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Talk with Kaila Medina
Kaila Medina is currently a Grade 3 Teacher for the Edmonton Catholic School District. Kaila has wanted to be a teacher since she was in grade two. Currently, she has been teaching for 11 years and is enjoying (mostly) every minute! Kaila graduated with a Bachelor of Education in 2009 from the University of Alberta. Most of Kaila’s career has been in lower elementary. She has taught regular classes, double classes and online classes. She loves using her creativity and tech skills to create educational resources for herself and other teachers. In 2019, Kaila and her best friend Kristi (also a teacher) wanted to combine their love of teaching and social media. They created their first teacher Instagram page, @teachers.tea and have since grown a community of teacher followers. Kaila and Kristi share resources they have made for free with their followers, post teaching ideas and inspiration and some pretty (in our opinion) funny Instagram reels! For the past two years, they have reached out to local small businesses for donations and hosted a Teacher Appreciation Giveaway during Teacher Appreciation Week with amazing success. Outside of work, Kaila loves to walk, enjoy Edmonton’s food scene with her besties and spend time with her two boys Xavier (4) and Mason (2) and of course her husband of 7 years, Peter.
Elementary school and kindergarten teachers teach basic subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic or specialized subjects such as English or French as a second language at public and private elementary schools.
Labour demand and labour supply are expected to be broadly in line for this occupation group over the 2019-2028 period at the national level. The section below contains more detailed information regarding the outlook for this occupational group.
A bachelor’s degree in education is required.
A bachelor’s degree in child development may be required.
Additional training is required to specialize in special education or second language instruction.
A provincial teaching certificate is required. Additional certification is required to teach English or French as a second language.
Membership in a provincial or territorial teachers’ association or federation is usually required.
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Every day, the new day, I get to express my creative outlet in different ways and see the kids, enjoy learning.
It’s a really fun job, like the teaching part of it.
The Job Talk Podcast shares stories from people who are passionate and love what they do in their careers.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
We are putting together an ultimate career crisis interview series.
We are asking experts to give their best advice and guidance around work anxiety career pressures, career goal setting, and ultimately career transformation.
To learn more about this special interview series and get notified when it’s available, please visit our web page at thejobtalk.com/help Today’s guest is Kaila Medina.
Here’s our Job Talk an elementary school teacher.
Kaila, thank you for joining us today.
How was your school? Yeah.
How was your school year this year? You know what? It was kind of a roller coaster of emotions, to be honest.
It was very enjoyable in the sense that I got to work with some of my really good friends.
My best friend actually got a job teaching the same grade as me at the same school this past year.
So working with my best friend, I mean, that’s like a dream.
But at the same time, like, there’s been a lot of challenges just with not only COVID, but just a lot of new things that are being put on the plates of teachers that we had to deal with and learn and navigate.
So one of the best, but also one of the most challenging school years that I’ve had.
And we’ll get into that.
We’ll talk about some of the challenges in your job.
You’re an elementary school teacher.
Grade three? Yeah.
Okay, let’s let’s back up to what was your first post secondary experience.
I’ll give you a little.
If I can say that clearly.
So I actually was not born and raised in Edmonton.
I am from Saskatchewan, a little town, a city called North Battleford.
And I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and I knew that I didn’t want to go to the U of S just because it’s not a direct entry program.
So you actually had to apply for arts and sciences first and then apply to get into education.
And I just didn’t want to waste any time, so I knew I wanted to come to Alberta.
I was dating someone at the time who was working in Grand Prairie.
So I actually started my schooling at the Grand Prairie Regional College.
I did two years there, and then I transferred to the U of A and finished up the last two years of elementary education, and I have been in Edmonton ever since.
When you are going through your post-secondary education, do you have to decide if you’re going to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher or a high school teacher.
At that time? Usually when you kind of have a good idea, when you do start because they are the pathway that you take in school is different for elementary and high school teachers.
So you kind of do need to have that idea.
I think after the first year you could probably make the switch, but usually most people know what to level that they’re interested in teaching when they start.
So, yeah, I knew.
Why did you decide to go into the elementary stream? I guess I just really had a great school experience growing up.
I loved my teachers.
Elementary school was very enjoyable for me.
I loved school.
I loved everything about school.
I used to play school.
I used to pretend I was the teacher all the time.
I love being creative and organized and doing arts and crafts and all that stuff.
So I knew that was like my elementary focus.
So yeah, that’s kind of where and I love kids as well.
So let’s talk about what you do love about being a teacher.
What do you love about being a teacher? I love building relationships.
I love getting to know the little people that are in my room.
I love just joking around with them, getting to know who they are, getting to know their interest, and obviously teaching them and seeing those light bulb moments and seeing them progress throughout the year.
So I love the relationship part of it.
And also, as I mentioned before, I love to be creative, so I love developing my own resources, thinking of new and innovative ways to teach different concepts and lessons.
And I just am really passionate about the planning part of teaching.
And then when you’re really organized and you’re planning, it makes teaching really easy and fun.
So I love Yeah, yeah.
I’m going to ask you about some of the challenges and misconceptions that are out there about teachers.
But my first question to you is, how was the pandemic for you? Okay, so 2020, I remember the day, March 13, whenever the school shut down, I was actually on maternity leave, so it didn’t affect me right away.
Peter was teaching at the time, so I was like, Awesome! Like he can stay home.
He doesn’t have to go to school.
Like he can stay home with me.
And we have two sons, so I thought it was great.
And then I didn’t have to learn how to teach online right away.
Everyone else kind of had to do that before me.
So I was like, okay.
And then I got a little bit of FOMO.
I’m like, Hey, I kind of want to teach online.
I want to try it.
So when I went back after my maternity leave was over, I they needed someone to take over the grade three online portion.
And I volunteered to do that because I, I like a good challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it.
And so I did teach online from November 2020 to June 2021 at grade three.
So that that’s a learning curve for sure.
I tried really, really hard to make lessons engaging and fun, but you just are missing the relationship piece and just seeing their facial expressions and hearing their little stories like you just miss being in the same room as those little people.
So I missed it a lot, but I also learned a lot.
My tech skills are pretty good now, so it was a very valuable experience.
I wouldn’t have changed anything about it, but I am glad to be back teaching in-person.
And yeah, it’s, it’s been interesting, but I’ve rolled with it.
And Peter is your husband.
He’s a junior high teacher.
You can find his episode in our library as well.
I asked him the same question and I’m curious to know if there’s a difference with the age group that you guys are teaching.
Did you have you noticed a behavior change in your students after the pandemic? I don’t see like I know Peter talked a little bit about the mental health aspect of it.
I haven’t seen that yet come up in my age group.
What I have seen is that the kids that I taught this year, they were in their grade one year was interrupted by the pandemic.
So they grade one is a very important year of school.
You learn how to read and write basically.
So I can see a little bit they’re a little bit behind in reading and writing and then also they haven’t been doing much the last couple of years.
They haven’t gone on a field trip, they haven’t been doing a lot.
So near the end of this school year we were able to go on field trip.
So like just to see their excitement.
Some of them had never been on a school bus before we went bowling.
Some of them had never been bowling before.
So like, I feel like they have a new sense of appreciation for things that we do in the class that maybe the kids like three or four years ago just kind of took for granted.
So yeah, they have a lot of excitement.
That leads me in to a question about behavior.
How deep? So how many years have you been teaching for? I have been teaching of ten and a half for going into 11.
Yeah, an 11 year career.
You’re going to start to learn some techniques and things that you can do to work with a reluctant learner.
Can you talk a little bit about your experiences when working with a reluctant student? Absolutely.
So I guess it goes back to relationship building.
So if a student likes you and can trust you and feels happy to be in your classroom, that solves about 90% of your problems because once you have that relationship established, they’re going to try and they’re going to put forth the effort.
I do a lot of goal setting with my students, so just setting little goals that are a teachable and they can earn rewards.
Talking to the parents is really key as well.
Getting on board with the family and setting those goals with the family as well.
So unfortunately, like fortunately I haven’t had too too many situations where there’s been reluctant learners.
So but when there is, I think relationship building and goal setting is very important.
Do you find that parents are on the whole helpful? Yeah, like way.
I know parents sometimes get a bad rap, but like the parents at the school I teach at are very supportive.
They usually back the teacher.
And so it’s it’s just a very nice situation to me when we can work together and see a positive outcome.
I haven’t had too many parents who have been against me or not agreeing with what I’m trying to do in the classroom.
So I guess I’m lucky because I know that’s not the case with everyone.
How do you cope with stress? Is teaching in an elementary teacher, is there a lot of stress involved? Yes.
I would say teaching is the least stressful part of the job.
I would say teaching is the least stressful part of the job.
Honestly, it’s the most enjoyable part for me.
The stress comes from just all the other stuff you have to do and not having enough time in the day to do it.
Because if you don’t keep on top of things, it piles up quickly and you can very quickly get overwhelmed.
So you have to be a very good at organizing time management and just not procrastinating, because once you procrastinate on one thing, it piles up and that’s when you feel the stress and the overwhelming anxiety.
Do you do you have resources that help can help teachers get through things.
Get through the stress? I think if you can find your people.
So I work with some amazing people and just having those people to talk to, to talk about work related things or non-work-related things, to vent, just to get your mind off of whatever’s going on.
And you know, they’re going through the same thing.
So find your community, find your people who are going to support you and be there for you and listen to you and all of the things you’re going through and you can do that for them as well.
I think it’s so important, like I work with some of my best friends are people that I met at work.
So just having those people and then I do a lot of like exercise.
So that’s really helpful just to de-stress as well.
So what are some of the misconceptions out there about elementary school teachers.
That we play all day? We do arts and crafts and play.
And no, I, I think the the misconceptions are, is that we don’t work in the summer because we absolutely do work in the summer.
I’ve been working almost every day since the summer vacation started.
Just little things here and there.
But I’m the type of person who I need to keep on top of things and get things done so I can relax a little bit during the school year and so summers and weekends are not always just fun and free time.
It still got to do a lot of work during those off times as well.
Yeah, I guess that would be a pretty big misconception with I don’t think people understand that it’s not just a 9 to 3 job for you, your marking.
You might be looking after sports teams or clubs with within the school.
So I can understand that completely.
Could you take us through a typical day for you? Absolutely.
So I get up, I have two kids, so I have to get up pretty early.
I usually get up about 5:00 before my kids wake up.
I get myself ready to have my coffee.
Of course, super important teacher fuel and so I get myself ready, get my kids ready.
We’re out the door by about seven, seven and drop the kids off.
I arrive at school about 730.
I have enough time to turn on my computer, get the calendar set up, turn on any equipment that I need for the day, maybe make a couple photocopy things.
If I have time, check in with my friends and then by 805, the kids are walking through the door.
So it’s a full day of learning.
You have supervision.
You don’t usually get very long for lunch because it’s either a student forgot their lunch and they need to call home or you have supervision or there is a problem at recess that you’re sorting out.
So do not expect to have a sit down relaxing lunch because that does not exist.
So working through the day, school day ends about 240.
So say goodbye to the kids.
You need about 10 minutes of just quiet time to decompress.
And then you’re back to planning for the next day’s lesson cleaning up extracurricular stuff.
So I run a newspaper club for the school, so we did the school newspaper.
So that happens every week, once a week.
So it’s a busy day.
It’s very, very full.
You don’t like I get like 15,000 steps a day because you’re constantly moving.
Like as an elementary teacher, you don’t have a lot of time to sit and relax and yeah, I usually leave the school by four, maybe 430, pick up the kids, go home, get dinner, kids in bed.
And then I’m usually before bed.
I’m back at it doing a few more things for the next day.
So probably about 30 minutes at night.
And I’m an experienced teacher, so I have a lot of resources that I’ve built and I’ve done this for a while.
First year, teachers can expect to be doing a lot more work outside of school hours.
When do you guys go back for the school? Years than a week before the first day of school.
Or is it? Yeah, I had not quite a week.
So we have two days without the students.
Then we go back on August 29th and then two days of meetings and teacher things and setting up.
And then the students start up on the 31st I believe on Wednesday.
What are some of the challenges that teachers are facing in this day and age that we’re living in? It kind of depends on the age of the teachers.
So a lot of the older teachers who have been doing this a while are having a hard time adapting to the new way of doing things, the technology.
And because everything we do now is online, all our reporting or assessment, everything a lot of things are just online now and you have to be pretty good with technology to keep up.
So I think older teachers are finding that a little bit tricky.
And then new teachers, honestly, I don’t think that they come into this job expecting to work as hard as we do.
So I just think the workload for a lot of the new teachers, they’re just not used to it or they don’t expect it.
So teacher burnout for younger teachers is is a real thing.
It is happening.
I’m just curious to know, do you find that anyone ever decides to become a teacher, midlife or when a teacher comes in, are they how old are you when you graduate with your teaching certificate? Are you 21? I yes.
Are new teachers always 21 or 22 years old? No, no, no.
There is I had a student teacher this past year and she was amazing and she was just fresh, 20 years old.
But then another student teacher at our school was like a real estate agent who decided to have that career switched.
So I think she was in her late thirties, so it does happen.
What do you what could you say to somebody? Why why should they become a teacher, do you think? Honestly, it’s fun.
Like I every day, the new day, I get to express my creative outlet Like I every day, the new day, I get to express my creative outlet in different ways and see the kids, enjoy learning.
It’s a really fun job, like the teaching part of it.
It’s a really fun job, like the teaching part of it.
The other part of it, maybe not so much, but honestly, every day I look forward to going to work.
But there hasn’t been many days where I’m like, I don’t think I can get through this day.
Like, there’s always a little part of your day where you can look forward to when you know you’re going to have a good time.
So it’s just a lot of fun.
I talked to Peter about how if if there was ever anything rewarding, any gifts that were rewarding given to him and he was mentioning that the gifts kind of start to slow down once once he started teaching older grades.
And I think he was insinuating that elementary school teachers are showered with gifts at the end of the year.
Can you can you remember a touching gift that you were given? And it maybe it isn’t something material.
It could have been something the student said to you.
So we do get showered with gifts like the parents are so generous.
I guess they feel bad for us that we have to be with their child all day, every day, for ten months.
But people are so generous.
I get a lot of Starbucks.
I am a huge coffee drinker.
So I mentioned that the kids see me drinking Starbucks all the time, so that’s a huge one for me.
But just those personal touches, those letters that students write, letters that parents write that you keep and are just so heartwarming and touching.
I’ve had people make personalized items for me.
Kraft with my name on it.
I had a parent make me a whole cutting board with like teacher things on it all about me with wood burning and stuff like that.
So it’s just the time that goes into some of these gifts that the students and parents give to you.
It’s just it’s really heartwarming.
And I can imagine how rewarding it would be at the end of a long career teaching to look back at all of those.
That, oh, yeah, yeah, I keep those special ones for sure.
Can you summarize what you love about being a Grade three teacher? I’m summarized.
So I guess it’s equal parts fun, equal parts me being to express myself, being able to express myself and it’s like my creative outlet, basically.
So it’s fun, it’s demanding, but it is rewarding.
Yeah, my next question is two part question.
Let’s let’s speak to a post-secondary student that’s young, that’s entering a career.
What advice can you give to that person? And then I want to know if you could give any advice to maybe a person that’s transitioned to become a teacher in an older age, like in their thirties or forties, thirties and forties is still young, by the way.
I know, right, that I saw someone who’s just starting out and thinking about teaching university.
I don’t want to knock on university, but it does not adequately prepare you for this job.
Then you learn how you learn.
The theory is you learn how to make ten page lesson plans, which is great, but that is just not how it is.
Where your really valuable experience will come is when you’re doing your student teaching practicum.
You’re going to learn so much from the teacher you’re paired with.
Just take everything in, ask so many questions, and there’s a lot of resources out there now with Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest, where you can get so many ideas that are going to be so valuable to you in your when you actually become a teacher, you just got to get through those university years.
And then the real fun stuff comes and the real practical stuff will come when you start teaching.
So yeah, yeah, I guess just, just be prepared for that.
And then someone who’s thinking of going into teaching, just be prepared to sacrifice a lot of time because when you leave at 330, 4:00, your brain doesn’t shut off.
It’s constantly thinking about the next thing you need to do.
The work day never ends.
It’s just you never stop thinking about work.
There’s always a new thing you can do, something you can improve on, or something you need to complete it really.
Your brain can shut off like June 30th.
Like that’s when I start thinking about teaching.
But it’s that mental like never having that break from the work from the job is pretty challenging.
So yeah, if you’re okay with that, it’s a really great job.
But just be prepared to.
Not have that mental break I guess.
What do you think makes a great teacher.
A great teacher is someone who is passionate so always trying to make themselves better.
Some people, they do one lesson and repeat the same lesson for the entirety of their career.
But for me, like, I am always thinking of how I can improve myself.
So I think that constant improvement that you can always do better.
So I’m always challenging myself to do things and new and creative ways, so passionate and just someone who can get to know the students on a personal level, who knows how to connect with them, challenge them, engage with them, and just you’re going to your students are going to love you.
Like just making those personal connections, making jokes with them.
That’s what they remember.
That’s what they go home and talk to their parents about is the funny things you do in this classroom that day.
They don’t talk about what you teach them.
They talk about the other stuff.
So someone who’s really good at the other stuff, so engaging with them in a more personal way that’s not so related to what you’re teaching, I think makes a really great and memorable teacher.
Memorable teacher? Yeah.
And I have a few from my history and speaking to you, I’m sure you’re one of those teachers as well.
Kayla, thank you so much for joining us today.
Just the fact that you are in a position that was basically on the front lines during a global pandemic.
I just want you to know that we really appreciate teachers and thank you for doing what you do.
I appreciate you.
Thank you for talking to me.
And this was really fun and I’m glad I got to do it and do something I’ve never done before.
Thank you for tuning in to the Job Talk Podcast.
For more information, please visit us at the Job Tor.com.
Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.