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21st Century Skills - Competencies without a Classroom Podcast - Episode 12 Recap

S2 E12: Kathy Paciejko - @MsPteaches
Griffin Jaeger
April 21, 2021

"When you’re ready to learn your lesson, your teacher appears”

In our 12th #21for21 episode of Competencies without a Classroom we interview Kathy Paciejko, an elementary school guidance and experiential learning teacher in Ontario, focused on empowering students through her incredible work.

What can you borrow from Kathy for your classroom to help teach 21st-century skills?

Kathy shares how she ensures that every student's voice is heard in her classroom. How? By connecting the curriculum to what excites her students.

When Kathy invited an Inuit games athlete to speak to her class, she was thrilled by the amount of genuine excitement and interest her students shared in his conversations with them. In fact, they were so excited that the conversation continued far after he left their classroom.

She decided that in order to engage and incorporate the voice of her students, she would use this excitement for something, creating an on-the-fly unit that matched the curriculum expectations, inspired by their class speaker.

From that point forward, she encouraged her students to use their voices and share what excites them. Kathy then uses that as leverage to create a more meaningful learning experience.

Rather than planning out the full curriculum for the year, she based it on what the students needed at the moment and what came out of their day-to-day conversation.

What 21st- century skills are being developed?

Through this personalized unit model, Kathy’s class was encouraged to work on core competencies like adaptability, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Kathy was able to go into the curriculum knowing generally what they were going to study and began to figure out where she could incorporate student interest by listening and having their voices heard. This way, there is no need for a hook, students are excited about their classroom learning.

Her students were also encouraged to be more critical and ask more questions. This allowed them to work on their inquiry skills, research skills and develop a better sense of curiosity.

Reflection Prompts for Your Students

Use the prompts below to have your students reflect on what they heard in the episode and consider how Kathy’s advice can be applied to them.

  1. Kathy highlights the importance of leadership through kindness. In your own words, what does it mean to be a leader through kindness? Identify one person in your life who you think demonstrates leadership and give an example showcasing how they showcase qualities of a leader?
  2. When asked what book she wished she had read before she was 18, Kathy recommends The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. She shares that when you are ready to learn your lesson, a teacher will appear. Identify one lesson you learned recently, in or out of the classroom, and how you came to terms with it.
  3. If Kathy had a magic wand and could change anything about the education system she would remove rotary, allowing students to connect what they learn in multiple classes together. Think about what you are currently learning at school. How do your different classes connect and intertwine?

Yearning for more? You’re in luck! We’ll be speaking to educators all month long about #21for21 and the development of 21st-century skills in the classroom. Join the fun and head over to to sign up for episode recaps, lesson plans, and chances to win some awesome prizes.


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