Exchange postcard

Our exchange has taken place in a small town called Leamington, Ontario. Known as the Tomato Capital of Canada, Leamington is a rural municipality in Windsor-Essex County. Detroit is only 40 minutes away and being so close to the United States border has enabled us to travel between the two countries regularly.

When we arrived in January, we spent the first couple of months trying not to freeze (even though apparently the climate in this area is ‘mild’) and settling ourselves into the area and our three children into their respective schools. Since I am fortunate enough to live in a house that is directly across the road from the school I teach at, I have enjoyed not having to commute and not having to rush to get to work!

It has been the best learning experience we could ever have given them.

I am teaching English at a school called Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School, which caters for students from Grades 9 to 12. The school has approximately 500 students and consists of a very passionate and caring teaching staff.

Initially, I had to adjust to the different schedule; I teach the same three classes each day for 75 minutes each period. At first, this seemed a little mundane, but within a few weeks, I grew to see (and enjoy) the advantage that this fixed schedule offers. We are able to get through so much more content without interruptions.

The students at my school come from a variety of backgrounds and are similar in ability to the students at my school back home, so the initial transition was smooth. The curriculum here is more literature based and less reliant on technology, so I had to adjust my teaching style accordingly.

We have been fortunate enough to travel extensively while we have been in Canada. During the March break, we enjoyed a week in sunny Orlando, Florida, where we visited Universal Studios, Disneyland and Harry Potter. During our summer break, we travelled throughout the United States, enjoying the sights of New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Detroit and the theme parks in Ohio. We also spent much of our August exploring Canada, namely Niagara Falls, Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa.

One of the reasons that I decided to participate in a teaching exchange was not only to learn more about the education system, but also to expose my three children to a different culture and to meet new people.

They have definitely gotten the most out of their year here. They have been involved in local sports teams (soccer and baseball) and they have immersed themselves fully in their school communities, as they offer more extra-curricular activities here. Initially, my husband and I were worried about uprooting our kids away from everyone and everything they know and taking them halfway across the world to an unknown place.

However, it has been the best learning experience we could ever have given them. They have made lifelong friends and learnt to adapt to new situations better than we ever thought they could.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already October. We just celebrated Thanksgiving and are now preparing for Halloween, where we are anticipating 400 trick or treaters in our estate!

For anyone considering a teaching exchange in the future, particularly those with younger children, I strongly recommend you consider it. It has been a truly incredible experience for our family that we will never forget.

Maria Oliverio St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Albion Park