A supportive community
BEd award winner finds caring culture in Education
Whit Lodge-Zaparnick had a great job but something was bugging them.
And, it wasn’t because they were working as a teaching assistant in the University of Manitoba’s entomology department.
Lodge-Zaparnick discovered a love of teaching and determined to pursue a BEd degree at the Faculty of Education.
“I was preparing the labs, running the labs, collecting insects for the labs—everything like that. And I absolutely loved it,” Lodge-Zaparnick said. “I had been reflecting a lot on what I was passionate about and what I really enjoyed with regard to a profession.
Truesdale medal and prize winner
“That was a huge lightbulb for me in the sense of what I would enjoy doing in the long run.”
Two years later, Lodge-Zaparnick finds themself with 185 classmates graduating with a bachelor of education degree at Tuesday’s 140th convocation ceremony. Moreover, Lodge-Zaparnick won this year’s Truesdale medal and prize, one of the Faculty of Education’s highest honours for BEd students, recognizing contributions to excellence in teaching.
Lodge-Zaparnick, who completed their BSc at University of Manitoba, enrolled at the Faculty of Education also in large part due to the faculty’s diversity admissions policy, which admits up to 45 per cent of new applicants to the program based on the applicants identifying themselves as being from several diversity categories, that include LGBTTQ+ people. Lodge-Zaparnick identifies as a trans, queer individual and prefers the pronouns they and them.
“I think affirmative-action policies are really important, and even during my program in education here, I researched and wrote a paper about affirmative-action policies—if they’re effective and when they’re effective, and when they’re needed,” said Lodge-Zaparnick. “And, I think especially right now in Manitoba, our teaching population isn’t as diverse as it should be—especially just going to schools, you can see that.”
‘That’s something that (my professors) have always shown me: We are students first, we are people first—that’s what they care about the most.’
What best prepared them for success in the classroom, Lodge-Zaparnick said, were the BEd program’s practicum experiences that situates teacher candidates in Manitoba schools.
Classroom experiences most valuable
“I would say specifically that hands-on experience, those practical experiences, are definitely where I was gaining the most knowledge,” Lodge-Zaparnick said. “You’re able to apply (what you’ve learned). You can role-play and talk about scenarios, but there’s nothing compared to actually dealing with a situation in a classroom.”
Lodge-Zaparnick also praised their professors, singling out Richard Hechter, Lilian Pozzer and Jen Watt as influential mentors who modelled student-centred teaching.
“They give you that feedback. They let you try different teaching strategies. Then you get feedback from your peers,” Lodge-Zaparnick said. “Also, a huge thing for me—especially from those three specifically—they exemplified the idea of prioritizing student-teacher relationships.”
Lodge-Zaparnick said the influence of their professors has led them toward student-, rather than subject-centered teaching.
“That’s something that (my professors) have always shown me: We are students first, we are people first—that’s what they care about the most,” they said, adding that during courses, professors would demonstrate teaching skills, discuss theory and teaching strategies and how they could be applied in classrooms—all while making teacher-candidates feel as if they cared about them most as an individual.
“You are able to grow as an individual and as a learner, and it makes you feel like you’re being supported,” Lodge-Zaparnick said, adding that they also felt supported throughout the university community, including extra-curricular activities.
‘It’s a team where everyone supports each other. So, I would say that for a queer student coming in, becoming a part of the student council is a really good idea.’
During their undergrad, Lodge-Zaparnick played Bison basketball. But, it wasn’t until they enrolled in the BEd program that they joined student council. At the urging of their friend and 2019 senior-stick, Elvina Mukhamedshina, Lodge-Zaparnick became the Arc rep on student council. Arc Education is an initiative that aims to build a group similar to a gender-sexuality alliance (GSA) in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education.
“Knowing that she (Elvina) was going to be in it, I thought: ‘what a great opportunity to be with friends, work with peers and try something new, which is always cool.’ ”
In addition to sports and student council, Lodge-Zaparnick says they felt supported by faculty as well.
“It’s a team where everyone supports each other. So, I would say that for a queer student coming in, becoming a part of the student council is a really good idea,” Lodge-Zaparnick said.
Looking forward, Lodge-Zaparnick wants to teach in Winnipeg’s inner-city before continuing their education with graduate studies at the University of Manitoba.
“I have things I’m interested in and things I am passionate about, but I want to make sure that it’s reflective of what is going to benefit the school communities within Manitoba right now, too,” Lodge-Zaparnick said. “I need to experience the school communities in the city, to figure out what’s important for myself to pursue in a graduate study and also to consider what’s needed.”
Editor’s note: This year, the Nels and Elvira Pearson Scholarship went to Jordan Grenier.
To find out more about how to apply for a teaching degree at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, click here.