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An Interview with Centennial Academy Teacher Mary Byron
An Interview with Centennial Academy Teacher Mary Byron

Introduce yourself and the courses you teach. What, in your opinion, is the best thing about being a teacher at Centennial Academy?

My name is Mary Byron and I teach grade 7 and 8 English Language Arts.

In my opinion, the best thing about being a teacher at Centennial Academy is getting to work with our students every day.[/row]

What are the top 3 things that you think make Centennial Academy unique?

One thing that makes Centennial Academy unique is our teaching approach. We recognize and know that every student learns differently and we provide them with many different pathways to learning in order for them to succeed.

Another thing that makes Centennial Academy unique is how we teach students to do things that other schools expect students to do naturally. Other schools expect students to be autonomous and to be able to advocate for themselves as learners. At Centennial we recognize that these skills don’t come naturally to everyone, so we provide students with many opportunities to learn and practice these skills.

Lastly, another thing that makes Centennial Academy unique is our approach with essays in English Language Arts. At other schools, essays are introduced and produced all at once. At Centennial we break the essays down into manageable chunks. We work on one paragraph per class with highlighted models. We scaffold the process so that students are supported in their learning. This allows them to not only learn the content but acquire learning strategies along the way.

Tell me about one of your favorite teaching memories/story?

My favourite teaching memory at Centennial is when I used an audiobook in the classroom for the first time back in 2015. I was reading “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park with my grade 7 class. I played an audio reading of the chapter instead of reading it out loud. They immediately lit up and were so engaged because they loved the reader’s voice. She had a New York accent and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I will never forget the smiles on all of their faces.

What do you think your students like the most about you?

I think they like that I’m patient and helpful. They can come to me if they don’t understand the way I taught something and I’ll find another way to teach it to them until they understand it.

Describe a typical classroom experience or a typical day at Centennial?

A typical classroom experience at Centennial is all about routine and predictability.

A classroom starts with a routine and is followed by minimal teacher instruction, usually no more than 10 minutes. The bulk of our time in the classroom is spent doing an activity or assignment where the students can practice their newly acquired knowledge or demonstrate their understanding of it. Then at the end, we clean up our materials and prepare for the next class.

Describe in your own words the Centennial Academy Approach and how UDL really works.

As I said earlier, we provide our students with many different pathways to learning because we recognize that every student learns differently. We provide our students with various ways of learning and acquiring information as well as demonstrating their understanding of a given concept. By using the UDL approach, we reach and engage all of our students. We remove barriers to learning with our tools like graphic organizers, Word Q, reading strategies, course pack, and more.  We make learning accessible to all of our students.