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Belinda Duncan, TESL student, Extended Education

Belinda Duncan, TESL student, Extended Education

Making dreams come true with Extended Education

What have you always wanted to do?

September 5, 2019 — 

It’s never too late to make your dreams come true.

Just ask Belinda Duncan. The Winnipeg police officer always dreamed about travelling to teach English as a second language. She thought about it when she completed her undergraduate degree in 1991, but life took her in other directions.

“Even though I didn’t do it at the time, the thought has never left me,” says the Extended Education student, now working on her Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) credential so she can follow her dream when she retires from policing.

Duncan completed her BA right out of high school. “When you are in university the first time, you may be doing it, but you really don’t know what your focus is. By the time you get to my age, you know what you’re interested in and you know what you would enjoy doing, and the focus can sometimes be very different. Your motivation is different.”

She was out of school for 10 years before she went to the police academy.

In her 19 years as a police officer, she has often found herself dealing with people with limited English language skills. “You’ll go and you’ll see people, and because their English is limited, they often will say I don’t speak English. I’ll say let’s try. The amount of English they do know is often enough for me to get the information I need. I encourage them. I say, don’t put yourself down, you know more than you think you know.”

She describes herself as the type of person who encourages people.

Duncan volunteered teaching English as a second language before she started the Extended Education program, certified by TESL Canada. “It will allow me to substitute teach and command a classroom. It will give me that extra bit of experience to teach in Canada or abroad.”

Another program she took previously did not have a structured practicum, and a practicum is a definite advantage, says Duncan.

As a Winnipegger, she felt at home studying at U of M, and very much enjoyed the program.

As she had been out of school for 20 years, and the Extended Education program was offered online, it took a bit of getting used to. “I am not the most computer-savvy person. I grew up in a generation of having conversations with people in a classroom, and now we’re having conversations with people online.”

Working online with others who were not all local was a new concept for her but she knew online study was the way of the future and it would be doable. “I do like how you can work at your own pace and at your own convenience. As a police officer and shift worker, I could come home at 3 in the morning and work on things.”

In 2016, she travelled to Ecuador after an earthquake and met a group there to do literacy programs. They were looking for people who could build. “I’m quite handy that way. I ended up joining on, but we did very little building and we did a lot of literacy.”

She has also volunteered with Mosaic and the Seven Oaks Adult Education Centre.

Duncan is fascinated by meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and spending time with people in their country.

“It’s one thing to talk with them here in Canada but it’s another to go meet with them in their country. They can show you how they live. Everybody is always eager to learn English. I would like to give them the opportunity to learn English, and also learn from them.”

Lifelong learning is important, says Duncan. “There’s always something that can be learned. To continue to educate yourself is a wonderful gift. I know there are students older than myself. I completely encourage people. You are never too old to continue to learn. I will look for other opportunities.

“I think lifelong learning is very important. I’m not done yet.”

Learn more about Extended Education program and courses including several online options.

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