Inaugural Health and Physical Education MEd cohort to cross virtual convocation stage

Fall Convocation 2020 will see the inaugural cohort of the Health and Physical Education Master of Education students graduate. Led by Elementary Education professors Doug Gleddie and Hayley Morrison and Secondary Education professor Lauren Sulz, the program is designed to allow teachers to pursue their master’s degree over two years through a combination of online courses and a two-week in-person component in each summer of the program.

“Running a cohort-based MEd program with health and physical education teachers has been a goal since I started at the University of Alberta,” Gleddie said. “Seeing this special group of students from across Canada—and South Korea!—come together as a community of practice, support each other through their academic and personal journeys, grow, and now convocate is literally a dream come true for our HPE Cohort team. We wish them all the best as they continue to have a positive impact on their schools, the profession and most importantly, the students they teach.”

Two graduates shared their experiences of the HPE MEd cohort and the impact it had on them as educators.

As a recent graduate of the combined Bachelor of Kinesiology/Bachelor of Education program at the University of Alberta, Jillian Nanavaty jumped at the chance to work as a physical education specialist at a brand new elementary school in Calgary. It was there she started looking for professional development opportunities to help her in her new role.

“Typically at a middle school or high school there is a PE team but at my new job I was the sole PE teacher. I felt insecure and questioned my practice. It was at that point I chose to search for professional development and I came across the HPE MEd cohort and applied in my second year of teaching. Now after completing the program, I am more confident in my practice and have become a leader in my school community and among other PE teachers, promoting health and physical education,” Nanavaty said.

“The HPE MEd program created a culture where my new teacher perspective was valued and encouraged. I was shown that my voice is important and that I have good ideas. I gained confidence in my practice, myself and in my school context. After being in the program I am not afraid to share my ideas and opinions and recognize that my voice can and should be heard. My experiences throughout my life have brought me to this point and those experiences shape who I am and my perspective. I can share my knowledge and perspective with my colleagues and perhaps teach them something new.

“I am constantly referring back to readings and assignments I completed throughout the program to guide my practice and support me when forming new initiatives in my school context. It is a lot of work and it is not easy but it is well worth it. Not only do you learn a lot of knowledge about health and physical education throughout the program but you learn a lot about yourself and how resilient you can be.”

Ty Riddick completed his undergraduate degrees in physical education and education at Brock University before heading overseas to teach in Hong Kong and, later, on Jeju Island, South Korea. It was there he decided to join the HPE MEd cohort at the University of Alberta, traveling to Edmonton in the summer to study in person alongside the 20 other students in the cohort.

“Jeju is one of the quietest places I’ve ever lived, so I thought if there’s a place where I have the time and peace of mind to do a master’s, this is it. I wanted to do my MEd but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on stuff that wasn’t physical education-related. This program sounded like it was right up my alley. It was tailored to physical education teachers and what we needed, and it really empowered us to think about how we can make a difference in our schools or in our contexts. It was all about how we wanted to grow, with instructors helping us along the way,” Riddick said.

“Early on, we were asked to consider different value-orientations and philosophies of physical education. Around that time, I became really interested in the area of meaningful physical education where, by attending to things students find meaningful — having choice and autonomy, having fun, being challenged in an appropriate way— that’s when that joyful experience can be unlocked. That really changed how I thought about physical education, shifting from a more health-oriented to a joy-oriented approach.

“By the end of the program, we were fortunate to each contribute a chapter in a book to be published by Doug Gleddie, Hayley Morrison and Lauren Sulz in 2021, which is a nice takeaway for our cohort which spent two years together. I also was fortunate enough to meet my girlfriend in the same program cohort and have since moved to Okotoks, where she lives and I now teach.”

Feature image: Congratulations to the inaugural HPE MEd cohort, who are graduating at Fall 2020 Convocation. The group includes Jillian Nanavaty (third from left, seated) and Ty Riddick (second from left, standing).