Throughout the fall 2015 semester St. Mary’s University’s Bachelor of Education students will have the opportunity to attend several presentations by speakers and community leaders in the field of education. The first event in this series began on September 18, 2015; when speaker Rob Lennard came onto campus with his guitar in hand, ready to sing a little history. The Bachelor of Education students, along with many undergraduate history students, filled McGivney Hall to hear about Mr. Lennard’s fascination with making history current and fun.
Mr. Lennard, the newly appointed Historian and Director of Education and Outreach at the historic Bow Valley Ranch in Fish Creek Park, runs outreach programs geared toward grades four and five students. His experience with education programs helped St. Mary’s student teachers learn a new and exciting way to engage their future students in Alberta’s rich history. However, what truly made Mr. Lennard stand-out were his Cowboy outfit and blues singing. Mr. Lennard made history come to life through his music by singing a song about a group of three ranchers from Bow Valley that included 20 historical facts. This unconventional approach to history teaching was an important lesson about innovative teaching in the classroom for our student teachers.
The following Friday, September 25, 2015, St. Mary’s Bachelor of Education students had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Don Cope. Mr. Cope spent a total of 32 years with the Calgary Catholic School District as a teacher, counselor, special education supervisor, and principal. Mr. Cope officially retired in 2011, however youth and education have remained key areas of interest to him, and he continues to work with student teachers in a variety of roles. Currently, Don is a practicum coordinator for the St. Mary’s University Bachelor of Education Program, and is also involved with the United Way’s “All in for Youth” initiative.
Mr. Cope’s focus for his presentation was resiliency. Specifically, what it is and how to foster it in students on both an individual and classroom level. Mr. Cope began by introducing himself and his family. This included presenting to the students photos of his wife, stepsons, daughter, and son, Adam, who was lost to suicide at age 27. This unimaginable loss, which Don says “shook me to the core”, contributed to his interest in understanding and fostering resiliency in youth and to his passion for educating student teachers on how to do the same. His ability to convey this message was exemplified by Kristina Cummings comment that “the importance of resiliency has never been more clear”.
Don’s engaging and personal presentation included several anecdotes, both from his time as an educator and as father to his children. These stories enabled Don to connect with his audience on an emotional level. This connection was obvious in Ruth Medrano’s comment that “the impact of this presentation transcends education, the implications [of resiliency] for everyday life are very evident”. Resiliency, when defined simply is the ability to overcome adversity. Mr. Cope’s definition of resiliency included that it enables us “to not only survive, but to thrive”.
Don’s personal experience with suicide was shared as an example of when resiliency fails, in his words “failure to survive is the greatest failure of resiliency”. He explored the idea that youth with low resiliency have an increased risk for addictions, gang activity, and perhaps most devastating, suicide. His presentation focused on six themes of resiliency, which included protective factors as well as strategies that can be utilized by educators to foster resiliency in their students, and as a result, reduce the likelihood for at risk behavior.
Mr. Cope focused on the importance of relationships when fostering resiliency, saying that “[students] don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. He challenged the students in attendance to have a positive relationship with every one of their students, to ensure they always give you their best, and to remember that each student’s best will look different from the next. Don concluded his presentation with this quote by Mother Teresa “let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier”. This challenge captured Mr. Cope’s presentation perfectly, as those in attendance left inspired, educated, and equipped to become better teachers and citizens.