Did you know the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education has campuses in Toronto and Windsor? Some people are surprised to learn that the Faculty has operated campuses in these two cities for nearly three decades. Beginning with just a handful of francophone students in the 1990s, hundreds of graduates have earned their education degrees over the years and now teach in primary and secondary schools across Ontario and Canada. The Faculty’s Windsor Campus will soon undergo a major transformation, made possible by a significant investment from the University. In this interview with the leadership team, Nicole Baillargeon and Thomas Couvillion discuss the history of the Windsor campus, their roles, and the big news about the Carrefour communautaire francophone de Windsor-Essex.
Q: Tell us about the history of the Windsor Campus, how it started and its evolution over the years.
NB: The first cohort was in 1990-91 and the campus was in a small building in a suburb of the City of Windsor. The first three to four weeks were taught face-to-face in Ottawa, with the remainder of the time spent off-campus with professors from the Ottawa campus and school board teachers. The Windsor campus changed location a few times, dividing our presence between two school board partners, le Conseil scolaire Viamonde et le Conseil scolaire catholique Providence. Currently, the Windsor campus is on the 2nd floor of an elementary school. We have over 60 students and plan to double that number with the addition of a new Junior/Intermediate program. For the last few years, we have been working to change the paradigm of the 'mini-campus'. Admissions are growing and our student enrollment has increased many times over since the early years of the Windsor Campus. We want to ensure our publics see us a full-fledged campus, while retaining the essence of our unique southwestern Ontario identity.
Q: How about your roles – can you share what a typical day or an entire year is like for you?
NB: Our roles change every day. Since we run an external campus, we wear many hats. We have regular meetings with the other Faculty campuses to ensure our work is harmonized. We arrange internship placements, make schedules, organize special projects, recruit new candidates, offer technical support, help faculty members with course needs and even make sure parking is adequate, and so on. As coordinator, I really get to know my students at the Faculty because we see each other daily. I can share my passion for teaching and indeed, sometimes even pass on good advice! Our Windsor management team comes from the education sector, which allows us to better prepare our teaching candidates. It is up to Thomas and I to create a professional, lively and dynamic learning environment on the new campus. We look forward to this new phase!
TC: My role has many aspects. First, is to support our coordinator Nicole Baillargeon, in promoting her goals of creating an unforgettable educational experience at the Windsor campus and providing an excellent learning and development opportunity for our students. We are very connected to our teacher candidates and much of our time is devoted to supporting the staff and our student population on campus.
Q: As part of the response to address ongoing teacher shortages, the University is investing $1.2 million dollars for a new Windsor campus. The Faculty’s presence in the Carrefour communautaire francophone, will situate the expanded programs at a vital crossroads of la francophonie ontarienne. What kinds of opportunities do you envision for those who wish to pursue careers in education?
NB: It goes without saying that it is beneficial to forge ties with our school partners as well as our Francophone community partners, such as the Carrefour communautaire francophone. The Carrefour will house several Francophone organizations in addition to the Centre communautaire francophone Windsor-Essex-Kent, under the same roof. Our students from the region or from abroad, will be have a wide range of services all in one location.
We envision an expanded presence for the Faculty in our Southwestern Ontario community. With the new location of the campus in downtown Windsor, the Faculty will be able to establish a vital presence in the community. Not only through teacher education programs (primary/junior and intermediate/junior), but also through pedagogical workshops, specialized courses for certified teachers, education conferences and more. The possibilities are endless. As you said, being at a vital crossroads of Ontario's francophone community is a great opportunity for the Faculty to increase our presence in the southern part of the province. Our school partners, the Conseil scolaire Viamonde and the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, look to hire our graduates every year. It is thanks to these important partnerships that we are experiencing strong growth in the region. The new University of Ottawa Faculty of Education - Windsor Campus will ensure a lasting francophone presence, where the dynamism of the French-language community may continue to develop and to shine for years to come!
TC: There is a great need for Francophone teachers throughout Southwestern Ontario and the University of Ottawa’s investment is responding to that need by expanding our campus. Our primary/junior level program, which has been in existence for several years, is very much appreciated and respected by the school boards in the region. The addition of our new middle-school level program is another big step in the right direction for our French-language schools. These new campus facilities will offer greater opportunities for our students to prepare for their future teaching careers.
Nicole Baillargeon hails from the region and has held the position of Faculty of Education - Windsor Campus Coordinator for almost three years. Retired from a French-language school board in Southwestern Ontario, she has held various positions throughout her career in education: as a teacher, a coach, an educational consultant, a coordinator, a principal and finally as a director of success programs. In her position with the Faculty, Nicole hopes to give back to the profession by supporting the education of future generations of Francophone teachers.
Thomas Couvillion was born and raised in the Windsor-Essex County area and is in his second year as Assistant to the Coordinator of the Faculty of Education - Windsor Campus. After graduating from local French language schools, he continued his post-secondary education at the University of Windsor and then at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He retired after 30 years in education in French-language schools, having held numerous positions including teacher, pedagogical advisor and ending his career as a principal.