Connect Charter School Partners with Mount Royal University

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Since 2012, Connect Charter School has worked closely with Mount Royal University (MRU), hosting numerous teacher candidate cohorts from the university’s Department of Education. 

This fall, Connect Grade 5 Math & Science teacher Kevin Sonico was seconded to the Department of Education at MRU. “My colleague Erin Piper was seconded to MRU last year, and I was pleased to have been granted with the opportunity.  This was a professionally enriching experience.” 

Sonico was the instructor of the Program of Studies and Curriculum Instruction in Teaching Science, in collaboration with faculty professor Dr. Gladys Sterenberg, he taught one section of the Program of Studies and Curriculum Instruction in Teaching Mathematics to Year 3 Education students.  Sonico planned and taught classes that connected his years of classroom experience with current research and pedagogy around those disciplines. As Sterenberg notes, “With 21 years of current, hands-on classroom experience, Kevin offers students a wealth of real world knowledge and practice. In addition, he offers me an incredible opportunity to think deeply about my own practice as I articulate reasons for my choices. Working with Kevin has prompted me to incorporate new ideas in course assignments and assessment practices. This is a rich professional learning experience for both of us and the teacher candidates in our program.”

“The third year education program at MRU is quite unique,” says Sonico. “The STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) involves Dr. Norm Vaughn (Technology), Dr. Gladys Sterenberg (Mathematics), Professor Cinthia Anselmo (Art). Students took all the courses this term and learned from these highly respected instructors. The integration of these disciplines was a focus of the program and gave teacher candidates opportunities to see this integration through field experiences and course assignments, and encouraged them to make these connections in their practicum placements.”

MRU students visited Connect in October, and planned and taught inquiry lessons to students from across the grades.  Sonico enjoyed watching his MRU students make theory-and-practice connections. “The MRU Education program is rigorous and students are taught by experts in their disciplines, who are approachable. The professors care about their students; it is a close community,” says Sonico. “The MRU program is a natural fit with Connect Charter School, where our leadership encourages connections with post-secondary institutions. This partnership allows us to welcome enthusiastic teacher candidates into our classrooms, and at the same time, provides education students experience teaching with a disposition of inquiry in a unique public charter school environment.”

Although this secondment wrapped up in early November, Sonico will be visiting MRU this month to help mark their final assignment, and to attend the student gala, which is a culmination and celebration of Year 3 teacher candidates’ practicum learning and experiences.  “I am looking forward to reconnecting with this cohort as we have all learned from each other in the brief time we had together. I am excited to hear of their future journeys in the profession.” 

Faculty professor and the Chair of the Department of Education at MRU, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, notes that this is a continuous opportunity, and plans are in place to continue this secondment on a yearly basis. “We are very proud of our partnership with CCS and the secondment process is just another example of how school-university partnerships can improve the field of education and build closer ties with our institutions. This collaboration is truly synergistic, yielding more learning than the simple sum of our two programs. The opportunities for sharing of resources, space and expertise is limitless and our mutual growth in shared professional learning has been a real strength” says O’Connor.