For many, a university degree is a goal to strive for in order to pursue a career. After graduation, it may become a faint memory where you had the chance to meet new people and take some interesting courses, unless you chose to continue your studies or return some day to pursue your passion. For some, that passion is educating the youth of tomorrow and Laurentian University happened to be their school of choice to get them there.
Two graduates, Angèle Lafontaine and Meaghan McKinney, are thankful they had the chance to attend Laurentian and start their careers with Edmonton Catholic Schools (ECS), after meeting with Mr. Marc Motut, Manager of Staffing. Impressed with the academic programming and preparation students experience, ECS consistently recruits new graduates from the University’s Faculty of Education, both the English and French programs. “Laurentian supports young teachers in being successful in their profession,” says Mr. Motut. “The graduates’ pedagogical practices and their relationship-building values make them a great fit, which is why they integrate so well into schools.”
Working with Edmonton Catholic Schools has also meant an opportunity to get a full-time teaching contract. Both Angèle and Meaghan have integrated so well at their respective schools that they were nominated individually, by their principals, for the Alberta School Boards Association’s Edwin Parr Teacher Award. The award recognizes six teachers every year, from the selection of nominees, who have just completed their first year of teaching and demonstrate outstanding teaching service in their respective zone. Although the recognition is a great prize in and of itself, the Award also comes with a full-time permanent teaching contract. Laurentian University is lucky enough to have had two graduates nominated for the award within two years.
Meaghan McKinney | BA, Religious Studies and Theatre Arts (2015) | B.Ed. (2016)
Meaghan is a two-time graduate of Laurentian University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Theatre Arts (2015) and a Bachelor of Education (2016). Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, she applied to study at Laurentian in the Concurrent Education and Theatre Arts programs, but ultimately decided to pursue a double major in religion and theatre performance. She certainly spent her fair share of time at Thorneloe University (one of Laurentian’s federated universities) and the Ernie Checkeris Theatre. She performed in two main stage productions there, and even dedicated some time in her second year of University volunteering and working at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.
In the final year of her concurrent degree program, while completing her Bachelor of Education, Meaghan attended a job fair where she had the chance to meet Marc Motut from Edmonton Catholic Schools. She went on to interview for a position within the school board and was offered a teaching contract. Although she had never been to Edmonton, nor did she know anyone who lived there at the time, she took a chance and accepted the position.
Meaghan went on to teach at a school with mainly Cree and English-language learners. “There were many challenges to overcome in my first year of teaching, with a new principal and construction on the school, but the students were great and helped me transition well,” said Meaghan.
When she got word that she was nominated for the Edwin Parr Award, she did not realize what an honour it was until learning more about it from her colleagues. There were approximately 200 new teachers in the district that year, but she made it through as a district candidate, ultimately winning a permanent contract with ECS. “I feel so fortunate and blessed that I have the freedom to stay in my classroom and not worry about contracts,” said Meaghan.
Meaghan is still currently teaching in Edmonton, in the same classroom as when she started in her first year. “I have really grown in the past few years with the school board, since receiving the award. I can explore new areas of teaching through professional development opportunities and I feel supported in my journey. I work at a really special school with young staff and I am embracing all of the challenges that come with the profession.”
Angèle Lafontaine | B.Éd. (2015)
Angèle was interested in being a teacher at a young age and got her first experience as a dance teacher at the age of 15. She grew up in Sudbury but moved away to study at the University of Ottawa for one year, before making the transition to Concordia University in Montreal, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in 2013. She was drawn back to Sudbury in 2014 when she chose to pursue a B.Éd. through the French-language Éducation program offered by the Faculty of Education. “I wanted to go back home to my roots and be close to my family,” says Angèle. “I was able to get to know Sudbury and its rich culture in a different light, while studying in French at Laurentian.”
She really enjoyed her time in the French education program, noting that a few professors made her experience that much better. “Professor Mélanie Rainville, who taught the Arts section of the program, was very animated and made it apparent to her students that she had a passion for education,” says Angèle. “In the Enfance en difficulté section of the course, there was Professor Gauthier, who really captivated me in class and kept me engaged.”
Graduating from the program did provide her with some anxiety in regards to searching for employment, but she was lucky enough to grasp an opportunity to teach in Edmonton. Upon meeting Marc Motut from Edmonton Catholic Schools, Angèle felt like she was ready to experience something different and move away from home to gain teaching experience. She was unaware at the time that there was a significant French-speaking population in the area, until she made the move. She taught in a French immersion school that had predominantly Spanish-speaking students enrolled, so she had the chance to learn some Spanish while she was there too.
Angèle, much like Meagan, was nominated for the Edwin Parr Award by her school principal, in her first year of teaching. Although she didn’t know much about it at first, she was thankful to be recognized for her work. “It was nice to know that others could see that I was happy in my job and that I was doing what I could to make a positive impact on my students,” said Angèle. “It is such a nice gesture to recognize and encourage first year teachers in such a vulnerable time their careers.”
She went on to represent her respective school board at the awards gala and she was offered a permanent teaching contract. However, she chose to move back to Ottawa, where her family was now residing, to be closer to them. It was a chance she was willing to take to be with her loved ones, although she is still thankful for all the support and experience she received while in Edmonton. Now Angèle has a permanent teaching contract with the Ottawa Catholic School Board and she is a proud new mom to a little boy.
In the end, it is not where you work that makes the difference, but who you have the chance to work with and the ways in which their values align with yours. Establishing strong relationships with your students, your co-workers or your direct supervisor can make all the difference in building your career, from the moment you graduate. If you are lucky enough to be doing what you love, like educating youth, be sure to surround yourself, at work and in your personal life, with people who share and support your passion.