Teacher Feature November 22, 2017

Teacher Feature: Clark Ashenhurst

Teach For Canada

Clark Ashenhurst started teaching grade 9/10 in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in September 2017. Clark completed his Bachelor of Education at Nipissing University. He is originally from Uxbridge, Ontario.

 

Teacher in front of SMART board with students listening

Clark Ashenhurst teaching using a SMART Board in KI

 

Teachers are special people. The time and commitment that teachers have to give to be successful is never easy but always worthwhile. Teaching is always challenging, but teaching in an isolated northern community really takes a special touch, particularly when the teacher comes from a different set of circumstances and culture. Clark Ashenhurst, a teacher in his first year at the Aglace Chapman Education Centre in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) is one of those special teachers. Though he was planning on teaching in a drive-in First Nation (one accessible year-round by car), he has found himself in KI, a fly-in First Nation in northern Ontario. Coming from Uxbridge, Ontario—a town not far from Toronto—Clark is demonstrating all the best qualities of a successful teacher already.

 

Student working in class

Student working in class

 

Clark utilizes a relationship-building approach in his classroom. As soon as the students in his grade 9 and 10 classes walk through his door, he’s quick to greet them and acknowledge them. He chit chats. He asks about their lives and families. He jokes around. He asks about why they missed class if they weren’t present the day before. The message to his students is clear: he sees them, respects them, and appreciates them. And then they get to work. In Clark’s classroom, no one is unnoticed. Every classroom has that one kid who can answer a teacher’s questions, but Clark makes a point of ensuring that he hears from all the students in his class. He doesn’t pressure them, but he does guide them when they struggle to come up with the answers. He goes back and works on the things they missed. He knows exactly which students were there on the day when he taught the lesson he is building upon, and he makes sure to adjust seating to allow the students to support each other. In short, he is receptive to his students, notices when they struggle, and adjusts to the room.

 

teacher and student in class

Clark teases his students with Teach For Canada mascot Goosey

 

But Clark isn’t their friend. He’s their teacher, and he makes sure that his standards are kept high. During his Native Studies class, he walked his students through a reading of selected clauses from Treaty 9, the treaty that applies to KI, as well as a huge swath of northern Ontario. Have you ever tried to read a government document? The level of legalese is always high, but when you’re reading a government document from the 1800s, it is even more so. And when English isn’t your first language, it’s even more of a challenge. But Clark takes his time and ensures that the students understand the material before he moves to the next section. He isn’t there simply trying to get through the material, as unsuccessful teachers do. He’s there to ensure that his students have a firm grasp on the subject matter and he cares enough to try different methods and make sure that his students leave his room with a better understanding and a better knowledge base than they had when they walked in.

 

Student working, wearing a hat

Student working, wearing a hat

 

When visiting Clark’s classroom, it is immediately clear that he has developed relationships and trust with his students. His students make important personal connections that would not be possible without a clear understanding of the material. Clark also models humility, as seen when he asks a particularly bright and articulate student to check his spelling on a word, which reinforces the student’s confidence and shows that it’s ok to make mistakes. And that is how you reach students.

Clark is a humble, interested, adaptable, respectful, and considerate teacher doing what great teachers do best.

Clark makes a difference for his students by the minute.