The University of Winnipeg



Education students present projects at national conference

Educations students, and instructors are standing in front of a a building that is all glass.

Brenton Button, Will Burton, Carson Ouellette, Joel-Jae Serrano, Teresa Ledbetter, Sajani Joykutty, Dorin Valkyrie, Kyla Tomlinson, Gabrielle MacLellan, Julie Greer (Brandon University), Wayne Davies, and Alexandra Skwarchuk

The University of Winnipeg’s Faculty of Education sent eight undergraduate students to the 2024  Western Canadian Student Teacher Conference (WestCAST) at the University of Calgary earlier this month. They were accompanied by the Director of Student Teaching Wayne Davies, Assistant Professor Brenton Button, and Instructor Will Burton.

WestCAST provides pre-service teachers from across Western Canada an exciting opportunity to pitch their reflection on research-based teaching practice to a wider audience, while learning from their peers. 

UWinnipeg students Sajani Joykutty, Teresa Ledbetter, Gabrielle MacLellan, Carson Ouellette, Joel-Jae Serrano, Alexandra Skwarchuk, Kyla Tomlinson, and Dorin Valkyrie were selected to present their independent inquiry projects alongside dozens of other student teachers from across Western Canada. The topics covered a range of issues that are relevant for teaching today. 

We believe these pre-service teachers will enter the public system and have significant impacts on the lives of the youth in their classrooms.

Will Burton

The students chose topics that resonate with them to help improve their teaching experience. The presentations showed the breadth of issues facing contemporary K-12 education, including: the need to increase the numbers of certified teaching professionals entering rural education; the right for youth from diverse cultural backgrounds to be supported in the public school system; and, how settler-educators can work in ways that align with the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action.

The research is clear that K-12 classroom teachers are the most important factor in both raising student achievement and ensuring that every child has one caring adult in their lives.

“Teachers make thousands of decisions each day about what and how they teach and engage with our young people,” said Burton. “Nurturing pre-service teachers to firstly make decisions informed by research (‘What should work?’) and secondly the capacity to reflect on their practice (‘What went well and why? What did not go well and why?’) adjusting their practice for future teaching is vital.”

Over the past eight months, the Faculty of Education has been working with these students through Advanced Curricula Inquiry, a fifth-year course to hone their presentation skills, plus develop and research a response that’s partly informed by their classroom practice with other professional development sessions.  

Burton is a WestCAST veteran who now shares the experience with his students. Like Burton, the students expressed the value of attending the conference as a learning experience that provided professional development and networking opportunities with ideas that they can use in their future classrooms.

“WestCAST was a great opportunity for student teachers to improve their practice by learning from the research and experience of other student teachers,” summarized Skwarchuk.

Ouellette added, “Personally, presenting at WestCAST is a valuable practice in public speaking, a skill paramount for educators. Professionally, my research has compounded my interest in education, specifically in rural areas.”

While Joykutty was reminded that being a teacher is about being a learner first, they all expressed a passion and commitment for teaching that was reflected at WestCAST. 
“I feel incredibly lucky to know my students deeply, and to walk with them on their path to recognizing their talents, developing their skills, and fully embodying the compassionate citizens that they are,” said Swarkchuk. 

These students and their participation at WestCAST reflect the future of teaching. 

“We believe these pre-service teachers will enter the public system and have significant impacts on the lives of the youth in their classrooms,” shared Burton.

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