by Gloria Welton
About 91 Kindergarten Teachers work for the Public Schools Branch, with about six of those teaching in French Kindergarten classes.
Eight Kindergarten Teachers on PEI work for the French Language School Board (La Commission scolaire de langue française).
Carrie Marshall from New Dominion is a Kindergarten Teacher at Glen Stewart Primary School in Stratford. She is originally from Illinois and has worked in the Early Learning Education field since she graduated from university. She has worked in the field on PEI for about 19 years since moving here in 2001.
Her family moved to PEI when her husband was offered the position of Academic Dean with Maritime Christian College, and they have three children. “When our youngest child started kindergarten two years after we settled on PEI, I started working at Parkdale Sherwood Headstart Early Learning Centre as a Kindergarten Teacher,” says Carrie. “This was before kindergarten was integrated into the school system. Kindergarten has been integrated in the regular school system for about 12 years.”
Carrie has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in 21st Century Learning. When the opportunity came to work as a Kindergarten Teacher in the school system, she enrolled at UPEI in the three-year Bachelor of Education program, which was developed to meet the needs of Kindergarten Teachers as they transition from early childhood centres to the PEI school system. This was a temporary program that accepted just two intakes of students in 2010 and 2011.
“I love my job and I joke that I just fell into this field of work. I don’t remember making a choice – it just appeared that was the path I was to take. It wasn’t that all my life I planned to enter this field. It really just fell into place for me, and I am very pleased.”
According to the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning curriculum document the kindergarten program values the development of the whole child by recognizing the following:
- the individual and social nature of learning
- that children learn through active involvement and meaningful play
- the importance of developmentally appropriate practices that enhance children’s learning
- the significance of all areas of development
- the early years as the strong foundation for lifelong learning.
The kindergarten program values educators and families as partners in a child’s education. Educators and families collaborate to create a climate of respect, success, and joy for lifelong learning.
“Before kindergarten centres came into the school system, play to learn was the ultimate focus. There is a bit more structure around how we must implement the curriculum in our present school system.
“We are continually talking about the importance of play to learn as being the core of the system as this is instrumental in development at this age. It is a constant balancing act not to lose sight of play-based learning when more programs with academic teaching are being introduced. One of our professional development days for Kindergarten Teachers was completely focused on play and although that day got cancelled because of the hurricane I hope they can reschedule.”
When talking about career development starting at the kindergarten level, Carrie suggested the importance of each child knowing their strengths, passions, and talents at that age and being aware of the world of work to a degree that makes sense to them. “When children are more aware of who they are and what their interests are and are exposed to options, they can be put on career pathways that can continually be explored.
“I wouldn’t have called myself overly creative growing up, but as I grew in my career, I discovered that side of me and I learned how to channel creativity into my work. We can help young children to become aware of who they are and what strengths they can build on which will help them with their future plans.”
Carrie spoke about diversification of education which for instance can help children speak confidently in front of their peers and build the skills needed to navigate through the school system and enter the world of work.
“Over the last few years, more children are coming into the classroom without speaking English. Since kindergarten is play based learning, those children should learn well in this setting.
“Language skills are developed through conversation with peers so giving these students a chance to talk and learn through group projects where they are interacting with each other is also very important.
“An Educational Assistant is assigned to work with children with learning challenges or a variety of special needs in the classroom and throughout the day. We also have Resource Teachers who help the students develop skills further.”
This year, Carrie is teaching a class of 14. “This is the first time I have taught a smaller class size, yet we have extremely high needs within our classes.”
Testing out a career as a Kindergarten Teacher
Carrie suggests that volunteering in a classroom is a way to test out the profession. This could be arranged through the Public Schools Branch.
“Another great way to arrange to spend a semester in a kindergarten classroom is through a high school co-op program. “Also, contacting the Early Childhood Development Association is a great way to connect and find ways to work for a childcare center for the summer and see if this is a pathway of interest.”
Impact and hiring needs on PEI
“There are opportunities to be hired as a Kindergarten Teacher on the Island,” says Kelly Drummond, Director of Human Resources, Corporate Planning and Principal Support for the Public Schools Branch. “The 56 schools offer a variety of employment opportunities, including permanent, casual, and substitute positions.”
“For the French Language School Board (La Commission scolaire de langue française),
Kindergarten Teachers are of great importance and are in high demand,” says Nathalie Malo, MBA, CPHR, Gestionnaire des ressources humaines.
“Thanks to them, the first year of school will allow our students to become independent, to learn the French language and to make lots of discoveries. Kindergarten Teachers have a major impact on their socio-emotional development and on their learning of French.”
The rewards and realities of teaching Kindergarten
“I love seeing a group of children who don’t know each other at the beginning of the year who become best friends by the end of the year,” says Carrie. “That building of community is very rewarding. Being able to watch kids grow and develop is incredible. I have students who are siblings of previous students, so building and keeping that relationship with parents is also important. We are partnering with parents to help raise the next generation.”
Carrie says teachers can find it overtaxing and overwhelming when they have a lot going on in their personal life. “This career can take up a lot of your time and mental space so when you have a lot going on in your own home it is going to be very difficult to manage both.
“Normal life situations combined with the pandemic and disasters like the recent hurricane can be very challenging for professions such as teaching, healthcare, police work, and the list goes on.
“We need a support system at home and in our social circle to ensure we can be there for our family and for the people we work with. This is a balancing act that is very difficult to address appropriately on a continuous basis. Taking good care of oneself needs to be a priority.
“In this career you can give and give and be pulled in so many directions, but you certainly get the reward of seeing the children learn and progress, knowing that you have done your best.”
Educational options available on PEI
“For those interested in becoming a Kindergarten Teacher I suggest starting at a college and adding a university degree, and then a Bachelor of Education,” says Carrie. “This would give you the play-based learning model and philosophy needed in this profession.”
Holland College offers an Early Childcare and Education program with an option for a degree pathway.
Collège de l’Île offers a one-year program in French.
The UPEI Bachelor of Education is a 12-month post-degree program that allows students to direct their studies in Primary/Elementary (K–6) or Intermediate/Senior (7–12) and also pursue optional additional study through a focus in International, Indigenous, Early Learning, or Adult Education.