My guest this week is Marieke Holtkamp who is Vice Principal of a distributed learning program in SD 71 and an Instructor of Online Learning at Vancouver Island University.
Early on in this episode, we learn that English is not Marieke’s first language and that her family immigrated her from Holland when she was ten. She also lived in Iran from age of 6 months until grade 3 so her childhood involved a lot of exposure to different languages and cultures.
Despite moving to Canada at the age of ten speaking no English, she quickly picked it up and was speaking fluent English in a very short time and teaching her parents English. Canadian kids welcomed her into their classroom and we talk about how easily kids pick up new languages when immersed in it fully.
While Marieke wrote in her journal as a child that she wanted to be a teacher, it was not her initial plan on graduating from high school. At first, she pursued a psychology degree thinking she might be a counsellor but after completing her Psych degree, she returned and completed her Bachelor of Education.
She took time off to raise her kids and shortly after returning to teaching, she was offered an opportunity to become an administrator. At that time, she was partway through completion of her Masters in Online learning and soon opportunity came knocking again and she was offered the chance to teach a course in the program. In addition to her Administrator role, she also now teaches a University course on online learning and finds it immensely gratifying to work with adults who are excited to learn about a subject that she is so passionate about.
Marieke admits that finding the balance is something she still struggles with. Her job is 24/7 and she takes pride in responding to parents and staff concerns quickly, feeling that if they took the time to reach out, they deserve a prompt answer. With a large program that encompasses 25 teachers and 600 students, every day brings new challenges, but she stays grounded through interactions with students. Even if it means doing lunchtime supervision so she can have those conversations and fill her own joy bucket.
Summer and fall of 2020 was particularly busy with constant calls and emails from parents wanting to enroll their children in online learning and the resulting need to hire new teaches and manage the large influx of new students. One of the silver linings has been the recognition of the value that distributed learning offers to parents, students, and the community. Parents have expressed surprise at how positive and successful the experience was, and how much they’ve enjoyed being a part of their child’s learning journey.
Kids are resilient but they’re also really affected by how their parents are feeling and the stresses around them. If their teachers are stressed out or their families are stressed out, they pick up on that. Marieke tries to focus on being empathetic and finds that the ability to just listen and be accepting can have a positive impact on kids.
Marieke turned 50 lasts year and created a list of “50 things I learned in 50 years” and shares some tidbit from the the list with us.
Twitter: @Marieke Holtkamp