Teacher never too old to learn

Education: Jaquie Irwin nominated for Exellence in Teaching Award

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am

Dr. Morris Gibson teacher Jacquie Irwin helps Grade 3 student Jordan Szilagyi with his studies. Irwin, 58, returned to university as an adult student to become a teacher and has been nominated for an Excellence in Teaching Award.
Dr. Morris Gibson teacher Jacquie Irwin helps Grade 3 student Jordan Szilagyi with his studies. Irwin, 58, returned to university as an adult student to become a teacher and has been nominated for an Excellence in Teaching Award.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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A person is never too old to learn new things or to teach new things to young minds.

Dr. Morris Gibson teacher Jacquie Irwin is nominated for an Excellence in Teaching Award. Not bad for a teacher who is just in her fourth year of teaching and in her sixth decade of life.

Irwin, 58, decided to go back to school to become a teacher after her last of five children had left the nest.

“I didn’t have any kids at home and I decided to go back to school,” Irwin said. “I had heard Phil and Lyndsi talk about teaching and I thought it would be exciting.”

Phil, her husband, is the principal at Cayley School, her daughter Lyndsi teaches at Foothills Composite High School.

Irwin had one year of classes from Camrose Lutheran University College in the mid-1970s when she enrolled at the University of Calgary to get her start in 2004 towards her bachelors of education. Fortunately, that one year was transferable.

However, things were a bit different that when she was at the smaller Camrose school in the year BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” topped the charts.

She couldn’t believe what she saw her first day of class in 2004 and someone named Britney Spears had the top single.

“I was tempting faith by taking an anthropology class and when I walked in, there must have been 200 kids in the class,” she said with a laugh. “I was overwhelmed.”

However, she was also excited to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with young eager 20-something minds.

“I loved it,” Irwin said. “It was exciting to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with all these bright students.”

Irwin did some her student-teaching at Percy Pegler School at Okotoks and at High River’s Joe Clark School.

She is now teaching a multi-age Grade 2/3 class with teacher and mentor Allison Stewart. Stewart said it was a natural fit from day one and Irwin brings enthusiasm to the classroom.

Like all teachers, Irwin said she is thrilled when the light goes on for a student in solving an arithmetic or vocabulary question.

She is also learning from her young students.

“The other day I asked one of them, ‘How many metres in a kilometre?’ and she couldn’t tell me,” Irwin said.

“I told her: ‘You know how many metres in one kilometres’ and she said: ‘You didn’t say one kilometre you said a kilometre.’ I learned you have to be careful how you phase a question.”

Irwin was nominated by Tammy Szilagyi. Her son Jordan is one of the 40-some students in the multi-age classroom.

“She is just very passionate about teaching,” Szilagyi said. “She’s in love with all the kids and treats them like family. She gets excited about what she is teaching and she just works hard.”

That hard work has helped Jordan in the classroom.

“Jordan came in last year as a very shy kid and (she) has turned Jordan more into a mentor (for the younger students),” Szilagyi said.

Irwin is honoured by the nomination and looks forward to her years left in teaching. As for age, it’s all about mind over matter — if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

“It isn’t about age, it’s about attitude,” Irwin said. “I am always excited to get in front of the kids to teach.”

FDS’s other nominee is Melissa Richardson from Okotoks Junior High School.


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