My journey to become a teacher began in 1986 when I graduated with an Honours B.A. in Urban and Economic Geography and Environmental Management from University of Toronto, Mississauga (it was known as Erindale campus back then). I had worked in various part-time and summer student jobs until then, but was faced with the “what am I going to do with the rest of my working life” question. I had always wanted to be a teacher…great teachers had inspired me… I wanted to inspire others.
So I filled out the copious forms and applications, requested reference letters from several of my employers and professors and even remember making a late-night run to a courier warehouse in Mississauga (I lived in Etobicoke) to make sure my applications got in on time. Then I waited….
Sadly, I was not successful in getting into any Bachelor of Ed programs to which I had applied. Time to change my plans. Now what?
I had worked the summer of 1986 as a planner with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority….in my undergraduate field…great resume experience. I discovered that not only were there few full-time permanent jobs in my field; they also paid poorly and were not what I thought them to be.
My older sister Karen was at that time dating a great guy (now my brother-in-law Mike) who was in the first year of his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) at York University. Seeing me struggling with what to do with myself and my future, he suggested that I write my GMAT (the entrance exam for the M.B.A. program). I studied up and headed off one Saturday to write the exam. And guess what? I scored a high enough mark to be accepted into the MBA program at York University in January 1987.
Talk about a fish-out-of-water. I clearly remember my first-day first-class that January. “Introduction to Financial Accounting” with Professor Al Rosen. He methodically went student by student asking what they were expecting from his course. I vividly recall mumbling something about “debits and credits” to which he replied, “you obviously expect a lot from this class”. (More later about how this experience and these exact words resonate with me as a teacher today). I knew nothing about the world of business, including accounting. What was I doing?
I plugged along for 4 terms (took my two summers off to cut grass for the Etobicoke Board of Education (first female to drive a full-size tractor to cut school fields for the board) and to collect water samples for a blue-green algae study for the Ministry of the Environment (hired as the only female on a team of 4 because I was the one that could drive the outboard motor on the MOE boat we used…thank you childhood summers at our Parry Sound-area family cottage for that much-needed experience)).
When I graduated in December 1988 with my M.B.A. (double major in Public Policy and Public Administration) , I started sending out resumes. I had no business experience. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband Greg) kept me in stamps. He often jokes that it was an “investment in his future”. I applied to anything and everything for which I might be qualified. I answered an ad in the paper. CNCP Telecommunications was looking for 4 financial analysts to work on their latest project…a bid to break up the long distance telecommunications monopoly in Canada. I was invited to an interview (and subsequently hired) by one of the greatest bosses I’ve ever had, David Watt. He told me at the interview that an accomplishment I listed on my resume (being the first female to drive a tractor for the Etobicoke Board of Education) was what first caught his eye (more on this in a later post too).
I worked for CNCP Telecommunications for 15 years (and through 5 company name changes: CNCP Telecommunications, Unitel Communications Inc., AT&T Canada Long Distance Services, AT&T Canada Corp. and Allstream Inc.). I even consulted for them briefly when they were MTS Allstream…name 6. During my first year with CNCP, I worked on the long distance (LD) bid in front of the CRTC and built a business case to maximize margin from their dying telegram product. We had rotary dial phones in the Etobicoke office when I started. After 5 years as a financial analyst (read “spreadsheet jockey”), and a successful outcome to the long distance bid (the monopoly was broken!), I moved into product management. I managed the business long distance, calling card and toll free portfolios in various capacities over the next 10 years at the company.
In July of 2004, I quit my job (no severance as a result) after deciding I still wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. In December 2004, I filled out the application forms and documents, sent in my transcripts and waited. I was called for an entrance interview at York University (York), the only school to which I had applied for September 2005 . I was by then married, living in Barrie, Ontario with three elementary-school-aged children. York offered a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) program at Georgian College in Barrie. I needed to go to school locally I thought. I paid my $40 to be interviewed, had what I thought was a good interview at the main York campus and waited. I was devastated to find out that I had not been accepted. I called the university for feedback. They said I didn’t have enough classroom experience. I had been working full-time from home for Allstream for 5 years so that I could actively volunteer at my kids’ school…going on field trips, reading to kids, supporting kids in classrooms, even spearheading an epal (email penpals) progam in my son’s grade 5 classroom. It wasn’t enough they said.
So, I got a part-time job at the Hallmark (card) store in Barrie, continued to do some contract work for Allstream and continued to actively volunteer in local schools. I judged speech and poetry contests wherever I was needed. I supplied as an uncertified teacher when local schools couldn’t fill jobs.
Time to widen the net….in December of 2005, I applied to three B.Ed programs for September 2006 (York, OISE (U of T) and Nipissing University). I was called for an interview at York again, paid my $40 again and was again turned down. I was accepted by Nipissing for junior/intermediate (although not for intermediate/senior as they would recognize geography as a teachable subject based on my undergraduate courses but would not accept business as a teachable subject based on my two-year M.B.A. courses…more on this later too) and for two scary days I was looking at mature student residences in North Bay. I was 42! Then I received the great news that I was accepted at OISE. I accepted immediately. Toronto was a lot closer to Barrie than North Bay!
I went to option night at OISE and found the Doncrest Option taught out of Doncrest Public School in Richmond Hill and never looked back. I spent four glorious days each week at Doncrest with instructors such as Krista Walford, Charmain Brown, Barrie Bennett, Garfield Gini-Newman…the list goes on; and one day in downtown Toronto each week with Lew French for geography (my teachable) and my optional course (Technology for Teachers…it was inspiring!). I spent two great practicums in York Region District School Board (Grade 8 at Glen Cedar PS with Jeff Toogood and grade 6 at Bogart PS with Kim McDonald). I then did my internship in Simcoe County District School Board (Grade 4 at Killarney Beach PS with Sue Collins). I created and presented my portfolio at OISE in May 2007…its theme?…perseverance…I had tons of personal material and experience!
I have now been an occasional teacher with the Simcoe County District School Board for 5 glorious years. The elusive contract has so far escaped me, but I have been gainfully employed in various LTOs over the 5 years and have filled in the “between-LTOs” time with supply teaching. Do I regret leaving a six-figure income-paying job for a teaching position with a salary grid based on years of teaching experience? Not for a moment!!! I love what I do now. I’ve forged relationships with students, colleagues, administrators, authors, parents…and most importantly, I’ve fulfilled a lifetime dream of mine. Has it been easy? Rarely. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Now, I look forward to sharing my thoughts as a second-career teacher in today’s teaching profession. Lots more to come. Stay tuned!