College of Education graduate Chandra Groves stands on the highway holding a fragmented piece of her car one year after a serious motor vehicle collision that left her with a traumatic brain injury. (Photo: Submitted)

From tragedy to triumph for top student

The enthusiasm and joy in Chandra Groves’ voice is palpable as the College of Education graduate describes her student practicum experience during a year when the pandemic created many challenges for elementary and high schools.

“When I came into my internship last fall, it sounds almost cheesy, but I was simply so happy to be there. I was so grateful to have finally arrived at this milestone,” said Groves. “The amount of obstacles that got in my way, that could have stopped me, were immense. None of them did, though.”

One of those obstacles was almost insurmountable. In 2018, Groves was the victim in a serious motor vehicle collision that left her with a traumatic brain injury and many other physical injuries large and small. At the time of the collision, she was roughly one year into her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). Groves spent more than a year in recovery navigating incredible health challenges and recently shared the isolating experience of healing from an invisible injury in a personal essay for CBC Saskatchewan.

It’s those challenges of the past few years that have helped Groves appreciate and embrace her new career in education. Groves earned a degree in business and communications in 2009 from the University of Jamestown in North Dakota, where she attended on a volleyball scholarship. Following eight years working in business, she decided the time was right to transition into a career closer to her heart.

“It was really important for me to get into a field of work where my ability to build relationships and encourage others was the goal of my job and the marker for success, rather than a monetary milestone,” Groves shared.         

She was supported by many people throughout her recovery including her fiancé Lyle, family, friends, College of Education staff and faculty, and a team of medical professionals. However, it was Groves’ drive and commitment to the role of educator that helped her through her final terms as a teacher candidate.           

“Coming back while still healing from a brain injury required a lot of adaptation, flexibility and, at times, perseverance. There were a few months when I first came back where I thought ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” said Groves.

College of Education graduate Chandra Groves. (Photo: Submitted)

She is incredibly grateful for the perspective her healing journey gave her and credits it with helping her connect with the students in her classrooms that may be facing their own variety of visible and invisible disabilities.

“When I first came back from my accident, I had College of Education faculty connect with me on a human to human basis. It wasn’t like, you’re the student and I’m the professor,” said Groves. “It provided such a holistic perspective of what it’s like to be the teacher of a student that needs a little bit of extra help sometimes. And that’s a perspective that I didn’t have before.”

This dedication to her studies and to her practicum placement led Groves to receive the top student awards presented by the College of Education during USask’s virtual Spring Convocation ceremony.  These included the Professionalism Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Award, which are presented to the top practicum student and to the student with the highest academic average, respectively. The Professionalism Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient is chosen from the pool of students who received the Bates Award, presented to those who excelled in their practicum placements.

Groves was nominated for the Bates Award by her collaborating teacher Ryan Michalenko at Bethlehem Catholic High School for her dedication to excellence and to ensuring students in her classes received all the supports necessary to be successful.

“Chandra resourcefully responded to the many students who, at varying times, were forced to self-isolate at home and took it upon herself to meet with absent students online to fill in any gaps in their learning and to simply check-in on how they were doing,” said Michalenko.

“This was not required or suggested of her, and became a standard of excellence for teachers to follow, placing Chandra in a unique position for an intern: that of being a role model for teachers, new and experienced,” he added.

Since completing her internship and wrapping up her coursework, Groves accepted a term position until the end of this school year teaching Grade 2 at École Holy Mary Catholic School in Martensville. She has interviewed with each of the Saskatoon and area school divisions and is hoping to receive a contract offer for the fall.          

“Every day that I come to school as a teacher, even when it’s hard, or even when the days are long or something doesn’t go right, it still fills my cup. And that’s how I know that I got it right this time,” said Groves.  

Share this story