Get to know our secondees - James Steele

James SteeleJames (Jimmy) Steele is in his third year as a secondee at York University.

What school board are you affiliated with and what was your role at your board?
I was a Department Head in a fantastic downtown Toronto school with the Toronto District School Board. I taught a combination of French Immersion, German, Spanish, and Core French most years, and also worked as a Teacher-Librarian.

Why did becoming a secondee with the Faculty of Education interest you?
I had written and developed curriculum had worked as a Mentor Teacher for several years, and had taught Additional Qualification courses, in addition to a variety of leadership roles outside of the classroom. Having the chance to work with beginning teachers to help shape French classes to encourage student voice, purposeful language use, and skill-building was too powerful an opportunity to miss. I am still thrilled to have been chosen to be at York, three years later.

What courses are you presently teaching?
Teaching French as a Second Language in the Junior-Intermediate and Intermediate-Senior Levels; Re-thinking Schooling: A Re-Introduction to Education; Teaching and Learning in Elementary French Classrooms; Content Into Practice; and, Teaching Spanish in the Intermediate-Senior Division.

What’s the most exciting thing that happened in your classroom(s) this year?
Witnessing the willingness and enthusiasm to effectuate positive change in our school system, particularly as it relates to favouring student voice, differentiation, and full inclusion of all students.

What has been the most surprising thing for you working with the Faculty?
I am always surprised by just how pleased our students are when they walk into class – there is a great sense of responsibility amongst York’s Faculty of Education students – but more importantly, I am always surprised at how dynamic and warm everyone is in their practica. It is scary being a guest in a classroom of 15 or 36 students, in addition to teaching staff and community members. The first few weeks of the practicum and the community placement can be extremely overwhelming. Being the outsider, even someone who has an initial understanding of the new environment is often terrifying. I am always pleased and surprised with how York students approach new challenges head-on.

 What advice would you give to teacher candidates for the classroom?
Do your own homework and learn about your school community. It is fundamental. Apply this new knowledge to more than merely your practicum setting and use it to promote student voice and positive change. Also, keep Tylenol, vitamins, and your favourite treat in your bag at all times.

 What inspires you to teach?
I want to keep getting better at what I do in order to help young people change the world. It’s as simple as that.

 What would students be surprised to know about you?
I worked for nearly a decade in the fashion industry before and during my time as a high school teacher. I also speak excellent Portuguese and a bit of Icelandic.

 What impact do you want your work to have on society?
If I can help teachers and educators remain humble, engaged, attentive, and eager to create the next generation of social entrepreneurs and game-changers, I couldn’t be happier.

 What do you see as the best thing about education today?
We are so lucky to have students’ voices and interests are more represented in curricula and classes than ever before, thanks to young people making their voices heard and educators who are willing to accept these calls to action at face value. This makes exceptional teaching and engaged learners.