French pathway opens new doors

Ryan Bridgeo (BA ‘20, B.Ed. ’21) has a “gift for gab” and humour. In fact, prior to covid-19, he frequently performed in local stand-up shows.

“I like to joke and laugh,” he says, “I think learning can and should be fun, and I enjoy making it that way for my students.”

Bridgeo completed his Bachelor of Education in December 2020, and is now a full-time French teacher at H.S. Grenda Middle School in Lake Country, B.C., co-teaching grades 6 and 7. Becoming an educator was years in the making, and not a career he had considered when he had finished high school in Cranbrook, BC.

After graduation, Bridgeo began training to be an electrician, but within a year, he found the fit wasn’t quite for him. The company had recognized his skills in communication and he moved into a sales position; however, he quickly realized that he wanted to use his abilities in a different way.

“I didn’t want to use my skills to sell to people. I wanted to make a positive impact and create change, so I started to dive deeper into what interested me.”

Bridgeo began attending the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC and exploring courses that sparked his interest.

“I had long been fascinated in criminology and psychology,” he says. “How people think, the way they think, how an individual that’s caught up in crime thinks, and what could bring a person to do something like that.”

Throughout his criminology courses, he met a friend who worked at local youth transitional and safe housing, and they informed him that they were looking for more staff.

“I decided to give it try, but the tricky thing was most of these youth were 14 to 17 years old and I was only a few years older. So, who was I, a 20-year-old, to give life advice to a 17-year-old who had recently been released from juvenile detention centre? What did I know? It was an interesting challenge to navigate these conversations.”

After a couple years in the position, Bridgeo found himself wondering how he could make an impact in a different work environment.

“It was an eye-opening job and I began to think of ways that I could work with children, making the same type of impact and having the opportunity to possibly change their lives.”

Bridgeo decided to pursue a career as a teacher, and UBC Okanagan was a natural fit.

“I always loved coming to Kelowna to visit family, and I knew I’d be able to complete both my B.A. and my B.Ed. at UBCO.”

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and minor in sociology, he went on to the Okanagan School of Education with the intention of becoming a high school English teacher. Shortly after starting the B.Ed. program, he was surprised to be approached by a Field Advisor, Erika van Oyen, about joining the French pathway.

“I was in French immersion throughout Kindergarten to 12 and I really hadn’t used my French in many years,” he says. “I admitted to her that I didn’t know what my French was going to be like, but she was very encouraging and supportive, and gave me some time to think about it.”

In the end, Bridgeo decided to take a chance and test his French.

“When I thought about the opportunity to get my French to a level where I could consider myself fluent and where I could still receive my teaching certification even if I decided to go back to the English pathway – it seemed like a win-win situation.”

If you had told Bridgeo during his B.A. program that he was going to be a French teacher, he would have thought you  were the one joking, but now that he’s been teaching for more than a year, he says he would say “yes” to that French pathway opportunity every time.

“I would encourage anyone who has French speaking experience to pursue the French pathway. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to really go back and revisit your French — to finally take that French and use it like you always told yourself that you would.”

The B.Ed. program wasn’t always smooth sailing. The evolving situation with COVID-19 meant classes had to transition to online in a short time frame.

“The faculty in the program are really what makes it a great experience. I learned a lot about myself in the program. Not only was I taught valuable skills to be a teacher, but I also learned the perspectives and mentalities needed to sustain myself as an educator. The faculty supported us in ways to help us grow and find what our areas for growth are.”

For those starting their teaching career, Bridgeo encourages educators to not take things to heart when events or experiences go beyond your control.

“Teaching has lots of moving parts, and there are many things that are happening — some are out of your control. I learned from my experience working in youth transitional housing that as much as you care for your students, you can only humanly do so much. Compassion fatigue is a real thing to be aware of, sometimes you need to take a step back and take time to care for yourself.”

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