News, Alumni

Voices of AHCOTE: Sheena Taillefer

February 06, 2023

The path to teaching isn’t always clear. Sheena Taillefer, a Kindergarten — her favourite grade to teach — and Grade 1 teacher at Taylor Elementary School, always loved school; unlike some, school was her favourite place to be but becoming a teacher was never the plan. 

After graduating high school, Sheena took a few years off before exploring her options to study locally. At the time, her options were limited to nursing and teaching. Through consulting her aunt, a previous Alaska Highway Consortium on Teacher Educating (AHCOTE) graduate, Sheena chose the path to becoming a teacher. 

Sheena completed a Bachelor of General Studies through Simon Fraser University (SFU) while simultaneously completing the AHCOTE program; but the fun didn’t stop there! Immediately upon completing her education in December of 2007, Sheena found herself teaching a Grade 7 class at Robert Ogilvie Elementary School in Fort St. John which then led her to teaching Grade 7 and 9 at the middle school.  

With her second child in daycare, Sheena made the switch to Taylor Elementary in 2014, “I decided it was really a hassle to have to drive [to Fort St. John from Taylor] every day because I had my daycare in Taylor.” 

Reflecting on her AHCOTE experience, Sheena highlighted the importance of completing hands-on learning in the classroom through practicum experience, these practicums “really solidified that [teaching] is where I was supposed to be.” 

“Now that I’ve gone on in my career, I’ve started my 16th year of teaching and I’m also doing my [Master’s of Education] right now, so I’m doing a lot of reflection on how I got to this point in my life, and it’s really no surprise that I became a teacher when I look back at my childhood . . . I lived for school!” 

AHCOTE, according to Sheena, also provided incredible opportunities for her and her fellow students to build lasting relationships. Even now, Sheena and her AHCOTE friends stay connected as they’ve experienced milestones together and apart.  

“We made some close friendships . . . we’ve all gone to each other's weddings and been around for each other's baby showers. And now we try to get together at least once a year to catch up!” 

Sheena has also had the opportunity to work with student teachers in their practicums and was able to re-experience the excitement of being a new teacher, “[student teachers] really make you take a look at what you’re doing, and if you’re doing them for the right reason. It really makes you reflect on your practices and how you can improve!”

Stressing the importance of being open-minded and flexible, Sheena had shared some final advice for new teachers as they graduate from AHCOTE into a post-COVID world: 

“Right now, it’s really important to not take the freedoms we again [in the classroom] have for granted, COVID as a teacher was extremely stressful and we have to remember the kids went through COVID as well, so we have to give the kids some grace . . . You have to be open-minded and easy, have the ability to be flexible and go with the flow if you have to change your plans quickly.”   

Most importantly, Sheena says “enjoy the time! Because it is a really unique program with the small cohort. It was a really enjoyable time for schooling.”