By Vanessa Grillone, WorkStory Contributor
A great teacher can nurture their students’ passions and help them reach their full potential.
At least that is what Katrina DiFeo – Early Childhood Educator – believes. Katrina works in the Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program with Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. I’ve known Katrina for many years and know that she has the patience, passion, and determination to turn a kindergarten classroom into a place where children can learn and grow.
Katrina’s journey began at a young age. From babysitting and helping out in classrooms, she knew that she wanted to be an educator. In Grade 12, she tried out a co-op program at an elementary school close to home. This gave her a chance to be in the classroom and gain some amazing experience. After high school she enrolled in a two-year diploma program in Early Childhood Education at Seneca College. Katrina enjoyed all classes and loved learning about the ways a child absorbs information. She enjoyed coming up with teaching plans and spent much of spare time researching new ways to get children involved in their lessons. After getting her diploma she applied to the school board, hoping for a full-time position. Katrina admits that it “can be difficult to get a job with the school board but if you’re passionate, dedicated, and patient your time will come”. Many people have to start with supply teaching before they find a full-time position. The supply teaching phase is an important one because it allows you to network, to engage with students and faculty members, and to prove yourself.
When asked about a day-in-the-life of Ms DiFeo, Katrina said it’s busy but fun.
“In order to be successful I need to be 100% attentive to the students. Keeping an open ear allows me to document the children’s conversations and interactions, then develop invitations for learning based on their interests. An invitation for learning can be as simple as a blank piece of paper and pencil or as much as random, loose materials from the outdoors. We are sure to bring clipboards, pencils and the camera everywhere we go! I have to be prepared and on point every minute of the day in order to cover every area of inquiry the students may have. It’s important to help guide the children by offering conversations with open-ended questions to help take the learning to a whole new level”.
Katrina loves the spontaneity of her job. There is a lot of planning involved, but she also leaves a lot of things up to her students. This gives them a chance to discover their passions and learn what is required. She enjoys seeing eagerness and excitement in her students. Their enthusiasm when they see a centre of interest makes her feel rewarded. Her goal is to see her students grow socially, emotionally, and cognitively during the school year.
Katrina has worked in a classroom for three years and hopes to work at the board level and be an itinerant for the full day kindergarten program. She would like the opportunity to visit a number of different schools and full day early learning classrooms and assist in the presentation of the classroom layout and program development. She wants to be able to share her ideas and for the program based on what she’s learned through the experiences in her own classroom.
For all of those future teachers out there, Katrina says, “Be prepared for a lot of planning and even taking some work home with you. Remember that patience goes a long way. It’s important to be loving, open, and kind to all of your students. Be a good role model, be the kind of person you hope your students will grow into. And don’t forget to have a little fun. Learning is fun.”