King's College keeps the Catholic in Catholic education

  • October 22, 2010
Kings studentsLONDON, Ont. - For those who are worried about just how Catholic Ontario’s Catholic teachers really are, fourth-year King’s University College students Kasia Surowaniec and Nicole Denomy ought to ease any anxieties.

Surwaniec and Denomy are already in their third year of preparations to become Catholic teachers — and they haven’t even been to teachers’ college yet. Since their second year at university the students have been enrolled in Kings’ new Catholic Studies for Teachers program and should be among the first four graduates to complete the program this spring.

Students in the program must all carry a double major, Catholic studies and another subject they could teach at a high school level when they graduate.

To get into Catholic Studies for Teachers they have to show a history of volunteer work and parish involvement and obtain a pastoral letter from their parish priest. To stay in the program they have to maintain a minimum 75-per-cent average. When they finish their four-year degree, students are assured a place in teachers’ college.

“Obviously we (in the King’s program) have religious knowledge, but I feel that every teacher should have that,” said Surowaniec. “There’s an importance to why we do what we do, and people should know that.”

Programs like the one at King’s and a similar agreement between the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education not only strengthen the quality of the next generation of Catholic teachers, they promote the Catholic system at faculties of education, said James Ryan, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

“We’ve had concerns for a number of years about how seriously faculties of education in our universities take the Catholic system,” Ryan told The Catholic Register. “Amongst some of the faculties we actually believe there’s a mild hostility towards Catholic education. So programs like this that promote the Catholic system, that promote Catholic education, are of benefit to our schools and also a benefit to those universities that don’t completely understand Catholic education and are far too pro-secular.”

While the rather expensive idea of a Catholic faculty of education still floats around in Catholic education circles, programs that begin to prepare Catholic teachers before they begin their Bachelor of Education are an excellent way to assure Catholic identity in Catholic schools going forward, said Ryan.

“What we really want is a strong Catholic component at every single faculty of education in the province of Ontario,” he said. “And recognition that Catholic education, which serves a third of Ontario public education students, that the faculties of education need and must cater to that need.”

Denomy worries that many religion teachers in Ontario have little training specific to the subject they teach.

“They are just kind of put into it, but they haven’t had a degree in it,” she said. “When you have a Catholic religion teacher who has a four-year degree in it, they’re going to be excited about it, they’re going to be passionate about the topic.”

Throughout the three-year program (they apply to join Catholic Studies for Teachers at the end of their first year of university) students are given co-op placements in Catholic schools. The experience in classrooms has been invaluable, said Denomy.

“You find out that kids aren’t going to be as eager to learn as you are to teach them,” she said.

Choosing a program that locks in a career choice in her first year of university wasn’t hard, said Surwaniec.

“I always wanted to be a teacher. My mom’s a teacher,” she said. “I always admired my high school teachers.”

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