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Caroline Johnston On Her 25 Years Of Retirement

My Teaching Memories

Caroline JIn the early 50's I had a very good job doing accounting for General Motors. This job paid well and had a good pension plan; but my teacher husband urged me to go back to school and become a teacher. If I did, we could have long holidays with our family once we had children. I attended Toronto Teachers' College in 1955 -1956. Upon graduation, the North York Board offered me a job teaching grade 4 at Tumpane Public School.
One of my beliefs is that children love to learn unless they are turned off by bad experiences. I decided to teach in such a way that my classroom would be a place where the students would find learning to be both challenging and enjoyable. It was with a sense of great responsibility and trepidation that I faced my 35 students that first day of school.
That year, I was surprised and thrilled by a skit my students had prepared as an Easter gift to me. During recesses they had written and practised the skit under the "secret" supervision of a fellow teacher. After two years I was offered a permanent teaching position with North York, but in 1958 my husband and I decided to teach for the Barrie Public School Board. We had considered Orillia, but they paid women teachers considerably less than men. I taught grades 5/6 at King Edward Public School. It had no gymnasium or library, so I taught physical education in a large basement room using the very helpful North York curriculum and my students brought books from home for our research and SQUIRT (super, quiet, uninterrupted, individual reading time).
In the early 60's with a family of three young children and my husband working at a new job, I was employed part time as a substitute teacher and continued part time with my BA studies which I had started in the 50’s. In 1968 we were fortunate in finding an amazing "Grandma", Millie Rathwell, to be our full time housekeeper. My first year back teaching full time, I taught grade 6 in an open concept classroom at Allendale Heights Public School in Barrie. One boy in my class could barely read at the Gr. 2 level. For him I provided high interest, low vocabulary books and reduced written expectations. He devoured those books and by the end of the year was reading at a Gr. 5 level. He was thrilled, his parents were thrilled, the resource teacher was thrilled, and his behaviour was markedly improved.
I graduated with a BA from Waterloo Lutheran University in November 1970.
For the next four years, 1969 to 1973, I taught Gr. 2 at Warnica Public School. For the first two years I used the traditional teaching methods learnt at Teachers’ College. Centres were used for interesting activities when the students had completed their regular work. During the second two years my teaching partner and I tried new approaches in a large open area classroom.
In the early 70's, I took the Ontario Government Special Education Courses part time and received my Specialist Certification in 1974. I also took the two courses of Psychological Assessment and Behaviour Disorders in Relation to Education at OISE. In September 1973 I became the special education resource teacher for Warnica, Innisfill, Sunnidale, and Goodfellow Public Schools.
In my Intermediate Government Special Education Course I had learnt an interesting way of using individualized physical education programs to develop certain parts of the brain. I included this in my programs. The students in this program made remarkable progress in reading, speech and spatial awareness. I was thrilled when I was granted a sabbatical leave, to attend OISE and work on my MA, specializing in Exceptional Children. I was the first woman to be granted a sabbatical leave by the Simcoe County Board.
In 1976-77 an intelligent, learning disabled student of mine had been told by an assessor in Etobicoke that he would never read. With the help of a specialized machine, funded by the Lions Club, he became a reader.
In Sept. 1977, my principal at Warnica asked me to provide a special language arts program for gifted students. These students were withdrawn from their regular classes for 1 1/2 hours each morning. A highlight was producing The Warnica Press paper. The students took on specific jobs such as president, treasurer, secretary, marketing manager, reporter, writer, cartoonist, layout etc. etc. Local businesses paid to advertise in the paper and money was earned from the sale of these papers to other students. My students decided to buy trophies for the winners of written submissions and to pay for a field trip to Toronto, including the museum and lunch in the CN Tower Restaurant.
In Dec. 1977 I graduated with my MA from the University of Toronto, OISE, and immediately enrolled part time in the doctoral program.
During the 1978-79 year I did the mandatory full time studies for the doctoral program. To do this it was necessary to take a leave of absence from teaching. On my return to Simcoe County in September 1979 I was hired as Special Education Consultant. In the spring of 1980 I was asked to be the adviser to the principals’ committee to establish programs for gifted students. That summer, because Ontario had no courses in gifted education I enrolled in a course on the education of gifted students at Columbia University in New York.
Then during the summers of 1981-85 I worked full time on my doctoral thesis titled “Information Strategies used by Intellectually Gifted, Retarded and Normal Children” and in the school year worked part time on the thesis. From September 1982 to my retirement in June 1987 I was the consultant for gifted students for the Simcoe County Board.
In November 1986 I graduated with the degree Doctor of Education from the University of Toronto.
To help with the off campus course I taught in Orillia for York University during 1983 to 1985 I made a video to highlight the differences in thinking strategies between a "gifted" child and a "normal" child.
An early retirement package enticed me to retire in July 1987 at the age of 55. I bought testing equipment and opened my own clinic. To be my own boss and to have a winter holiday in Florida was wonderful.
In 1990 we moved to Kamloops and I decided not to open a clinic but to completely retire and enjoy life in BC. Many people stepped into my life and played pivotal roles in my very rewarding career. I thank them.
I enjoyed the challenge of making a difference in children's lives.
I did not retire from an accounting career at General Motors.
I did retire from the fulfilling life that came with a career in education. What a blessing !!
Caroline Froom-Johnston