1. When did you discover that you wanted to be a teacher?
Both of my parents were teachers. My mom taught me for two years because she was the only French immersion teacher in our town. I loved having her as my teacher because she was fun and set clear expectations. I studied communications at the Université d’Ottawa, intending to work in journalism or the media. Because I was unsure of my path after graduation, I went to China to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). I ended up teaching in a school that sent me to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a professional learning workshop. The teachers I met there were in complete alignment with my own vision for learning. I cried when it was time to leave the workshop because I wanted to stay and continue learning! After that experience, I was sure I wanted to become a teacher.
2. You've lived in Canada, France, Belgium, China, Ukraine, Bangladesh, and now Brazil. How does your experience in São Paulo compare to living elsewhere?
When we first arrived in São Paulo, I was overwhelmed by its magnitude. Locating and purchasing a lightbulb felt like a huge success. While I have loved each of our overseas experiences, it would be impossible to rank them because each one is unique. São Paulo is a mix of all the cities in which I have lived. I love that São Paulo offers big-city experiences like gorgeous museums, delicious cafés, large parks, and spin studios. These may not seem extravagant, but they were not available everywhere!
I knew that I loved Brazilian culture when we first arrived in the country, and everyone was giving beijos (pre-pandemic)! It felt like something natural that should be a part of our lives. I miss that now… Brazilians are so warm and caring. In addition, I have found that everyone is so patient with my broken Portuguese (or Frenchoguese, as I do throw in some French every now and then)!
3. What do you love most about teaching lower school students?
I love how lower school students can be silly and act with no restraint. They are the ideal "audience" for me as a teacher because they are interested in learning and exploring, do not take themselves too seriously, and enjoy having fun. Lower school students love sharing what is happening in their lives, and I find it amazing to be such a big part of their day since they still let us in. It’s really special.
4. As a Canadian, you speak French and English. How does being bilingual impact your teaching?
I grew up speaking French at home. I attended a French school until grade 2 when my family moved, at which time I enrolled in a French immersion program. I took all of my core subjects in French and my specialty classes in English. French has always been an essential part of my life and growing up bilingual allowed me to connect with my French-speaking family. It has also gone a long way during travel and has helped me throughout my career. I speak French with my two boys at home, although they now speak better Portuguese than French! In a school where most students speak several languages, being a bilingual teacher helps create dialogue and create empathy, while pushing me to help students find the right words. Allowing students to translate their words is okay, in my opinion. I encourage students to speak English in class, as it is the language of inclusion at Graded, but if there is a pause because they cannot find the word, we figure it out together.
5. Do you have any hidden talents your students would be surprised to learn about?
I don’t have any hidden talents, but I often challenge my students with my typing ability. I took typing lessons In high school, so I learned how to correctly place my fingers on the keyboards. Perhaps playing piano when I was younger helped as well. We have typing challenges in class all the time. I’m still waiting for a student to type faster than I do; there have been some close times!
6. What do you like to do on vacation and in your free time?
This question is kind of funny because I believe most families agree that when you go on vacation, you are constantly entertaining your children! The idea of free time may be used quite loosely here. I love baking and use it as a kind of therapy when I feel anxious or overwhelmed. I also try to get my boys to help me, and most recently, I've started teaching them how to cook dinner once a week, which we enjoy doing together. Oh right, my free time… I like walking our dog, reading, playing with my family, playing tennis, working out, going on walks, and being active and outdoors!
7. Do you have any embarrassing teaching moments you would be willing to share? What are they?
Hmmm. I have to think about this because I throw myself into my teaching, and I am constantly embarrassing myself. Maybe I should say that my students feel embarrassed for me! I don’t mind being silly. Last year, I can think of a time when my students were most embarrassed when I suddenly decided to rap a lesson out while someone beatboxed. It was hilarious. Also, every year when I teach FANBOYS (acronym to remember the coordinating conjunctions), I create a whole wave effect while I scream it out, and my students constantly stare at me. I bet most of my past students still remember what it stands for! :)
8. What are your “trapped on a desert island” books or movies?
Easy. Books. I love reading. That being said, I mostly read young adult books throughout the school year because I like keeping up with all of the new books that come out for my students. I don’t remember reading such interesting, timely, and entertaining books when I was younger. When a student asks me what they should read next, I want to be able to provide them with a variety of options.
9. What is the one piece of advice you would offer to your students before they start middle school?
Throughout the school year, I often ask my grade 5 students, “What would an independent learner do?” This is an important lesson because as students move into middle school, they gain confidence and take their learning into their own hands. They are learners, and our role is to help them advocate for themselves if they do not understand. This includes asking them to reflect on their work, revise it, and check how to help someone else. Being an independent learner means being able to think and recognize opportunities to improve yourself.
10. You have been a teacher at Graded since 2016. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
One of my favorite things about Graded is the indoor/outdoor concept! When we arrived, the first thing that struck me was how open the campus felt. I love walking out of my classroom onto a green space. I had not realized how “closed in” I had been at previous schools, where I walked into the building and did not step outside again until recess or the end of the day!