2019 Fall Class Notes

We asked UAlberta Education alumni where in the world their educational credentials took them. Quite a few of them had globetrotting stories to tell...

Joyce Cutts ’53 Ed (Dip) — I have been Canadian Ladies Doubles Tennis Champion four times and I am happy to be included in the Sports Wall of Fame. This year, I played mixed doubles and ladies doubles in the 85+ category at the Super Seniors Tennis Tournament sponsored by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). I am 87 and graduated 65 years ago! My doubles partner from France, Sabine LeFlaive, and I lost to a team from Holland and NZ and are now second in the world. I have played in Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Austria, the U.S.A. and Croatia. I owe credit to Elaine Fildes, our tennis instructor back at the U of A (1950-54).

Margaret Topping ’67 BEd, ’68 Med — After Grade 10, I attended a boarding school where my aunt was a nun and superior. I ended up being an Ursuline nun for 23 years and teaching at many Saskatchewan and Alberta Schools, every grade except Grade 5. After getting a master’s, I left the U of A and have loved teaching in Calgary at St. Francis High School and Bishop Carroll High School. I’m still friends with my winning debaters and I also coached volleyball. Today, I’m married to the fantastic Neil Topping.

Wilbur Collin ’67 BEd, ’71 MEd, ’77 PhD and Edith Collin ’67 BEd, Edith and I graduated from the University of Alberta (Home Economics and Agriculture in 1958 and 1959 respectively). After being married in July 1959 we began teaching at the Olds School of Agriculture and Home Economics (OSA) in 1959. In 1963, we enrolled in the Faculty of Education and after one full year and many summer school sessions we received our BEd degrees in ‘67. Edith continued to teach Fashion Construction and Merchandising until 1996, when she retired. While teaching at Olds College she completed a Senior Diploma in Fibre Arts (with a major in Weaving) at the Banff School of Fine Arts and a MSc Degree in Clothing and Textiles from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Wilbur was principal at Olds College from 1972-78. He spent almost five years in Africa working on the construction of the Natural Resources College in Malawi, upgrading school and college faculty in Zambia, and conducting workshops for college administrators and teachers. Subsequent to that he was employed at Grant MacEwan Community College (now MacEwan University) as the Coordinator of Research and Development, Coordinator of the International Development Office, and Associate Academic Vice-President. In 1991, Wilbur retired from GMCC and took over the operation of the farm which Edith and Wilbur purchased in 1964. Over the years we have assisted 20 young people—relatives, friends of relatives and others—to attend university and/or college. We are currently enjoying retirement in Beaumont, Alberta.

Don Risdon ’67 BEd, ’74 Med — I retired in 1999 having spent four years as a teacher and 31 years as an elementary vice-principal, principal, and program coordinator with Edmonton Public Schools. During my teaching years I organized, developed, and oversaw several parenting classes and after-hours recreation programs for underprivileged children. I was also chair of a committee of concerned citizens who founded one of Edmonton’s first women’s shelters. Some highlights of my career included a one-year secondment to the University of Alberta as a Practicum Associate, as well a two-month stay in Ghana as a member of a Canadian Teachers’ Federation “Operation Overseas” team. Now in retirement, I have embarked on a very rewarding career in volunteerism. For eight years, I was a member and chair of the Edmonton Regional Board for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. In 2005, I was presented with an Alberta Centennial Award for outstanding service to the people of Alberta. More recently, I served as a member and chair of the Edmonton Epilepsy Association Board and, in 2014, I was awarded an Outstanding Citizenship Award by the City of Edmonton.

Ovid Wong ’71 Ed (Dip) — Hello from Chicago! I am now an education professor at Benedictine University. I’ve learned in my 50+ years in education that teaching students is as important as teaching the course content and use the classroom guideline of ‘student first and content second.’ My 2019 UAlberta homecoming experience has been truly humbling. I ate with the students and I attended classes (back row seat) with the students for one whole day. To be an educator is a vocational calling. Effective teaching cannot be seen as just strategies; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. In 1989, I was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Alberta.

Marlene Marcon ’74 BEd has enjoyed a teaching career that took her all over the world. She last lived and taught in Arequipa, Peru. Now happily retired, she still volunteers as a reading specialist and does emergency overseas contracts.

John M. Burger ’74 MEd, ’88 PhD — John has worked as an assistant principal, principal, associate superintendent, and director in several Alberta school systems as well as 23 years in the Alberta Department of Education. He is also an adjunct associate professor at the University of Calgary and former adjunct associate professor at the University of Alberta. With 40+ years of experience in education John has recently transitioned to launching his company Practical Data Solutions, Inc. (www.practicaldatasolutions.ca) with a primary objective of advancing action research on factors that affect student engagement with school as well as measuring individual student engagement based on the Student Orientation to School Questionnaire (SOS-Q).

Pearl Gregor ’74 BEd, ’84 MEd — I was a teacher, school administrator, consultant, and UAlberta sessional lecturer. In 2003, I retired from the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium, but obtained a PhD from UBC in 2008. Currently, I live on my farm southeast of Edmonton. I have three adult children and seven grandchildren. Now an author, my memoir is a journey through nightmares, voices and dreams to healing clinical depression. It is a spiritual transformational journey to reclaim my feminine soul and be initiated into the mysteries of the sacred feminine. Dreams Along the Way Trilogy: I, the Woman, Planted the Tree: A Journey through Dreams to the Feminine (Winter 2018); Authoring Self: A Journey through Dreams to the Feminine (Spring 2019); and Cauldron of the Feminine: A Journey through Dreams

Brenda Rogers ’75 BEd — I graduated with a Bachelor of Education in Special Ed. I started as a kindergarten teacher and spent 38 years teaching five-year-olds—and their parents. Working at Scott Robertson School in Edmonton for 29 of those years presented the opportunity to work with children with special needs in the ISP program, GRITT, Rosecrest Home, and the early education program at the school. I was so fortunate to work as part of a team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and speech-language pathologists in my classroom! What a learning experience! In 2013, I retired from Baturyn School. I hadn’t missed the first day of school since I was five—that’s 55 years straight I had been in school as a student then a teacher! Teaching filled my soul!

Lillian Ross ’77 BEd — I left the U of A with a Jr. E Certificate and during my teaching placements in Drayton Valley I took summer school and evening classes. Finally, I got my BEd and taught for 35 years, mostly in Drayton Valley where I married and raised two boys with my husband, Reg. I joined the Oil Wives Club, the Drayton Valley Entertainers, church, and several other activities that this boom town organized. In 1989, I retired. I was very involved in music and my husband and I played in a band for dances and parties. Then I decided to write. I wrote stories based on the histories of my family—close to 4,000 books now sold. To learn more go to my website www.grassrootspublishing.com.

Saskia Stinson ’80 BEd — I work as an instructor at Thompson University in Kamloops, BC in an employment program for youth with diverse abilities called Education and Skills Training. Since graduating, I have gone back to school on three different occasions. The first was to complete a fifth year as part of my undergraduate which is required for the Teacher Qualification Service in British Columbia. The second was a post baccalaureate, Teaching English as a Second Language, which qualified me to work in an experiential learning program designed for international students from Korea, China and Japan. I also completed a Master of Education Counseling at Thompson Rivers University in 2013. My education has provided me with wonderful opportunities to make a difference in the world. I continue to work with people with disabilities and I am a part of some wonderful projects.

Susan Ann Lukey, ’81 Bed — After graduating from the U of A, I taught for five years in Acme, Alberta, my home town. I loved working with the children in Grades 2, 3, and 4. Yet I felt a calling into ministry in the United Church of Canada that wouldn’t let me go and I obtained an MDiv in ’89 and a ThM in ’95. I have served for 31 years as an ordained minister, the last 25 years in High River, Alberta in team ministry with my husband, David Robertson. My focus in ministry remains on teaching and working with children, youth and their families. We have two adult sons, ages 22 and 20, now at university themselves, one studying political science, the other piano performance. I recently spoke with a young woman, just beginning education studies at the U of A. I was reminded of the great formation I received in the Faculty of Education which still shapes what I do in my daily work.

Joanne McNeal ’82 Med — Joanne earned her MEd in Educational Administration while raising two daughters as a single parent and renovating an old farmstead west of Edmonton. She continued working at Athabasca University, coordinated educational opportunities for adults in Shellbrook, SK, and taught Teacher Education in Fort Smith, Yellowknife, and Inuvik, NWT. She obtained a PhD in ’97 from UBC. Her doctoral research was on Western Arctic women artists. She worked in Mayo, Yukon from 1998 to 1999. Joanne was an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Virginia Tech from 1999 to 2003 where she taught 'The Creative Process' and 'Native Arts of North America'. Returning to Canada she retired but then was asked to direct the Aurora College campus at Yellowknife. Retiring again to Edmonton, she led the painting of 500 feet of murals along the LRT line south of Stadium Station in Edmonton, and then taught six years of art education to future teachers at the U of A. In her third retirement, she is still renovating an old house in Edmonton and enjoying gardening, making art, and music.

Heliodoro Briongos Peñalba ’83 Med returned to Spain a year after receiving his degree. He spent 1984 to 2015 as a secondary school teacher and taught part-time at the University of Burgos, Spain from 2002 to 2011. He achieved a PhD in 2015. Heliodoro is now retired.

Heidi Julien ’83 BEd, ’94 MLIS continued her education at Western University, where she earned a PhD in Information Science in 1997. She has held faculty positions at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), Dalhousie University (Halifax), the University of Alberta, the University of Alabama, and currently is a professor in the Department of Information Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She served as a department chair for eight years, and is now back on the professoriate, enjoying a renewed focus on research and teaching. She has served as president of the Canadian Association of Information Science and the Association for Library and Information Science Education. Her interests focus on digital literacy, and information behaviour. Outside of her career, she enjoys travel, reading, and working out at the local gym. She recently welcomed her first grandchild.

David Erickson ’83 PhD— I have enjoyed a 25-year career in pediatric psychology at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton which included seven years as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta. I have always enjoyed the area of parent education and professional development in addition to providing patients and their families with emotional support while their children underwent medical procedures. I became involved in technology and developed software to assist families and professionals in managing children’s behavior. I developed my own company, Behavior Tool box Inc. (http://www.behaviortoolbox.com), and also became a developer for Apple iPhone and iPad. I am now retired and living on Vancouver Island but continue with the software development as I enjoy the research and the learning it provides.

Diane Brockman ’84 Bed — I taught primary school in Edmonton for four years before travelling overseas to teach English to adults. I worked in China for a year and then moved to Hong Kong where I taught English to Vietnamese refugees for three years. In 1989, I moved to Toronto and took courses in multicultural counselling. From there, I worked with newcomers to help them with integration and job search. For the past seven years, I have worked with internationally educated architects in a training program partnered with Ryerson University where I have broadened my knowledge of architecture and my appreciation for what goes into creating the built environment. I love what I do. My education degree has benefited me immensely over the years, especially as I have had a non-traditional career in education.

Nancy Davis ’87 BEd, ’02 Med — My first teaching assignments took me to Spirit River, Viking, and Red Deer, AB. The counselling portion of my role at Central Junior High in Red Deer from 1989 to 1991 was a career highlight. For those two years, I drove to U of A to take courses in Educational Psychology. I met and married my husband which resulted in a move back to Edmonton in 1991 and taught a class of severe special needs students in Spruce Grove for the next seven years. In 1997, I returned to the U of A to complete a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Besides being a full-time student, I became a facilitator in the Faculty of Education and a sessional instructor in Educational Policy Studies. After, I worked at Ritchie School, then Eastglen High School, and Jasper Place High School where I was a curriculum coordinator in the Access program for two years, then the head of student services for six years. Currently, I am a supervisor in District Support Services for Edmonton Public Schools where I support more than 200 school administrative teams in the areas of special and inclusive education. It has truly been an incredible journey!

Cheryl Palamarek ’89 BEd — Since graduating I have lived and worked in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Hong Kong. I have fulfilled various roles in education over the last three decades, including assistant director of learner support, director of admissions, primary school assistant principal and primary school educator. I’m entering my sixth year at Hong Kong Academy as admissions and enrolment director. My passion is to move a school community forward by supporting families through transitions while maintaining the diversity of the school community. I believe fostering quality relationships and keeping student learning and growth at the core of decision-making best support effective change in schools.

Ron Kuban ’89 MEd, ’93 PhD — After 23 years of public service, I established a company consulting in crisis management and managed it for 25 years. Its work took me to Singapore, the U.S., Switzerland, and across both China and Canada. During this time, I was honoured to serve on the Edmonton Police Commission, was appointed to two consecutive terms on the Parole Board of Canada, and am currently serving on Alberta’s Human Resources Appeal Board plus Canada’s Military Police Complaints Commission. During the last 35 years, I also volunteered on numerous boards at the local, provincial and national level. In my latest volunteer venture, I am studying to become a tutor for youth with dyslexia through a program operated by the Masons. As a lifelong learner, I am awed by every step of life’s amazing voyage.

Stephen Price ’92 BEd is entering his third year as dean for the Faculty of Health, Community, and Education at Mount Royal University. His journey began after completing his BEd at UAlberta, teaching high school in Fort McMurray for seven years, and then teaching at Mount Royal since 2000.

Elizabeth Starr ’92 PhD — After receiving my PhD in Special Education in the Department of Educational Psychology, I moved to London, England for four years and was the coordinator of a family genetic study of autism, working for Professor Sir Michael Rutter. Having been a special education teacher in my past life, I became a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor in Ontario, where I have been for 25 years, teaching courses in Educational Psychology, Special Education, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and the School of Mental Health to the next generation of educators, and conducting research concerning ASD and education. I now look forward to retirement in June 2020. It’s been a journey I certainly never anticipated at the outset!

Jody Serner ’97 Bed — In nearly 20 years of teaching, I've taught in five school divisions all over northern Alberta: Manning, Wabasca, Mayerthorpe, St. Paul and, for the past 10 years, Bonnyville. Highlights? Taking 23 students to China in 2013 for our school's Travel Club and the relationships that I still have today with my current and former students and co-workers. It's changed my life for the better as I continue to promote lifelong learning.

David Chorney ’00 MEd, ’05 PhD, is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Dr. Chorney spent two years teaching at the University of Regina and four years as an assistant professor at the University of Lethbridge. He has been a professor at the University of Alberta since 2007. David’s active research program focuses on physical education teacher education (PETE). He devotes much time to ensuring that his classes are relevant, meaningful, inspiring, and challenging. He is well respected as an outstanding, informed teacher educator at the provincial and national level and in 2014 was awarded the Rutherford Award of Excellence in undergraduate teaching, the University of Alberta’s most prestigious teaching award.

Naomi Castle-Maharaj ’00 MLIS — I started in the traditional route of working in libraries, including the University of Alberta's Faculty of Arts’ Sociology library and overseas at NATO, before doing online information management for the Centre for Healthy Evidence here at the U of A. After a mom-hiatus, I returned to work applying my organizational, cataloguing and storytelling skills as a sommelier and business owner of Put A Cork In It Wine Tasting where I educate people on the beauty of wine. In my spare time I run obstacle races.

Cathy Mottus-Landry ’03 BEd, ’15 Med — Taking the Education program was the best decision I could have made for my future. After graduating, I taught overseas in Japan for three years, before settling in Alberta in 2006. I taught as an elementary generalist for five years, then moved into a new role as an early learning lead teacher. I obtained my MEd in 2015 and have continued to support inclusive education as a coordinator in my school district. I've been able to travel for professional development, learn from amazing colleagues, and grow as an educator. I would not change my path and look forward to what the future brings.

Heather DeBoer ’05 BEd — After teaching with the Calgary Board of Education as an elementary school teacher, I pursued a master’s degree in Adult Education. Today, as I study to attain my Doctorate of Education, I realize that my lifelong learning journey all began with my BEd. The professional and academic endeavors I pursue today include presenting at the 2019 World Conference of Online Learning and guiding program operations and service delivery as a director within the human services sector. I am also the Vice President of Operations and Finance for a graduate student association. The BEd program at the UAlberta is a highly-valued degree which substantiated transferable and multi-faceted competencies, which is why I can pursue both a career as a leader in Calgary’s disability service sector, and a passion advocating policy reform on Parliament Hill for future generations of learners. Highly recommended!

Kathryn Wagner ’06 BEd — As the self-proclaimed cool aunt of teaching I have the most amazing job ever! During my final practicum I discovered Inside Education, a non-profit organization supporting multiple perspectives on environmental and natural resources education in Alberta. and I knew that pursuing a career teaching issues-based environmental education fit my goals as an educator. I’ve had the opportunity to visit every corner of Alberta and experience the landscape in incredible ways: helicopter over the oil sands, raft the Bow River and stand in a field of native grasslands. I’ve met with experts across the spectrum of perspectives and have witnessed creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurship in action. I use these experiences every day to inspire students from K-12, and support other teachers by designing professional development programs and classroom resources. I encourage new teachers to think outside their classroom walls and enrich their curriculum with experience.

Laura Nicholson ‘09 BEd — I am teaching French-immersion kindergarten at King George School in Calgary. My professional goal is to balance best practices in play-based, inquiry-based early learning with teaching a second language to young children who are generally not exposed to French outside of the classroom. I have two young children at home so my life is all about young kids!

Kirk Moen ’10 Bed — My career has taken me to some interesting places. I taught junior high for three years, gaining valuable experience as a physical education and social studies teacher. I then made a change and worked in the construction industry for six years. I love woodworking and I was able to complete the carpentry apprenticeship and come away with a Red Seal Journeyman certificate. I wondered if someday my two fields would come together and had always thought that being a NAIT instructor would be an ideal place for me to work. I am now instructing at NAIT—my dream job! It is an awesome fit and I could not be any happier with the outcome!

Pascal El Cid ’11 BEd — Since finishing my degree, I have worked with Edmonton Catholic Schools as a science and math teacher. I seem to have found my niche with junior high students—and they definitely keep me on my toes! I am currently the science lead at Sister Annata Brockman School where I love nerding out with my Grade 9 students over the Periodic Table. In 2016, I started working on a MEd and convocated in 2018. It was definitely challenging to teach full-time and have part-time studies (and, let's be honest, it was tough to give up two summers in a row when I could be off travelling the world), but teaching is a lifelong learning career and it was totally worth it! Here’s to many more years of spreading my love of science and math to the kids of the future!

Nicole (Pysyk) Cosgrove ’12 Bed — I moved to New Zealand in 2013 and began teaching in the early childhood sector and soon began managing a farm-based early learning center. Must’ve been my Albertan blood! I received my teaching certificate in 2017 in New Zealand and, thanks to my widely respected U of A degree, I am certified to teach from ECE up to 12th grade. In 2018, I married my Kiwi husband in Hawaii and we’ve been traveling around Central and South America ever since, volunteering with environmental organizations and schools and living in the Ecuadorian Amazon. I recently began teaching English to Chinese children online. We hope to land jobs somewhere in the Middle East for the 2020/2021 school year and keep the travel going while working abroad. The world is our oyster!! The picture is me at a sea turtle conservation organization, La Tortuga Feliz, in Costa Rica.

Nafisa Umarji ’12 Bed — I am passionate about education and the value it brings to the world. I’ve worked in several Edmonton schools and have noticed that many children in our communities lack early educational opportunities and good quality before/after school care programs. In March, 2019 we founded a nonprofit organization called Canturberry Family Services. This organization provides programs that are affordable, accessible, inclusive, and safe for children and families. We provide extra educational support to ensure that children don’t fall through the cracks. We are opening our first centre this month and have many more coming up across the city. We can’t wait to be serving this wonderful city and people.

Stephanie Rudanec ’13 BEd — This is my sixth year of teaching in a specialized setting for the Edmonton Public School Board. After four years as a special needs educator with EPSB, I began a part-time course-based master’s program in special education at the U of A while continuing to work full time as a teacher. I am part of a cohort which focuses on reading, writing and oral language disabilities. I am on track to graduate in the spring of 2020. My hope is to one day become a consultant to assist teachers and students in the field of special education. I also volunteer as one of the head coaches of a competitive high school cheer team here in Edmonton.

Shelley Sumar ’14 BEd — I taught in a small town for a couple of years and even though some of my best memories are of being a classroom teacher, I was inspired to pursue a master’s degree so I could better understand the “why” behind challenging behaviours of individuals with special needs. In 2016, I received my MSc in Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavioral Analysis. I accepted a position overseas in the United Arab Emirates, where I started a special educational program, the first of its kind, at the Canadian International School in Abu Dhabi. I was truly overjoyed to experience the future development and education for inclusion in a country new to the concept. Currently, I work in a specialized behaviour analytic classroom as both the teacher and the applied behaviour analysis practitioner and recently traveled to Kenya with the Global Autism Project, training staff, teachers, and educational assistants. My lifelong goal is to create engaging, inclusive, effective support systems and safe environments for all individuals to reach their full potential.

Kristina Vyskocil ’18 BEd — I graduated in 2018 from the Secondary Education program with a major in English and minor in English as a Second Language. After graduating, I taught elementary and junior high students with learning disorders at an independent school for three months before working as a tutor/coach at NorQuest College. Since December, I have been tutoring students who are completing English and humanities courses in academic upgrading or post-secondary programs. I also coach students in developing academic skills such as time management, note-taking, and reading comprehension. In addition to working with students with learning disorders, I now also work with students with disabilities, English language learners and Indigenous students.

Jenn Orr ’18 Bed — I can’t believe a full year has gone by! They do say time flies when you’re having fun! Well, right after graduation, I moved to Vancouver where I had the privilege of being offered a continuing contract teaching high school French, just two months post-grad! One year in the books and now I’ve added Leadership to the load! Oh how I miss the U of A, but how proud I am to say I’m a UAlberta grad and share all that I have learned, while in university and abroad, with my students!

Melissa McQueen ’18 BEd — I graduated in 2018 with my BEd in Secondary Education with a major in social studies and a minor in English. Before I had officially graduated, I landed a job teaching high school social studies in Leduc at Christ the King for a temporary maternity leave contract. I fell in love with the school and the staff, and the students were a dream. A small school was definitely my place as I developed strong relationships with students that were in my class and those that I saw in the halls every day. I am now in Drayton Valley teaching high school social and English. I'm fortunate enough to get to teach 30-1 social to two different groups of kids, something a second-year teacher rarely gets the opportunity to do.

Feature image: John M. Burger ’74 MEd, ’88 PhD