Dec. 21, 2021Print | PDF
Laurier’s Master of Education program, offered part-time in Waterloo and Milton, attracts working education professionals in a wide range of fields looking to take their careers to the next level, as well as new graduates from a diverse range of undergraduate programs.
Students can choose either the interdisciplinary stream, which teaches about collaborative, high-impact learning and instruction practices and innovative education through emerging technologies; or the student affairs stream, which gives students the skills and knowledge to assume leadership positions within student affairs and services at postsecondary educational institutions.
Both streams allow students to customize their studies by selecting from a variety of electives on topics relevant to educators of any nature. Courses are offered both in-person and online to give flexibility for professionals or those living further away. The interdisciplinary program is also being offered full-time to a limited number of students.
“This is truly an exemplary program taught by gifted and passionate faculty,” says Carolyn FitzGerald, an assistant professor and graduate coordinator for the MEd program. “There are numerous opportunities within the program for students to learn, unlearn and take their understanding of education to an entirely new level, whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of their career.”
Phillip Craig, a first-year MEd student, chose to return to university to take his career as a science educator to the next level.
As the director of the NII Explore program at the Nuclear Innovation Institute, Craig is passionate about bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to students in rural parts of Ontario who may not have access to the same supports and resources as children living in cities.
Craig was hired by NII in 2020 to lead its former Coding Academy program, which was launched to give students some valuable extracurricular activities during the early stages of the pandemic. This program later evolved into the Coding in the Classroom program, bringing fun and interactive lessons to students, while also helping boost teachers’ comfort with the coding curriculum.
As the success of the NII Explore program grew, NII expanded its virtual and in-person science programming to local schools with the Science in the Classroom program, with the goal of taking some of the strain off local teachers struggling with the challenges of remote learning.
With his experience as a high school teacher in the Bluewater District School Board and his enthusiasm for teaching STEM subjects, Craig’s classes were a hit. Soon, he was presenting dozens of times a week to hundreds of children per session from Grades 2 to 8, teaching everything from how electricity works to aerodynamics—all in fun, accessible and engaging ways. To keep Zoom-weary kids engaged, Craig undertakes exciting science demonstrations, sometimes in funny costumes, reads poems and stories, and gets kids out of their chairs for scavenger hunts, to build paper airplanes, among other activities.
“Asking teachers to set up science demonstrations and make it engaging for students takes a lot of time and effort and not every teacher has the time, expertise or resources to do that,” says Craig. “The pandemic has been really hard on teachers, too. They’re like the starting pitchers who have thrown a hundred pitches and I come in fresh in the ninth inning and let them take a bit of a break.”
Craig was recently awarded the 2021 RBC Golden Apple Award, presented by the Kincardine and District Chamber of Commerce, for his professionalism, leadership and innovation in education, thanks in part to strong nominations from his students and their parents.
When the organization North American Young Generation in Nuclear heard about Craig’s work, it offered to collaborate on a fun, easy-to-understand children’s book about climate change. Craig got to writing Passing Gas: How Clean Energy Makes the World Less Smelly, which explains the causes and effects of carbon emissions from the perspective of cute yellow ducks. The book helps children in younger grades understand basic concepts, while children in older grades can develop a more complex understanding of climate change. Copies of the book were taken to the United Nations’ COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.
The NII Explore program has reached many of the children living in Bruce, Grey and Huron counties, but Craig wants to expand the program to other rural areas in Ontario as well.
Craig started in Laurier’s Master of Education program, based on the Waterloo campus, in spring 2021 with encouragement from his friend, Dave Shorey, an instructor in Laurier’s Faculty of Education and the executive director of Georgian College’s Owen Sound campus. Craig hopes to learn more about the rural-urban opportunity divide in education and put his education to work growing and improving the NII Explore program.
“I think we’re called to be lifelong learners,” says Craig. “Especially as teachers, we want to encourage other people to learn, so it’s important that when we have the opportunity that we continue learning ourselves.”
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