Message from the Dean — Fall 2018

Welcome to the Fall 2018 issue of illuminate. It’s been a busy and rewarding time in the Faculty of Education, with an undergraduate program review and renewal underway, the ongoing development of a draft strategic plan, celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), and continued teaching, research, projects and initiatives for the public good.

As part of our strategic planning and program review discussions, mental health and wellness has figured prominently and this is not surprising given its impact on individuals, families, communities and society. Whether emerging from socio-economic stresses, the experiences of being a member of a marginalized social group, or traumatic events (such as the Fort McMurray wildfires or the intergenerational trauma of residential schools), the effects of mental health issues are significant, including their potential to negatively impact students’ learning at all levels.

In 2012, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation published findings from a national survey that aimed to understand, among other things, teachers’ perspectives on student mental health. The overwhelming majority of teachers who participated in the study expressed a need for professional learning/development in recognizing and understanding mental health issues in students, enacting strategies in the classroom to support these students, and engaging and working with families in effective ways to support children and youth struggling with mental wellness.

More recently, I attended a mental health summit for educators in Montreal, hosted by McGill University, where our conversations affirmed the need for systems level wellness strategies and deeper understandings of mental health literacy.

As sites of teaching and research, Faculties of Education have a role to play in enhancing understandings of positive socio-emotional health, and the practices that contribute to mental health literacy and wellness. In this issue of illuminate you will read many stories about mental health literacy and wellness, including the work of Melissa Tremblay, assistant professor in Educational Psychology, whose research aims to not only raise awareness about the experiences of teen parents and the stigmas they face, but to empower them through sharing their stories through photovoice.

In her research, PhD candidate Nathalie Reid focusses on teachers experiences of and with trauma, how these experiences shape their daily lives within and outside of classrooms, and their effects on mental health and wellness.

Dilsad Ahmed, a Mitacs postdoctoral fellow, has recently joined the faculty and his work aims to build and support healthy educational communities.

In the Class Notes section, our alumni share the many ways they de-stress and practice self-care. I hope you will find some useful suggestions for practicing wellness in your own life and that you will be inspired by the amazing work of faculty, staff and students all committed to mental health literacy and wellness.