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New school board partnership places teacher candidates directly into schools

May 20, 2021
BY GERRY RUCCHIN

The Faculty of Education has created new opportunities for teacher candidates to experience their classroom practica.

The Western Practicum Partnership (WPP) – a collaboration with nine school boards creates placement opportunities co-designed by Western Education and school principals to provide enhanced opportunities for teacher candidates to become a member of their school community.

The partnership allows teacher candidates to work in different classrooms within the same school during their two placement periods each year.

“One of our goals with the WPP is to create deeper connections between our students and our school partners,” said Education Dean, Donna Kotsopoulos. “I believe using a school-based placement approach will create a rich learning and teaching environment for teacher candidates, host teachers, and students.”

Developing solid relationships with the school and school principal are keys to the partnership, said Practicum and Community Engagement Coordinator for the Faculty of Education, Joanne Lombardi. She added school principals will provide oversight to teacher candidates in their schools while creating a sense of community between teacher candidates and staff.

Here's how the program works. In year one, teacher candidates will be assigned to one school for their two placements. For example, during their first placement, a teacher candidate is assigned to a grade 3 class. Then, in their second placement, the teacher candidate is placed in a grade 6 classroom. Principals ensure each classroom assignment meets the teacher candidate’s program requirements. In year two, teacher candidates are assigned to a different school and they’re also assigned to two different classrooms for their remaining two placements.

“Having teacher candidates work in one school over two placements will help them develop relationships with other teachers, families and students in the broader school community,” said Associate Dean for Teacher Education, Kathy Hibbert. “It’s a great opportunity for teacher candidates to be a part of a community and also learn how a particular school functions throughout the year.”

Ironically, COVID-19 created an unintended trial run for the program. With the pandemic, it made sense to keep teacher candidates in the same school where possible for a second practicum, allowing the school to keep the size of the ‘bubbles’ as low as possible, said Lombardi.

The Teacher Education Office has received positive feedback from the pilot program. Lombardi said teacher candidates demonstrated a renewed sense of confidence returning to a familiar setting for their second practicum, especially amidst the chaos of the pandemic and changes to teaching contexts. They were able to focus on bringing their new knowledge and skills to their placements to support student learning.

Western Education works with 33 other school boards across the province who receive requests for practicum placements from multiple universities. For now, placements made in the other 33 boards will continue to function as they have at their request, where placements will be made by school boards based on the list of requests that they receive from the Teacher Education office.

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