David Easter, a student representative in the Catholic Education Partnership Group at University of King’s College. Photo courtesy of the University of King’s College.

Collaboration at King’s gives students an edge

  • February 9, 2014

As an aspiring Catholic school teacher, David Easter was drawn to King’s University College in part by a unique collaborative program between the university and Ontario’s high schools.

Called the Catholic Educational Partnership Group, the program is King’s way to help foster Catholic education and faith formation for budding teachers. Easter says it is one of the greatest resources in the province for aspiring educators.

“It gives me a chance to sort of get my name out there, meet the people and sort of give them a good impression of myself,” said the third-year student of King’s Catholic studies for teachers program. “It is (also) an opportunity to sit in and listen in on what is happening in Ontario in terms of education.”

The program began about 15 years ago when King’s registrar Marilyn Mason approached the London Catholic school board seeking to improve local education by sharing resources and ideas. As time went on the partnership program expanded to neighbouring Catholic school boards. Then in May, 2010 the program went province-wide when Mason struck up a conversation with the Ontario Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

“What I was basically saying to them is that this is a really cool model or template, everybody should be doing this and also we would love to be doing it with everybody,” she said. “In addition to having the possibilities of conversations in our backyard, now with all the technology and internet communications, there is no reason why we cannot be in touch and develop more relationships.”

Since then the partnership has grown to include 28 Catholic school boards in Ontario as well as five Catholic education organizations such as OCSTA, the Institute for Catholic Education and Friends and Advocates of Catholic Education.

The program brings together stakeholders about every four months for meetings that can be held in person, by phone or through the Internet. Participants share ideas and discuss a range of topics related to Catholic education. Topics can include the role of Catholic education, where the system is headed in the future and curriculum.

In addition to arranging the regular meetings, King’s welcomes student representatives, such as Easter, to sit at the table to provide a younger perspective — a critical voice in the dialogue, he said.

“Since I’m usually the youngest person there, they are always interested in my take on certain ideas,” he said. “Most of the people at the table have been in education for 25 or 30 years ... (and) when you are in a field like education for so long — which is a good thing as experience is obviously never bad — in some cases certain people can sort of fall into certain trains of thought and get stuck in the way they think.

“The world is a lot different than it was 25 or 30 years ago, so I think that it is nice to have a younger perspective on certain ideas and certain issues.”

Mason has noticed that the issues addressed over the years tend to be recurring, what she calls “constant concerns.”

“Anything that strengthens Catholic education is a positive thing,” she said. “In times of uncertainly or economic issues, sharing resources is always important.”

In addition to the conversations, the university also visits almost every Catholic school board in the province to host workshops for teachers, administrators and chaplains.

“That is a great way of providing intellectual and most importantly spiritual inspiration,” said Mason adding that this only strengthens the image of King’s and their alumni in the eyes of those school boards.

Easter believes the program has cemented these relationships, improved Catholic education in the province and more importantly to him increased the employment opportunities in Catholic education for King’s alumni.

“At this point the program is pretty well known provincially,” he said. “Having these different contacts and influences from different boards it helps. It is a big advantage to everyone just to advertise our program and for them to sort of see the formation and the shaping that is happening for us as we go through our degree.”

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