The qualifications that go into becoming a pedagog can take Education graduates on the ride of a lifetime, as Catherine Little (née Li) discovered.
Little, who graduated with both her Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Education (BEd) degrees from York, notes that it was challenging combining her demanding BSc program with the concurrent BEd. “It was long days and night classes as well, but I stuck with it,” she said.
After graduating she was offered a position at what was then the North York Board of Education. She was hired to teach grade 7, 8 and 9 math and science thanks to her BSc degree, even though her BEd qualifications were only for primary/junior education. She taught for the next eight years before becoming an instructional leader at the school board. Eventually, she became a program coordinator for science, environment and ecological studies and was put in charge of the school board’s Outdoor Education Program.
In 2009, Little was looking to take the next step in her professional development and career and all roads seemed to lead back to York. She was hired as a secondee in the Faculty of Education teaching Science and Technology and Mathematics courses and was also accepted to the Faculty’s Master of Education program (MEd). “My MEd wasn’t for career advancement,” Little says. “I did it for myself.”
In addition to teaching and working on her MEd, Little spent her evenings, weekends and summers writing and consulting. She worked with McGraw-Hill Education, one of the largest education publishers in North America where she created professional development resources for teachers implementing a revised science curriculum. In particular, she helped create the grade 11 and 12 biology textbooks that were used at the time.
She also created grade 7 and 10 science textbooks for Pearson Educational Publishing, another major education publishing house and published engineering themed reading material for kindergarten to grade 5 students.
Her publishing work had such an impact that her family encountered her textbooks in their classes. ”My brother is 18 years younger than I am and he had to use one of my books in high school, as did my son,” she laughs.
Little also worked with Let’s Talk Science, a Canadian charitable organization focused on engaging young people in learning science, engineering and technology and consulted at the University of Toronto, evaluating the effectiveness of an astronomy teaching module. She was a lead writer of the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum and worked with the Perimeter Institute to create a teacher resource to support Career Studies.
As she completed her MEd, she sought to expand the readership for her published works. To this end, she attended a science communication course where she presented an article she had written. Her instructors recognized it as a strong opinion-editorial (op-ed) and connected her with editors at Metro (Toronto Edition) who published the article.
Little left the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in August 2016 but continues to do freelance writing and consulting. Over the years she has contributed dozens of pieces to the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star. “I didn’t realize how many different opportunities could present themselves,” she says. “It was nowhere on my radar to have my works published in a national paper.”
Looking back on all her experience, Little encourages future students to be open to the many different opportunities that they may be presented with. “Balance your passion and employability,” Little counsels.