Partnerships enhance program opportunities

Date posted: 
Thu, 10/04/2018
Dr. Paulette Hanna

At Red Deer College, we are very proud of the breadth of more than 100 programs that we offer. In my column in June, I shared details about how we are launching seven new programs this academic year, which positively enhances the scope of our offerings.

While we often talk about programs at a high level, today I would like to share with you specific examples about what opportunities within our programs looks like for students on a day-to-day basis. This is the more personal side to our programming, because it involves the experiences, relationships and learnings that can have lifelong impacts on our students. The examples I will discuss are possible thanks to the strong partnership that Red Deer College has with Red Deer Public School District (RDPSD).

Last year, our two organizations entered into agreement that, in its most functional way, could be described as trading spaces to enhance learning opportunities. In September 2017, Red Deer Public School District began using a classroom at RDC for the new College High School, which provides an alternative site for high school students to complete their education here at RDC.

And starting in September 2019, RDC students in the School of Education will benefit from a dedicated, flexible learning space, as well as learning opportunities in the new Westpark Middle School, which is currently under construction.

But this partnership is about so much more than just spaces in which to learn. Thanks to our partnership – and under the leadership of Gloria Antifaiff, Dean of RDC’s School of Education, along with Della Ruston, Associate Superintendent, System Services with RDPSD, and Dean Pasiuk, Principal at Westpark Middle School – we had the opportunity to dream big. We collaborated to determine what the areas of need were, and we looked at creative ways we could work together to best serve our students of all ages.

We are so encouraged by the successes so far. With the College High School, students are taking their high school courses at RDC, and this offers them the opportunity they might not otherwise have had to attain their high school diplomas. These students may have left high school early and are now looking to complete, or the high school environment may not be the right fit for them to be successful in their studies.

Now, thanks to the College High School, they can complete their courses at Red Deer College, taught by a teacher employed by RDPSD, and they can become familiar with and confident in the College environment. While completing their high school courses, they are also exposed to what post-secondary education looks like, and this opens the door for many new possibilities for their futures.

As we look to the future starting next September, we are so excited for what the opportunities at Westpark Middle School will mean for our RDC students in the School of Education. The dedicated classroom space and immersion within the school setting will provide our students with a real-time learning lab in a safe, supportive environment.

Our plan for this space in Westpark Middle School is to deliver a required course that all Bachelor of Education students have to take in either their first or second year. This will allow them to become familiar with and comfortable in a school setting very early in their academic program. They will be able to start building a toolbox of strategies that will help them as future teachers, and they will learn how to interact with students and staff through their coursework and other potential volunteer opportunities. In addition, we are also exploring ways to incorporate this type of experiential learning into the Educational Assistant program.

This is a unique model within a middle school setting, and it is an example of workplace integrated learning, which will be an important part of RDC’s future programming as a comprehensive regional teaching university.

These positive learning opportunities are only possible because of our strong partnership and the support, dedication and commitment from both Red Deer Public School District and Red Deer College. We are all extremely passionate about teaching and learning, and this has been a wonderful opportunity for our organizations – located just across the street from each other – to partner for the benefit of our community members and our students.    

This column was first published in Red Deer Advocate on September 29, 2018.