French teacher immersed in learning

PoulinPoulin. Credit: Hélène Cyr.

By Crystal Bergeron

Being a mother can be trying at the best of times. Being a mother of a young daughter and returning to school can be downright difficult. Just ask Hélène Poulin, the winner of the 2008 Maxwell Cameron Award in Elementary Education.

“Challenges are many for a mother who is returning to school after spending years in the work force,” says Poulin. “I was fortunate to meet the right people at the beginning of my time at UVic. My program professors provided invaluable experiences to me that allowed me to develop teaching strategies appropriate to second language acquisition, something I really need as a French immersion teacher.”

Born and raised in Saint-Léonard, Québec, Poulin completed a college diploma in wildlife management before venturing west to immerse herself in the English language and Anglophone culture. She fell in love with Victoria the moment she arrived at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. “As a result, UVic was a natural choice when I decided to go back to school to become a teacher.”

As a teenager Poulin was involved in scouting and enjoyed organizing games and teaching her fellow scouts to decipher Morse code, tie knots and set up tents. She later worked as a park naturalist. “I am quite a passionate person and when I start teaching, it shows through, no matter the topic. I want to instil the same passion in my students, cultivate their interest and eagerness to learn.”

Consistently ranked as excellent throughout her practica, Poulin was described by her university supervisor as “extremely well organized and eager to take responsibility for her students.” She uses a creative approach to teaching that includes a strong sense of beliefs and humanitarian values to provide innovative ways to learn for her students. Poulin recently connected a First Nations legend with a space theme to stimulate the children’s interest in science education.

“French immersion is a great program because it not only allows children to learn a second language in a very natural way, it also allows them to learn a different culture and opens their mind to differences.”

Currently working on-call with the Greater Victoria School District, Poulin hopes to get her own classroom soon. And she’s already thinking of grad school. “There are still so many questions that I have, especially about second language acquisition and immersion programs.”

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