Clicking with students in both official language

Corinne Barrette is a brilliant teacher in either official language. She’s Ottawa born, raised in a francophone family, attended French-language schools, and has developed English-language skills that are equally impressive. It’s no wonder that she has translated her talents into teaching French as a Second Language at the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s St. Daniel School in Nepean. This fall, Corinne will devote herself to the kindergarten classroom, following a few years as a French extended and immersion teacher in various primary and junior grades.

Corinne completed her first degree at the University of Ottawa in social sciences specializing in criminology with the career goal of becoming a police or correctional officer. She wanted to make a positive contribution to her community, which is exactly what a good teacher does. Corrine has learned through experience that education does not always come easily for everyone. “I did not like university at first and really struggled to complete my first degree because of the way it was taught and the evaluations,” Corinne admits. “It just did not work for me for some reason!” We all know that experi-ence in the classroom when something just does not click. It is perhaps the greatest of many challenges teachers face — connecting with every student equally to ensure they all find their place in the classroom.

Once she graduated from uOttawa, Corinne obtained a post-graduate diploma in mental health and addictions from La Cité, qualifying her to work as a withdrawal management counsellor for a few years in a downtown shelter. Once again, she wanted to help those who needed it most. Her athletic inclination also saw her coaching swimming for many years. It was that one pivotal year during which Corinne was working as an educational assistant that the magic of the classroom captivated her, inspiring her to pursue a B.Ed degree and a career as an educator. “It was the first time I felt like I belonged in an educational setting,” Corinne shares.

“I realized I could voice my thoughts and advocate on behalf of students who may not see themselves in the curriculum, to advocate for equity, differentiation in the classroom, and on behalf of those students who did not feel like they belonged in school.”

Corinne’s number-one goal in the classroom is to ensure that all her students find their niche. This is no small task, and it requires a dedicated and persistent effort to ensure that all her students see themselves in the curriculum. “I remind students that they all have a gift and that there is no such thing as an ‘ideal’ student. We can explain what we have learned in various ways and connect different experiences in our lives to demon-strate our learning.”

It’s hard for us mere mortals to understand exactly what teachers face in the today's classrooms. To begin, Corinne Barrette works fervently to introduce a new language into the minds and imaginations of young children. She acknowledges from personal experience that the classroom is a complex constellation of needs, struggles, and potentials. As Corinne puts it, education is not a 'one size fits all’ proposition, and that requires constant adaptation and sensitivity to ensure that everybody, students and teachers alike, feel the classroom to be a positive learning environment.

If experience is indeed the best teacher, then Corinne Barrette is amply qualified to guide young minds in challenging times. “I am sure if you told my past teachers that I have become a teacher they would be very surprised because of my own struggles in the classroom. However, I believe that now I am able to use my personal experience to understand what students are going through and try to create for them the best authentic classroom I can.” This fall, students at St. Daniel will once again benefit from Corinne Barrette’s exemplary commitment to each and every student, in both official languages, no less.

Now that’s impressive!