Community, Events

An evening dedicated to associate teachers

May 11, 2023

Attendees share thoughts and ideas during the 2023 Associate Teacher Recognition and Awards event.

It was an evening of gratitude, collaboration, and delicious food as associate teachers, teacher candidates, school staff, and other colleagues gathered at the Faculty of Education.

The cause for celebration was the in-person return of the annual Associate Teacher Recognition and Awards event, which featured a new set of accolades recognizing “Communities of Excellence.” This year’s event was held on May 3.

Playing an essential role in the Faculty’s Bachelor of Education program, associate teachers supervise, support, and mentor teacher candidates who are on teaching practicum placements. The Faculty works with more than 40 school boards across the province to secure placements for teacher candidates.

The event brought together a wealth of experience from those involved in the Bachelor of Education’s practicum, as Faculty members looked for ways to improve the program even further.

For Laurie Powers, her experience includes 15 years of being an associate teacher. Powers says she’s still in touch with her first teacher candidate, Ashley, who is now teaching in Victoria, B.C.

“With students in my classroom, it’s most important to build relationships in order to get them to learn, so I feel the same way about working with teacher candidates,” Powers said.

“I had one student teacher that’s gone on to be a principal up in Northwest Territories, I have one in B.C., I’ve got tons in Ontario who are thriving and have their own careers. It’s awesome to watch them and their families grow. I just love that.”

After 15 years of being an associate teacher, Laurie Powers still remembers her first teacher candidate, Ashley.After 15 years of being an associate teacher, Laurie Powers still remembers her first teacher candidate, Ashley.

Michelle Cote and Kris Tucker are fellow advocates for associate teaching, with the two finding a recurring source of fulfillment in the role.

“Every time I have a teacher candidate, it’s always really rewarding,” Cote said.

“Watching them gain confidence and try new things – I always learn from them, they always learn from me.”

Tucker, a kindergarten teacher, jokes that a classroom full of four- and five-year-olds running around often leaves new teacher candidates looking “a bit like a deer in the headlights.”

“But they quickly learn that the children are loving and kind and very forgiving … everybody’s learning together. It’s a great relationship," Tucker added.

From left to right: Associate teachers Michelle Cote and Kris Tucker.From left to right: Associate teachers Michelle Cote and Kris Tucker.

Taya Veenstra is completing her first year in the Faculty’s Bachelor of Education and has taken placements with an associate teacher, as well as with a supervisor under the program’s alternative field experience (AFE).

Veenstra credits these opportunities with boosting her confidence and keeping her engaged all while accommodating her needs and preferences.

“I just finished a Grade 2 placement at a local hometown community school. I feel like I learned so much more than I would in a classroom, from lesson plans to the technology that can be used with classrooms to coping mechanisms for children who have behavioural issues,” Veenstra said.

“It’s really great to have that hands-on experience.”

Heather Jakobi, the principal of Parkside Collegiate Institute in St. Thomas, has a front-row seat to witnessing how the practicum experience can improve the culture of a school.

“It’s kind of a win-win for everybody and it’s lovely to see the teacher candidates as part of the community,” Jakobi said, adding that she has immense pride for her school’s associate teachers.

“We’re just lucky at Parkside to have such an army of teachers who are not just fantastic at their craft, but they’re willing to give that extra time to help the profession continue.”

The “ABC’s” of being an associate teacher

Before handing out the awards, organizers asked attendees to take part in an activity that explored the “ABC’s” of being an associate teacher.

Attendees were asked to discuss what actions (A) or supports are needed to help those in the role, what are the benefits (B) of being an associate teacher, and what are the challenges (C) of being an associate teacher.

Answers were written down on sticky notes and placed on whiteboards. Participants were asked to come back to these whiteboards and place small sticky dots on whichever answer resonated with them the most.

The activity drew plenty of discussion, ideas, and relatable memories. The insight gained from those who took part will guide the future of the Faculty’s Bachelor of Education.

“We really want to engage with our partners in the schools,” said Joanne Lombardi, the Faculty’s practicum and community engagement coordinator.

“It’s really important that we can come together in community to celebrate, but also to learn and collaborate.”

2023 Awards for Excellence

The Awards for Excellence were once again split up to provide separate recognitions for associate teachers and AFE supervisors. This year’s new addition of awards, recognizing “Communities of Excellence,” had its own category as well.

The Associate Teacher’s Award for Excellence recognizes associate teachers for their contributions to teacher education. Dozens of nominations are sent each year to the Faculty of Education, where a committee will then select the group of winners.

The 2022-2023 Associate Teacher’s Award for Excellence winners are:
  • Beth Wasylyk — Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute (WRDSB) — Senior Division Award
  • Melissa Dyck — Kitchener Collegiate Institute (WRDSB) — Intermediate Division Award
  • Lara MacPherson — Locke’s Public School (TVDSB) — Primary Division Award
  • Jessica Keys — Stoney Creek Public School (TVDSB) — Junior Division Award

Winners of the Associate Teacher's Award for ExcellenceFrom left to right: Jessica Keys and Lara MacPherson. Not pictured: Beth Wasylyk and Melissa Dyck.

The Alternative Field Experience Supervisor’s Award for Excellence is also fuelled by nominations from teacher candidates and recognizes community members for their outstanding work.

The 2022-2023 Alternative Field Experience Supervisor’s Award for Excellence winners are:
  • Allison Hands from Forests Ontario
  • Shannon Johnston from Wallaceburg Family Centre
  • Erin Sardido from Western’s Teacher Education Office

Winners of the Alternative Field Experience Supervisor's Award for Excellence.From left to right: Erin Sardido, Shannon Johnston, and Allison Hands.

New this year were the Community of Excellence Awards, which are presented to communities that went above and beyond in supporting the Faculty and its students. Awardees are nominated by teacher candidates and these communities are noted for their ability to deliver an exemplary practicum experience. A welcoming workplace, passionate staff, and a clear dedication to supporting teacher growth are common threads woven into the heart of these communities.

The 2022-2023 Community of Excellence Award winners are:
  • Parkside Collegiate Institute (TVDSB) in St. Thomas, Ont.
  • East Carling Public School (TVDSB) in London, Ont.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School (LDCSB) in London, Ont.

A fourth award and special mention was also given to the Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic in recognition of its Personalized Assessment Leads to Success (PALS) learning collaboration. Under the direction of associate teacher Siobhan Clifford, nine teacher candidates were trained and given opportunities to deepen their understanding of how to identify and address student literacy needs, based on reliable academic assessment. The children involved were able to engage in meaningful and targeted literacy activities to enhance their skills, increase their confidence, and become more engaged in their own learning.

Winners of the Communities of Excellence AwardFrom left to right: Four representatives of Parkside Collegiate Institute, a representative of East Carling Public School, and three representatives from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School. Not pictured: Members of the Mary J. Wright Child and Youth Development Clinic.