Igniting a Passion for Lifelong Learning through Capstone: Teacher Erin Florko reflects on the joys and growth of students

November 17, 2020

One of the elements of the Langley School District’s vision is to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. Our Capstone presentations at the secondary level are an example of this in action. We celebrate these powerful projects every year, but it is not often we recognize the work from dedicated teachers who inspire our students. We reached out to Langley Secondary School teacher Erin Florko for her reflections on the impact Capstone has had on one of her students and bringing meaning to her own life.

As part of this Q & A, please watch the 5-minute Capstone video on this page.

Q: Tell me about Capstone and one of the projects that has been meaningful to you.

To help promote successful transitions, our Career Life Connections 12 learners collect, create, and complete a Capstone presentation and celebration as part of their mandatory graduation requirements. Here at Langley Secondary School, we have different strands to narrow down student choice even further. I teach the Athletics flavour. This is a curricular area that they can connect to their life/passion at a crucial time in their education, while demonstrating it through the curricular competencies and big ideas of Career Life Connections 12.

Leighton Gair is a grade 12 student in my Career Life Connections – Athletics class. He is a very athletic young man that plays high level hockey, baseball, and golf all since he began to walk. He always said that playing sports has helped shaped his identity, as he has learned how to deal with obstacles, and leadership skills. As well, he has been experiencing the best and worst times in his life while being surrounded by his extended family, his teammates and coaches.

Leighton’s Capstone idea was to make a video of how sports celebrate diversity, what playing sports has taught him, how it has altered his plan for the future, and how it has impacted his life in a positive way. The video was far out of his comfort zone, though he set goals and realized that his passion could inspire others into pursuing their passions.

The idea stemmed from his competitiveness, as he said he may have been a little too competitive while he was younger. Upon reflection and growth, he realized that a sports or video game shouldn’t determine how he acts, as in the grand scheme of life, it really is not a big deal. What is a big deal to him is the connections and relationships he builds around those games, and that is why he decided to produce a short film.

Watch Leighton Gair’s Capstone video ‘The Beauty of Sports’  here below:

Q: Why did you feel compelled to share this video with others?

I felt compelled to share this video as it seamlessly demonstrates how when you mix passion with learning, a spark ignites in our students. This particular grade 12 learner is talented, yet humbled and introverted, but when he worked on his Capstone and spoke about it during his Capstone Celebration, his passion shone through and is evident in the final outcome. I want other students to see that you do not have to have unlimited resources, unique interests, or be an expert in public speaking to go through a successful Capstone journey, all you need is to commit yourself to the idea of exploring something personal to you and be ready to learn strategies that can help you face dilemmas and challenges along the way.

Q: What impact do these Capstone projects have on the students?

 The Capstone progress is about growth. Ideally, it’s an area that learners are passionate about and perhaps anticipate they will be pursuing after graduation. For some students, I have seen this process begin in a traditional academic fashion, as in students go into this, thinking they will create a project to check a box so they can graduate, but in my experience, for every single learner I have seen complete this Capstone, it has been so much more than a box to check off. It’s a journey, and for lots, it doesn’t end at the Capstone celebration, it continues after, whether it be in school, in a career, a hobby, or project. The Capstone process allows our students to develop transferrable skills that they can take with them in their post-secondary lives, whatever they choose to do. Some of our students use their Capstone portfolios for scholarship, job, or post-secondary entrance applications.

Q: As a teacher facilitating student learning through these Capstone projects, how does it feel to see a finished product like this?

I feel lucky to see their journey – you know, the excitement, obstacles, and fears and challenges throughout the process. This experience for them is invaluable as it helps them to identify their strengths and explore personal strategies regarding skills that may require further refinement. I loved every moment of watching their self-discovery in such a pivotal time in their lives. Seeing a finished product like Leighton’s cinematic masterpiece gave me chills, not only because of the quality and my interest in sports, but because I saw an idea on a piece of paper early in September come to fruition, purely from passion, interest, and dedication to hard work. This is what Capstone is about!

Q: How does it feel to facilitate this learning for all of your Capstone students?

I am bursting at the seams with pride for all of my Capstone students. I get to see them becoming even more amazing people right in front of my eyes. I got to be a part of their journeys, but not just their journey to achieving academic excellence, their journeys into developing sincere interests through growth, learning, and passions. Seeing the pride on their faces and the empowerment through their speech after sharing their successful stories with supporting stakeholders and audience members is evidence in why the Capstone Project style is an ideal way for our learners to transition out of secondary school.

Thank you to Erin Florko and teachers like her for continuing to ignite a passion for lifelong learning in our students. We are so proud of our educators and students for their collaboration.