Aurise Kondziela (Smith)
One of the important aspects of teaching is endeavouring to see the potential in every student. Another objective is to ensure that students understand the expectations you have of them. Students must also see that you enjoy working with them while, at the same time, ensuring that you are dealing with them fairly, fostering respect between teacher and students. These are points that a student teacher should consider on entering the teaching profession and should apply throughout one’s career.
Aurise was born in Saint-Boniface, MB, and graduated from Ste. Anne Collegiate, in Ste. Anne, MB.
In 1949, she began her teacher training with six weeks of summer school at Manitoba Provincial Normal School, in Winnipeg. This was followed by one year of permit teaching. She then returned to Normal School for a further year of teacher training.
She holds a Bachelor of Education degree from University of Manitoba, a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Winnipeg, and an Administrators’ Certificate from the Manitoba Department of Education. In 2005, in recognition of her advocacy for the mentally ill, the Catholic Health Care Corporation awarded Aurise the Citation of Merit, which is awarded each year.
French is her maternal language, but she was bilingual (French and English) by the time that she was seven or eight years old. Now, she also has a working knowledge of her third language – German.
Her teaching career spanned from 1949, when she was a permit teacher, until she retired in 1987, covering 30 years in the classroom. She also taught four years of evening school, teaching conversational French to adults. In addition, she taught French to senior students for three years in summer school.
Her first school – when she was a permit teacher – was a private school in Norwood, a part of St. Boniface, where she taught a grade two class of 37 pupils. She spent two years in Winnipeg Beach, MB, then two years in the Winnipeg suburb of West Kildonan, with the remaining years of her career in Winnipeg School Division No. I. She taught at all grade levels except kindergarten and grade twelve. Her largest class was comprised of 42 grade 1 students.
All of her school experiences were memorable, with not one necessarily being more so than another. However, a little girl who was repeating grade one did provide a challenge. She would not speak and seemed unable to learn. To deal with this situation, Aurise created a programme using clues and sounds, resulting in the child becoming capable of reading some very basic words.
Aurise taught 300 grade seven students in 12 classes, beginning with a major work class and ending with an ungraded group. This included teaching core French to the “top” five classes, music to all classes, and English to her homeroom class. Since this was the first time that French was being taught to grade seven students, there was no curriculum. This necessitated her writing the programme.
The position as an administrator of a school where three programmes co-existed – English, French immersion, and a Hebrew-bilingual programme – proved to be a very challenging aspect of her career. There were many Jewish parents living in this school community. They successfully lobbied the Winnipeg Division school board, resulting in obtaining the right to have a programme located in a public school.
She has the distinction of having taught in the first French laboratory in Winnipeg. Since there were no materials available yet, she wrote the French exercises for the grade eight classes, and produced them on tapes to be used in the laboratory. Then, as an itinerant French teacher, she taught core French to grades five and six, traveling to five schools each day.
Another trail-blazing experience for her was teaching in the first French immersion school in Manitoba – a grade three class at Sacré-Coeur School in Winnipeg. Since there was no curriculum, she adapted a French reader and wrote a workbook to reinforce the material taught. It was necessary to adapt all subjects to meet the needs of French immersion students.
Following early retirement, Aurise became a faculty advisor, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, advising and evaluating fourth-year Education students who were practice-teaching in French-immersion classes and in English classes – kindergarten to senior high.
Aurise became an advocate for persons suffering from severe and persistent mental illness. The goal of her support group was three-fold: educate, support, and advocate. This advocacy involved several meetings with mental health administrators and with the health minister. Formal letter-writing and presentations to the health minister resulted in the implementation of a PACT programme (Programme of Assertive Community Treatment), a first for Winnipeg. Likewise, persistent advocacy directed to the justice minister resulted in the implementation of a Mental Health Court, where persons suffering from a mental illness would be helped in a more humane manner, as opposed to repeated incarcerations. The first mental health court in Winnipeg was implemented in May 2012.
Although diet and proper nutrition are of the utmost importance for people living in poverty, for the homeless, and for the mentally ill, her support group focused on the needs of family and friends of those suffering with a severe and persistent mental illness. These caregivers needed help in navigating the mental health system, as well as requiring information in relation to the illness of their loved one. This sometimes meant accompanying the family member to a meeting with either a psychiatrist or a mental health provider. Several speakers from the health field were willing to make presentations to those attending the meetings. Caregivers were kept abreast of the more recent research in mental health, as well as learning about the use of the drugs and their side effects in the treatment of mental illness. At their most recent meeting, a researcher spoke on neuroplasticity and how this may offer hope for the future.
Also after retiring, she became a member of a committee of the United Nations. The goal was to develop oral speaking skills in students from grade five to grade twelve, and at the same time, develop their knowledge of the United Nations. Students were given themes to research which were relevant to the United Nations and subsequently presented these in English or in French on the day of the oral competition. Aurise translated the themes into French, as well as the material sent to French schools.
Being fluently bilingual, she was a volunteer at the Canada Games in Brandon, Manitoba, in 1997 and at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg in 1999 doing simultaneous translation during the basketball games. Since she had done simultaneous translation many times, announcing the scores and points in French following the announcements in English, this did not pose any problems. The challenge came prior to the medal ceremony at the Winnipeg Arena, when she was handed the English script only a few minutes prior to when she was required to make the announcements in French. This meant very quick note-taking and an immediate translation as she received the microphone. Nevertheless, Aurise successfully rose to the challenge!
She has been involved for many years in Inter-Faith Dialogue. As a volunteer, she worked in her parish as chairperson of the Pastoral Council, as well as serving as a trustee for six years. She has also been a member of many committees at the Diocesan level.
For hobbies, Aurise follows several pursuits – reading, the study of languages, genealogical research, walking, dancing, Tai Chi, Yoga, swimming, travelling, and spending time with the grandchildren.