Helping students on the path to self-discovery

By 
  • April 29, 2010
Catherine MacDonaldDurham Catholic District School Board teacher Catherine MacDonald didn’t expect to bump into anyone she knew, particularly one of her students, while visiting a Viking exhibit in Ireland.

But a few years ago, the archeology and history teacher at Fr. Leo J. Austin Catholic High School in Whitby, Ont., heard someone call out for “Ms. MacDonald” and turned around to see a former student on a graduation trip.

She said she was ecstatic to hear the student had found her passion and was going on to study archeology in university.

“I’m trying to really bring out the best in the whole student intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. We are there to help them along the way in this journey of self-discovery at all levels of who they are,” she said.

MacDonald says one of the best moments in her 21-year teaching career has been seeing the success of her students and “becoming who God meant (for them) to become.” She was one of five teachers in Ontario who was selected as Teacher of the Year in last year’s Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

As part of her teaching philosophy of bridging the ancient past with the present, her students have worked with forensic anthropologists, participated in archeological excavations and recreated ancient cave paintings.

Hands-on, experiential education is an important tool because it helps students “imagine and recreate the past,” MacDonald said.

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