador Program, the UPEI Stories Showcase, the Student Affairs Advisory Committee and attending the East Coast Student Leadership Conference in 2014.
“We all liked what we were doing as well, which was a really big asset,” says Tennekone, who is finishing his Honors in Sociology and Anthropology this year.
“Because there’s so much stuff on this campus, it is really easy to shut down and not help anybody because you don’t know where to start,” says MacLlauchlan, who like the others, recommends taking University 100 as a way to break into the community.
This semester, MacLauchlan, Tennekone and MacDonald have been placed in the International Relations Office as part of their University 303: Leadership Theory and Practice internship. The team worked with a group of Korean exchange students from Dankook University studying English at UPEI during their winter break. Amongst many other things, they’ve worked to give the visiting students a true, organic UPEI and Prince Edward Island experience. They have also created a video essay that the students can take home with them at the end of their time here.
Besides the internship opportunities, the three students say that the courses in the University 100 Program have given them a set of versatile learning experiences that they will apply outside the classroom. Their experience volunteering within the university made campus feel less stressful and happier, while all three agreed that many students ignore these resources and opportunities.
“That’s a big part of it, making this campus your community,” adds MacDonald.
“I can totally see myself being a person who wouldn’t have been involved in anything that I am now… but the fact that I am, it helps me out so much as a person. I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities,” says Tennekone, who has been fully sponsored to attend The Jack Summit, a student-led mental health innovation summit, in Toronto in March.
“The connections we’ve made will help us later,” adds MacLauchlan, who like the others, believes their involvement in the program has exposed them to what is possible in the future.
“You’ll be able to grow every way, not just the ways you thought you were good at.”
When Katelyn O’Hanley, BSc ’14, decided to go back to university this year to enhance her qualifications, there was no question she would be returning to the University of Prince Edward Island.
O’Hanley is serious about a career in Speech-Language Pathology and is back at the university to ensure she can make it happen. Aside from the prerequisites required to get into her choice programs, she has also decided to take University 303: leadership theory and practice.
“I wanted to broaden my horizons to schools I could apply to,” says O’Hanley, who did not decide on Speech-Language Pathology until late in her undergraduate. “Really what intrigued me the most was the internship aspect. It would give me a great chance to get out in the community and maybe explore an area of interest more.”
Her placement is assisting Michele Moffat, a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist and PhD student, with her specialized EAP Phonetics course at the university. She will be helping Moffat prepare for the class and will observe the practices applied to teach international students proper pronunciations of English words. For O’Hanley, it provides experience in the environment she would someday like to work in.
“Even me just watching how she interacts with the students and techniques she uses… that’s going to be very valuable knowledge, even if it’s just observational experience,” says O’Hanley, who is also happy to be boosting her resume within her home community.
“A lot of what I’m doing this year is volunteering and taking on different work experiences, “ says O’Hanley. “I have enjoyed my four years at UPEI. The faculty has been knowledgeable and I really like the smaller class sizes, so why would I go to a new university and forfeit those benefits?”
Along with her other preparations taken to ensure she is ready for program applications, O’Hanley saw a course in the University 100 program to be valuable to her because she could give back to her community, develop her leadership skills and gain practical experience.
“I can only imagine that I will leave this internship experience with new information and techniques which I can apply in my future career.”