The Vancouver School District offers practicum experience for students hoping to enter the field of education. The District hosts more than 250 Teacher Candidates a year and roughly 75 Education Assistant students. Practicum placements typically last up to 10 weeks and are completed towards the end of a student teacher’s education.
For Robert Minifie, it was the pandemic that prompted a necessary career change. “I have a retail background, but with Covid, I wasn’t selling a lot of designer suits,” he says with a chuckle. Minifie’s sister, who works in Human Resources, directed him to Work BC where he took a personality test that then provided career suggestions. The Educational Assistant career stood out to him. “It turns out this role amalgamates a lot of the skills I really like using,” he says. Minifie is currently completing his Student and School Support Assistant (SSA) practicum with Grade 3 students at Tecumseh Elementary where he says that he has had a “super adorable” elementary experience. “The students are so open, engaged and non-judgemental,” he says.
Winnie Ng was no stranger to the District, having worked previously in office administration for several schools in the District. For Ng, the opportunity to work with Ashleigh Jefferson, a teacher at David Thompson Secondary has helped grow her confidence. “She’s an amazing person and she’s been super supportive.” Ng has already seen her students progress in the short time she’s been with them. “Seeing them grow and learn through the process has been very fulfilling,” she says. As a Business teacher, Ng brings real-world learning to her students by coming up with unique projects like subscription-model businesses. “We use social media and run ads, it’s all real-world learning,” says Ng.
Working in classrooms helps give teacher candidates the opportunity to work closely with experienced educators who can provide support and guidance.
Madi Gold, a former student athlete at the University of British Columbia is completing her practicum at David Thompson Secondary. She believes a major contributor to her development as a teacher has been her practicum supervisor Eugene Gallant, teacher at David Thompson. “He’s given me feedback that is both constructive and positive, but also responsibility and the freedom to try new things,” she says. For Gold, equity and inclusion are both foundational to her teaching. “A lot of people I know haven’t had positive PE experiences if they weren’t all-star athletes.” Instead, Gold focuses on development of skill over performance.
Although many teacher candidates come from local post-secondary institutions, the District has also hosted practicum students from across the country.
Myriam Bédard, a practicum student from Université Laval in Quebec was drawn to the lush Vancouver landscape. “I love the outdoors and everything that the province has to offer,” she says. Bédard who grew up in French speaking schools in Quebec has enjoyed the unique learning experience of teaching French Immersion students at Strathcona Elementary School. “It’s been nice to hear different perspectives, students come from many cultural groups. I’ve appreciated the chance to learn more about Indigenous culture and the BC curriculum,” she says.
Emmanuelle Bonneau, also a student from Laval saw completing her practicum at the District as a chance to take advantage of the city’s agreeable Spring weather. “Vancouver is beautiful. The weather here is better and warmer than in Quebec,” she says with a laugh. Bonneau has been teaching a Grade 4 French immersion class at Laura Secord Elementary to students who are primarily English-speaking. “I come from West Island, a part of Montreal that is actually very English speaking. Being here has helped me think of new ways I can help promote the French language and culture to Anglophones when I become a teacher.”
It’s evident that the students they’ve worked with have made a lasting impression on these future teachers. Although their practicum experiences have now come to an end, these five student teachers have gained new perspectives through the hands-on experience they’ve gained in schools. “I relate to the students in a lot of ways,” says Minifie. “I have a brain like a pinball machine, I’m curious and persistent much like my students. When you come from retail and then suddenly go to a place where people actually appreciate you, there’s no better feeling.”
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