Teacher candidates provide children and moms with pillowcases and hearts

November 18, 2019

Instructor Diane O’Shea, right, helps teacher candidate Nina Burchartz measure fabric during a Family Studies class.

Teacher candidates in Family Studies learned technical skills while helping children and mothers throughout Southwestern Ontario.

Students were in the Community Room using sewing machines and irons to help children with cancer and mothers whose children have died.

In a two-hour class, students sewed inspirational hearts for women who have lost a child and they made pillowcases for ‘Ryan’s Case for Smiles,’ an international organization that donates pillowcases to children with cancer.

The pillowcases will be donated to children in hospitals throughout Southwestern Ontario.

“I’m hoping students will see how connecting to the community can be powerful for young students. By going beyond ‘me, myself and I’ they can make a difference for someone else,” said Instructor Diane O’Shea.

O’Shea stresses to her students that while others may view their work as ‘simple sewing,’ they may never know the positive impact they will have on other peoples’ lives.

O’Shea knows first-hand how sewing can help those in need. She recalled an email from a former student. In the email, the teacher candidate recalled her personal past experience with an eating disorder. She also included a picture. While under treatment, a donated handmade quilt became her constant companion as a source of warmth and comfort. It helped her recover. She emphasized that something as simple as a handmade pillowcase had so much meaning in a difficult time.

Students were also learning how philanthropy creates community connections, which can become valuable resources for teachers. Those in the community can become guest speakers to a class; provide financial donations or become destinations for field trips. Community members can also help teachers meet their curriculum requirements and provide experiential learning for students, said O’Shea.

What’s more, the class also increased students’ confidence. While most of O’Shea’s students have a limited textile background, they were able to develop their practical skills and learn how to teach these skills to their students.

“Very few teacher candidates have had exposure to sewing of any kind,” said O’Shea. “All I can do is encourage and support their learning.”

O’Shea hopes teacher candidates entering the profession will be confident in their textile skills so they’ll want – and be able – to teach Family Studies. Hands-on learning is important for many students.

“Our traditional academic way of doing things doesn’t fit with a lot of kids and that’s why courses in Family Studies are so needed,” said O’Shea. “That tactile kind of learning is a tremendous way to learn and we have to value that.”

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