Our Stories

Connecting with Connect Charter Schools

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Brittney Glinsbockel and Jerome Makasiar were part of our first graduating cohort from the Mount Royal University Bachelor of Education program in the spring of 2015. Both Brittney and Jerome completed their fourth year integrated practicum experience at Connect Charter School and they are now both first year teachers at Connect. Brittney is responsible for a Grade 4 Humanities class and Jerome has a Grade 4 Math & Science class.

During a recent coffee chat, we asked them to reflect on how their time at Mount Royal University prepared them for their first year teaching adventure. Both Brittney and Jerome indicated that it all began in first year, first semester "by actually going into schools and doing observations". Brittney commented that "Over the four years I got to go into 8 different schools and I was really exposed to a diversity of approaches to teaching and learning - I got to see things like a traditional learning centre, I got to see a middle school where they do intern programs." Jerome added that "being exposed to a diversity of schools in my placements and practicum really helped me understand the different missions, values, and approaches to teaching and learning".

In addition, Brittney emphasized how her Mount Royal experience really helped her with time management and organizational skills "Mount Royal piled it on us in terms of workload but that was good for me because when I transitioned into my first year of teaching it was piled onto me even more. At Mount Royal, I learned how to manage my life, in and out of the classroom, and find that balance. This was huge for me because I am someone who needs to be highly organized. It was the Mount Royal storm before the first year teaching hurricane".

Jerome stressed how much of his learning at Mount Royal happened outside of the classroom. He was involved with the basketball team as a player and an assistant coach. "I was a point guard on the team, the person who is always looking to make a great pass for another player. Creating opportunities for others where they are most comfortable to score. As a teacher you are in a similar position because you have 26 different team mates in your home room and you are looking for ways for them to score or develop as a learner. On a basketball team that is done by getting to know your teammates and learning about their strengths and weaknesses and then putting them in the right positions where they can be the most successful and developing their weaknesses when the time is appropriate. For me this is similar to my role in a classroom, just on a larger scale".

Both Brittney and Jerome commented on how the nature of Mount Royal University and the B.Ed. program helped them prepare for their professional careers as teachers. Jerome stated that the "smaller institution, smaller class sizes really helped me feel part of a community and develop strong collaborative relationships". Brittney added that Mount Royal "prepared me for collaboration in the workplace through lots of group projects, peer support, and mentoring activities with my classmates".

The transition from university to a first year teaching position can often be an overwhelming experience and we asked them to share their advice and strategies. Jerome emphasized the importance of starting to sub immediately after you finish your 4th year practicum in the spring as it allows you to "immediately apply the lessons you have learned in your final practicum". Brittney stressed that you should "always ask for help when you need it and realize that everyone in the school is here to support you - you should never feel like you are alone".
They both then stressed the tremendous amount of support they have been receiving at Connect Charter School. "Our Administration team at Connect is amazing!! I've gone to them for so many things and always felt that sense of relief after speaking with them". And, "I always feel like I'm part of a team at Connect. Collaboration is huge and we learn so much from each other. You might think you have this amazing plan but then someone in your grade team comes in and it makes that plan so much better. I also love being part of a school professional learning network that consists of group of four to five teachers who are all passionate and focused on a burning question (e.g., student assessment). We meet on a regular basis to share our findings and experiences. We are totally focused on professional growth and intentionally documenting our journey".
Brittney also emphasized how a "culture of mutual respect" is fostered between the teachers and students. "I am so used to people just visiting my classroom. They are always coming in to observe and ask questions with the children. One day the Administration team was supposed to come and introduce themselves at the beginning of the school year with my grade 4 class. They came in and stood at the front of the class so patiently and I took that as an indication they were just here to observe my class. Finally, the Principal indicated to me that they could come back later and it finally dawned on me that they were waiting to introduce themselves. I am just so used to having people come and visit my classroom that I just thought they were here to watch and observe and I was so comfortable with it that I didn't even think to stop and introduce the Administration team. So the open door policy at Connect is huge. I love the feeling that everyone is welcome in our classroom. This also extends to the students as we do a lot of switching of classrooms and teachers and they feel comfortable with everyone".

Finally, we asked Brittney and Jerome to share some "words of wisdom" for students just starting the MRU B.Ed. program. Brittney once again stressed the importance of "asking for help when you need it". She then went on to note the importance of "not taking on more than you can handle. I'm the sort of person who wants to do everything. I want to coach the volleyball team. I want to be on this committee but we really need to focus on being in the moment at university and what is important in that moment and finding that balance. Your well-being is very important and you need to keep that in mind when you are in university. What are some of the extra things you are going to do for yourself that will nourish and sustain you?" Brittney also recommended that you "Select jobs that you love but that also contribute to your professional growth as a teacher such as after school care, nanny, summer camps, special needs student, and tutoring. They will fill your soul but also help you with your resume as you now have these external experiences. I really enjoyed these experiences but I was also financially supporting myself during my time at university".

Jerome emphasized the importance of "getting involved at MRU beyond the classroom such as clubs, intramural sports, and special events". He also recommends "focusing on documenting and reflecting on your learning throughout the four years of your program through the ePortfolio (now our professional learning plan). Be sure to keep all of your placement evaluations and try to get letters of recommendation from each of your mentor teachers during your four years at MRU".

To find out more about Brittney and Jerome's first year experience at Connect be sure to check out the Grade 4 blog - http://connectchartergradefour.weebly.com/