She doesn't wear just any apron. She custom-made her apron to have what she needs at the ready - like hand sanitizer in a perfectly-sized pocket. Her face shield? Decorated with bright, make-you-want-to-go-to-Hawaii flowers. Her attitude about getting her Grade 1 students through their first year of full-day school during a global pandemic? Undeterred.
Katie McDonough has taught Kindergarten - both French immersion as well as the English program - for six years. Prior to this she taught in Japan for about a decade.
Teaching has always been a dynamic career. But when COVID-19 forced schools to transition to online learning practically overnight, teachers were forced to adapt at unprecedented levels. On March 15, 2020, the Alberta government announced that schools would be transitioning to be fully online. The date that this transition would come into effect? The next morning, March 16. Having no warning or way to properly prepare, Katie stepped up to the plate and did what she needed to do to transition her young classroom online.
Fast forward to September 2020 when Katie made the leap to teaching Grade 1 French Immersion for the first time in her life. There's nothing like adding yet another layer of change amidst an already crazy year. The adjustment to Grade 1 is never easy for young students. Never mind them having to make this adjustment during a tumultuous global pandemic. Add to this trying to learn a second-language while wearing a mask. Katie again stepped up to the plate.
True to her nature, Katie is honest in describing what it’s been like to teach during this pandemic: “...it’s been stressful and frightening.” So why did she choose to teach in-person when she had the option of continuing to teach online? Because she missed her students too much to stay away.
Katie’s students are the luckiest. What other teacher makes each student their own picnic blanket so they can maximize time spent learning outdoors? Katie’s passion for teaching comes through in everything she does. “To know that I help students acquire knowledge and skills they will use for the rest of their lives, long after I am gone and long after they have forgotten me, makes me feel that I am doing something meaningful and important with my life.”
"Allow your child the opportunity to make mistakes."
What Katie is teaching her students extends to us all. Take these recent instructions she shared via Google Classroom as an example: “Allow your child the opportunity to make mistakes. A perfect score on any assignment is less important than allowing your child to grow from their own mistakes.” And another one: “Remind your student that making mistakes shows they are learning and that their job is to do their best, not to be perfect.”
To her fellow teachers, Katie shares these words of encouragement: “Be brave. Be kind to yourselves. Accept that this year - more than any other - we will get done what we get done. As long as we can stay safe and healthy, everything will turn out fine in the end.”
Thank you, Katie, for being exceptional. Thank you for caring for each and everyone of your students. Thank you for respecting them. For making them feel safe. For allowing them to learn and be curious. You exemplify what teaching is all about.