Teaching by Design

Secondary school teacher Andrea Phillips brings design to life in an Orangeville classroom with 3D printers, design software and a passion for the built environment.

March 16, 2024 | | A Day in the Life

At Orangeville District Secondary School today, tech education includes digital technology. But in 1964, the school’s brand-new tech wing was devoted to technical or trade-focused study. Sixty years later, the signs on the wing’s washroom doors are a reminder that these classes – often called “shop” – were once taken almost exclusively by teenage boys.

But things have changed. Today, tech study knows no limits due to gender, age or background. In the 1960s, students may have gone on to careers in the trades or in architecture, engineering or cartography. Now, they can also consider graphic or interior design, industrial or product design, landscape design and so on.

No one epitomizes this new wave more than Orangeville native Andrea Phillips, an energetic young teacher here. Andrea worked for a year as an interior designer as part of her joint Humber College and University of Guelph interior design degree, then went to York University for teacher training. After graduating in 2018, she attended an interview at ODSS in late August and was asked to return that afternoon for a staff meeting. A week later, the newly minted teacher was greeting students on the first day of school!

“I never thought I would combine my schooling in interior design with teaching, but the day the representative from York University visited my Humber College design class to let us know that high schools were in dire need of tech teachers was a life-changing moment. From the first day as a student teacher in a classroom, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Orangeville tech design teacher Andrea Phillips with some of the home and cottage models her secondary school students are working on. Photography by Rosemary Hasner.

So this part-time tech design teacher (she also steps in as a “supply resource”) is now following a job path that didn’t exist when she was born.

7:02 a.m. Andrea’s alarm goes off in Mount Forest. Waiting is her cat, Shadow, whom she feeds before getting dressed, making toast and starting the 45-minute drive to school.

8:30 a.m. Andrea arrives at the school for tea in the no-frills tech office that is her home base at work.

9 a.m. It’s Block A, aka period 1. This is a prep period, so Andrea is planning the day’s lessons and finishing marking. “Marking is not my favourite part of the job, but I still love it all,” she says.

10:25 a.m. Block B is Andrea’s combined Grade 10 and 12 technological design class of 27 students, working on similar themes, but different projects.

Design software underpins the creative process. Grade 9 students are introduced to Canva and Adobe Express as easy-to-learn graphic design programs. They use Homestyler for designing home and room layouts. Grade 12 students use Autodesk Revitor for building information modelling software program. And students explore shapes for 3D printing with the help of Tinkercad.

It’s not all screen time – plenty of physical tools are also used. The Cricut printer uses a small knife to make precision cuts in plastic or paper. And the 3D printers use bio-based polylactic acid-type plastic that is heated and then laid out in a series of triangles to make an object.

A laser engraver or cutter is used to cut wood or metal to add detail or etch a pattern. This week, it’s being used for a project that involves creating miniature model homes.

Students find a style of house they like and create drawings of the house to establish its layout. Next they turn to AutoCAD to map out the pieces they will cut from white foam core, using the laser cutter. Students then assemble their structures with hot glue. Grade 12s are creating houses, while Grade 10s are building cottages. One student chose to design a houseboat, thinking it would be an interesting place to live.

  • Story Continues Below Advertisements
  • Andrea buzzes around the classroom, visiting students at the computers lining the wall by the windows, or helping with the hands-on cutting, building and printing. She answers the numerous questions posed by inquisitive students, many of whom are interested in careers as graphic or interior designers. The Grade 10 and 12 exam requires students to present their portfolio to the teacher, good practice for the all-important interview component of applying to an art and design school.

    11:40 a.m. Lunchtime. On Fridays Andrea volunteers her time and her classroom to help the 15 to 20 students in the yearbook club.

    12:30 p.m. It’s Block C and Andrea is teaching one of the Grade 9 design rotations in exploring technologies. This popular course, taken by about 90 per cent of first years, features four segments: foods, welding, woodworking and design. Andrea teaches the design segment in which four cohorts of 20 students each spend 21 days, or one-quarter of the semester, with her.

    One of the teens’ favourite projects is making stickers using Canva and Adobe Express. Pets and personalized quotes are popular themes. Another assignment is the “future possibility bedroom.” Students use Homestyler to design a room layout reflecting what they will be doing at a random time in the future. One student included a basketball hoop so he could practise whenever he wanted, even when it was snowing. Another designed the dorm room at the college she hoped to attend. And an auto aficionado designed a room with a window into the garage, so he could gaze at his dream car.

    1:50 p.m. Andrea is a supply teacher for this period and she loves the variety this assignment provides. “From time to time the students are given the opportunity to attend a sports game or art or drama show held at the school – this is the period when these events take place. I love to go along with the class to see what the student population is doing in terms of following their passions.”

    3:05 p.m. After school Andrea hits a local gym for a workout. She also avails herself of the school board’s wellness program, which offers a six-week block of yoga classes at various schools.

    6 p.m. It’s time for home and dinner. Andrea shares her house with two cousins and their assorted menagerie of three dogs, two cats and a bird. They also have a horse that lives down the road.

    9:30 p.m. Andrea’s Fitbit alerts her it’s time to start winding down for quiet time, reading and bed. After all, tomorrow is another day full of preparing students for the technology and design possibilities of their future worlds.

    Her approach to career enjoyment? “If you enjoy it, do it! It’s totally gratifying.” Andrea has clearly taken her own advice. “Teaching is my forever future. I absolutely love it.”

    About the Author More by Janice Quirt

    Janice Quirt is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

    Related Stories

    Art as Therapy in Orangeville

    Portrait of the Art Therapist

    Nov 27, 2023 | Tony Reynolds | A Day in the Life

    Rapinder Kaur built a therapy practice around encouraging children, and adults, to listen to the wisdom of their inner artists.

    Caledon’s Biggest Thrift Store Thrives Thanks to This Secondhand Superhero

    Sep 8, 2023 | Tony Reynolds | A Day in the Life

    For Catherine Adair, Evolve Caledon’s tagline – Shift to Thrift – is a mission.

    Seeing The Forest And The Trees

    Jun 16, 2023 | Tony Reynolds | A Day in the Life

    Field botanist Lisa Riederer painstakingly inventories trees, shrubs and groundcover plants for Credit Valley Conservation.

    The Alpaca Whisperer

    Mar 20, 2023 | Janice Quirt | A Day in the Life

    Julie Broadbent spends her days tending to her herd of 10 fuzzy, rambunctious characters.

    Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    By posting a comment you agree that IN THE HILLS magazine has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments for use both online or in print. You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold IN THE HILLS harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Any comments posted on this site are NOT the opinion of IN THE HILLS magazine. Personal attacks, offensive language and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. Please report inappropriate comments to vjones@inthehills.ca.