John MacInnis wears many hats—and so do his students. As the co-op and Options and Opportunities (O2) coordinator for a small, rural high school, MacInnis spends much of his time tirelessly travelling the province (and sometimes venturing as far as Newfoundland and New Brunswick), setting up placements and checking in on his students. O2 is a practical education program in which those enrolled complete three 100-hour placements over a three-year period. Through the program and MacInnis’ efforts, many students who had struggled and fallen behind in traditional classrooms have instead excelled. Former students have gone on to or are pursuing careers in engineering, health care, law enforcement and other fields—in some cases having their post-secondary tuition paid by their co-op employer—and three current Aboriginal students are working to give back to their local community by constructing housing and working in the band’s health clinic. “The co-op experience has shaped my life, and without his help I would have never made the connections that I have today,” observes Allan Cameron, a recent Dalbrae graduate who is now studying marine engineering and has a promising future in the coast guard. And Debbie MacIssac, mom of Heidi, another recent grad, adds that “John MacInnis’ determination and interest in the program and helping these kids has given them confidence and independence.”
O2 is a natural fit for MacInnis, who spent years working in a machine shop before taking university courses and becoming a teacher of machine shop and millwright classes. He later became a high school teacher. At Dalbrae, McInnis also teaches film and video, communication tech, production and construction tech, and judo (for credit). Says MacInnis, “We get to do, to create, to build cool things, go to different places and, for the kids, discover different things about themselves and their environment that may greatly shape who they are and what they may become.”
CF: What is your teaching philosophy?
John MacInnis: I simply believe in trying to be fair and to make things as real and relevant as pos-sible for the students. I also think it’s important to celebrate successes.
CF: What was your proudest teaching moment?
JM: I am most proud of what my students and I have accomplished as a team. I was proud when my students won prizes at ViewFinders (a film festival for youth). I was proud when my students built a contoured cement mini golf course. I was proud when we raised money to help people in our community.
CF: What are some strategies you use for dealing with difficult students?
JM: I simply tell it straight—make it clear what the consequences are and try to be consistent.
CF: Why is co-op education so valuable for students?
JM: The community has the real meal deal when it comes to the equipment and the varied environments and conditions of a workplace. I hear people say on a daily basis, “I wish they had that when I went to school.”
CF: What is one thing that you wish every parent knew?
JM: It’s fine to say “No” sometimes! Little Johnny doesn’t have to like everything he does. He may have to do things he doesn’t like, and
he may as well learn to make the most of it anyway.
CF: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your students?
JM: They taught me a lot of what I can do on a computer. They taught me that teaching isn’t limited to the teacher. The classroom and the community are full of ideas, experiences and skills that far surpass what I have to offer. There have been numerous times when
a student or even a parent had trouble getting their head around the fact that I wasn’t an expert on something that we were covering or working on. My response is always, “You mean to tell me that you want to limit your potential to my knowledge?”
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