Coming back to university as a mature student has given Joanne Collier confidence.
She realizes that “excellence is an evolving thing”.
My goal was to be a classical vocal artist,” says current Faculty of Education student Joanne Collier. “Although teaching private lessons has been the mainstay of my income, when I was younger I didn’t think school teaching would be a good fit for me.”
Soon after completing a masters degree in music Collier embarked on an award-winning career as a vocal instructor and choir director at Medicine Hat College. Nineteen years later and ready for a change, she accepted a position with the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge. By the time her UofL contract expired, she knew without question she wanted to work with children.
“I love guiding young people through the process of bringing out their singing voice,” she says. “As it develops, they grow as individuals. The change is observable to me, but more importantly they can feel it within themselves.” Nearing fifty years of age, she enrolled in the Faculty of Education. “I didn’t doubt my ability to learn,” she states, “but I thought I’d feel old with the university students.” Her mind eased when she began classes and realized there were many mature students in the program.
Entering the teaching profession later in life has advantages, notes Collier. “When professors reference earlier educational models I understand because I was taught according to some of them.” As a student she connects easily with both faculty and school staff, and enjoys sharing technologies and the latest ideas in education with mentors in the field. “When I go into schools students assume I’m a real teacher,” she adds.
Maturity has given Collier confidence. “I’m comfortable in front of classes, and classroom management is not a big issue for me,” she says. “I’ve also been able to draw on personal experience to illuminate lessons.”
Collier’s original worries have proven unfounded. “My fear was that if I entered school teaching I would have to compromise the level of excellence I uphold as a musician. Ironically, the opposite has occurred. I now understand that excellence is an evolving thing. I underscore my teaching with expectations of excellence, and students always rise to the occasion. As a result, I’ve seen many extraordinary achievements.”