Pay attention when you walk through a school, and you’ll notice countless connections in the locker-lined hallways, crowded cafeteria, and busy classrooms, including study buddies, friendships, first crushes, and relationships. However, students aren’t the only ones making connections and building friendships and relationships.
Many teachers in a school share similar interests, ideas, and teaching philosophies. They work towards a common goal of teaching their students—becoming connected to the school community in the process. Calgary Academy teachers Markus Gierl and Kaitlyn Parks can relate to this idea.
With a half-decade of teaching experience each, Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks have found support, friendship, and connection at CA.
Trial by Fire, Together
Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks have spent the last five years working at CA, beginning their profession a year apart from each other. They first worked together in a four-person cohort, leaning on each other and their colleagues as they began their teaching journey.
The first six months of a job can be stressful, especially early in your career. It becomes easier when you have the support of someone who has lived a similar experience. Teaching isn’t easy, and Ms. Parks is grateful for the time spent together as a grade teaching team.
“We got fully immersed in knowing each other on our learning team… We were thrown in the trenches together to figure things out.” – Ms. Parks
Mr. Gierl feels the same, saying it’s “easy to find common ground with people who are going through similar experiences to you.” Both teachers found their footing at CA by participating in different extracurricular activities, including an after-school hockey league and various clubs.
As new teachers, Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks collaborated often, helping each other succeed in their classrooms. Mr. Gierl focused on social studies and language arts, while Ms. Parks has a science and math background. If one had a question, the other generally had an answer.
Ms. Parks credits these experiences as a way their initial friendship “broke through the ice.” Over the years, they became closer friends and eventually, a couple. Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks married during the COVID-19 pandemic.
No one was more interested in their relationship than their students, who tricked other teachers into revealing the not-completely-confirmed romance. Ms. Parks remembers when her students initially found out.
“The students spun this whole fabricated lie that we were engaged. We weren’t there yet at the time, but the students got their moment of, ‘so they are dating!’”
It’s fair to say that CA means a lot to Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks. It was the place they met, grew close, and eventually began a relationship. However, their connection to the school is bigger than their marriage.
Both Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks have clubs, sports, and other extracurriculars they’re involved with. On top of that, many of their friends are here, working alongside them as colleagues. Looking to the future, Mr. Gierl sees himself and Ms. Parks at the same school.
“There’s the family you’re born with and the family you choose, and we identify as part of the CA family… We feel like we’ve put our roots deep here. We’re entirely committed to this place because we believe in it, and it’s a big part of our life.” – Mr. Gierl
Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks credit CA as a place where you grow as people and educators. Ms. Parks says that whether you’re a student or staff, you have someone watching your back and cheering you on.
“You just feel taken care of and like you can grow in a safe environment… I think that’s what CA provides: the opportunity to make connections because you feel supported.”
As Mr. Gierl and Ms. Parks look to the future, they want to grow as educators, people, and a couple. However, they can’t forget—they still have to plan their long-delayed honeymoon.