Where are they now? – Profiling Wulf Heidecker

Where are they now? – Profiling Wulf Heidecker

The objective of our initiative ‘Where are they now?’ is to create a forum or a bridge for German alumni to share their career stories with current students, and for students to ask alumni questions about careers.  We kicked off the project in June 2017, by emailing German alumni, asking them if they would be willing to share their career stories with current students of German studies.  Response was very positive, with over 15 alumni from a wide variety of careers, inside and outside of academia, indicating their interest in participating.

This project was led by Joan Andersen, as part of her volunteer position as Alumni Ambassador and Executive in Residence.  Joan is a German alumna of the University of Toronto, and moved into a career outside of German studies after graduating with a Master’s Degree.  Joan conducted a telephone or email interview with each participant with the objective or drafting a 5-8 minute long article profiling his/her career.

We will publish one or two ‘Career Profile’ articles every month which we hope our readers will find informative and maybe even inspirational. We welcome your feedback on this initiative by sending Joan an email at j.andersen.ma@gmail.com

Our eleventh article profiles the career of Wulf Heidecker.

Welcome to this edition of ‘Where are they now’? In this article, we profile Wulf Heidecker – UofT 1984. I hope you find this article interesting and maybe even inspirational.

Wulf graduated from the U of T in 1984 with a major in French; a minor in German.  He also studied Russian. After graduation, he spent the first three years doing city tours in French, in Quebec City – in the summer for adults; and in the winter for student groups. During one of these tours, he met a teacher who suggested to him that he would be a great teacher. Following this suggestion, Wulf enrolled in Teacher’s College at the University of Ottawa in 1988-1989 and obtained his degree in teaching in French. He was subsequently hired by the Carlton Board of Education as a French Immersion teacher in 1989. With the exception of a brief period in 2005-2006 when he was a member of the Collective Bargaining Committee for the teachers’ union, he taught elementary school- Grades 5, 3 and 6 until December 2016 when he ran for and was elected to a 2-year term to the position of 2nd Vice President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario – Ottawa-Carlton area. I caught up with Wulf at the ETFO’s regional office in Ottawa, Ontario.

1. What made you decide to pursue German studies at the U of T?

I was born in Germany and came to Canada around the age of 13. I completed my High School in Toronto. The decision to make French my major was because I loved the language.  Coincidentally, I am also married to a Francophone. When I went to university, I was really not sure what I wanted to do and I did have a scholarship as well. Taking German as a minor was an easy choice because I knew that the studying (with the exception of my Mittelhochdeutsch course) would be easier because of my background.

2. Describe your current position and job responsibilities. What career path lead you to your current job?

I deal with emails and phone calls from principals, superintendents, Board personnel and teachers. I am responsible for 50 elementary schools and 1300 teachers. I deal with collective agreement issues and am involved in negotiations. My main focus is around dealing with concerns or issues related to interpersonal relationships.

3. How did you come to select this position as your career?

It is very interesting that this is the first position that I actively campaigned for and sought out. Every other position that I have held, has always been at the suggestion of someone else. This position allows me to help people out and make a difference.

4. What does a typical day at work for you look like?

I answer lots of phone calls and emails. I go to numerous meetings around topics such as respectful workplace, performance evaluations and workplace accommodation. Most of my work is done in English. I am the only French speaking person in the office and I am called upon to use it frequently.

5. What do you like most about your job?

Not having my work life ruled by school bells! In all seriousness though, as I have stated, being able to help others and make a difference.

6. What are some of the challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis?

Getting to know the protocol around who has the information which I might require, to whom specific issues are to be referred, and how to deal with unusual situations. Around here, every day Is different and I never know what calls might come in.

7. What skills do you possess that make you a good fit for your current job?

Listening skills, empathy and my in-depth, hands-on experience with the classroom environment.

8. How have your German studies equipped you with the skills you need to do your job?

As mentioned previously, my main motivation in studying German, was to be able to earn an ‘easy’ credit due to my familiarity with the language. Outside of my job as a city tour guide, I have not used my German at work.

9. What are your ultimate career goals?

I know that I would like to stay in my current role, providing that I get re-elected in two years when my term expires.

10. What do you do in your spare time?

I am a piano player in a church choir. When I was younger, I sang in a German choir. Music has always been a part of my life.

11. What advice do you have for German students who are pursuing their studies with the goal of securing meaningful employment post-graduation?

The world is changing. Any skill that you have learned is an asset. Any way in which you can put your German skills to use is beneficial – there is a large German community and German businesses in and around Toronto and other parts of Canada. Seeking out opportunities to socialize with other groups who share a love of the German language can lead to a career opportunity.

In university, you learn to be self-sufficient, organized, and to work hard. You are accountable and responsible for your own learning and your work. These are all important attributes in today’s workplace.

You also never know when you will get to use German … I remember when I was a tour guide, the Quebec government contacted my tour company, asking for a tour guide to conduct a city tour in German for a visiting dignitary. It turned out that I was the only tour guide who spoke German, and I conducted a private city tour for the Chancellor of Germany!

12. For those readers who want to learn more, how can they contact you?

By email at: wulf.heidecker@gmail.com