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Participants in the new teachers panel at EdCon, from left, Rihana Robson, Christian Lacko and Alex Kozub, provide tips on making the most of teaching.

First teaching job all about effort, involvement and letting personality shine, panelists say

New teachers tell students at this year's EdCon to take part in school activites, find mentors to get noticed

February 25, 2016 — 

Diving into your first teaching job by getting involved in school events, seeking mentors and developing extracurricular programs will help teacher candidates get noticed, attendees at this year’s EdCon heard.

Three new teachers, all graduates of the U of M’s Faculty of Education, took part in a panel discussion as part of the 2016 edition of the Education Conference during Reading Week.

Rihana Robson, who is currently teaching Grade 5 at Arthur A. Leach School, talked about the need to “be aggressive” if you are interested in teaching at a specific school. She had coached sports at Arthur A. Leach, so she was able to tell administrators several times that she was very interested in a position there.

Alex Kozub, who was last year’s EdCon coordinator and who is currently teaching at River East Collegiate, said that during the interview process, he had the best success when he showed his personality.

“Don’t just give answers—be human,” he told the students assembled at the panel.

As another way to gain that gaining that precious first teaching job, the panelists recommended creating a specialty for yourself and highlighting it in interviews and on your resume. For Kozub, that was his computer science skills. He said he found that helped him distinguish himself from other students.

All panelists recommended putting effort into substitute teaching, rather than doing it as a “means to an end” while waiting to get a full-time teaching job.

Robson said while she was subbing, she made sure to leave “good notes” for the teacher she was assisting. She said it may have been a way of getting noticed over other substitute teachers.

“Don’t just go in and read a book all day,” added Kozub. All the panelists agreed that finding your way around the school and getting to know teachers and students is a positive way of getting called back for more work—and potentially getting a contract or full-time job eventually.

Christian Lacko, who is currently teaching at Fort Richmond Collegiate, advised teacher candidates to get to know the administration and to trust them, even if it’s your first week of school.

He recounted that he was unable to work because of illness on his very first week of his teaching job and he was afraid to inform the administration.

But he said once he informed them, they were extremely understanding and advised him to take time off to get better. Lacko said administrators are people too, and can help new teachers navigate the waters of the school system.

He also recommended finding a mentor or mentors at the school and ask them questions, even if it seems bothersome. Lacko has also found it extremely helpful to meet with other teachers in his area and share resources and lesson plans—it cuts down on work and is another way to learn, he said.

“I would recommend pushing for collaboration as much as possible,” he said.

As for what they learned while taking the Bachelor of Education program, the panelists agreed that it wasn’t so much “how to teach” but more theory and how to create your own teaching style.

“One thing you get in the Faculty of Education is theoretical framework—it helps you understanding teaching in a deeper way,” said Kozub.

The 2016 EdCon also included a panel of experienced teachers and administrators, and a career fair which included representatives from various school divisions across the province, teaching resources and international opportunities.

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