Spot Light

Kelsey (O’Byrne) Zipchen BEd’10, BA’17 has a unique job. She’s a teacher on film and television sets across Canada, tutoring young actors who are missing school. Zipchen taught in Regina and Saskatoon before her husband, actor and host Tanner Zipchen, found work in Toronto. While spending time with him on location, she learned about on-set teaching. She went on to earn a California Certified Studio Teacher designation in an intense four-year journey that included a course in child welfare and labour laws, more than a dozen state and subject exams, and additional university classes through UCLA.

Why did you want to become a teacher?
Since I was little, teaching my stuffed animals, I always had an inkling that I wanted to teach. It wasn’t until I was taking high school English that I began to actually consider it as a career. I had incredible teachers who challenged me to dig deeper and to look for the things that weren’t on the page and to take risks with my writing. I began helping friends with their essays and poetry analyses and realized I really enjoyed that. I’d always excelled in school, but until then, I can’t say I was really passionate about any of it. I realized I wanted to help future students discover their own passions and talents.
How did your experience at the U of R prepare you for your career in education?
The best thing about my experience was the opportunity to get into a classroom from the beginning. Things like classroom management, communication skills and effective lesson design can only be learned from experience and I gained a lot of it from my diverse classroom placements and internship opportunities.
What is your most memorable experience from your time at the U of R?
Coffee and sandwiches between classes at Henderson’s! I also really enjoyed taking summer courses – I really recommend it. Joining the Education Students’ Society was another highlight.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Not only do I need to be prepared to help students with whatever schoolwork they bring to the set, but because I am also there as a welfare advocate, I need to have a working knowledge of the many different regulations and child labour laws. The set is a high-stakes environment. Being the person to tell the director that she can’t have the child when she needs him because he hasn’t done enough school yet, or has to break for his mandated lunch hour, isn’t always easy. I feel privileged to be in the position of looking out for these young actors.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Learning from the incredibly talented young people I work with and seeing first-hand how hard they work. Not only are they brilliant and creative, but they also manage full-time careers with academics when they’re as young as five and six years old.
What is your most cherished celebrity encounter?
I recently worked on a film in Vancouver starring Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner. They are the most humble people you could ever hope to meet. It was an incredible experience to watch these iconic actors perform, to see the way they touched everyone on set with their kindness and to watch them model things for my student, who was pretty new on the scene and the only child on set. Jen even baked cookies for the crew. It doesn’t get any better than that.
What do you miss most about not living in Saskatchewan?
I think it’s a four-way tie between my family, my friends, the stars at night and the pace of life. I would give anything to be able to do this job in Saskatchewan where my loved ones are.