Alumni, Community, People

Alumna advocates for her classroom family

April 29, 2021

Rhodora Meliton-Vanderpool always knew she wanted to be a teacher. However, she had to go through a journey to figure it out.

While Meliton-Vanderpool’s grandmothers were teachers in the Philippines and she felt the call to teach from a very young age, her parents encouraged her to look at different career options. And, she did. At one-point during her academic career, she was a pre-law student and she was also accepted into a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, but she decided not to attend.

Instead, teaching kept calling her. Eventually, she answered the call and entered the Faculty of Education. Reflecting on her time at the Faculty of Education, Meliton-Vanderpool emphasized the Faculty provided her with opportunities for growth, such as participating in the equity and diversity executive. Also, practicum gave her fantastic teaching opportunities where students at one school helped her become the teacher she is today.

“They were so welcoming and forgiving to new teachers,” she said. “It was one of my first classroom families, and when I visit London, I often drive past the school as a reminder of where I started to develop my teacher's voice.” 

Meliton-Vanderpool said teachers are the heart of the classroom. They advocate for students when and where they can. Above all, she enjoys making connections to students and their families. Describing her students as her classroom family, she believes students are happiest when they learn about themselves. In addition, practicing patience and understanding as well as knowing  she can help inspire students – and be inspired by them – are why she loves the classroom.

“We start and end each day with a smile,” she said. “Students come to me happy and they’re leaving the class happy.”

Equally important, teaching has also given her opportunities to mentor the next generation of teachers while helping children build the foundation to a successful life.  

“I have so many students who have come back to let me know how I have impacted their journey. I am proud to hear how they have gone on to follow their own dreams and it warms my heart when they want to give back to the school community or the community at large. You can't put a price tag on that.”

On the other hand, teachers aren’t immune to tragedies during their career. She’s had students who’ve had multiple run-ins with the police and she’s had to attend funerals for former students.

“This is what continues to guide my practice. What can we do differently...what has to change?”

Depicting herself as “always young at heart,” Meliton-Vanderpool began her teaching career in Toronto at St. Angela Catholic school. Throughout her career, she’s brought the love of music into her classroom. She believes singing and writing songs helps students remember and learn.

While COVID-19 has put more pressure on teachers this year, Meliton-Vanderpool is concerned online learning in a post-pandemic world could sever the human connection between teachers and students. She added teachers and students can’t stare at a screen for seven hours a day. Although she admits less screen time is a battle every home faced pre-pandemic, she would like to see schools offer online learning as an option with the goal of reaching a wider audience but there has to be recognition of equity and equality issues. She would also like to see more opportunities for outdoor classroom instruction and to think outside the box.

“Students need to develop friendships and be outside and let's face it, be kids,” she said. “It's only a snapshot of time and they grow up too quickly.”