Jaspal Gill moved to Canada in 2011 and completed PQP in 2014. She is now employed as a Grade 5 teacher at Strawberry Hill Elementary school in Surrey.

I came to Canada from India in 2011, where I had a full time career as an English and Social Studies teacher. At the beginning of my teaching career I worked in a convent school and moved on to teach undergraduates at the college level. After I married an Army officer I worked in Army and Air Force schools, and moved every two to three years. When I settled down in Mumbai, I took a teaching position in a private school and was a high school teacher for seven years. For the three years prior to our move to Canada, I was the Vice Principal (Coordinator) of the Elementary wing of the school at which I was teaching.

When our children expressed their desire to pursue their university studies abroad, my family decided to move to Canada. Before our move, I did a lot of homework to understand the teacher certification process in BC. I knew that an evaluation would have to be done, but I did not quite think that the certification would take so long despite being a teacher for so many years! I was determined no matter what I was going to work hard and return to my teaching career.

As soon as we landed I applied to the Teacher Regulation Branch (then called the BC College of Teachers) for certification. When I learned that my teacher certification was going to take time, I worked on my Plan B. I volunteered with non-profit organizations helping teach ELSA classes. I enrolled in a TESOL certification program at Vancouver Community College, and also volunteered in a public school in Richmond and a private school in Surrey. After completing  TESOL certification I worked as a Tutor Coordinator for the Community Adult Literacy Program at Kwantlen College and Richmond Libraries.

My hard work and determination through the evaluation period paid off; it was back to school time again in January 2014, when I started the PQP. It was a time of meeting new classmates, sharing, learning, and settling in to a year of hard work. Once the program started, time just flew! We were a very active and diverse classroom, full of mature adults with good heads on our shoulders who knew why we were in the program and shared the same goals. Our classes were very interactive with lively discussions. We were very lucky to receive guidance from our two Faculty Associates (FAs). They were both thoroughly professional in the classroom, but also people who I felt I could share a cup of coffee and chat with them when I needed to share my concerns.

During my short practicum (in the first semester) I had two School Associates (SAs) as they job shared, and I learned a lot from both of them. I connected very well with the students, staff members, and the school administrators. I was fortunate to work in the same school for my long practicum (third and final semester) and shared a very positive relationship with my long practicum SA – she helped me, shared materials with me, made me feel comfortable and had a word of praise for me every day. She would always say that she felt I was more like a colleague than a student teacher! She has truly been my friend, philosopher and guide.

At the end of my practicum I was prepared with lesson plans, curricular designs, classroom management skills, school schedules, and the do’s and don’ts of the system. TOCing gave me the required practice of being in the classroom all by myself, feeling responsible for all of the students for the full school day, field trips, celebrations, assemblies and much more.

As soon as I completed PQP, I applied to several school districts. I got called for three interviews soon after, and I was hired just three months after I completed PQP. I started working as a TOC for two districts. I was a TOC for a year and a half before I got a full-time teaching position with one of the districts.

When I think back on what I learned during the PQP, I realize that practically everything I learned during the program helped me adjust to teaching in the BC classroom. I learned about the inclusive classroom, Indigenous Peoples, classroom management, the student/teacher relationship, and student’s needs/safety in the school environment. The two practicums helped me see and prepare for the real classroom. The various in-class workshops were informative. Each and every day spent in the program brought me closer to my goal.

It was important that I entered the BC classroom with no assumptions. I faced challenges that came with diversity and inclusion. I had good days and not so good days. But that prepared me for any kind of challenge. When I got the classroom I am working in now and was told that it was a challenging group, I really didn’t feel so – I have a group of 29 active and intelligent students who have been telling me “Mrs Gill, time is flying so fast! We just started this year and it’s already December!” and I take that as a compliment that I’m doing well.

Jaspal's advice to new Canadians wanting to return to their careers in teaching:

  • Volunteer in schools as much as you can; you will learn a lot about the BC classroom when you volunteer.
  • Networking is very important. Meet teachers who have been in your situation in the past - you might learn from their experiences.
  • Practice your English conversation skills. Students associate with you better if they understand you.
  • Be passionate, be confident and work hard!