Ivan Quach is the Elementary School Room teacher at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). The Elementary School Program is a partnership between the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and MCH. Ivan has worked for HWDSB for 4 years, and started working at the Elementary School Room at the beginning of the school year, in September.
Favourite colour: blue/book: Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling/music: Top 40 Hits/animal: cats/food: Pho/holiday: Christmas!
Tell us about your first day at HHS. My first day at HHS was a big first day of learning! I began my morning with only two elementary school aged patients in the School Room, which gave us a great opportunity to learn from each other and get acquainted. I also had a chance to explore the wards to meet other new potential students. The setting is completely different than a traditional school. I feel privileged to be able to engage patients in learning while they are receiving care.
“I never thought that I would be wearing a gown and gloves, teaching a math lesson through a mask all while my face shield fogged up!”
What made you enter your field of work? While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I always thought I would continue in research and complete my Master of Science. I had an Ontario Graduate Scholarship lined up, but I found that towards the end of my undergraduate thesis project that the research was a repetitive and isolating routine. Around this time, I realized that I had always enjoyed being a Teaching Assistant. I liked the idea of sharing my knowledge with students in an interactive environment. I applied to various teacher education programs and I eventually chose the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, and completed my Master of Teaching. After 2 years of supply teaching, I discovered my niche in Special Education.
When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react? Usually when I tell people my role, they are often surprised to hear that there are teachers in the hospital. I usually get one of two comments: “Wow, the hospital has covered every aspect of care!” or “That must be a really challenging and emotional role!” Both reactions are definitely true.
What do you eat to keep you energized at work? I find that I need to follow how elementary school set up their nutrition breaks, on a balanced schedule. I have a snack in the morning, which is usually a muffin or yogurt with my coffee. Later in the day, I’ll have a hot lunch and make a nice tea in the afternoon.
“The 1 on 1 teaching allows me to really get to know the patients/students and their families.”
Describe one of your most challenging days at work. I taught a student in droplet isolation in my first month at the hospital. Working in this environment meant that I had to put on all sorts of personal protective equipment. I never thought that I would be wearing a gown and gloves, teaching a math lesson through a mask all while my face shield fogged up! It was a challenge, but my student was able to get a lot of review work done on whole numbers.
What is one thing you wish patients/colleagues knew about you? I can be shy when meeting new people, and can take some time to open up. I find that this actually helps me relate to my shyer students because I understand what they are experiencing.
Do you have a best friend or confidant at HHS? Tell us about him/her. Tracy Kowalchuk is the Secondary School Room Teacher at HHS, and I often look to her expertise when I have questions. Tracy’s experiences make the job look easy and I hope to develop a similar confidence in the Elementary School Room.
What do you do after work to unwind? I try to stay active at the gym, but also enjoy watching Netflix and thriller films! I also really enjoy gardening. At my house, I have what likely counts as a mini forest of indoor plants ranging from small holiday Cactuses and Oncidium Orchids, to large Ficus Benjamina and Pachira Aquatica. Watering all of them takes about an hour! I also play a computer game called League of Legends on the weekend.
“Working closely with the patients/students’ home schools to continue their education while at the hospital allows me to create individualized programming, with a focus on math and language.”
What do you love most about your job? The 1 on 1 teaching allows me to really get to know the patients/students and their families. Working closely with the patients/students’ home schools to continue their education while at the hospital allows me to create individualized programming, with a focus on math and language. I truly enjoy the creative opportunities, in addition to the structure that helps me engage students who are facing challenges beyond a classroom.