We asked Faculty of Education alumna and mentor teacher Amanda Pilipchuk (‘10 BEd, ‘16 MEd) to reflect on her teaching journey and offer advice to the next generation of educators.
What is your current teaching position?
Since 2010, I’ve taught at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School within the Elk Island Catholic School Division. I have taught Grades 9 to 12 in a variety of courses, including foods, outdoor education and zoology. However, the main subject area I have taught throughout the entirety of my career is biology.
Why did you choose education as a career?
I had some amazing teachers throughout my childhood that made such an impact on me!
Mrs. Schulte, my homeroom teacher from Grades 1 to 3, ignited my passion for science at an early age. I also distinctly remember her being such a maternal figure for me while my own mother was sick in the hospital. She immediately captured my love of learning that prevailed throughout my entire schooling experience.
In junior high Mr. Meszoly and Mr. Filiplic respectively introduced me to fine arts and social justice. In high school my biology teacher, Mrs. Nordhagen, fostered my love for the subject area and made learning fun. By the end of Grade 12, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in teaching biology at the high school level.
I only hope that one day my students will remember me the same way I fondly remember these teachers. The impact these teachers have had on me will never be forgotten.
While studying to become an educator, you were a student teacher. What was that experience like?
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.
By the end of each practicum, the nerves that came with stepping into the unknown had transformed into a joy of doing what I loved. I felt challenged and successful and they were both such great experiences!
What made you decide to become a mentor teacher yourself?
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!
If you could give advice to individuals who are just starting to pursue a teaching career, what would that be?
The first five years are the hardest! During this time you will be figuring out your teaching style, developing and reflecting on your lessons, and learning how to manage your classroom. You may also be struggling with securing a contract. My advice is that if you feel passionate about being in the classroom, stick with it! There will come a time when things get easier.
Once you get on your feet, remember to maintain that growth mindset and always keep your students' best interests in mind when making any decision. You will make mistakes but each one will be a learning opportunity. Teaching is a rewarding vocation that will bring you joy for many years to come.