Congratulations to our Maxwell Cameron Award recipient and 2021/2022 Bachelor of Education graduate, Julie Bertles!
Julie Bertles decision to pursue teaching as a career began with feelings of frustration. Prior to starting the Bachelor of Education (BEd) program, she was a child and youth support worker who often heard from her adolescent clients that where they needed the most support was in school — and she couldn’t enter school property to help.
Now a few years later, Julie is busy teaching at two different high-schools.
As noted by her nominator, Julie’s passion was immediately evident as she immersed herself in the culture of her school. She worked alongside administration and another teacher to launch a Food for Thought program — a school program that provides groceries for families in need as well as other essential items such as seasonal clothing and hygiene products. She also co-facilitated the Student Voice Club which involved hosting weekly meetings with students and mobilizing student activities to enhance the school culture and community. One initiative was a series of Pride Days that focused on creating awareness and welcome spaces for a diverse range of identities.
It’s not the first time Julie has been recognized for her love of teaching and learning. She received the Madeline Korfman Memorial Scholarship during her BEd.
QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH SESSION WITH Julie
What was an “ah-ha” moment for you during your BEd?
Desiree Marshall-Peer was a huge role model for the type of classroom environment that I would have loved to have as a student. It was so student-focused. She gave as much information as we needed, but it was how are you going to solve this problem? How are you going to use skills and connections, and make new connections to figure out what you need to do or achieve that task at hand? The modelling was huge for me and I have tried to take that into my practice.
As we’re nearing the end of your first school year, what have been some of your favourite moments?
I’ve loved seeing my students come together as a classroom unit over the semester. Instead of coming to me first, they’ll ask each other questions. I’m always here to help and I want to help, but it’s so great to see them figuring out things on their own, reaching out to their peers and seeing them support each other.
Recently, a more specific moment, was hearing from a former student. I’m teaching as part of an elective rotation, so I have the students for about half the semester. The student emailed me to talk about how an interview went, and that they got the job. They were so excited! And they told me that they used what I had taught them — they practiced their interview and used those practical skills that they had learned. That was really lovely.
What does receiving the award mean to you?
I am really thankful and grateful to have received this award; more so, because of the type of work it recognizes and celebrates.
I feel this award should be for my students because I’m facilitating what they want, and what they are asking for in their schools. I’m here to connect the dots with them, and they’re taking the lead. I think it’s really beautiful and important that we support and promote initiatives like identity matters and 2SLGTBQIA+ topics and communities in our schools. As educators, I think it’s really important to create a safe environment.
I think it has a bigger impact on our students than we might think it does, even if the kids aren’t actively talking about some of the issues, concerns or desires they have for their school community.
What advice do you have for incoming teacher candidates?
Let the kids take the lead. Don’t bother trying to control everything. Go with the flow and let it happen. The relationships, connections and experiences that you’ll have by letting the kids take control of their own learning and having some agency in the classroom is really beautiful to witness.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are doing better than you think you are — I promise!
About the Maxwell Cameron Award
The Maxwell A. Cameron Award is given annually by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) to students completing the final year of the Bachelor of Education degree in elementary and secondary school teaching. The recipients of the award are those students who are considered to be outstanding students in the graduating class who have initiated, worked, or participated in a project that created positive change globally or in their local community, and or, been actively involved in issues related to poverty, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, antiracism, peace, global or environmental issues.
The award is named after Maxwell Cameron who headed the Department of Education at UBC in the mid-1940s. Prior to that, he was on staff as an associate professor and director of UBC’s summer school.