The University of Alberta Faculty of Education has been a springboard for all kinds of amazing career trajectories and lifelong learning opportunities. We asked alumni to share stories of the varied paths their lives have taken after graduation.
Peter Melnychuk (’55 BEd, ’65 Ed (Dip), ’74 Ed (Dip)) — Over his 90-plus years, Peter witnessed many significant events and got to know many of the great and colourful individuals who contributed to the Edmonton and Alberta that we know today. His pride in family and commitment to community cannot be overstated. If anything, that is his legacy. He received degrees from the U of A in Pharmacy (1953) and Education, as well as Graduate Certificates in Library Science and Secondary Education. He worked in Edmonton’s public school system, including Strathcona and Harry Ainlay, for 37 years, teaching Grades 2 to 12. Concurrent with his teaching career he also practiced as a pharmacist. Teaching gave him the opportunity to coach a number of sports and his training also opened doors for community involvement, including as a community league president and as chair of a Lions Club Drug Awareness Program, among other programs focused on youth. Over the years he has had a number of former students thank him for encouraging their educational and other pursuits. That acknowledgement has been very gratifying for Peter. Following retirement in 1992, Peter and his wife travelled extensively. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, keeping abreast of world events, and following sports.
Mary (Chiswell) Lyseng (’58 BEd, ’78 MEd) — “At 17 my whole life changed when the U of A and the TL Teaching Program (1953) launched and inspired me into a creative, multi-career life. I taught at Mirror Landing and Boyle, took a BEd and MEd, and taught high school in Iowa and Edmonton. I was a broadcast and commercial writer at CFRN (now CTV) and worked at KSTT, Davenport, Iowa, and became supervisor of Alberta School Broadcasts and Media Production with the Alberta Curriculum Branch. I produced hundreds of television, radio, and film productions in cooperation with CKUA, CBC and NFB; represented Alberta on committees for the Council of Ministers of Education; directed over 30 national and international award-winning productions. Today, I still work helping newcomers through tutoring and mentorship. Thank you, U of A, for that arts course in voice and speech in the old Quonset Hut that let that shy person out.”
Albert Karvonen (’60 BEd, ’64 Ed (Dip), ’66 MEd) — Albert taught for two years in rural schools in Mission Hill and Northern Moose where he was the last teacher in each of them before students travelled by school bus to Smokey Lake and Warspite, where he continued to teach for four years. In 1957, Albert moved to Edmonton where he worked as teacher and principal for 18 years. During this time, Albert was recognized for his outstanding contribution to the Canadian National Collection of Nature Photographs. In 1975, Albert resigned as principal of Rundle School and formed a film company, Karvonen Films Ltd., where he produced more than 120 nature films for TV, which were shown in more than 100 countries around the world. Albert received the David Billington Award (1991) for lifetime achievement in the production of outstanding wildlife films, the Salute of Excellence Award (2000) from the City of Edmonton, and the Alberta Centennial Medal (2005) in recognition of outstanding service for the people and province of Alberta. In 2013, he was inducted to the Order of Athabasca University.
Jeff Pollitt (’73 BEd) — “After graduation, I was fortunate enough to secure a teaching job at Killarney Jr. High in Edmonton. I was hired as a Phys Ed ‘guy’ but was able to enjoy teaching language arts, social studies and health classes. Due to a series of knee surgeries (football!!), I took a year off and headed for Victoria. While ‘convalescing’ and subbing, I took a friend's advice and took out my real estate licence. What followed was a very successful 32-year career in the business. I retired in 2008 and moved to Hornby Island where I was secretary of the Arts Council and a member of a committee that designed and built the new medical clinic. I moved to Powell River in 2011 where I have volunteered at a senior's residence, helped with the Special Olympics, served as president of the Friends of the Library, and coached track at Brooks High School. I feel that my years at U of A and subsequent teaching experience were invaluable in me carrying out a successful journey so that I have enjoyed a very fulfilling retirement. My son and daughter are both teachers in Victoria and in December we moved back to Victoria to be near the kids and three wonderful grandsons under three years old.”
Lynne Paradis (’76 BEd, ’01 EdD) — “I chair the Board Learning, Research and Student Experience Committee and have just ended a term as a public member on the U of A Board of Governors and the U of A Senate. I am also the superintendent of Suzuki Charter Public School in Edmonton, an adjunct professor at the U of A in Education Graduate Studies. Prior to 2012, I was associate superintendent of curriculum and innovation for Red Deer Catholic Schools. Presently, I am leading the Literacy Alive Rotary International Global Grant project, which brings teams of educators and volunteers from Alberta to Belize to provide community development in schools and community in the areas of child and adult literacy.”
Lydia Yikon’a (’79 BEd) — “Although I was unable to attend the U of A commencement exercises in May 1979, the influence that my education had on my incredible journey in the field of education cannot be underestimated. Armed with my degree, I was posted to the Technical and Vocational Teachers’ College in Luanshya, Zambia, as a lecturer in Commercial Studies. In 1981, I resigned my position and emigrated to the United States of America. I was accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. I graduated in 1982. I taught various business courses in private and public schools and was an adjunct professor in colleges. I obtained both a principal and chief school administrator’s certificates in 2008. In 2016, I earned my doctorate in Education Leadership and Management Policy at Seton Hall University. After 15 years as an administrator and more than 45 years in education, I retired on July 1, 2019 to pursue other interests.”
Aaron Lehman (’83 MEd) — “I am enjoying retirement from Roland Michener Secondary School in Slave Lake, Alberta and doing some traveling. I have published nine books for children and others.”
Michelle De Abreu (’86 BEd) and Mark Babin (’83 BEd) — Michelle and husband Mark have been married for 35 years and have both recently retired from Edmonton Public Schools. They met at Faculté Saint-Jean in 1981 where Mark had come from Trois-Rivières, QC to study education and Michelle from small town Killam, AB to learn French. After a rewarding career teaching French and as a second language consultant, Michelle retired in 2018 and started her own education business, B-Lingual Consulting. Michelle’s career involved writing and leadership opportunities at local, provincial, national and international levels for which she received several awards. Mark retired in 2017 after a rich, award-winning educational career which spanned teaching in second-language classrooms, holding leadership positions, participating in international school exchanges and supporting field services at Campus Saint-Jean where he currently teaches part-time. Michelle and Mark have three daughters, all U of A alumni, who speak seven languages between them; two are second language teachers and the third is a social worker. Michelle and Mark live in Beaumont, AB where they volunteer, plan their next trips and impatiently await grandbabies.
Brigitta Goerres (’89 BEd) — “I have been involved in education for more than 30 years. I had the good fortune of starting my career as a classroom teacher with the Elk Island Catholic School District immediately after graduating from the University of Alberta. I continued my career working with the Ministry of Education as an exam manager in the Assessment Department and from there worked for a decade as the executive director of curriculum with an educational company developing study tools, both print and digital, for students, teachers and parents. Today, I am able to combine my experience and return to the classroom setting as an English and social studies teacher but to an audience of diversified learners with unique backgrounds and goals. I have founded a consulting business, Edu-Best Educational Resources, to collaborate and share ideas and methods to allow all learners the opportunity to reach their highest level of achievement and to inspire and motivate teachers.”
Ray Suchow (’90 BEd) — “I'm celebrating my 30th year of teaching secondary computer studies, religious studies, and language arts. I live in Beaumont, and work in Leduc at Christ the King High School. In addition to teaching, I've become an active writer, and have published more than 30 educational and religious articles in Canada and the U.S. Recently, I achieved a life dream with the publication of my first book, The Joy of Teaching!, which celebrates several amazing classroom moments from my educational journey.”
Karen Kathleen Sucie (’91 BEd) — “I started off my career in Red Deer teaching band. After three years, I moved back to Edmonton and have been working for EPSB for 25 years. Most of my career had been spent teaching music and English, but I now teach language arts only at McKernan School. I have been actively involved for years with the ATA on the convention board and other committees. Teaching is the best job there is!!”
Derek Collins (’94 BEd) — “It has been a journey with some surprise twists and moves. I began my career in education in Medicine Hat teaching junior high science and religion. The desire to be closer to family took me to Lloydminster to teach high school math and physics. Full-time permanent opportunity took me to Vermilion where I taught at St. Jerome's School for 13 years. I also took on the challenge of administration. After meeting some great kids with barriers I took on a job at the Vermilion Outreach School where I could help youth-at-risk and become a counsellor. I finished my Master’s in Educational Psychology School Counselling at the U of A in 2015. I recently took a new position to teach at Lakeland College in the Child and Youth Care program, helping others learn how to help our youth.”
Peggy Au (’94 BEd) – “Since graduation, I have been teaching chemistry/science at Ernest Manning, Winston Churchill, and Wetaskiwin Composite High Schools. Highlights of my teaching career include: student trips to China in 2008/2010; coaching, coordinating international festivals; developing the Chemistry of Pottery Project; and building assessments. My passions include creating and sharing multi-sensory strategies that promote student engagement and conceptual understanding. Since September 2012, I have been sharing my materials with more than 1,000 users on a collaborative space at playeducateinspire.pbworks.com. I have contributed to Chemistry 30 exam development, toured industries, and authored material at the provincial/textbook level since March 1997. Recently, I produced Periodic Puzzles by AuChemy, a hands-on way to learn patterns in the Periodic Table. I have fond memories of my 96-year old grandmother drinking her tea while playing the prototype game with my daughter. She was always willing to learn something new, even chemistry!”
Deanna Kent (’96 BEd) — “After graduation, I taught high school English in Grande Prairie, AB for almost 10 years, then worked for another decade for the Walt Disney Company—first as a narrative designer for a digital kids' game called Club Penguin, and then as a marketing writer for Disney Interactive Games. I recently co-created/wrote a three-book kids’ middle-grade series called Snazzy Cat Capers, about Ophelia von Hairball, the world’s number-one cat burglar, published by Macmillan U.S. and I'm working on a new graphic novel series called Glam Prix Racers, also with MacMillan, to be published Spring 2021. I live with my partner, our four boys, and an unruly (but very cute) dog in Kelowna, BC.”
Elizabeth Hanlis (’97 BEd, ’02 MEd) — After completing her BEd in 1997, Elizabeth Hanlis taught in Greece for two years. It was at that time that she was introduced to the use of technology for second language learning, so she returned to Canada and completed her master’s in Education with a focus on technology. In 2000, Ms. Hanlis started working in the private sector developing customized e-learning courses and training. She then moved to the University of Alberta as an e-learning specialist for the next six years. Ms. Hanlis developed expertise in faculty development, online learning, and blended learning. She also worked for the University of Alberta International office, where she developed innovative learning programs in a variety of countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Uganda, Kyrgyz Republic, and Kazakhstan. Thirteen years ago, Ms. Hanlis started her own company, eHanlis Inc., and continues to work with a variety of clients and sectors designing and developing innovative learning solutions.
Allan J. Deck (’00 BEd) — “Call it dumb luck, circumstance, or fate, but 19 years later, my never-give-up attitude has allowed me to flourish as a classroom teacher. Although I have only taught in Edmonton, teaching has taken me all over the world: the battlefields of Dieppe; beaches of D-Day; Vimy Ridge and Flanders Fields. Together, the students and I have wandered the streets of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin through literature. We have looked for ghosts in southern Alberta and stared out over the vast prairies wondering how all this happened. Whether they are academic or struggling, learning alongside students never grows tiresome. My teaching journey began as a guy nobody wanted to hire but I have ended up teaching thousands of students. I’m a high school teacher with an elementary teacher’s heart and I teach happily ever after.”
Shelley Watson (’08 PhD) — “After leaving Edmonton, I moved to Sudbury to become an assistant professor in the psychology department at Laurentian University. I have now been at Laurentian for 12 years and am currently both full professor and Associate Vice-President, Learning and Teaching. I continue to teach one course in the psychology department (Introduction to Psychology) and supervise graduate students, but I now oversee the faculty and student engagement activities of the university. On the student side, my portfolio includes academic advising and orientation activities, learning assistance, as well as counselling and accessibility services. On the faculty side, I oversee online programming, as well as pedagogical supports for faculty members. I have two beautiful children (Owen, 13; Rhyme 12), a big friendly dog named Treble, and a wonderful husband named Marshall. I am very happy and love living in northern Ontario. I keep in touch with several close friends from U of A.”
Ruby Smith Diaz (’10 BEd) — As an Afro-Latina person, Ruby’s experiences of marginalization in classrooms as a youth inspired her to pursue a career in education. Since graduating in 2010, Ruby has centred her work on exploring issues of inclusion and anti-oppression in classrooms, custody centres, non-profit organizations and beyond. In 2017, she started up her own business, Tierra Negra Arts, with a mission to deliver arts-based workshops that foster inclusion in communities. One year later, she founded Autonomy Fitness, inviting people of all sizes, genders and sexual orientations to learn the joy of movement. Alongside running these businesses, Ruby has recently designed an arts-based workshop series called Still Here: Black Histories and Futures in Canada in response to the absence of Black history in the BC Curriculum. She has been busy facilitating it in classrooms in the lower mainland. Her writings appear in Harsha Walia's book, Undoing Border Imperialism, and in the newly released book, Turn this World Inside Out. She is the director and editor of After Africville, which was featured at the MSVU Gallery in Halifax and the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Howard Gibbins (’11 BEd) — “Since graduating in 2011 I have been working at the University of Alberta in the Palaeontological Preparation Lab. While I never taught in a school setting outside of my practicums, I do get to interact with Grades 3 to 5 students frequently as they come for tours of our lab and our museum to see what we do, and to meet some real dinosaurs. For some reason we rarely see any other grades which I find odd as we are open to all, and palaeontology is part of the Grade 7 curriculum. I don’t regret not teaching in a school as I get to do something I really enjoy, and pass that on to the students that visit. Some of our newer special fossils are “Hannah” the Syracosaurus, “Baby” the baby Chasmosaur, and “Havoc,” the only full bodied fossil of Saurornitholestes langstoni in existence (the North American cousin of velociraptor).”
Erika Smith (’16 PhD) — “In my work as an assistant professor and faculty development consultant at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, I regularly collaborate with a wide range of faculty within and across disciplines to create meaningful and innovative educational experiences. When I teach faculty and students about social media in undergraduate education, including strategies for dealing with disinformation or “fake news,” I integrate my research with educational practice. My latest research project focuses on digital literacies and the use of social media in undergraduate learning, countering a common myth of today’s students as inherently tech-savvy “digital natives.” Across educational settings, whether we are teaching or learning, we all need to develop digital literacies to navigate the complex online world. It’s rewarding to help build a deeper understanding of timely topics that are critical for our society.”
Feature image: Jeff Pollitt (’73 BEd)