Our Stories

Putting our TESL Minors into Practice at Ecole de la Source


Andre Pollard and Rebecca Paynter were part of the first graduating cohort from the Mount Royal University Bachelor Education Program and they have now become the English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Learning (ELL) teaching team at Ecole de la Source with the Southern Francophone School Board. Andre teaches ELA and ELL from Grades 1 to 5 and Rebecca is responsible for Grades 6 to 9. They both took different paths to obtain their first teaching position.

Andre knew a teacher who worked at another school with the Board. She contacted her Principal who phoned Andre immediately after he finished his fourth year practicum to see if he was interested in substitute teaching at the school. For the months of May and June, he then substitute taught at a number of schools, which allowed him to gain a variety of experience with different grade levels and subject areas. Towards the end of May, the School Board began to post teaching jobs and Andre was able to apply and interview for a permanent full-time contract with L'Ecole de la Source because of a position coming open due to a teacher retirement. He was offered the position almost immediately after his interview. Andre realized how being bilingual was a real asset as he also had a job offer with another school in the Board as well as an offer with a Calgary Board of Education (CBE) school.

Rebecca's path was somewhat different as she spent the summer reviewing all the job postings. She didn't want to settle for a substitute teaching position and she was amazed at how many different jobs were available, particularly with the bigger school boards like the CBE. She almost took a Kindergarten position with a Montessori Private School but just as she was leaving the interview she got a call from Andre indicating that his principal was looking for another ELA teacher. Rebecca went online and applied for the position and "the next day the school phoned and asked me if I could come in at 4pm for an interview. It was 3:30pm and I drove across the City in my jeans and t-shirt for the interview and I got the job on the spot."

Both Andre and Rebecca indicate that there is no formal orientation program for new teachers in their School Board but "we are lucky at this school that we can walk into any of the administration's offices (principal or vice-principal) any time. Everyone is super open. Everyone has a very open line of communication. The administration does not treat us like we are brand new. They have full confidence in us and that in itself is a confidence booster. Just to have someone who trusts you and it doesn't matter how much experience you have". Rebecca states that "one of the reasons I got hired is that the principal knew Andre and I were first year teachers but he wanted to bring in new blood and he wanted us to be the new English Language Arts team. So he could have hired someone who had 20 years of experience but now we get to make this English program our own. We are also in charge of the English Second Language (ESL) Department, which is awesome as we can build on our Minor in TESL. We would have been a little overwhelmed if we did not have our TESL minors and the training that we did. Both of us have TESL minors and thank goodness we do."

They both state that their TESL minors have been essential at helping them successfully transition into their first year of teaching. Andre commented on how he has "had emails from parents asking me why their child is in ESL and thank goodness I can respond confidently from what I learned in my TESL minor. I can actually tell them why and provide them with support resources. They still use the term ESL at our school but we are trying to tell them to use ELL because it's so much easier for parents whose first language is French to understand."

In addition to their TESL Minors, Andre and Rebecca emphasize how the use of collaborative digital technologies such as Google Docs has helped them with their transition. "Our principal is in love with Google Docs. He asked us both in our interviews about how comfortable we were with Google Docs and we could honestly respond that we were super comfortable. This school is really focused on using Google Docs to foster collaboration and we're already helping to support this trend. We used Google Docs on our first day at this school and every staff meeting is run in Google Docs. By just knowing the Google Doc platform it has reduced our stress level because it's not one more thing to learn during our first year of teaching."

In terms of advice for students just entering the MRU B.Ed. program, both Andre and Rebecca recommend enjoying the university experience. Andre suggests to "just enjoy it while it lasts because university can be a lot of fun. It's not like we aren't having any fun now but after you graduate there is a lot more responsibility placed on our shoulders. The government has now given us the responsibility to be caregivers for the children of Alberta. The principal told us that you literally have to be with all of them during the school day because if any of them run off from your class, then it's your responsibility."

Rebecca advises to "make sure you make connections as early as you can. Even if it's with a university friend who may one day become your work colleague or with your professors or with anybody in your very first volunteer school placement. Make those connections right away because you don't realize how valuable they really are until they aren't there anymore. For example, that first year school placement principal could be your future boss. Always make a good impression because teaching is a small world and everyone knows each other."