Petra Willemse is the Lead Teacher of Seycove's Performance Learning Program.
By Emily Janzen, Student, Seycove Secondary School
Who would have thought that a stubborn teenager with a love for reading would make an outstanding educator?
Petra Willemse is the Lead Teacher of Seycove Secondary's Performance Learning Program; an initiative working to take education to the next level and inspire students to do their very best. Working alongside her teaching partner, Bryan Hughes, PLP has achieved multiple awards, recognitions, and breakthroughs in instructional methods, and Petra owes her role in this success greatly to her passion for literature.
"I love books, I wanted to talk about books for the rest of my life, so I wanted to teach children about books," said Petra, as she described her train of thought when she was a teenager.
Looking back, she finds it rather unusual that in high school she already knew exactly what she wanted to do for a living, but she has never regretted following this path. Her passion for reading led her to pursue an English degree at UBC.
"I think because I, like many teachers in North Van, grew up in North Van, I knew I wanted to teach here," she said while reflecting upon her final years of post-secondary school. Despite there not being a promise of jobs at the time of her graduation, she was determined to return to her home community, which landed her a job at Seycove.
For the first ten years, Petra taught English in the traditional way. Although she was pursuing her passion, and her students were achieving good grades, she felt something was missing. She described that her students could do well.
"They could meet my subject area, they could engage and understand the content, but they weren't lit up by it the way I wanted them to be," she said.
Then, by happenstance, she came across Bryan Hughes. When he pitched her the idea to "revolutionize how we do education," she was enthralled and her drive was rekindled.
"I think once we realized that we could really truly meet the goals of education, that's when I was most excited," said Petra.
Ever since then, Petra has been a dedicated leader at Seycove Secondary, working to help her students excel and grow. She herself has also grown due to the constant work she puts in to improve success within and outside of the classroom.
When asked what she hopes to achieve through all this, she stated that, "Ultimately, I do hope that all the students I teach really do leave as critical, creative and reflective thinkers because I actually care far less about their ability to even write an essay, analyze a poem, or find a term than I do about their ability to think and to learn about the society they are part of and actively creating."
Looking forward, she doesn't know what the future will hold, but she's sure some things will stay the same. She knows that she will always love reading, will always want the best from her students, and will never stop pushing the limits of what education can become.