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Carpenter turned teacher hopes to spark interest in the trades

Patricia Williams
Carpenter turned teacher hopes to spark interest in the trades
YORK UNIVERSITY — M-C MacPhee participates in a discussion at Toronto’s York University. A carpenter by trade, she now teaches a Grade 9 exploring technology course in Toronto.

Thanks to Toronto’s York University, carpenter M-C MacPhee has realized a long-held dream of teaching at the high school level.

The Nova Scotia native landed a position teaching a Grade 9 course at Toronto’s Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute after receiving her Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) in Technological Education degree from York.

The program aims to fulfil the need for qualified teachers in the technology area in secondary schools throughout the province.

MacPhee is qualified to teach construction technology, one of 10 subjects offered under the Faculty of Education degree program at York. Successful graduates are qualified to teach Grades 9 to 12.

“I really love being able to act as a mentor and share my knowledge and passion for the trades,” MacPhee says. “Hopefully I can spark an interest in the trades among the younger generation.”

MacPhee, who has an undergraduate degree from Concordia University in women’s studies, became interested in a “hands-on” career in construction while working summers as a landscaper.

That in mind, she subsequently completed a two-year carpentry and renovation program at Algonquin College’s campus in Perth, Ont. The program had a focus on green building.

After moving to Toronto, MacPhee became an apprentice at a downtown firm involved in renovations.


I got to meet these girls and see them become excited about careers they had never thought about pursuing,

— M-C MacPhee



“It was a great opportunity,” she recalls. “The company was really committed to training.

“They had this really great crew of carpenters, who were more than happy to work as mentors and help people coming into the trade to learn. They really took me under their wing and taught me everything they knew.”

MacPhee, who at one juncture also applied her trade building a spaceship on a movie set in Toronto, paid it forward as a mentor while participating in events sponsored by Skills Ontario.

“I was brought in to share my knowledge and experience in working in the trades with high school girls and undo any negative stereotypes that might exist,” she says.

“I just loved those experiences…I got to meet these girls and see them become excited about careers they had never thought about pursuing. That was life-changing for me.”

MacPhee heard about the York University program via word of mouth.

“People spoke very highly of the program,” she says. “They said York was committed to the trades. That really appealed to me.”

At Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, MacPhee is currently a “long-term occasional” teacher, the first step in obtaining a permanent teaching position.

She teaches an introductory exploring technology class. This course is designed to allow students to explore and experience different tech areas.

“I get to introduce them to all aspects of the trades,” MacPhee says. “I am walking them through what is offered in the real world and trying to spark an interest in tech education across the board.”

From the university’s perspective, teaching at the secondary school level represents “a natural progression” for many skilled tradespeople, says Prof. Chloe Brushwood Rose, associate dean of academic programs in the Faculty of Education.

“A big part of being a skilled tradesperson is mentoring others,” she says. “So, a shift to teaching is quite natural, especially for those who found mentoring one of the most rewarding aspects of their work.”

Brushwood Rose views teaching high school technological education courses as a way of remaining in the trade while contributing to that trade’s growth and the province’s skilled workforce.

“This is a great way for tradespeople to share their knowledge with a younger generation without leaving the trade entirely,” she adds.

Brushwood Rose says there is a “critical need” for tech education teachers in secondary schools across the province, given looming retirements.

“This is one of the reasons why we are working hard to increase the program’s visibility,” she says. “We feel there are people in the trades who might be interested in this career path but don’t know about it.”

The B.Ed. program in technological education was launched at York University in 2011. The first cohort of students graduated in June 2014.

To date, 96 students have graduated, including 20 in construction technology.

The program aligns with the Ontario technological education curriculum. It is the only one of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area and one of only a few in Ontario.

Recent Comments (2 comments)

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This is an excellent article and York has a terrific tech ed teacher education program, however, it only admits those who already have a university degree or who are working towards one concurrently with the teacher ed program.
There are three other tech ed teacher education programs in Ontario that admit tradespeople without a degree, but who have trades certification and/or a combination of trades education (college diploma or university degree) and wage-earning experience in the trade.
Brock University’s program runs 16 months from a January intake.
Queen’s University’s program runs 16 months from a May intake.
Windsor University’s program runs an intensive program in two successive summers. (

Hi Wendy! Thanks for your kind words about our program. We’ve significantly enhanced access to our tech ed program. Our BEd in technological education now admits a wider range of applicants: those who have a university degree, those who have an advanced diploma, and those who have a Certificate of Qualification in their trade. For more information on our admission criteria, take a look at our website:


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