Teacher candidates placed in community agencies

June 21, 2021

A partnership between Western Education and community organizations is making sure vulnerable students get the instruction they need to succeed in school.

This past academic year, teacher candidates were placed in the Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) of Oxford and Huron-Perth as well as in the Memorial Boys and Girls Club.

“These community projects are really viable and extremely worthwhile,” said Practicum and Community Engagement Coordinator for the Faculty of Education, Joanne Lombardi. “Our candidates have done really well and the agencies have really benefited.”

The CAS, which has educational liaisons who work with schools and families, reached out to the Faculty of Education for teacher candidates.

It was perfect timing.

The call came when Lombardi had eight teacher candidates who needed a final placement to graduate. School board placements had been difficult to find this year because of the pandemic, and even though the faculty had been very successful working with partner boards, there were still some candidates who needed to acquire more teaching practice. The virtual placements with CAS were just what was needed to help candidates complete the program.

“A silver lining that emerged from the pandemic was the increased flexibility allowed by the Ministry and the Ontario College of Teachers for our experiential learning placements,” said Associate Dean of Teacher Education, Kathy Hibbert.

The program in early spring with the eight graduating candidates was very successful, Lombardi said. As a result, both CAS agencies asked to continue the program in late spring and summer with teacher candidates who would be at the end of their first year of the program. Teaching children in a CAS environment meant teacher candidates had to be self-sufficient. With that in mind, Lombardi asked them to write a letter of interest and send their final practicum report from first year as well as a resume because teaching with the agencies is different from teaching in a traditional setting. It was important for the program’s success that candidates could adapt to the community setting.

Once teacher candidates were onboard, they faced a significant training process with the CAS, said Lombardi.

“The agency staff provided great support to our candidates, who were also supervised by an Ontario licenced associate teacher as well as a CAS liaison person,” said Lombardi.

Working with these students gave teacher candidates a deeper understanding of the adverse childhood experiences that can influence a child’s ability to learn at particular times in their lives, said Lombardi. What’s more, teacher candidates dealt with highly confidential material and their understanding of confidentiality increased because the CAS has a rigorous privacy process.

“These candidates are gaining real insight into these kids’ lives, and that's valuable when it comes to giving precise teaching and developing really meaningful relationships and conversations with parents and CAS support workers,” said Lombardi.