If you’ve ever thought about teaching what you know, Conestoga College is looking for you.
For the last two years, I’ve delivered Citizen Journalism and business Client Communications classes at the Doon campus in Kitchener, Ontario. The part-time teaching opportunities give me a chance to share the communication skills learned my a 30-odd year career in newspaper and online journalism, business storytelling and media relations.
It was a coming home for me when I returned to campus in 2019. I graduated from Conestoga in 1986 with a Journalism-Print Diploma (honours) and started my journalism-communications career. I never thought I’d be a teacher, but I responded to a last-minute request to take a class. And I haven’t looked back.
Part-time teaching jobs
Conestoga is looking for more part-time faculty. I encourage you to think about sharing your career skills with students in programs ranging from business to social services and animation to bricklaying.
If you can’t attend the sessions, you may also leave your contact information to receive an application form for potential teaching opportunities, the form says.
In my experience, if you’re serious about wanting to teach, Conestoga is ready to help you succeed while helping your students succeed.
Without exception, over the last two years, everyone I’ve worked with at Conestoga has welcomed and encouraged me to learn and grow. I started teaching without any formal teaching training on my resume. Conestoga offers training, workshops and discounted tuition for continuing education courses to build your teaching toolkit.
I’ve found that the more I teach, the more I learn. The skills I learn and practice while teaching helps me build my career as a project-based business communications consultant, after leaving The Record newspaper in 2016.
In truth, I wonder some days if I’m learning more than I am teaching my students.
Teaching makes me better as a communications consultant and business storyteller. After all, my day job employs the same fundamental skills I use in class – and vice versa.
Last time, I was there as a student – and graduated with honours from the Journalism-Print program. Found a job and made a 30-year career at newspapers.
This time, I am an instructor. I’m teaching “citizen journalism” for online presentations. Both were unknown when I was learning how to stitch words together like a newspaper reporter.
I feel more than a twinge of nostalgia as I walk the halls as a journalism professor. It’s a long way from the farm where I grew up near Hamilton, Ontario. I realize I have far less hair now than I did in the 1980s.
Nostalgia in the halls
The Doon Campus building in Kitchener is where it always was, along Highway 401. It’s now about twice as large as when I attended classes, after multiple additions to the buildings since I graduated.
On-campus parking enforcement remains as enthusiastic as I remembered from 1984. Back then, I remember buying paper parking passes and put them on the dashboard of my two-door 1977 Pontiac LeMans gas-guzzling car.
Today, I pay for parking using an app on my Blackberry. Tap, Tap, Tap to process a credit card payment. It must be working since I’ve not yet found a metal clamp from parking services on the front wheel of my utilitarian 2010 Ford Focus.
There’s now an on-campus Tim Hortons coffee shop just inside Door 3. Across the hallway is a student life centre. And just down the hall is a beautiful, extensive library with big windows and glassed-in study rooms – but few books on the shelves.
And now after working 30 years as a newspaper journalist, my brain starts asking questions. Comparing today to yesterday’s so long ago.
All the students! Far more than I ever remember. Thousands of students. I’d guess there are double – maybe triple – the students now at Doon than I ever remembered before.
Stepping back inside Conestoga also reminded me how things changed from the Ontario of my youth.
I don’t remember anyone who didn’t look or talk more or less like me or talk like me when I arrived at Conestoga in 1984 and walked the concrete-block walls.
Today, a third of Conestoga’s 18,000 full-time students are from outside Canada. Most are from India and Nigeria this semester.
More than three-quarters of my class are international students. It’s a blast.
I’m learning international students are likely planning to stay in Canada, as part of a national immigration effort started about five years ago. Students must complete two years of studies here – at three times tuition for Canadians. That earns them a work permit to stay and practise skills they’ve learned and, eventually, preferred path when applying for landed immigrant status.
Staying in Canada
In several seminars for new teachers, the situation is described as a win-win-win.
A win for Conestoga, because there’s a decline in Canadian students applying for classes as the Canadian birthrate declines. A win for international students – most of them from middle-class families – are eager for a respected Canadian education – with the bonus of potential citizenship in a safe, stable country. A win for a country that needs more educated, enthusiastic young people to keep the economy growing.
At the same time as international students are filling Conestoga, there’s a widespread effort encouraging enrolment from young people in Canada’s Indigenous communities. It’s part of a national effort to begin mending Canada’s ugly history of racism toward First Nations communities. One of many steps towards reconciliation.
And there’s also an overriding effort to assist all students to succeed — with mental health counselling a phone call away and assistance for students with learning disabilities.
All part-time teachers at Conestoga must attend five, three-hour training sessions to learn how to support and engage with students. I understand something like half of the students at Conestoga have learning disabilities, diagnosed or not. I don’t remember hearing anything remotely like this when I was a student.
Walking the same halls I walked as a journalism student more than three decades ago, prompts me to pause.
I think about what’s changed. And a few things that haven’t.
And I still wish I had more hair.
This blog post is adapted from a speech presented at Cambridge Toastmasters, Jan. 19, 2019.
Please use the form below to contact Kevin Swayze, so he can put his business storytelling experience to work helping you find, shape and share your message with impact.
Contact Kevin by email or contact him by mobile phone: 226-924-4237.