Graduating with a Combined Degree in Education and Career and Technology Studies with minors in Social Responsibility and French, Sara Bieniada is excited to pass on her life-long love of learning to the next generation of students.
“I’ve been privileged to have both teachers and coaches who have played such a pivotal role in my life. The younger you are, the more foundational your experiences are, and I see that in my own life, the words spoken by the role models in my life really changed the trajectory of my life.”
Q. Why did you choose to become a teacher?
I initially got accepted to complete a Bachelor of Science and was en route to become an optometrist, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I loved teaching. When I was 19 years old I did some volunteering that involved teaching, and every time I taught, I would just love it. Something in me comes alive like nothing else when I teach.
I wanted to do something that was purposeful and that I enjoyed, and teaching is that. Even in practicum there were so many times that I would step back and think about how great it is to get to do this sort of thing for a future career. There would be moments of seeing the kids excel in such an amazing way, and seeing those breakthroughs and those deep reflective thoughts were where I would feel so proud. And then also having the chance to goof around and have great laughs everyday, this is a great job.
Q. What was your most memorable experience while at the University of Lethbridge?
In my PSIII practicum, my students were super keen to answer any black and white questions. I’d ask something like: “What planets are closest to the Sun?” and all hands would shoot up, but ask them anything even slightly deep and there was a hesitancy to be reflective.
We had an opportunity for my Professional Inquiry Project to explore inequality and privilege and our response to that, and at first it was really tough and I started questioning whether I was pushing these kids too hard or expecting too much. But something in me kept pushing and believing they would get there.
Then we had a mentor of mine come in as a guest speaker, sharing his story of growing up in really intense poverty in Burkina Faso, and seeing the kids reflect to his talk in such a deep way and seeing their response of gratitude and also wanting to make a difference, that was a beautiful moment for me. From that a big project was born, eventually leading to a fundraiser planned by the class with the goal to donate all profits to micro financing efforts in impoverished countries.
Q. What is the most important lesson you learned during your time in the Faculty of Education?
I think it might be a cliche potentially, but realizing that students respond differently to people they have positive relationships with. You hear that all the time in practicum, but then you go into the classroom and you have all this work to do, and it's really easy to just want to speed through the process and cram info down their throats.
I’m grateful to have had so many professors and mentors reinforce the importance of relationships because I saw that in such a profound way in the first few weeks. When they don’t know you, they don’t respond the same way. But as soon as you have that personal connection, it's a game changer. I think a lot of universities might not focus on that as much, and I’m grateful that at the U of L that is of utmost emphasis.
Q. Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your education experience?
My teacher mentor, James Evans at Begbie View Elementary in Revelstoke. From the very beginning he trusted me, and even before he really knew me he decided to develop our relationship out of that trust. Because of that I felt really empowered to try different things in the classroom, and he was very supportive with feedback and being there if I wanted help. I think that just gave me so much freedom to take risks and sometimes fail, but also to really succeed.
He’s just the type of teacher I want to become. He has such a good connection with the kids and is able to explain things in a way that is relatable and understandable, and his classroom management is so based on rapport. It’s about trusting the students and seeing them respond to that.
Q. What advice would you give to those who are about to begin their journey in the Faculty of Education?
Advice that I was given in my PSI that was very helpful was related to when you have university consultants come in and observe your lessons. Obviously the default is to want to save your best lessons for them to watch. But I had a teacher across the hall tell me to do the lessons I was scared about, the ones I wasn’t exactly sure how they were going to turn out, because I would have their support and I take advantage of that and get their feedback.
Instead of trying to impress all the time, just know that they all have your best interests in mind and they want to give you feedback that is going to help your practice, so don’t be afraid to take those risks. This is such a rare opportunity where you have the support of university consultants and teacher mentors, so push yourself to try things that might serve you well in the future.
Link to Sara's Professional Inquiry Project "The Global Citizen Project: Are Large-scale, Multidisciplinary Projects an Effective Way to Increase Student Motivation?" here.
Writer: CJ Tuff
Photo/video: Sara Bieniada
Please see selected Faculty of Education links below:
Congratulations to the Class of 2021 from the Faculty of Education
On Becoming a Teacher: Five Questions with Ashley Hoisington (BA/BEd ‘21)
On Becoming a Teacher: Five Questions with Dominique Point du Jour (BEd '21)
A collection of stories about the Faculty of Education
Education Undergraduate Society (EUS) website here
Education Undergraduate Society Twitter: @uleth_eus
Faculty of Education Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu
For more information please contact:
Communications, Dean's Office
Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
Learn more about the Faculty of Education: Legacy Magazine (2008-2019)
Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu Website: uleth.ca/education
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