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Université Sainte-Anne: From architecture to children’s building blocks 

It’s never too late to change your career

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Emily-Rose Smegal began her journey working in architecture and interior design. With success came getting locked into the Toronto cycle: Commute, work, go to bed, repeat. Plus she was travelling for six months of the year. Though this seemed glamorous and fulfilling, Smegal wanted a life outside of airports. She wasn't enriching the lives of those around her, and she knew it wasn't what she wanted to do in the world. Smegal saw teaching as the perfect way to give back.

"Primary school kids have this playfulness about them, and I so admire their love of life," says Smegal about her choice to transition into teaching. She had always wanted to be a teacher, and was keen to play a part in the teaching of empathy and curiosity – it was important to her on a societal level. But there was no way she could become a unilingual teacher.

"I'm from Ontario, and if you can only teach in English, you're spending four-to-six years on the supply list, or working part-time," Smegal says. She made her next decision: that she wanted to teach in French. Smegal had attended a French Immersion school since kindergarten but hadn't used it much since graduating high school, and knew she needed to feel confident when teaching the students French. "I didn't want to be an Anglophone who could speak a little French. I had good oral and comprehension skills, but my writing was my weakest asset," she says. Smegal had researched a few programs and landed on the intensive program at Université Sainte-Anne.

Smegal started with the spring immersion program, spending five weeks completely immersed in French. "You sign a contract that you won't speak anything but French, and everyone takes it seriously," she says. Smegal calls it "Grown Up Summer Camp" with the way the course was set up. She learned quickly and ended up returning as a teacher in the summer session. Once she completed this intensive program, she felt confident to move into the full Option D'Immersion Francaise Integree/Integrated French Immersion Option (OIFI) at Sainte-Anne. These courses are focused on the needs of Anglophone students looking to work in a fully French stream and helped Smegal to fold right into her Bachelor of Education at Sainte-Anne.

"I've done a degree at a very big university, and here at Sainte-Anne you are an individual," Smegal says. "Teachers know you, and care about you and want you to do well. It's an institution of serious learning; it's rigorous, but that's exactly what I wanted."

Smegal was inspired by her father, who went back to school at a later age as well. "He taught me that it's okay to change your mind at any time. There's no rule saying that you have to do one thing forever." Smegal says that this program has opened so many doors for her and encourages students to enroll.

"It's not as scary as it seems. The whole school staff and students are incredibly supportive and engaged in student life and provide all of the resources that students need. If it feels like something you want to do – this is the place to do it."

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Vol 26, No 12
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