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St. Mark’s confers first BA degrees

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Grads will have extra formation as Catholic teachers
By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Four graduates have just completed St. Mark’s College’s brand-new program for Catholic schoolteachers.

The Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Culture program, launched in 2015, was crafted to train high-quality teachers for Catholic schools. It includes concentrations in English, history, and Catholic studies, as well as a lot of practice time in a real classroom.

“It is a great pleasure to offer congratulations to the graduates of St. Mark’s College with their master’s degrees and, on this historic occasion, to the first class of students who have completed their BA in theology and culture,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, at the convocation ceremony May 13.

“What splendid achievements! We are all enormously proud of you.”

The four students will transfer into a one-year teaching program at UBC before they can officially become teachers.

St. Mark’s College principal Peter Meehan said the program is the first of its kind in B.C. and the first bachelor of arts offered by St. Mark’s. “I’m remarkably proud,” he said.

“What’s new about this is it’s a formation process,” he said. Not only do the students get academic formation and substantial hands-on experience, but they also get spiritual formation.

Douglas Pham, one of the four graduates, can’t wait to start teaching Grades 3 or 4 at a Catholic school. “Teaching has always been close to my heart,” he said.

Pham studied at Corpus Christi College before transferring to St. Mark’s to finish his degree. He said it was whil attending high school at Seminary of Christ the King in Mission that he experienced strong faith-based education.

“Part of my life was actually missing” in elementary school, he said. “The Catholic worldview, the practices, the prayer life, were always missing from, me, who was a Catholic but didn’t fully engage.”

The education he received from Benedictine monks made him realize how much he wanted to pass on that faith-based approach to education to others. “The monks themselves intentionally took on this role of inspiring and teaching,” he said. “The desire really kicked in to give what I was deprived of.”

He said one “big benefit” of St. Mark’s program is how much time aspiring teachers spend in actual classrooms. Before he transfers to UBC to finish his teaching degree this fall, he will have spent one day each week over the school term teaching Grade 3 and 4 classes at three different schools. “I got a taste of what it’s like being in each one.”

St. Mark’s grad Alexandra Glinsbockel is also excited about the ample work experience she’s received in different classrooms. “Not only did we have that practicum experience where we could be in classes, but we also had the opportunity to teach classes and lead a mini-lesson.”

It even led to her getting a job as a substitute teacher. “That was incredible.”

She said she’ll be looking for a job in Catholic high schools a year from now and hopes to teach Grades 10-12.

Lesya Balsevich, associate superintendent of Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese, said there’s a need for grounded Catholic teachers right now.

“Their formation is going to be historically the first that we’ve had in this province,” she said.
She’s thrilled that there are students out there specifically interested in becoming well-formed Catholics as well as well-trained teachers.

“In society, teachers have a high standard. Catholic teachers a little bit more in the sense that
we live our lives 24/7,” she said. “We have to be authentic in our witness. It’s not something we show up and only do Monday to Friday in a particular place and location.”

Balsevich, who interviews every prospective teacher in the local Catholic school system, said she’s looking forward to meeting the graduates from St. Mark’s.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 12:32  

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