The Faculty of Education will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, and we're in the mood to pay tribute to our past and present, while looking forward to the future.
For this issue’s Class Notes, we wanted to capture some of our alumni’s memories from their time in the Faculty of Education. We asked for anecdotes about campus life and reflections on favourite professors who may have influenced their career path.
Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
Katherine Peebles, Dip ’53, BEd ’54, writes, “When I was in high school in the 1940s, our classes were first held in an old building in Garneau, but then were moved to what was called the Education Building. Our school was called University High School, and the idea was that our classes would be available to Faculty of Education students to observe teaching or practice on us, and sometimes the professors would teach our classes.
I began attending classes in the Faculty of Education in 1952 after completing my BSc in Home Economics and spending 10 months teaching Home Economics in British Columbia. My classmates were mostly younger students with no experience teaching, so I was able to amuse them with stories of my adventures in a small town near Vancouver.
The professor in our Methods of Teaching Class told us that the science teacher at University High School would be on leave for a few weeks and needed a replacement. Our professor asked if we would like to take on the job of replacing him. Since I had attended University High School myself I knew that whenever we had student teachers practicing on us we had given them a bad time if they showed any signs of poor preparation. I said that no way would I have time to prepare for this science teaching and still carry on with my regular classes. Only one person, a girl, volunteered to do this job. She was to start after Christmas break. Unfortunately, she was snowed in and couldn't get back in time and eventually gave up the whole idea so that our professor had to do the science teaching himself.”
David Dick, BEd ‘64, remembers an unconventional professor who made an early impact on his teaching.
“I attended the Jr. E. program for teaching in 1956. That was the year that we had Dr. Lee Ford from Butler, Ind., teach us science. She was a very unique person whose attire was anything but formal, as she had a house-trailer parked somewhere near the campus and was breeding dogs.
Her approach to science was very practical and she divided us into groups to redo the science/ taxidermy exhibits in the hallway to reflect the environment of the animals displayed. It certainly drew on the creativity of the students and made us aware that we needed to consciously harness the world we found ourselves in and use it to stimulate the interest of students. In her inimitable way, she taught us to think and teach outside the box.”
Sandra Falconer Pace, Dip ‘74, has retired twice: the first time as Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Support Services, for Regina Public Schools and the second time as Director of Instruction for Learning Services from New Westminster School District #40. Her husband Robert Gordon Pace, MBA ‘89, wrote about Sandra, “Having enjoyed 41 years as an educator in five provinces and one state, it seems time to move along and let younger folks have a turn.”
Robert and Sandra are now retired and live in Coquitlam, B.C. They’re enjoying travelling, visiting their children in Williams Lake and taking life at a slower pace, and they look forward to hosting any friends that choose to visit.
David Mensink, MEd ’82, PhD ‘87, remembers a course taken with George Fitzsimmons that had a profound impact on his choice of career.
“I was in the middle of my master’s in special education in educational psychology, and I noticed an interesting course taught by Dr. George Fitzsimmons. I didn't know him but had heard positive comments about him from other students. I asked him if I could take his course in Biofeedback Counselling. He asked if I had any prerequisite counselling courses—to which I answered, ‘none’, as I was in special education. However, I had experience working as a nursing orderly and also as a child care counsellor. He let me take his course, and the rest is history.
I loved it and loved working with clients who were experiencing migraine pain, bruxism, hyperhidrosis, and other ailments. Quickly I learned under Dr. Fitzsimmons tutelage that counselling was my passion. By giving me the opportunity to take his course in applied behavioural medicine, he provided me with the knowledge, understanding, learning, and experience for me to make my career choice as a counselling psychologist. I went on to complete a PhD in counselling psychology (also in educational psychology) and a post-doctoral fellowship with J.P. Das at the University of Alberta’s Developmental Disabilities Centre. And by the way, I got top marks in Dr. Fitzsimmons’ course in Biofeedback Counselling. Thank you, Dr. Fitzsimmons!”
Scott Barr, BEd '95, writes, “I was honoured to be in Dr. Jim Parson’s class for two years during my time at U of A. He was a teacher who inspired me to seek out the connections to students above all else. He would tell us that without relationships, there is no learning. In his classes during fourth year, we developed a family feel to our group, even having Thanksgiving dinner at his house!
He taught me that the people you work with are like your family and deserve that same time and commitment. We also ended up coaching basketball together in Sherwood Park, and that allowed me to see him interact with high school students in a unique way. I have gone on to teach in junior high and high school where I implemented so much of what he showed us about being a good teacher.
I have moved on to be a principal now, and much of what I do with students and staff around building culture was developed in the classrooms in the Education building at U of A under Jim’s watchful eye. I am so proud to be an alum of the U of A, the Faculty of Education and Dr. Parson’s class.”
Helen Khan, Dip ‘00, writes, “Studying International and Intercultural Education was one of the most enjoyable programs I undertook. Courses that came alive for me were taught by Dr. Jerry Kachur. His critical analysis of education and interrelated disciplines stimulated and stretched me to develop critical thought, not only in education but in other disciplines.
One of the most interesting courses that I took from him was a graduate level developmental theories course. The added interest was that both my daughter and I took the course, which led to stimulating conversations on the bus and at home. We wrote a paper together on Auguste Comte and Karl Marx, each taking the position of one of these theorists. I am currently living in a developing nation where I can better analyze the complexities of their multi-tiered education system where only about 23 per cent of the population has access to adequate education and are no longer illiterate.”
Ian Clay Sewall, BEd ‘03, writes, “Dr. Rillah Sheridan-Carson was the best professor I experienced during my 2003 year at the U of A. She inspired highly polished unit plans—and I fondly recall burning the midnight oil to impress her with my unit on Elie Wiesel’s powerful narrative, Night. My girlfriend—Cara Knowles—got a 9 in the course and went on to teach for a time in a small village in Ghana. She passed away there, but her memory has stayed sharp in my heart—her dedication to education, her spirit lives on.
I moved to the South Bronx and taught in a high needs school—then moved to Los Angeles and published a novel, Coyote Lake. I have directed several short films and one feature. I teach the literature I adore—my current unit of study is Michael Punke’s The Revenant. My students made jaw-dropping dioramas and their thoughtful, earnest Socratic seminars keep me realizing learning is a lifelong gift.”
Alice Brode, MEd ’03, PhD ‘06, writes, “I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Edmonton in the 2000s. I am happy that I pursued my graduate degrees at the University of Alberta. The most influential person at that time was my advisor, Dr. Jim Parsons, who recently retired after 30+ years in the department. I am very thankful for all of his guidance and support. The Faculty of Education will surely miss him.”
Kristin J. Lapierre, BEd ‘06, shared how Joe Z. Wu, associate professor of Elementary Education, helped guide her academic and professional journey.
“Dr. Wu was one of my second languages teachers while I was minoring in French as a Second Language. When I met him, he was tasked with teaching a class with undergraduate and graduate students.
What made Dr. Wu such a wonderful professor was that he saw the potential that each of his students had. Through his lectures and assignments, he provided opportunities for students to explore their passions and act on them so that they could apply what was learned to their own classroom environments.
Dr. Wu also took time outside of class to guide students into courses or scholarships that would benefit their studies in education. Without this support, I don’t think that I would have taken advantage of these opportunities. Because of Dr. Wu’s influence, I went onto graduate school and completed a master’s degree in curriculum studies and instruction, and I am also in the process of completing a certificate in academic counselling and advising. Those skills learned by Dr. Wu now help me educate students in various schooling environments.”
Stephanie L. Boychuck, BEd ‘11, has been busy since leaving UAlberta’s Faculty of Education. She completed her master’s of education in educational leadership at Vancouver Island University this year. Her research project focused on developing high-quality, effective supports for faculty members creating blended or online courses at the post-secondary level.
Stephanie is currently working at the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning at VIU, where her work involves supporting the use of educational technology across the university and working in collaboration with curriculum teaching and learning specialists to support course- and program-wide initiatives. She recently presented at the B.C.-wide Educational Technology Users Group conference and will be speaking at the Festival of Learning hosted by BCcampus on defining quality in online learning.
Kirsten Isherwood, BEd ‘14, writes, “I have many fond memories of Tim Coates’ IPT [Introductory Professional Term] class on assessment. His heartfelt stories and funny T-shirts made each class entertaining. As a result, I always showed up excited to learn. Last weekend I was able to attend one of his sessions at Teachers' Convention, and it is safe to say that he is as amazing and engaging as ever. Thanks Tim!”
Feature Image: Sandra (Dip ‘74) and Robert Pace are making the most of retirement by travelling the world.