The University of Winnipeg is renowned for producing exceptional teachers who are ready to shape young Manitoba minds. And they’re also adept at addressing the challenges of those who hail from the inner city.
Since the inception of two unique teacher education programs at UWinnipeg in 1998 — one that combines a bachelor of arts or science with a bachelor of education degree, the other a variation of it known as ACCESS, which is designed to provide academic opportunities for people with inner-city experience — the institution has forged a singular identity as an incubator for teachers who can hit the ground running in tough environments. This outcome is not surprising, given the Faculty of Education’s uniquely curated curriculum.
For example, the five-year integrated degree program was reconfigured to ensure that students spend at least 25% of their student-teaching time — often more — at inner-city schools. Budding teachers also benefit from non-traditional practicum placements, like working at youth centres or in programs for students with special needs in some school divisions. There’s also a first-year course called “Service Learning,” which supports neighbourhood agencies while exposing young teachers to the social issues and conditions therein.
International practicum opportunities abound, too. UWinnipeg students gain valuable experience working around the world for periods ranging from six weeks to ten months in places such as Thailand, Peru, Germany, Australia, and China.
While the UWinnipeg teacher education program is well-rounded and complete, the opportunities for acclimating to the realities of inner-city teaching are many. Fourth- and fifth-year students can mentor at-risk youth. Even curriculum, instruction, and assessment (CI&A) and enrichment courses often focus on disenfranchised youngsters from difficult backgrounds.
“There is a lot of talent development with marginalized populations — which is the DNA of our entire program,” said Dr. Ken McCluskey, Dean of the Faculty of Education.
Over time, the ACCESS program — housed in the Helen Betty Osborne building on UWinnipeg’s downtown campus — has expanded to provide pathways for Manitoba immigrants and Indigenous people working in the education field. The Immigrant Teacher Education Program (ITEP) was created to help internationally trained teachers gain experience in Manitoba through a unique curriculum of academic and practical courses and workshops. The Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (CATEP) is designed to provide Indigenous people who are already employed as educational assistants with the opportunity to complete an education degree while continuing to work.
Since 1998, more than 200 students have graduated from the Winnipeg Education Centre (WEC) ACCESS program — about half of whom are Indigenous. In addition, 63 Indigenous students have graduated from CATEP and nearly all are now employed as teachers. Eleven more are expected to complete their degrees this year.
“ACCESS is a huge part of what we do. It’s mostly for disadvantaged inner-city individuals, who have limited opportunities, to become teachers. Most are older students, many who have kids and many who are single parents. It’s a very special program,” said McCluskey.
Each year, UWinnipeg produces approximately 250 new teachers who are prepared to step into classrooms in the inner-city or across the province. About three dozen of these graduates self-identify as Indigenous — a figure poised to rise significantly thanks to the new Indspire/Winnipeg School Division/UWinnipeg Ozhitoon Onji Peenjiiee (Build from Within) project, which has put the supports in place to help approximately 50 talented Indigenous youth earn their grade 12 diplomas, their educational assistant diplomas, and their bachelor of education degrees; and then move on to become teachers in their own right.
Employment rates are strong, too. In a recent graduate survey report, 93.5% of respondents from the class of 2016 in the Faculty of Education at UWinnipeg indicated they were currently employed as a teacher, a number that has grown from 86.6% in 2013. These heartening statistics suggest a growing demand for UWinnipeg-produced teachers, who are ready to make an impact in classrooms anywhere they are needed.