Class Notes Spring 2022

Attention Education alumni! Are you currently teaching in an Alberta K-12 classroom? If so, you’re eligible to enter our Applause for Teachers contest, a small gesture of appreciation for all you do!

How To Enter: Fill out the online form with your name, active email address and mailing address and indicate the name of your school. You’ll be entered in a draw to win one of the following:

First Prize Package: $125 Audreys Bookstore gift card and Faculty swag
Second Prize: $75 Audreys gift card
Third Prize: $50 Audreys gift card

Deadline to enter: May 19, 2022

A detailed description of the official rules can be found here. Good luck!

In this edition of Class Notes, U of A Education alumni weigh in on some of their teaching inspirations, including the mentoring experiences that made them into the educators they are today.

Ovid WongOvid Wong (‘71 DipEd, ‘92 Distinguished Alumni Award) — It is very hard for me to imagine that I am still in education 50 years after graduation from the University of Alberta. I claim to have seen the world of education from the inner city classroom to the office of the assistant superintendent in the suburban public school system. Now, I am back in the university classroom going full circle as an education professor teaching the next generation of teachers. I changed my teaching philosophy and practices from being an essentialist to a hybrid essentialist and progressivist. Through time I learned that content is not always the most important; people are. Of course, I am biased — I am a teacher!

Cal BotterillCal Botterill (‘77 PhD Cert. Ed.) — The best teachers are mentors and I had the good fortune of experiencing amazing mentors during graduate work at the University of Alberta. The late Clare Drake and the late Dr. Murray F.R. Smith showed me how mentoring helps the mentor as well as the protege.

After retirement, mentoring has kept me vibrant and learning with great young professionals. With young colleagues I developed a “High Performance Physician” program. We published a book titled Sustainable High Performance on what we learned from medical residents. There is nothing more meaningful than contributing to the growth of young professionals!! Medical professionals have been under siege during the pandemic. Teaching and mentoring is about paying back to those that follow. I grew, my young colleagues grew, and young doctors grew in handling adversity through this initiative. We also reached out to student-athletes at the University of Winnipeg who were missing support, attention and the opportunity to compete during the pandemic. To compensate for a lengthy imposed off-season, and distant online courses, we developed a series of “Getting Better” articles for team discussion, planning and development. The result was great team cohesion, quality training and appreciation of health and performance psychology. My mentors would be proud.

Lydia YikonaLydia Yikona (‘79 BEd) — After a connection of more than 40 years in education, I retired on July 1, 2019. On my travel itinerary for 2020, I included University of Alberta in Edmonton. I had not set foot in Canada since I graduated in 1979. To keep my mind fresh, I planned to volunteer in any capacity at my grandson’s elementary school beginning in the Spring of 2020. Then the COVID lockdown came in March 2020. I found myself assisting my grandson Elijah in his virtual learning in Kindergarten. In that moment, even with my experience as a classroom teacher and as an administrator, I realized how difficult and daunting this job was for the teachers. Keeping ALL students engaged and on task. The challenge was appropriate assessment. On certain days, the technology hindered instructional time yet the teachers exhibited enthusiasm. I participated in “physical education” by dancing with Elijah to a Noodles Musical Program the teacher provided. I felt silly but the activity motivated the children. It gave students a break from the laptop screen. The students in my community have access to high-speed internet which made the challenge more manageable. I thought of the teachers whose students did not even have a computer let alone the internet. We salute them!

Dr. Stephen A. Cruikshank (‘11 BEd) — The University classroom has looked different since I began instructing undergraduate courses in 2013. Task-based pedagogy framed in the four walls of a classroom slowly gave way to a mediocre imitation of blind break-out rooms framed within the screen of a laptop.

Stephen CruikshankMy applause goes out to a colleague I have worked with since my PhD: Jesus Toapanta, in the department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. Jesus recently told me that his father in Ecuador passed away due to Covid, which affected me with the memories of my own father dying of pancreatic cancer in 2018. We don't always see what is going on behind the walls or the screens. Yet educators like Jesus demonstrate a silent resilience and perseverance that floods the classroom—whether on campus or online—with the reminder that education is a creative energy that, when harnessed, cannot be quenched. Amidst loss and the struggle of raising three children with his wife during a pandemic, Jesus refuses to let the difficulties and pains of life leak through the passionate screens or walls of his classroom. He is an inspiration in these pandemic times and a reminder to teach with strength.

Cristal Hennig (‘00 BEd) — During this unprecedented time of adaptation due to Covid, I am continually uplifted by my colleagues who regularly check in with me to ensure that I feel appreciated, supported and ready to tackle the next challenge. Teaching students online can present many complications, but when students make a connection with their teacher or a classmate the pure joy they experience is the same as in person. Kudos to everyone that has honed their experience and expertise to do their best for our children!

Amanda Pilipchuk (‘10 BEd, ‘16 MEd) — I was so nervous to begin both of my practicums! I remember being utterly exhausted from all of the planning, marking and stress of managing a classroom. However, I also remember the students that I taught, the successes I had in my lessons, and the relationships I formed with my mentor teachers. The feedback they provided filled me with newfound optimism that I could be an effective teacher. [I chose to be a mentor teacher because] I wanted to challenge myself and think critically about my teaching practice while guiding preservice teachers in developing their own unique teaching styles. Being observed by a student teacher is a unique experience. As a teacher, your students are actively absorbing the content you are delivering, whereas student teachers are actively absorbing your practice. I wanted another opportunity to reflect on how things were going in my classroom.

Additionally, I wanted an opportunity to form relationships with preservice teachers and be their partner during their practicums. The practicums are a delicate time for preservice teachers; having a mentor that is supportive and offers an abundance of assistance and feedback can really help in providing a positive experience. Having a strong relationship with your student teacher is key! (Read the full interview with Amanda Pilipchuk.)

Sarah Carnevale (‘19 BEd) — Two weeks after graduation I moved to Melbourne, Australia, to start my teaching career. Since making the move to Melbourne, I have worked in primary, secondary and special education schools and have gained so much experience. I have now combined my passion for travel and teaching to start a business for other teachers who are looking to work in Melbourne.

Feature image: Education alum and mentor teacher Amanda Pilipchuk (supplied)