Grad School

Julie is from Calgary, AB and is now an elementary teacher in Ontario. She completed the teaching program at the University of Ottawa and finished her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Calgary.


I chose to go to Teacher's College in Ontario after taking a long and circuitous route to teaching as a profession. I started taking classes at the University of Calgary (Calgary is my hometown) right after high school. I had no real goal when I started attending U of C, just some vague notion that if I went to University I would eventually have some sort of career. At this point I would never have considered becoming a teacher, fresh out of high school I must admit, I did not regard the teaching profession with great esteem. I just knew that I didn't want to be a waitress in an old folk's home forever.

The first year and half I was at U of C I took pre-management courses, because again, a Management degree seemed like it might be a ticket to a good job. The problem turned out to be that I hated the classes and therefore attended very few of them, which was not going to get me into the extremely competitive Faculty of Management at U of C. I realized that I was wasting time and money trying to do something that was going to make me miserable if I ever finished. In light of this decision, I took a year off to travel in Australia. I don't know if this helped me, but I did add a lot of things to my "Careers I Know I Don't Want" list and I had loads of fun in the process.

I arrived home ready to go back to U of C to take something other than management. Something other than management turned out to be Kinesiology. I didn't have a very clear picture of exactly what I was going to do with a degree in Kinesiology, but while I was travelling my younger sister had started taking it and was majoring in Outdoor Pursuits (ODPU). She was learning all sorts of interesting survival, paddling and mountaineering skills that I couldn't believe you could do for academic course credits (you can't anymore by the way, the program was cut the year I graduated). The ODPU program was lots of fun and I learned a lot, but I realized that I had no intention of becoming a mountain guide.

While I was completing my kinesiology degree I started working for the City of Calgary as a day camp leader and then as a hockey and climbing instructor. I realized that I really liked working with kids and the more I thought about it, becoming a teacher didn't seem like such a bad idea. By the time I figured all of this out I was almost finished my Kinesiology degree and it was too late for me to do the concurrent Kinesiology/Education program at the University of Calgary; therefore I finished my degree as quickly as I could, meanwhile researching post-degree education programs.

I applied to the University of Calgary, but they had recently changed their education program and I had heard from teachers and students in the program that the changes had not been smooth. I decided to try and get into the University of Lethbridge which has an excellent Teacher Education program that, due to its small size and strong reputation is virtually impossible to get into. My year and a half of pre-management courses ensured that I would not get into the University of Lethbridge. Almost all of the post-degree teacher education programs I looked at in Western Canada were 2-year programs, and I didn't really want to do another 2 years to become a teacher. I knew that I was going to have to take time off and work to save money before I could go back to school and now that I had finally found something I wanted to do I just wanted to get on with it!

I found out that the only place in Canada that you can easily do a 1 year post-degree Education program is Ontario. I decided that I would research and apply for Teacher's College at 4 schools in Ontario. In retrorespect, I didn't know anything about the Teacher's College application process and I am probably lucky that things turned out as well as they did.

First, to apply to any undergraduate program in Ontario you have to register (for a fee) with OUAC (Ontario Universities Application Centre) and then you have to follow the application process laid out by each university you wish to apply for (and pay their application fees too - these range from about $60 - $100). The other important thing to know about applying for Teachers College is that the application deadline for all the programs in the province is December 1st and all offers for admission are then sent out on April 1st. I know people that have had to wait for a whole year to apply because they didn't know about the early December 1st deadline.

All Teacher Education programs require a statement of teaching related experience and some even require a minimum number of hours of classroom volunteer experience. This statement of experience is the most important part of your application. Your GPA is important, but most faculties will tell you that your experience is at least as or more significant in your application. You will need letters of reference from employers and principals in the schools where you have volunteered. Gaining volunteer experience in schools is not difficult, most will require a criminal background check, but if you explain to a principal that you want to gain experience because you are trying to get into Teacher's College most will be happy to help you.

When you are trying to decide which schools to apply for, talk to recent graduates and principals. Principals know which universities they like to hire new teachers from and recent graduates will be able to tell you what their experiences were. I called my Aunt, who is a principal in the GTA and asked for her thoughts on where I should apply. She recommended Queen's, U of T, Nipissing, Ottawa and Western. I applied at all of them except Nipissing (I didn't want to be in Northern Ontario - I have heard it's a great school though). I was accepted into all four which left me with a difficult decision.

I eventually picked the University of Ottawa because I heard about the on-site teacher education program. The on-site program is small, they only admit 60 students a year, but it is an excellent program if you're looking to gain a lot of classroom experience. The program sees you spend the entire 8 months of teacher's college in one school. You will be in the classroom working with your mentor teachers from the first day of school in September, until Christmas when you switch to another class in the same school. There are 6 one week periods when you attend classes on-campus which makes your coursework intensive, but this program is well worth it. You should know that this program is available to primary/junior specialists only, so if you are interested in junior high or high school this program is not available to you.

The on-site program is not well publicized, my Aunt in Toronto had never heard of it until I called her to ask about it. This made me a little wary about applying for it. You should also know that you have to accept your admission offer from the University of Ottawa before you can apply for the on-site program. The downside to this is that you have to commit to going to U of O whether you are admitted to the on-site program or not. My Aunt assured me though that there is not that much difference between the traditional teacher education programs at various Ontario universities. I took the leap and applied for the on-site program and I was admitted. The on-site program is far from perfect, but the classroom experience I gained was invaluable and I got my first teaching job as a direct result of graduating from the program.

In summary, Ontario Teacher's College is a great option for anyone who has already finished their first degree when they decide they want to teach (1 year of tuition fees instead of 2!). If you have the opportunity to take a program like the on-site program that will allow you to gain extra classroom experience, take it - you will never regret any extra training time in the classroom. If a program like the on-site program is not available to you, look very carefully at how many hours of practical experience you will get from the program you do choose. The more hours of practical experience you can gain, the happier you will be during your first year as a teacher! Lastly, talk to as many seasoned teachers and administrators within your board as you can. They are familiar with new teacher hiring processes and know which teacher education programs are most favourably regarded in your locale.

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