By Dale Woodard on March 3, 2021.
t was a whirlwind seven days for Mikaela McNab at the end of summer of 2020.
It also turned out to be very rewarding, figuratively and now possibly literally.
McNab, a kindergarten teacher and learning support teacher at General Stewart Elementary School was named the Lethbridge School Division’s nominee for the Edwin Parr Award – sponsored by the Alberta School Boards Association – for first-year teachers.
The winner will be announced in April.
“I was so incredibly humbled and honoured,” said McNab.
“I graduated in April of 2020. So I know a lot of first-year teachers and they are working incredibly hard this year and to be the nominee of the Lethbridge School Division just makes me so proud to be an educator.”
A lifelong Calgarian, McNab attended Mount Royal University.
Then at the end of last summer she got the call from General Stewart Elementary School that triggered a very hectic move two hours down the highway.
“I moved to Lethbridge seven days before the first day of school,” said McNab. “I got a phone call from our principle, Chris Harris, one week before the first week of school. So in seven days I packed up all my things, I found a place to live, I wrapped my head around kindergarten and learning support, I did an overhaul of my classroom and then I started my journey here and I’m glad I did. But it was the most intense seven days of my life, for sure.
“I knew in my heart I needed to do this. I committed and I’m so glad that I did.”
The kickoff of her teaching career also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Its been very challenging,” said McNab. “I first started off in my practicum and did four weeks early last year. Starting off this year we were still at the start of the pandemic. It’s been challenging, for sure. Especially with kindergarten just because the goals we want to achieve are sharing and becoming friends and circle time. All of those things have been taken away. I’ve been experimenting with unique ways that I can create those hands-on lessons even through a pandemic. I’m really lucky to be around so many innovative and creative teachers who give me inspiration and ideas on how I can still have those engaging lessons. It’s just being a little more creative and mindful. It’s definitely challenging, but we’re making it work.”
One week after the Christmas break, General Stewart Elementary School shifted to online classes.
“I was able to collaborate with Coalbank School,” said McNab. “So myself and a teacher from Coalbank, we created a bunch of different lessons and things for those students to do online. It was really unique. If we had to transition into online learning, I was still comfortable doing it and having the support of the parents and all of the students was really helpful.
“I’m also the learning support teacher at General Stewart and I’m helping with some online students.
“We’ve seen a lot of improvement, especially one in particular that I’ve been working with for a couple of months now.
“So that was a different approach that is working really well.”
It’s a small, close-knit staff at General Stewart Elementary School, said McNab.
“It’s been a really cool experience and as soon as they announced that I was nominated I got emails from just about all of our staff members congratulating me. Its been really special having their support and recogition. It’s made me feel like a bit of a rock star.”
It’s been a heck of a journey so far for the first-year teacher.
“Although it’s been a crazy six months and there have been some sad and tragic events, the last six months have been some of the most fulfulling and happiest months of my life,” said McNab. “So I have to thank all of the Lethbridge School community, the staff and the parents.
“My favourite part about teaching in the last six months was definitely, without a question, building those meaningful relationships with my students. I have 17 kindergarten students and they are the funniest, most loving, welcoming students.
“They make me laugh every day and I think no matter what happens at the end of the day as long as you laugh with your kids you’re doing a good job.”
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