Walker Kitchens, (MA CSE 2020)

May 8, 2023
Image of Walker Kitchens, MA CSE Grad 2020
MA CSE Alumni, Walker Kitchens

Meet Mr. Kitchens (he/him), who graduated from the MA CSE program in 2020 and is currently in his third year of being a teacher at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) Laboratory School. Mr. Kitchens started his career during the pandemic teaching Grade 4, but last year also started teaching Health and Physical Education. This year, Mr. Kitchens is the In-house supply teacher and administrative assistant at JICS.

We got to know Mr. Kitchens a little better below!

What made you want to pick "teaching" as a profession?
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I spent many years working in Outdoor Education and facilitating International Education programs abroad. These were foundational experiences for me. I learned that I enjoyed the process of designing and implementing meaningful learning experiences for others. I saw how transformative outdoor and experiential education could be – both for the participants in the program and myself as the facilitator. I wanted to deepen my understanding of how we learn best and began to look into Masters programs which would complement and enrich my working experience. This led me to apply for the MA CSE Program and started my path towards becoming a teacher.

What led you to choose the CSE program in specific?
I was drawn to the MA CSE program for the mix of theory and practice that exists within the program. The child-centred and research informed focus of the program was a draw. I wanted to study more about child development, the theory behind how people learn, and how to use this learning to inform my teaching practice. In addition, there is a substantial amount of practicum placements within the program that allowed me to have experience teaching in a range of age groups throughout a variety of different schools. This balance of theoretical learning, exposure to effective teaching strategies, and substantive teaching placements lead me to choose the MA CSE program.

What is one (or more) of the most impactful experiences you have had with your student(s)?
A recent experience that has been impactful for me has been coaching the volleyball and basketball teams as they returned to inter-school competition. We had not competed in inter-school competitions since the pandemic began and it was meaningful to return to this. I was reminded of how much value is held in getting out into the world – seeing students ride the TTC to games, spend time in different schools, and play against other teams was an incredible experience for the students. It was a joy to practice in the morning with both teams. The students were dedicated and I was amazed at how much everyone improved. During tournaments the teams were so supportive to one another – building each other up, playing hard, and working as a collective unit. I was really proud of the commitment, successes, and support of the students and am grateful to have been a part of it.

What is your current work-day like?
This year my days are highly variable as the In-house supply teacher and administrative assistant. I also coach many of the sport teams including the basketball and volleyball teams this year. On any given day, I can be supplying in any class from Nursery to Grade 6 or for a specialty. It is a really nice to have a continuity with the students and reconnect when I supply, as I know most students from teaching Phys Ed last year. On days I supply, I make sure to arrive early to read through the supply plans, familiarize myself with the classroom, and prep any materials that I will need for the day. After the day, I make sure to write up a recap of the day for the teacher to let them know about how the lessons went and if there were any other notable occurrences. It helps to be in the same school each day – I know the supports I have in the school and I can also connect in-person with the teacher I supplied for when they return. When I am not supplying, I work with the administrative team in the school office. I help manage the scheduling needs of the school, supervise the Work Study Program, and handle the Web Design and communications of the school. I’ve learned a lot working alongside the Principal, Vice-Principal, and entire administrative team and this knowledge is making me a better teacher. This role has given me an insight into how schools work and how administration, teachers, and parents intersect and support one another.

What is one example of an activity that you have given your students?
When I taught Grade 4, I had the pleasure of teaching Art. I wanted to introduce students to different artistic mediums and this led me to designing a print-making project. I found print blocks to be an incredibly cool and fun thing to play with – I was drawn to the fact that once you have one print block, you have the ability to make the same print over and over.

Using this as inspiration, I thought we could use print making as a way to explore geometry. Specifically, I thought students could explore radial symmetry – the same print block could be used to print around a central point in a pattern.

I thought Islamic Art would be an effective entry point and introduced students to how geometry is used in Islamic Art and how radial symmetry can be used to create patterns and design. Students were then asked to design and carve their own print block which they could then print in an iterative pattern around a central point. 

If you want to learn about it in more detail, you can find it on the Robertson Program Website here.

Learn more about the MA CSE Program here!

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