This issue of illuminate echoes the theme of the Faculty of Education’s 75th anniversary by focusing on engagement. We asked some of our alumni to reflect on how teacher education at UAlberta prepared them to engage with communities both inside and outside the classroom, and why it’s important for educators to find inventive ways to connect with the public.
Evelyn Liesner, BEd ’16, says, “My first stepping stone to teaching art wouldn’t be possible without a BEd. I’m working a dream job at the Art Gallery of Alberta, teaching art within the Alberta curriculum to K-12, adults and special groups. Every day I engage with community by bringing art and people together, whether it is teaching medical students better visual communication strategies through art or bringing a parent and child together over a masterpiece. I am crafting my teacher persona at the art gallery within a cutting edge pedagogical framework. The After Degree program is immersive and the U of A makes the experience warm, rich and friendly. I had great professors who are passionate and knowledgeable teachers. I received the John & Barbara Poole Scholarship that paid for my first year, an award to support people with an art background (I have a BFA) pursue education and spread art knowledge. Alberta is a province rich with opportunity where dreams can come true!”
Wade Kelly, MEd ’12, BEd ’04, writes, “My education at the Faculty of Education prepared me for graduate school in Australia. After finishing my master's degree in policy studies, I took a position at the Faculty of Extension. I received a full scholarship to study in Australia and moved in 2014 to Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. At the start of 2017 I moved with my supervisor to Swinburne University in Melbourne where I'll finish my dissertation.
My education experience and training from the Faculty of Education has been invaluable in informing my PhD research and will be particularly useful when I take on undergraduate teaching responsibilities next semester.
I believe so strongly in lifelong learning that I have made it my life's work. My research is concerned with how academia and academics integrate into community to afford learning opportunities to the public. I believe it's important that academics engage in community and get their research into public. I work to create those opportunities as well; I co-founded Nerd Nite Edmonton, founded Nerd Nite Wagga, and am now a member of the Nerd Nite Melbourne team. Nerd Nite is getting the brilliant minds found in universities outside of the institution's walls and into public spaces, sharing their brilliance. As I go forward beyond doctoral studies, my goal is to continue to expand the ways in which I assist academics and institutions in getting research exposure beyond the confines of academic journals.
The community impact of the Faculty of Education is rather immeasurable. The faculty has made a permanent imprint on the people of Alberta for generations through the teachers it has produced and the world-class research it has contributed, making Alberta one of the top education systems in the world.”
Mavis Averill, MEd ’08, shares with us that her education has enriched both her personal and professional life. “My master’s research work has led me to self-publish a small book entitled SWEET: The learning lives of students who have experienced extreme trauma, and most of my teaching career has been with Indigenous communities and with students who have had trauma in their past. My interest was in how this affects their ability to learn in schools. I have presented all over Alberta and internationally on this topic, so this has brought me a wealth of experiences and learning.
I am now the principal of Boyle Street Education Centre in Edmonton. This is a high school for youth who have left the traditional education systems either because of being suspended, expelled or just leaving. We design enrichment experiences for our students by engaging with our downtown community in every way we can think of, from volunteering with city clean-up to field trips for theatre, art, festivals etc.
We are currently connected to the U of A in developing grant proposals to study FASD and the impact of this disability for our learners and the effect that our school’s programs may have in addressing these needs. We also hire a psychology intern every year from the U of A to support our work. We feel very connected to the U of A in our city and most of us who work at our school are graduates of our university.”
Patrick Johner, BEd ’07, has been teaching in Edmonton public schools for 20 years. Recently he was a finalist for the Alberta Education Excellence in Teaching Awards 2016. In September 2016 he was featured on CTV Alberta Primetime News for is advocacy for his students and parents. His passion for focusing on students' strengths and helping them and their families set goals, make plans and overcome barriers earned him an Excellence in Teaching Award from Alberta Education. Patrick believes that all students can achieve success. He works to ensure every learner under his care is given opportunities to experience success that is meaningful and engaging. He creates learning environments that ensure students are focused not just on achieving good grades but also tapping into their capacity to be compassionate, conscientious and socially responsible.
Over the years, Patrick believes that teachers have the power to positively influence their community. What we do to advocate for each of our students extends into their families and into our larger community.
Patrick has been guided by a quote from Buckminster Fuller he first heard as an undergraduate in his Education Policy Studies class: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change things, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Patrick continues to share his vision that public education can only be changed by a dialogue between the teaching profession and the community—parents, students, the university and the public. Only together can we answer the question, “What changes should be made to improve the condition of education for students, their families, and for teachers?”
Anna Wong, BA ’94, BEd '03, continues to benefit from her educational experiences at the U of A. Her career has evolved from the field of Education to currently working as a project manager in a healthcare environment. Throughout the last 20 years she has found occasions to connect with her community through volunteer opportunities. Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to new immigrants, Root for Trees and Prairie Urban Farms are just some of the wonderful projects she has been fortunate to be involved with. Together with her husband, Anna continues to explore the world through travel. Her love for travelling has taken her to destinations such as China, France, the UK and Mexico.
Anna is thrilled to be part of a community of educators and lifelong learners and wishes the Faculty of Education all the best in celebrating their 75th anniversary.
Maureen Tigner-Morison, BEd ’94, says, “I have been teaching at Victoria School of the Arts since 1994 and I am now a K-12 arts curriculum coordinator and teach dance in the secondary dance program. Prior to attending the University of Alberta, I was already a working artist and a dance teacher, so I had confidence and experience working with youth and parents. However, I learned quickly what it meant to be an arts educator and to question ‘why’ and ‘how’ in my planning for youth. I challenge my students to look at how we engage with others in our own classroom and the sense of community and values we want to establish, and then we continue to look at the entire school community and so on, moving to global perspectives. This way of thinking and creating community engagement is naturally developed in an arts classroom and beautifully supported by the IB framework at my school. My students are the real ones who inspire me as I don’t plan the same way each year. The experiences have to be meaningful to the students I am presently teaching and each year, students’ needs are changing. My colleagues also inspire and challenge me with new ways of thinking and creating as we have created a reflective and collaborative environment where we feel safe questioning not only our own work but each others’ work with the intent of doing what is best for students.”
Linda Sinkwich, BEd ’71, BLS ’76, writes, “It’s been 11 years since I retired from teaching, but the last 20 years of my career spent teaching French in Spruce Grove are still vivid in my mind. For part of that time, I served as head of the modern languages/fine arts department. We had a lot of fun finding ways to engage with our students and help them engage with the world. Our department was big on the new style of assessment back then, which was getting the kids to help design their own assessments. If you involve the kids in what you are doing as a teacher, you have less—but more meaningful—work to do and the students have ownership over their learning. To me, education is everything, and having properly trained, well-educated teachers has a big impact on society. Technology has been amazing for teachers. There’s so much out there and the internet brings it all into your life like nothing else. We recently moved to a new town to be close to our son and his family. This has been huge in terms of learning: meeting new people, learning about the town. I’m always learning new things.”
Debbie Michael, BEd ’93, MEd ’06, is currently the school administrator of an elementary school that serves approximately 480 students.
Debbie tells us, “I always knew I wanted to work with First Nations children. I have taught at the Ermineskin Schools in Maskwacis since I graduated in 1993. I have been the principal for 13 years. In this time we have seen many positive changes. My role in the school is to provide the best possible environment for students and remove any barriers teachers may be faced with to ensure maximum learning can occur. We are the centre for hope to so many on the reserve and it has been a place where people come together to do what is best for kids.
We have amazing teachers, many of whom graduated from the U of A. Our teachers bring with them compassion and love for the children. They are committed to their profession and dedicated to doing what is best for kids.
My journey as a First Nations principal is a career I never imagined for myself. It is rewarding, challenging and has given me tremendous satisfaction in working hard to improve the education for our children. It is essential our First Nations children are given opportunities and experiences that will push them to reach their full potential. Setting high standards with a compassionate heart is how we can accomplish this very important task. Education was always important in my family. I just never imagined how much. My goal is to be a positive role model for young First Nations people and to show them that they are indeed capable and have a place in this world. They can make a difference and they can do whatever they set their hearts and minds to.
Going to university was by far one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. I now work in a community and school environment where we all thrive and push toward greatness. It is because of my education I can do the things I do today and for that I will always be grateful.”