Masters in Education produces seeds & growth: By Kevin Pielak

About me the Gardener

The journey that planted the seeds which led me to teach shop courses for many years and then to finally take my masters in special education started with my love of working with my hands, much like
gardening; but, in shop classes in high school. When I was in high school I took many shop classes. I found Great satisfaction in working with my hands. I did well whether it was automotive, woodwork or metal and I found myself being an unofficial peer tutor to many students within the classroom. They would come to me for advice about how to do a cut or put something together and I was more than happy to assist them.

During my postsecondary education I decided to become a shop teacher because I remember that working with my hands was my strength, I enjoyed it, and I also enjoyed helping the students within my
classroom. It was a perfect fit. I finished my bachelor of education at UBC with a major in industrial education (shop class).

Since then I've taught shop classes with a few diversions for 24 years. During those 24 years I've found that I and many other shop teachers were getting large numbers of students with special needs in our classrooms. Shop teachers during my time had very little education on how to teach students with special needs and I would imagine even today there is probably very little education for shop teachers in this area. Through my observations I've found that many shop teachers, like myself, were very successful in teaching students with special needs we just did what we thought was the best for the student and because shop class is based in the concrete, the real world many of the problems that students with special needs encounter in other classes like sitting for an hour or having to deal with abstract ideas are not much of a problem in shop class.

This worked for the regular student's and some special needs students but there were still those few students that I really did not know what to do for them, so all too often, I left most of the task of teaching, that student, up to the student's educational assistant (SEA). I knew this was not right so I decided to take my Masters in general special education. I could have specialized in one particular area; such as, students with behavior problems or autism; but because, I see so many students with diverse special needs I decided to take general special education.

So here I am now at the end of my Masters. What began as a seed in shop high school class has been slowly cultivated and fed during my bachelor of education, years teaching and the courses I've taken during my Masters. I have grown in my understanding of the diverse group of students with special needs and I also understand how to plant seeds of knowledge and understanding within the minds and hearts of the diverse students with special needs. I have also come to the understanding that there's much I do not know; but just like gardening, there are those experts that I can always go to for help to get the specific information, strategies students need to grow and achieve their full potential.

I currently live in Whalley the best part of Surrey, British Columbia with my wife and three children.