Heroes at Work: Northern Ontario Teacher Doesn’t Miss a Beat in Adapting to New Learning Environment
calendar icon June 5th, 2020
Heroes at Work: Northern Ontario Teacher Doesn’t Miss a Beat in Adapting to New Learning Environment

There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected all of our work. While we recognize and celebrate our frontline healthcare workers and emergency services personnel on a daily basis – and deservedly so – it is important to also acknowledge workers that aren’t quite as visible.


While the learning environment has changed significantly since the outbreak, some teachers have gone the extra mile to ensure they provide stability and a sense of normalcy for their students, finding ways for learning to continue throughout these uncertain times.


Betty Gillman is an intermediate teacher from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School of the Superior North Catholic District School Board in Manitouwadge. Ms. Gillman has been working as a teacher for over 18 years.


On the Friday before school was dismissed for March Break, Ms. Gillman had the foresight to send students home with any necessary materials and create a virtual classroom for her 7/8 students prior to any Ministry of Education announcements or plans regarding Learn at Home. Over the Break, she reached out to the Board and contacted all families to notify them and ensure all students were ready to participate in online synchronous learning as of Monday, March 23. Without missing a beat, Ms. Gillman has been engaging her intermediate students in live, collaborative learning through Google Classroom, Google Meet and Google Hangouts ever since. 


Of course, it hasn’t come without its challenges. “Some students do not want to be on video and will not chat,” Ms. Gillman explains. “Keeping students engaged and interested, but not knowing what they are dealing with at home is a challenge. I know they are finding it very hard to continue learning this way, and many parents are giving their children a break from being online – it's too much they say.” 


While not every day is perfect, participation in Ms. Gillman’s online class remains high; the majority of her students continue to participate in online learning alongside their peers. “Mostly I believe deep down, I am keeping myself and my students sane with some form of normality.” While there is not as much teaching and learning as there would be under normal circumstances, Ms. Gillman continues to provide her students with much-needed moral support, remaining there for each of them during a bewildering and isolating time. “I love my students and wish we were back in the classroom – even with all the talking and disruptive behaviour”, she adds with a laugh.


“Ms. Gillman truly demonstrated to her school and the board that teaching for her is a vocation and that despite challenges or the ability to attend the physical environment of a school that connecting with her students on a daily basis was her role in maintaining consistency for them”, says Kerry Desjardins, Superintendent of Education at the Superior North Catholic District School Board. 


The response by parents, students and the community has been overwhelming, and is a true testament to Ms. Gillman’s passion as an educator and her dedication to her students. One parent even had her featured in the regional online newspaper.


By inspiring her fellow educators and school community in making students and families feel safe and connected, Ms. Gillman is an exemplary teacher and a Hero at Work! We thank her for her remarkable initiative and true dedication to Ontario’s students.


As we can all appreciate, it’s important to spread positivity and share good news stories during times of crisis. Focusing on the positive and celebrating successes, no matter how small, helps us come together (at a safe distance!) to navigate difficult times as a community. We know Ontario’s workers and organizations are out there doing amazing things. This is why we’re recognizing some of them as our weekly Hero at Work. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured, please contact aallan@pshsa.ca.

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