When most students apply to a Bachelor of Education program, the goal is quite direct: Obtain a teaching certificate and start teaching in a classroom. However, as the goals within education shift to a more holistic view of individual learners, so do the expectations placed upon educators. In years past when the prospect of a full-time teaching job (directly out of an education program) felt fleeting, many new educators continued to grow their education portfolio by enrolling in additional qualifications to build on either personal areas of interest or subjects in need by a prospective school board employer. For Justin Heenan, a graduate of the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) program within the School of Education at Trent University, it has always been about passion.
Alternate pathways in education
When Mr. Heenan entered the program, he originally thought he would be a French immersion teacher his entire career. This changed through the Bachelor of Education’s focus on special education and courses that have teacher candidates hone-in on supporting learners with difficulties. “Trent really opened my eyes to the world of special education and mental health in schools. I now work as a full-time special education teacher and a part-time mental health counsellor,” says Mr. Heenan, who most recently ushered in his own counselling and psychotherapy practice.
Building community connections
During Mr. Heenan’s time in the program, supporting and working within the community was paramount. Having completed his alternative settings placement coaching Special Olympics basketball in Peterborough (a placement requirement of the B.Ed. program), Mr. Heenan continued to run programs for Special Olympics Ontario, helping facilitate the Active Start and FUNdamentals programs for young athletes Durham Region while serving on the council for Greater Durham. Mr. Heenan also sits on the Durham Down Syndrome Association, board of directors.
“Trent gave me such a great learning experience and my teaching skills flourished through this program. I use many of these skills in the classroom but also in my psychotherapy practice. I found that being able to effectively support students, helped me understand the basics of connecting with clients in the counselling and psychotherapy process,” he explains.
Mr. Heenan’s message to future educators is simple: “Keep an open-mind to various potential career possibilities. My Trent B.Ed. degree helped support the work I do outside of the classroom as it gave me the transferable skills to pursue my education and career in counselling and psychotherapy.”
Upon earning his Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology degree in 2020, Justin was most recently awarded ‘Educator of the Year’ by Special Olympics Ontario for his work with the Special Olympics both in the schools and in the community. He hosted “Sports Festivals for Students with Special Needs in Durham and Beyond”, while also supporting various programs for young athletes in the community.