Two degrees, two convocations for campus’ first CTEP class

Image of Emily Johnston, John Smith and Shereen Abdou
Monday, May 14, 2012 - 11:50am
Elaine Smith

Call them pioneers, call them guinea pigs, but definitely call the first graduands from U of T Mississauga’s new concurrent teacher education program (CTEP) passionate about their learning experience.

“It has everything all in one,” said graduating student Emily Johnston, who specialized in French and intermediate and secondary school education. “It’s done in partnership with OISE (the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), so we get the downtown experience and the Mississauga experience, plus small classes. It worked out wonderfully.”

Johnston is one of 35 U of T Mississauga students who will earn two degrees -- an honours BA or BSc and a BEd – this spring through the University of Toronto’s venture into concurrent teacher education. CTEP allows students to complete their bachelor’s degrees and teacher education in an integrated program in five years, rather than earn them consecutively. Students choose both an anchor subject and an education focus for their studies. French, mathematics and chemistry are the anchor subjects available at UTM for those choosing the intermediate-senior teaching stream and French and psychology are the options for those focusing on teaching in elementary schools.

The CTEP program, offered on all three U of T campuses, provides students a combination of practical experience and classroom studies right from year one. They begin by observing, move into internships and finish with a classroom practicum. They focus on their subject area studies on their own campuses, but also spend a semester at OISE learning from some of Canada’s best educators in the field of teaching and learning and connecting with the CTEP students from the other campuses.

“The premise is really good, particularly the experiential learning in every year,” said UTM program co-ordinator John Smith, a retired school principal. “They are more confident going into practicum placements because they’ve been in classrooms and done some teaching. They can bring that forward in going into a school.”

It also allows the students to determine quickly whether or not teaching is the right career for them.

“We got to jump into the classroom in the first year,” said graduating student Shereen Abdou, who is also specializing in French and intermediate and secondary education. “It was intimidating, but a great experience to get a sense of the classroom. You can be confident of being on the right path.”

Their third year also offers a unique internship opportunity. Students must work with an organization related to their specialty (anchor) subject, but it need not be in a classroom setting. Johnston and some fellow students, for example, helped fill a need on campus by creating an English as a Second Language program for UTM’s diverse student population.

“I loved the opportunity to do something different,” said Johnston. “One thing I discovered was that body language varies from country to country. In watching clips of TV shows with students from other countries, I found that they didn’t always get the humour in gestures; it doesn’t always translate.”

Next come the teaching practica, opportunities to teach under the supervision of an experienced teacher. After trying their wings, they are ready to “fly” into the teaching profession.

“This program allowed me to broaden myself,” said Johnston. “The great thing about the administration here is that if you had an idea, they’d let you run with it. I hope it taught me to be a well-rounded adaptable teacher.”

She should find out firsthand via a teaching job abroad or in another province.

“We teach our kids to be citizens of the world, so it seems almost hypocritical not to put it into practice.”

Abdou plans to obtain a master’s degree in French before moving into the classroom. After all, she has completed both a bachelor’s degree and a teaching degree in only five years.

“I’m ready to teach, but at 22, I’m not losing much by staying in school another year. The additional qualifications will allow me to change positions and be the head of a department or an administrator.”

First, however, come not one, but two, convocations – one with OISE and one with UTM classmates.

“It’s exciting to be part of the first graduating class,” said Abdou.