August 2020 Recent Graduates & New Alumni

“The Urban Communities Cohort is a learning community of mentors and teacher candidates committed to building pedagogical partnerships with each and every student, fostering student agency, and integrating critical self-reflection into our teaching practice. The UCC cohort leaders are positive, supportive, active and present mentors. They design and facilitate meaningful, collaborative activities that ensure teacher candidates have the knowledge and skills to teach a variety of learners. 

Being part of this cohort was a transformative experience for me. My cohort leaders listened to me when I needed to vent, helped me problem solve, and celebrated my successes. I feel confident and excited to begin my teaching career, and I’m proud to call myself a UCC alum.” -Monika Thakker

“I remember getting a call from a student rep 2 years ago about the J/I program and about this thing about 2 cohort options. Question marks were flying around in my head but I still remember that the rep then said, if you want a close-knit family as you go through your next 2 years, the Urban Cohort is a good option. I am so lucky and so grateful that I chose the Urban Communities Cohort! I am quite a bit older than most everyone in the cohort as it took me a while first to realize that teaching is my calling and then to have enough money to go back to school. But honestly, I really have never met such a thoughtful, supportive, and caring group of people gathered in one place before! We had so much fun digging into big questions such as what it means to be truly inclusive, what is equity, how can we meet the needs of all students. And we did all this learning in style:) Also, all the KAHOOT! I can never forget how competitive we all got with our Kahoot! I know I made life-long friends who are going to be amazing colleagues no matter where we end up geographically. Linda and Shari are the epitome of what the Urban Cohort represents: a great sense of humour, true passion of teaching and learning, and amazing capacity to support us. All of us have different passions and different styles of teaching but I think what everyone in the Urban Cohort has is our capacity to see beyond what is clearly visible and reach out and empathize and help out either with our students or with each other. I went through some difficult patches but everyone was there to rally and offer support. I couldn’t have asked for a better fellowship than what I experienced with the Urban Cohort.” Midori Fujita My website.    My YouTube Channel

“I couldn’t be happier to have chosen the Urban Communities Cohort for my time at uOttawa. The UCC is such an inclusive community; not only did the focus on the urban context allow us to share such deep and meaningful experiences with each other, but it also guided our education to becoming teachers with significant purpose and scope. Thank you, Linda, Shari, Agata and the whole UCC team!” Gavin Atkins, J/I UCC: French as a Second Language

“My time in the BEd program has been some of the most fortunate growth times for me. In many ways, it can be measured quantifiably, such as how two years ago, I knew a mere four education acronyms or abbreviations and now I know around 100; however, I choose to see my learning as qualitatively conducted primarily with people. The folks in the UCC cohort have supported, challenged, corrected, prepared, and cared for me in a way that fosters a chaotically positive learning environment. I feel prepared in practical and actionable ways, largely due to discussions which have opened my thinking and helped break down my biases.

I am proud of how my community has guided my learning and consistently inspired my personal and professional journey. I am sure my continued teaching experience will help shape me to be an even stronger caring educator, the UCC was just the perfect planting bed for my growth.” Veronica (Chinnick) Hiemstra, BEng, BEd, OCT

UCC Alumni 

“Being a member of the Urban Communities Cohort gave me a home away from home. Attending teachers college away from family and friends was a big step for me, but the professors in the cohort quickly made me feel like I made the right decision. The values that each member of the cohort promote, through teachings and conversations, truly lend themselves to creating diverse and inclusive classrooms where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and respected. These values were prominent in each class I had throughout teachers college and provided me with the skills set and inspiration to create and foster these values within my future classrooms in Ontario schools. – Shona Luke


When I was first applying to the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, I was encouraged by recent graduates to choose the Urban Communities Cohort. Little did I know just how formative that decision would be. The Urban Communities Cohort is a tight knit group of professors and students, who make it a priority to establish a culture of positivity and growth mindset. I believe that the UCC prepared me for the realities of working in an urban school. I was taught to recognize the different lived experience of each and every student, and that at the core of any good teacher is someone who can build a meaningful relationship with those around them. I thoroughly believe that the instructors and professors of the Urban Communities Cohort gave me the toolkit needed to be successful at the next level. I want to thank Shari, Linda and the rest of the cohort for providing such a meaningful experience and for helping me to grow into the teacher I am today.” ~ Ethan Dauncey, Teacher; Assumption Catholic School; Alumni 2020

Other Testimonies

“Being a part of the Urban Communities Education Cohort empowered me to teach in a wider variety of settings and help a far greater diversity of students and student needs than I would otherwise have been able to. Only a few months after finishing the B.Ed program with the cohort, I was working as a supply teacher in a high school near my home, and only a few months after that I was working on a term-long replacement contract. Today and for the last year I am working full-time as a high school English teacher at a school that boasts a student body coming from across the region of western Quebec. This tremendous good fortune is no doubt the result of my participation in the Urban Communities Cohort. The cohort got me into schools sooner, and made sure that I was learning not in a plastic bubble of artificial ease, but with the students and challenges that a teacher new to the profession necessarily faces day in and day out. Learning to see beyond the difficult student, to the difficulties of situation and the unique possibilities of challenging, and changing individuals in a classroom setting was no easy task, but the Urban Communities  Cohort and its thoughtful, creative, and dynamic instructors gave me the best chance possible to develop my craft.” Brennan McConnell, BA, BEd, MA, OCT; Teacher – English, WOTP, History and ESL; Philemon Wright and Hadley Junior High School; Alumni 2015

“My experience in the Urban Communities Cohort over the past two years has shaped who I am as a teacher. It provided me with a learning community where my colleagues and I developed the skills necessary to meet the unique challenges that can exist in urban schools. The support and instruction I received from my professors and associate teachers inspire me every day to improve as a teacher. My three practicum experiences enabled me to build relationships with students and feel integrated in the different school communities. I completed my second year CSL placement in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. This was a life changing experience, as the school was located in a small island community with a primarily First Nations population. The Urban Communities Cohort has prepared me to be a more compassionate, adaptable and inclusive teacher. I will always remember the incredible support I received from my instructors and colleagues.” ~ Graeme Shaw

“I came to the B.Ed program with several years experience teaching abroad, I was amazed by the unique opportunities and experiences offered by the Urban Communities Cohort. It introduced me to incredibly diverse school communities with unique needs, difficult challenges, and the most deserving students. Learning to plan, teach and assess with those students needs firmly in mind has changed the way I view education and has helped me become a more effective educator. In my job interviews for international schools, it became clear that Principals valued the skills, mindset and pedagogy I learned in the Urban Cohort. As I plan my lessons and classes for the coming school year, I am glad the Urban Communities Cohort prepared me as a teacher, but also as a lifelong learner.” ~ Peter Panacci, B.Ed: J/I History; Spec Ed 1, Teaching ELL 1, Elementary Teacher Sunway Iskandar

“As one of the largest Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario, the University of Ottawa was able to provide me with the education, support and resources required to be a 21st Century educator. Ottawa as a city features a diverse demographic of students. Being a member of the Urban Communities Cohort provided me with the foundational knowledge and experiences necessary to be an educator in a number of diverse learning environments. The Urban Communities Cohort formed the basis of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). Together, we shared many of the same classes,, supporting and challenging each other to be the best educators that we could be.  The practicum experiences added the practical learning element that cannot otherwise be achieved in a university classroom. For weeks at a time, I was able to fully experience what it is like to be a teacher by being in a classroom, working with students, and co-teaching with an Associate Teacher. The Urban Communities Cohort ensured that my placements were in high-priority schools that truly valued and benefited from my presence there. These schools truly embrace your involvement in the school community as a Teacher Candidate, allowing you to start clubs, coach sports, and lead extracurricular activities. The amount of learning that occurs during practicum is invaluable. This cohort provided me with a holistic educational experience, helping to prepare me to be an inclusive, empathetic, and innovative educator. I am truly grateful to have been part of the Urban Communities Cohort!” ~Spencer Burton @SpencerBurtonCA

“My time in the Urban Communities Cohort was nothing short of amazing. Little did I know that one seemingly small decision would change my life so much and set me up for success the way it has. It starts with the professors who are willing to go above and beyond to help you especially in your lowest moments. They create an atmosphere of inclusion while pushing you to discover who you are as an individual educator. The next best part of the cohort for me was the people that you meet. We are a very diverse group all with the common goal of helping others. That diversity helped me grow by learning the perspective of other people on the same path that I am. I am eternally grateful for the Urban Communities Cohort, I have made life long friendship with my peers and my profs and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to be pushed out of their comfort zone and grow as an educator.” ~ Brandon Lowe

“The Urban Communities Cohort really prepared me for life as a teacher in a range of settings.  After graduation, I had the opportunity to work in an international school and now in an urban elementary setting in Quebec.  I made great friends, was well supported by my professors and learned a ton.  Through the cohort, my perspective on teaching and learning was challenged and this has made me more self-reflective and aware of the lens I bring to the important work we do with children.  I left the Urban Communities Cohort with a number of effective planning and instructional  strategies and feel prepared to face any teaching context.”  ~Evie