Campus Life

First-year teacher earns Parr award

Ricardo Avelar (BA/BEd '08) may have made the move from student to teacher look easy, but he's the first to admit his first year as a high school English teacher was an eye-opening experience.

"The transition was huge," Avelar says. "Getting ready for my classes each day took much more time than I anticipated. When I was a student, I could decide to put things off at night if I was tired. As a teacher, I can't do that. I have to walk into the classroom prepared, no matter what."

Apparently he handled the new challenges better than most. Avelar was honoured with the Edwin Parr Award for Zone 6 (southern Alberta area below Calgary), which recognizes exceptional new teachers who go above and beyond for their students. He credited the U of L's Faculty of Education for getting him ready to take on the demands of full-time teaching.

"It's a great program," Avelar says. "I felt very ready, logistically, when I graduated."

Avelar, who teaches at Winston Churchill High School, says the greatest challenge facing new teachers is acquiring experience.

"I was ready for the technical aspects – creating lesson plans, doing assessments – the Faculty of Education really prepares you for that," Avelar says. "It was the social aspects of teaching that caught me off guard. Dealing with parents and friends, contending with the fact that students may not have had anything to eat, or not slept the night before. You know you'll encounter life issues, but dealing with them is much different than you think it will be."

Avelar drew on his time in the U of L's Education program to help guide him through. Having been educated in a small-class environment that valued one-on-one time between professors and students, Avelar had experienced the successes of establishing a supportive learning environment. He quickly discovered he has a knack for connecting with students and devising creative solutions for classroom obstacles.

He is also quick to credit his Churchill students for helping with the transition.

"It was a very fun and positive experience," Avelar recalls. "My students were really supportive."