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Angela O'Brien-Klewchuk spoke about teacher candidates crossing borders.

Teacher candidates to tackle a wide range of subjects in education at this year’s WestCAST

Rehearsal shows group’s passion for 2015 theme, 'Engage, Inspire, Empower'

February 5, 2015 — 

Ten students from the Faculty of Education had a chance recently to warm up their presentations for the upcoming WestCAST (Western Canadian Association for Student Teaching), with prepared talks on issues in education such as Aboriginal perspectives, humour in the classroom and empowering children through book selection.

The students will be attending the WestCAST conference at the University of Saskatchewan Feb. 19 and 20.


Teacher Candidate Nha Quan Lien spoke about deaf education.

During the rehearsal, which took place Feb. 2 in the Education building, presentation advisors Jerome Cranston, associate dean of undergraduate programs, and Martha Koch, acting director of the Student Experiences Office, said they were impressed with the teacher candidates’ presentations, especially with their ability to connect their speeches with the theme of the 2015 conference: “Engage. Inspire. Empower.”

Teacher candidate Lorrie Forrest spoke about her passion for outdoor classrooms in her piece, “Beyond the Walls: Engaging, Inspiring and Empowering Student Learning Through Outdoor Classrooms” beginning with her own childhood enjoyment of spending time outdoors.

Students who are given the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom are “calmer and more inspired,” she said.

“Children become more engaged in environments where they can touch, see and smell,” said Forrest. Her presentation was supplemented by photos from one of the schools she had worked at in which students set up a butterfly garden and watched monarch butterflies develop from the egg stage to adulthood.

Cranston and other teacher candidates at the presentation said they were inspired by Forrest’s obvious love of the outdoors. Cranston encouraged all presenters to include their own personal stories in their presentations to demonstrate their engagement with the subject matter to the audience at WestCAST.

Teacher candidate Nha Quan Lien spoke about “Deaf Education: The Application of Strategies and Resources in the Mainstream Setting” alongside an American Sign Language interpreter. Audience members were impressed with her strategies for working with deaf students in the classroom, including the use of technology such as microphones and SMART Boards and her discussion of what it means for a student to be part of the deaf culture.

Another presenter, Jaylene Hoffman, spoke about the importance of using humour in the classroom in her piece, “A Motivational Musing: Cracking Open the Benefits of Instructional Humour.” She cited numerous studies that have found humour in the classroom lowers student stress and anxiety levels and that humour can contribute to memory retention and learning. She argued that teachers should strive to incorporate it into their classrooms.

Cranston said the most important thing students can do while presenting at WestCAST, which will help ensure that they stick to this year’s “Engage. Inspire. Empower.” theme is to form a relationship with the audience.

“They want to know something about you. It’s important to show how this [topic] matters to you,” said Cranston. Presenters chose their own topics and developed their own Powerpoint presentations, so they should be passionate about their subjects and show the audience how deeply they care about them, he said.

Student presenters at WestCAST will spend their time at this year’s conference in Saskatoon presenting and listening to other teacher candidates from across Canada discussing various methods of teaching and learning. The WestCAST conference is held each year in one of the four western provinces and those attending include teachers in training, professors and administrators.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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