A recent call-out in our provincial Alberta Teacher’s Association newspaper caught my attention and had me mulling over an idea for a bit. The call out by editor Cory Hare was asking for anyone who had a family teaching connection story.
My reflections and discussions with my mom (Maman) took some time but eventually I had enough information that I could write my own Teaching and Learning DNA story.
My mother, Angéline, is a retired teacher. She started her professional post-secondary work in 1950 at Normal School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Up until 1970, those who wanted to become teachers in Canada would attend Normal School. In Manitoba, my mother attended this Normal School for one year and then took two years of Summer courses from the Department of Education to receive her Professional First Class Teaching Certificate. (Background on the Teaching Profession in Canada by Historica.)
She had an interesting teaching career which spanned a couple of decades and in a few different provinces. At the time she was a single French Canadian girl from a farm in St. Laurent, Manitoba who wanted to teach and see the world.
- Bourret (Catholic) School from 1951-1953. It was a one room country school in the Municipality of Morris north of Winnipeg with grades 1-8. My mother taught about a dozen children in five different grades and she lived next door in a Trustee’s house. The school was warmed up by a stove inside the building with no indoor plumbing, only an outhouse.
- St. Eustache (Catholic) School from 1953 – 1955. This two story school near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba was run by the nuns in the region. Here my mom taught grade three. Being fluent in French, she also taught this subject to her students (who were also French Canadian), however this was quite controversial since English was touted to be the ONLY language studied in regular schooling. This would of course change in the late 60’s with the Official Languages Act.
- Flin Flon, Manitoba from 1955-1957. Here she also taught grade three. This public elementary school no longer exists as it was one of four schools that were condemned by the Fire Commissioner’s Office in 1975.
- Dryden, Ontario 1957-1958. With two other Flin Flon teachers, my mother and her posse travelled to Ontario and worked at a public elementary school. Her duty was to work with grades 2-4 special education students that came from poor families. Unfortunately, there was not much support for these three teachers and the Superintendent’s leadership was abysmal, so all three left after one year.
- For six months, my mother travelled to Europe, and worked in Winnipeg until landing a job in Kenora, Ontario where she stayed from January 1959 – June 1961. It would be the first time she worked with grade ones and then looped with them to grade two the next school year. This was also the time that she met my father, Wolfgang Otto, who recently immigrated from Germany. The two were married in 1959. Both seeking to get away from the harsher winter Canadian climate, they moved to Lethbridge, Alberta in 1961.
- St. Patrick’s Elementary School from 1961 – 1967. Under the Principal’s Berlando and Mahoney leadership, my mother flourished in grade three. Here, resources, professional learning and collegiality were accessible. Superintendent of Lethbridge Catholic School Division was Robert Kimmitt. See this overview by the ATA about teaching in the province in the 1960s.
Even though my mother retired from teaching in 1968 (I happen to come into the picture, and my brother five years later), she continually advocated for teachers, students and parents. In 1978, the Lethbridge Catholic Separate School Division added a French Immersion track and my mother was on a committee that helped organize this transition, she also was the main contact to answer questions from parents and supported teachers in the French Immersion classes. She also was co-owner (with my father) of Otto’s Spudnut and Ice Cream Shop located in downtown Lethbridge until 2000 when they both retired from the business.
Throughout my schooling years, both of my parents have placed an emphasis on being an active participant in learning. They would look for resources, speak with teachers, council members in order to advocate for the best education possible for us and others in Lethbridge. I was also influenced by two other teachers in my mom’s family – my Aunt in British Columbia. and my Uncle (who is also an Oblate Father) in Manitoba.
I always liked learning and my first real job was as a City of Lethbridge Lifeguard and Instructor with the Recreation Department. At the same time I attended University of Lethbridge, then spent one year in Tours, France at the L’Institut d’Etudes Françaises and finally came back to the UofL to complete my two degrees – B.A. – French Language with Art and Math Minors and B.Ed. – Modern Languages.
Teaching highlights (more details found at LinkedIn):
- St. Michael’s School, Bow Island (taught K-12)
- St. Francis Junior High School, Lethbridge (taught French Immersion 8,9)
- High Park School, Stony Plain (taught 3-9, Assistant Principal)
- Stony Plain Central, Stony Plain (taught 6-9, Assistant Principal)
- Centre for Education, Parkland School Division, Stony Plain (Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator)
In my 25 year teaching career, I have taught students from K-12 various subjects in both English and French, worked in the Special Education environment to support Individual Program Plans for students, stepped into two Assistant Principalship roles, completed my Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Lethbridge (2006) and now work to support staff as a Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator. I sit on a number of provincial committees that support curriculum development and the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF). And I facilitate workshops throughout the province to teachers, professors, educational assistants, library learning commons staff, I.T. personnel, parents, students and senior executives on a variety of curricular and educational technology topic areas.
I have worked and continue to surround myself with some amazing educators! They brighten my day, make me think, support my work, share and connect my reflections. I am truly blessed in my upbringing and in my educational journey.
I also strive to connect successful strategies with sound pedagogy as well as up-to-date research and neuroscience principles. Whether you are an educator or not, being a lifelong learner and relationship builder are key to continually staying relevant in the globalness of today’s society. I share my thoughts and resources via this blog and my Twitter feed (@nlakusta).
As I regularly speak with my mom about the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred in the classroom, she is amazed at how the world doesn’t seem ‘huge’ to students of today. With one swipe of a finger a student could be speaking with another student or expert in another country or another classroom.
And the teaching DNA won’t stop with me as my daughter currently is in her second year at the University of Alberta studying to become an elementary teacher. As well, scattered throughout Canada are cousins who are also teachers making a difference with the students they work with everyday.