We can all learn from one another, and they have so much to share.  

Volunteerism Turns Strengths into Opportunity

With volunteerism in her blood and teaching in her background, Sheilagh McBride was ready to step up when an opportunity to volunteer in a teaching role with CSS was offered. 

“I come from a volunteering family; my mother was very much that way,” said Sheilagh. “I had that model that not all kids get the benefit of.” 

Sheilagh taught in Toronto’s inner city schools for several years before moving to Edmonton and a position at Norquest College. There, she counselled and advised adults working toward better employability.  

“Adult learners are very different than little people. Their struggles are different, and my involvement was focused on the success of the whole person. Success goes beyond academics – a lot of other facets of your life need to come into play for academic success. In a way, most teachers tend to do some unofficial volunteering to help out students in need – it's just an aspect of teaching.” 

When she retired in 2018, Sheilagh had been working with inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre for five years. The many lessons learned and the experience of working with adult learners would not be wasted. 

“When I retired I decided to keep my options open. I didn’t try to push my future in a certain direction; I felt as if life would lead me to something in time. I didn’t want to just be ‘busy,’ I wanted to be productive. I wanted to take people on journeys and transform lives.”  

Sheilagh’s decision to live in the moment coincided with the decline of her beloved Great Pyrenees dog. His loss left a huge hole in her life – and that’s when an appeal from CSS to retiring teachers caught Sheilagh’s eye. When she began teaching conversational English to newcomers with the Learning and Community Engagement program, the lifelong learner knew she had found a fit for her skills and her overall mindset.  

“Everything just fell into place,” she said. “I've enjoyed working with all the facilitators and staff, because we are so like-minded. It’s been a really interesting journey. 

“Some teaching skills come into play, but I don’t come with a lesson plan – I often just guide the discovery as a facilitator. It’s all about language skills but, because of how we work together, there’s a whole lot of information about our country and its systems that we can cover while we’re learning vocabulary. We can all learn from one another, and they have so much to share. 

“One fellow travels regularly to other countries, but when he’s here he comes to classes every week. He says that every class feels like he’s been around the world. He gets so much from the other participants, and they get that from each other. It’s a strength-based growth mindset, with all of the virtues that are rare in a lot of folks.  

“I’m constantly humbled. [The adult learners] come with such amazing stories, and they show you the true meaning of gratitude.”