Teacher anxious to put down roots
Central Queens Elementary teacher Jonathan MacDonald was all smiles as he decorated his classroom to welcome students to his grade 2/3 split.
He has a message for his first class as a full-time, permanent teacher – “persistence and patience pays off.”
It’s been eight years since MacDonald graduated from the UPEI education program and he’s taught at seven Island schools since. He is one 75 teachers hired into a permanent position this year, up from 23 in 2016. In addition, 12 teachers have accepted contract positions for the first time this school year.
“It will be nice to have some consistency and to know where I will be,” the 35-year-old Stratford resident said, reflecting on his new position. “It is going to be good to build relationships with teachers, parents and kids.”
In June, the provincial government announced enhanced investments in Island students through additional teaching positions. New teachers are supported during their first year through a Beginning Teacher Induction Program. Orientation sessions were held in August to introduce beginning teachers to key people and policies. Instructional coaches are in place to guide them and help them get off to a good start. A series of professional learning opportunities are held for them throughout the year in such key areas as teaching the provincial curriculum, classroom management, and communicating with parents.
Before school started on September 7, he was building his classroom library and taking training in the new PATHS curriculum on children’s social and emotional learning and health.
The PATHS curriculum is a comprehensive program that promotes emotional and social competencies, reducing aggression and behavior problems in preschool through elementary school-aged children, while simultaneously enhancing the educational process in the classroom. This innovative curriculum is designed to be used by educators and counselors in a multi-year, universal prevention model.
Although primarily focused on the school and classroom settings, information and activities are also included for use with parents.
Teachers like MacDonald have a variety of professional experiences when they get their contract, and coaches support each teacher's unique needs.
The BTIP committee (with representatives from the UPEI faculty of education, the PEITF, boards and the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture) is reviewing best practices in supporting new teachers and will make recommendations for a revised BTIP to the department later this school year.
MacDonald’s next goal is to become a confident teacher in his new role.
“Kids are finding things more challenging. They’re exposed to so much more, so much earlier now,” he said. “With technology they see too much too fast and they need help to make sense of it. We need to use the proper language to help them understand emotions.”
MacDonald and his wife Jillian, a nurse, live in Stratford with their four-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter.
More than 1500 teachers are employed in Prince Edward Island’s education system.