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M ost teachers have their own tricks when it comes to making the curriculum more interesting for their students. For Shyla Pogany, a long-term occasional teacher for the Upper Grand District School Board, it's Zumba, a combination of dance and aerobic move- ments performed to lively music. In less than three months, Pogany and her students have choreographed at least 12 dances as part of their daily physical activity program. "I try to incorporate what interests me into class, and I encourage my students to do the same," she says of her Grade 5/6 class. "I find students much more receptive when they have a say in the way they learn." In fact, Pogany works closely with every student to try to make sure there's something interesting for everyone. She differentiates instructions as needed to ensure each student has the accom- modations they need to be successful. "Everyone learns differently. You need to find ways that speak to each student and wait for that 'aha!' moment." Pogany strives to find the tools that will help her students learn best. But finding the tools isn't enough, she stress- es. Setting goals together so that students take ownership of their learning and con- tinually build on those goals, helps them develop a growth and resiliency mindset. And it's OK if students don't succeed. "Failure is the first attempt at learning. It's OK to make mistakes." She also encourages her class to build their own community and to learn how to resolve issues among themselves. "We have classroom community agree- ments posted on the wall. I think it's important to give students opportunities for self-reflection and self-regulation. And if there are problems, they can refer to the agreements." Pogany, who teaches primarily in the Guelph area, continues to hone her craft and considers herself still new to the teaching profession. "I'm often the one asking for advice, and I would urge all new teachers to do the same," she says. "Use the resources around you. Go and ask other teachers. Share curriculum, share ideas and share lessons. Learn." M egan Hamilton Clifford is ex- tremely proud to be a part of Limestone District School Board's "A" Team. Also known as the Autism Team, it is a group of edu- cators created to meet the needs of exceptional learners. Clifford and her colleagues aren't part of a traditional brick-and-mortar institution for students to attend. Instead, they work with students in different schools from the City of Kingston to the counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, going where they are needed most. After graduating from Lakehead University, Clifford taught elementary students and then secondary French while continuing her studies through Additional Qualification courses, including Special Education. It was then that Clifford knew she wanted to work with special needs students. "I find the kids really inspiring. We don't live in the most accepting of worlds and those students face extra challenges. I love watching them grow, thrive and overcome those barriers." Clifford celebrates her students' accomplishments, big and small. Even something like learning how to make orange juice from concentrate is a reason to rejoice. Every development is a stepping stone that helps students reach their long-term goals. "I have students who are now in university, who are doing amazing things." As a Special Education teacher, Clifford struggles with the term "developmental disability," which is commonly used to describe her stu- dents. "I don't like the word disability. It's not a lesser way of seeing the world — it's just a different way." It is her ability to put herself in others' shoes that helps her better u ndersta nd her students a nd to "see the whole student; not just the child who didn't do their homework." Clifford says that it's important to take into account other things that may be happening in a student's life. Over the years, Clifford has learned many different things, but the biggest lesson she learned — and advice she wants new teachers to heed is "to forgive yourself for your mistakes, because you're going to make them." She also adds that "the mistakes are as informative as what goes well." Cl i f ford a lso took the ti me to ref lect on her schola rsh ip f rom the C ol lege a nd what it mea nt to her. "It was rea l ly encou rag i ng to have recog n ition as a you ng educator. It made a big difference to have the professiona l recog n ition a nd the economic boost up. I was really grateful to receive the scholarship." PS Shyla Pogany, OCT 2013 recipient Ontario College of Teachers Primary/Junior or Junior/Intermediate Scholarship Megan Hamilton Clifford, OCT 2007 recipient, Joseph W. Atkinson Scholarship for Excellence in Teacher Education 40 Professionally Speaking | March 2017 NOW ACCEPTING SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS The Ontario College of Teachers Scholarship Program awards scholarships that provide financial support to teacher candidates. The program identifies exemplary role models and pays direct financial assistance to those with a passion for and dedication to the highest ideals of teaching. Financial awards are made possible through donations. Awards are paid directly to individuals in accordance with the College's criteria. For more information, please visit oct-oeeo.ca/8g82sz.