Renewing her passion for teaching math and science

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

Despite having almost 20 years of teaching experience under her belt, Alexa Ferris is always looking for opportunities to improve. When the opportunity came up to enrol in a program designed specifically for working teachers who want to take their math and science teaching beyond the textbook, she jumped at the chance. Alexa didn’t want her students to ever experience the same struggles with math and science that she did growing up.

The struggle was real

“I remember sitting on the carpet in Grade 5 while the teacher used a projector to show us fractions and I hated every second of it. I had no idea what he was talking about,” Alexa shares. “Later, when I was in Grade 11, I went to my chemistry teacher for extra help and he said to me, ‘Well, girls shouldn’t take chemistry.’ It was like the kiss of death.”

Alexa makes sure to tell her students all about her experiences in school, good or bad. If they are struggling with math or science, it helps to know their teacher was once in their shoes.

Read more: Want to become a math and science leader in your school? Apply now and start in the Fall.

When serendipity strikes

One day a brochure made its way to her staff room, detailing a unique program from Douglas College. The Mathematics and Science Teaching Graduate Diploma (MSTE), designed for teachers like Alexa, helps K-8 teachers who may not love teaching math or who struggle to think outside the box with their lessons. Thanks to the MSTE program, she’s received her Teacher Qualification Service upgrading as well as a job offer to teach at a newly built school.

“The instructors leading this program were nothing short of amazing. Our physics instructor was Jennifer Kirkey. Her passion for everything she did was contagious – I would love to be able to harness one 100th of her energy,” says Alexa. “It was so obvious that all of my instructors in the Math and Science Teaching program love what they do. They gave 100 percent all the time.”

Not only did Alexa enjoy her enthusiastic instructors, she was a huge fan of the hands-on experiments, activities and field trips. From geology activities that involved crafting layers of earth from fudge, to biology trips to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, there was never a dull moment – inside or outside the classroom.

“My most memorable moment has to be a physics experiment involving water bottles and a tablecloth,” recounts Alexa. “Our instructor stood the bottles up on the tablecloth, which was spread across a big table. We each took a turn pulling the cloth out from under the bottles and I was the only student who could do it – it was like magic!”

Read more: Teaching literacy to adults gives one student an appreciation for his most basic skills

Gone but not forgotten

Seven years on and Alexa is still referring to the projects and notes she kept from her MSTE program, full of notes and activities.

“I’m so glad that I did this program after having taught for some time. It wouldn’t have been as effective if I hadn’t had some experience beforehand,” Alexa says. “Even as a working single parent with three young ones, it worked with my schedule and was so worth it.”

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