Preparation for the unexpected


Receiving teacher education through Simon Fraser University’s Professional Development Program (PDP) prepared me for very unexpected parts of my teaching career. After earning permanent certification in Canada, I moved to the West Indies where, instead of being assigned to an elementary school, I was thrust into the high school system where it was my assignment to prepare the “English as a Second Dialect” students for writing overseas exams in standard English. All that was provided was chalk and a blackboard eraser. The training I had with the Faculty of Education prepared me for meeting this challenging task. 

Some of the notable underlying concepts of the PDP classes provided a philosophical basis upon which to build a suitable program. Remembering to like the students and to see the best in them was the key to encouraging each individual student to respond to the teaching and thereby achieve the expected results. Being trained to experiment and not fear the unknown avoided the discouragement associated with techniques that sometimes did not work.

This same experimentation, more often than not, brought great successes. Preparing innovative lessons that crossed the cultural divide evolved from the degree of latitude allowed in the PDP classes specific to creating lessons. Explaining clearly the meaning behind the facts in the lesson was an idea gleaned from SFU faculty teaching and was incorporated into my daily lesson techniques.

The rewards from this teaching so long ago remain very clear in my memory.

As part of the same assignment, two of the students with more difficult lives became part of my after school art class. Not having an art background and having to develop art lessons for them was challenging. Spending time with these underprivileged students, encouraging and guiding them, led to their winning the Statehood top prize for the entire island country. This commitment of dedication and guidance came as a direct result of the inspirational aspect of the PDP.

Currently I have received information about some of the students to whom I taught English who were registered in the mainstream programs. Among the more notable of them are medical doctors, school principals and lawyers. However, the most outstanding of my former students is the Chief of Staff for the Organization of American States. Therefore the threads of SFU’s PDP weave themselves into the current fabric of society in a positive way.

Perhaps to my mind the most precious gems to emerge from the PDP experience were my own two daughters. They are the children of an intercultural marriage between myself and an SFU CIDA scholarship student. The philosophies from the early years at SFU became a part of their childhood training and subsequently they became SFU graduates. Their lives show how two cultures merge together in peace and in harmony. Truly, the SFU philosophies can influence another generation in the most unforeseen and unexpected ways.

Doreen Peets
PDP 1969

Read all the stories from the 1960s