UM Today UM Today University of Manitoba UM Today UM Today UM Today
News from
Faculty of Education
UM Today Network

From Volunteer to Teacher

May 30, 2012 — 

B.Ed. Student, Jessica Stewin inspires hope and confidence in disadvantaged youth through CANU

Jessica Stewin

Volunteer experiences that started in high school and with her family have provided Jessica Stewin access to experiences that solidified her desire to be a become a teacher. Becoming a teacher was not an obvious choice; however, Jessica knew that she wanted to work with youth. Initially she considered careers in journalism and social work and coming to youth from those angles. However, through her volunteer experiences she discovered that teaching came naturally and allowed her to continue to do what was most important to her, which is working with youth.

Over the years Jessica worked in an inner city drop-in centre, and led a team of high school students in the inner city spring break day camp “Soar Heartland,” a program offered by Manitoba Mission. After years of working with youth, Jessica applied to the Bachelor of Education After-Degree (B.Ed.) Program at the University of Manitoba.

In Spring 2011, Jessica completed her first year of the B.Ed. Program while still looking for opportunities to get involved with disadvantaged youth over the summer. Her previous work with and dedication to youth caught the attention of CANU programmer, Roger Berrington who asked Jessica to work on a team to develop programs that would inspire hope and confidence in kids so they would become strong leaders in their communities.

CANU is an innovative mentoring and leadership program for Winnipeg children and Manitoba university students that collaborates with the Faculties of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, Human Ecology, and Education at the University of Manitoba. Together, CANU and the U of M provide Winipeg grade 5 and 6 students with sport, nutrition, and literacy programs, while inviting them to explore the possibility of a post-secondary education.

Following a summer of CANU planning and program development, Jessica accepted a volunteer position as a CANU Host for the 2011-12 academic year. CANU Hosts improve student learning through relationship building and by keeping the kids on task. She explains that, “Because the kids have such a variety of mentors in the program, the CANU Host needs to be a constant presence that helps keep them on time for their activities, so it’s important to build relationships with the kids so they see you as an authority figure while you direct them from one activity to another. Still, as a CANU Host I have watched them have fun while learning. It was especially cool to see them enjoy the literacy component. Also, by always being present I witnessed a diverse group of kids from diverse ranges of understanding find respect for themselves as they came to understand that they have talents, skills, and wonderful personalities. This development encouraged them and me.”

Teachers have a unique opportunity to have grass roots connections to kids and do a lot to encourage their development into successful and contributing members of society. Jessica explains, “Seeing kids grow, to be able to nurture their development as leaders, and helping the students reach their full potential is something I get to do as a teacher. As a teacher I can inspire kids to be their own advocated and give them the tools they need to survive in life, which his important.”

Jessica’s volunteer experience with CANU helped her as she completed her practicum. She was placed at a school with a low socio-economic status in the Pembina Trails School Division in a multi-age classroom of grade 5 and 6 students. And although the school was not an inner-city school, she discovered that many of her students and their families were in similar situations as the families she worked with as part of CANU.

Through volunteer experiences, Jessica discovered that her involvement in different programs built her character, developed her patience, caused her to learn to work with others, and gave her more teaching knowledge. She also learned to respect other leaders regardless of age or teaching/coaching experience.

Jessica has now completed her B.Ed. Program and will convocate on May 31, 2012. In addition she has successfully found summer employment as a Literacy Links Facilitator in the St. James School Division.

For more information about CANU and the University of Manitoba’s involvement in this trailblazing program, see the Education News Blog story “The best thing that ever happened in my life!” or see the CANU website at

© University of Manitoba • Winnipeg, Manitoba • Canada • R3T 2N2

Emergency: 204-474-9341