Alumni, Please join us for a Faculty of Education, University of Regina Alumni Gathering
Wednesday, October 9, 2019, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Innovation Place, Main Floor Rotunda
140 – 10 Research Drive, Regina, SK
Featuring internationally acclaimed author and journalist, Dr. Niigaan Sinclair
Congratulations to Brianne Urzada, BA/BEd’12 (with distinction), recipient of the Humanitarian and Community Service Award, University of Regina Alumni Crowning Achievement Awards.
At the age of 23, this art educator’s life was turned upside down when she received a diagnosis of stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Now cancer free, Brianne is using her experience and talents to improve the lives of others with cancer in the community. Brianne is the founder of Arthouse, a program that offers free art classes to cancer patients and survivors. The inspiration for the program was Brianne’s own experiences during cancer treatment and the power of the creative process, especially during a time when so much is out of one’s control. Arthouse is a place where the therapeutic and meditative qualities of art are shared. It offers patients opportunities to unwind and connect with people going through similar experiences. She has also hosted many fundraisers to showcase her art, including the incredibly successful 5 Stages Art Show which raised $63,000 for the Allan Blair Cancer Centre.
Anna Lucero was a teacher in the Philippines for 15 years before moving to Canada. After taking three University of Regina courses, and her TESOL language test, she was eligible for her Saskatchewan teaching certificate. She is now teaching elementary students in Regina and is also a lecturer for elementary math education at the University of Regina. Her work as a teacher in Canada has exceeded her expectations and hopes.
Not long before moving to Canada, Anna had landed her dream job of teaching at an exclusive school in the Philippines: “The position in the Philippines was like a birthright. You had to wait for someone to retire to get such a position.” Over the 15 years of teaching elementary school mathematics, Anna had worked to prove herself capable of such a position, taking master’s courses and honing her craft, and in time, her dream became reality.
A devoted mother to two children and wife to Paulo, Anna had everything she could hope for. But it wasn’t long before their family was faced with a big decision: Paulo had been offered a job in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. After much discussion and weighing of pros and cons, they finally decided to immigrate to Canada.
An optimistic, energetic person, Anna thought she would be able continue her teaching career in Canada. But teaching started to seem like a far-off dream when they were told by others that it was not possible for her to teach here. Anna started to lose hope: “My world collapsed. Teaching is the job I’m trained for. Now I was being told I can’t teach!” Anna, in an attempt to salvage her self-worth, took a job at a fast food restaurant. But this did not prove satisfying for her. She says, “Working there, I thought, this job is not for me. Every night I was in tears. This was not what I dreamt of.”
However, with Paulo’s encouragement and support, Anna organized her credentials, transcripts, and papers and submitted them to teaching services. When they heard back about what would be required, Paulo suggested, “Why don’t you go back to school?” So Anna applied, and was accepted to the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Paulo’s parents then came to visit from the Philippines so they could look after their children while Anna upgraded her education.
The next step was to meet with Nicole Glas in the Student Services Centre, whom Anna found, “very supportive. She arranged everything so it worked perfectly.” Anna needed to take three courses to become certified to teach in Saskatchewan.
At first, Anna wondered why she needed any more classes because she had already finished 30 units of an MA in math education in the Philippines. When she inquired, she was informed that the courses were necessary to learn the Saskatchewan curriculum. That made sense, so Anna finished her three education classes in reading, physical education, and science. All that was left was the TESOL English test.
By that time, Anna was a mother of three (a surprise new baby), and working as an assistant with a research unit in the Faculty of Education. “I was actually happy working in the Unit,” she says. “I was reconsidering being a teacher because I enjoyed working at the University. But it came to a point that the work was becoming less challenging, and I realized I needed to be in the classroom.” Anna began teaching as a sessional in math education courses at the University, and with the support and gentle pushes of colleagues such as Michael Tymchak, Julie Machnaik, and Vi Maeers, she decided to take the next step: she signed up to take the TESOL test on a Friday, took the test on Saturday, and passed. Ordinarily there is at least a week to study before taking the test, and many often have to retake it, so this was an extraordinary feat! Anna says, “It made a difference that I wasn’t at home; I was working, so I was listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English daily, which helped a lot.”
Anna then applied to the Regina Catholic School Division and was hired for a split position at St. Dominic Savio. She is now in her fourth year of teaching with Regina Catholic Schools. Teaching is going well for Anna. She enjoys teaching in Canada even more than the exclusive dream job in the Philippines. Why? “All aspects are better,” says Anna. “In Canada I am treated as a professional. People acknowledge you for what you are doing. People are not squashing you down; they are pushing you up. I feel valued. I can see the different kinds of people here, and I can see that in our environment, I am treated equally. I am surrounded by people who are respectful. Even though I loved the job in the Philippines, here the people I am working with are absolutely amazing. Financially, it is rewarding, too. At the exclusive school I was above average income. Here my years of teaching are acknowledged in my salary.”
Still, even with this glowing report, there are still difficulties. Anna says, “Teaching students in a different country, that is a struggle. It’s the communication piece—I don’t speak as fluent as other teachers.” Anna explains that the way she pronounces words is due to being taught English by a Filipino, who learned from another Filipino. Anna feels fortunate to have had a teacher coach who assisted her when she started teaching in Regina. “They [the administration] knew I was not speaking in my first language and that I have to teach English. So, a teacher coach was given to me for a few months to teach me different strategies for teaching English.” The support she receives from colleagues gives Anna the sense that school is an extended family. “I’m not here just to teach, to do a job. No, this is like another family!”
Anna is now teaching at St. Peter School, which she says is “a good fit for me.” The school has a diverse school population with about 55% of students from countries other than Canada, and many of these students are from the Philippines. Not only is Anna helping newcomer families with information about how their children can be successful at school and in the community, she is working to assist other internationally educated teachers (IETs) to become certified in Canada. Anna, who as one of the few IETs that are teaching in Regina, has had many other IETs reach out to her, wondering how to go about becoming qualified to teach in Canada. So, she decided to form a supportive group to assist these teachers. Anna is also involved with a University of Regina research project with Dr. Xia Ji and Julie Machnaik exploring a bridging program for IETs in Saskatchewan. And she has led two Filipino information sessions at the University.
Anna says, “I salute all those who were teachers back in their home countries, but who are not teaching here. If you ask them what they are doing, they are often caretakers or doing something other than teaching. They have degrees; they have education degrees! How come they aren’t teaching? Is it because they don’t know how to start? Maybe they were discouraged by other people and they just believed those people. They have to try to figure out what they want to do. The thing you should know is what you want to do in your life. For me, my passion is teaching.” says Anna.
Thinking back on her experience, Anna advises IETs currently hoping to teach in Canada: “You have to hold on; you have to believe that even though others are turning you down, you can teach here, if you have the drive and passion to continue.” Knowing that teaching was her passion, that teaching was what she really wanted to do, helped Anna find her pathway to success.”
Interview with Katherine LeBlanc (B.Ed. ’90)
Principal in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik
In January 2019, and in her 10th year of being a principal, Alumna Katherine LeBlanc was recognized as one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals by the Learning Partnership. LeBlanc grew up in Peebles, SK, went to school in Windthorst, and spent most of her career working with Horizon and Good Spirit school divisions. She and her RCMP husband “jumped at” an opportunity that would be “checked off their bucket list of to-do’s” before retirement, to go north to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, where for the past two years, LeBlanc has served as principal at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI), Kivalliq School Operations. The following is an interview with LeBlanc. The Learning Partnership states that LeBlanc in a short time has “transformed her school into a reflective, responsive to the community, safe, caring and inviting place to learn.”
Where you surprised when you found out you had won this award?
Oh yes. I knew I was nominated, but it never occurred to me that I would make the top 30. I feel there are so many deserving leaders in schools and “it is nice to just be nominated” I was overwhelmed. I shed a few happy tears and then for the next few weeks it drove me crazy not to be able to tell anyone until the announcement was officially made.
What does a day in your life as a principal in the North look like? I get to work very early. Usually I am short staffed and spend a lot of time trying to find subs. Often I can’t find them, so I spend time re-arranging schedules or my VP and I take turns going into the classes and ensuring instruction happens. If I don’t have to teach, we make sure there are snacks for our children – we have some very hungry youth. I always go say “hello” to my Elders. We have two Elders: One works helping our students make traditional tools, building igloos when the snow is just right, and helping with our land trips. Our second Elder teaches traditional sewing, skin prepping, and cooking with our students. She is also allowing us to digitally record her as we are trying to make sure we don’t lose her stories.
I try to go into every class in my school at least once a day. Sometimes it is a short visit; other times, I am doing my walk through or just helping students. I always pop into our guidance area a few times a day as this is where some of our older students need someone to talk to. Then there is the normal everyday things like checking attendance, administrative paper work, meetings, etc.
How does working in the North compare and contrast with your previous experience in the South?
I would say some of the biggest differences that I have faced are in the courses we offer. We teach students how to skin a seal and prepare it to make traditional clothing and food. We spend a full day out on the land learning how to build an igloo – for a school credit. We even take overnight land trips on the tundra in the winter! Learning about the cultural classes has been a very unique and rewarding experience. Of course, we have the similar ones, too like math, science, English etc.
How is it you’ve come to stand out in your field in such a short time?
My first goal when I got to MUI was to ensure that the students had a safe place to be. We worked hard to make sure our students felt involved in their education. One young man spoke to me about his connection with the culture and how important land trips were to him and how it has made a difference in his education. Doing my doctorate, I understood the need to work to embed culture into all we do at MUI, but hearing it from this young man made me want to help students also feel that they too were part of sustaining culture. I felt it may be a way to empower them – thus we started doing some video stories about culture.
We also shared the Inuit culture with schools in Saskatchewan. We connected via ConnectEd North into a school in Saskatchewan where my Grade 12s showcased their culture and highlighted the challenges they face up North like housing, food costs, isolation while also sharing hunting stories and cultural stories. For some of my students, they have never been out of Rankin Inlet and for others, they have never been out of the North. It was important for me to have them share their beautiful culture.
I do feel a little overwhelmed by the whole award. Honoured, but I do feel there are many principals in this nation that are more deserving. I have a great staff, students and community who are willing to work hard to meet our students’ needs and willing to work with me to ensure our students have a safe, culturally responsive environment
What obstacles or challenges have you encountered in creating the transformation at MUI? How have you overcome these challenges?
I think the biggest obstacle for me was learning about a new culture. I love the Inuit people. They have been so welcoming to me. However, my biggest concern has been my lack of knowledge about their culture. I try to engage myself with community activities, ensure Elders feel welcome in the school and try to incorporate as much traditional knowledge that I can. This means I have to rely on Elders and experts to share their knowledge not only with the students but with myself and my teachers. It can be a challenge getting some of the Elders in for many reasons. We have two that come each day and work in our traditional tools and in foods and sewing. There are many Elders in our community that can share stories but may not be able to come for various reasons, so we have tried to make them more comfortable by having teas or social events for them.
I also have attendance issues. For various reasons, there are students who do not attend. This was very unfamiliar to me. My goal was to get them in the building and make them feel welcome. If students feel part of the learning, then maybe they will stay.
I also have mental health challenges that face many of my students. We had a suicide in our community last year. I had never even met the youth, but I was devastated. I knew we needed to be resilient but also empower students to find ways to overcome these obstacles. We arranged a huge Red Cross conference for students. This focused on healthy relationships, dealing with grief, bullying, empowering themselves, etc.
Because there was an attempt for culture to be taken away during colonization, I feel it is my responsibility as a leader to try to show how important the Inuit culture is. We had Dark Spark come up and do videos and songs with our Grades 7 and 8 students. They got to write their own songs that showed the beauty of the Inuit, their traditions etc. Please check them out online and you can actually see the work my students did. Absolutely amazing!
So I guess, I am trying to overcome the obstacles by making sure I put as much culture back into the school as I can.
What is your vision for your work? What experiences informed/motivated your administrative vision?
I think my ultimate goal for my students is that they can be part of preserving our Elders’ stories and traditions. When Elders visit our classroom, they have so much knowledge that they can share. But unfortunately, these Elders will not be here forever, so it is our vision to ensure that these stories and traditions are preserved. We are slowly trying to capture their words and their language digitally. I wish it could be done faster, but to do this justice, we need to be patient.
I think my motivation comes from some of my research about mental health and loss of culture. Nunavut experiences some of the highest mental health issues in all of Canada. If we as a school can do our part to help sustain culture, then quite possibly we are helping our students feel included.
I also am fortunate to work with singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark. She has been an inspiration to me. Through her Arctic Rose foundation, she has put art therapy into our school as a means of battling mental health issues as well. Students come every day after school to do traditional art with sometimes a modern twist to it. Students have a safe space to be after school, learn a bit more about their culture and where they come from, what the story of their name is and build friendships.
What experiences have formed the passion behind your work?
Building a safe learning culture is very important to me. Students need to feel that they belong, and they are in a place where the adults in the building care about them as a whole. Colonialization is not in the distant history for the Inuit. I believe in Reconciliation and I need to do my part in this.
I also have students who are experiencing intergenerational trauma. This devastates me and each week I see evidence of the trauma some of my students are facing. Again, research states that the disconnect with culture has an impact on students and their learning. My vision is quite simply that students feel connected with their culture and education ensure that this can happen.
One reason you were recognized with this award is because of your understanding of the importance of sustaining cultural connections and pride in student and family heritage and traditions. Your focus includes the use of digital literacies and support of the Inuit language. Can you explain what you are doing and how you are using digital literacies as a way to embed culture?
We are slowly doing this. In our Inuktitut class, students are trying to video Elders and then translate their story. Our communication class has tried to highlight Inuit traditions like sewing in video. When we want to embed culture, we are trying to show connections in each of our classes with culture. For example, in science, when we talk about global warming, we look at how it specifically effects the Inuit, the caribou, etc. In shop we look at traditional tools and learn how to build them and how to use them. We try hard to incorporate Inuktitut in all of our students’ presentations. We are lucky to have two Inuktitut teachers and a school community counsellor who will help students and teachers with this. Our teachers try to find a way to embed the Inuit culture into their teachings to make it more relevant.
Do you have any mentors at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina?
I do. I was lucky to go to university with Dr. Val Mulholland. I think of her as a friend and a mentor. She is amazing at what she does and has great insight of what education should look like. She encouraged me to pursue more education than my B.Ed. I truly admired Jerry Orban. When I was an administrator in Saskatchewan, he was someone who I did contact during internship programs. He always had the time to talk and help. His passion for the internship program made me want to be more involved. I also love following Dr. Couros on Twitter. I really like the messages he sends. I also like how he engages his students via social media.
“I don’t teach in a box, and I want students to take risks, too. I want my kids to become healthy risk takers.”
How does one go from a struggling student in math and sciences to an award winning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) teacher? For Carla Cooper it took finding her way past failures and obstacles and learning to teach outside of the box.
In May, Carla Cooper (BEd ’08), a teacher at Lumsden High School and graduate student doing her Master’s in Education at the University of Regina, was informed that she was a recipient of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM.
Cooper, who grew up in Moose Jaw, went back to school for a semester after graduating from high school to improve her marks. “I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences but I struggled in the sciences and math, quite badly. Fifties weren’t going to be good enough for me, so I spent a semester at Vanier, thinking a change might help. It was a huge help.” The change, or possibly a new maturity, Carla speculates, gave her success at Vanier, and from there, she went to Red Deer College to become a geneticist. However, life got in the way and before she finished, Cooper left college, moved home, got married, and began her family.
Not long after, Carla started in a new career direction: She had always been drawn to teaching. “I was that kid who had a chalkboard in my bedroom. I was always pretending, playing school. I love being in school: the atmosphere, being around the staff and students, the smell of the school; it’s weird. I love the sounds, the feel, the buzz.” Cooper was working as an Educational Assistant when Dr. Sandy Kitz observed her teaching math. Carla says, “Afterwards she pulled me into her office. I thought I was in a lot of trouble, but Dr. Kitz said, ‘What are you doing here? You need to go back to school. You need to spread your wings and fly.’ That was the push,” says Cooper. The next step in 2001, was to enroll part-time in Science, while waiting for admission to the Faculty Education at the University of Regina. Cooper took the required sciences for the Science Education program and in 2004, she was accepted to the Education program, in which she chose a double major in biology and chemistry, and moved to full-time studies.
By that time she was a busy single mom, and her memorable moment is not a very positive one: “It was the first year I was accepted into the Faculty of Education, and my first time back at University on a daily basis, and I got my first Biology mark back…it was horrible. I had really high expectations of myself but I realized that just because you’re mature, doesn’t mean you are going to succeed.” But Cooper pushed past this initial failure. From there, she says, “I improved and improved and improved and I figured out how to be a mom and a student.”
Recalling this experience led Cooper to a more positive story of her undergrad experience in her third year, when she found the science ed group “very accommodating.” At the time, Carla was feeling concerned because her youngest son was at home recovering from surgery, and a big project presentation was due. Her instructor, John MacDonald, had said, “Just bring him in.” Carla recalled, “My son just had his appendix out, but he said ‘bring him in’ and so I brought him in, and John had a lab set up with a whole bunch of laser activities for my son to do. John kept an eye on him while I did my presentation. Nobody in my class thought ‘there she is bringing her kid in.’ It was the opposite…I was celebrated for going back to school.”
Learning from both of Cooper’s memorable experiences can be seen in her current teaching philosophy. Cooper says, “I’ve had students coming back to school with babies; it’s just, like, babies cry…” So Carla recalls that on one lecture day, she told the student mother to let her hold the baby, and she says, “I just rocked that baby and taught and said, ‘no mom, you do your thing. Let me just hold him.'” Her role model, she says, is John MacDonald. “He is number one! I want to be John,” says Carla. What makes John special is, Carla says, is “his excitement, and his belief that you can do this. If you can’t figure it out this way, let’s find another way. He is so accepting of everybody,” says Cooper. “I can call him up for anything…I never want to lose the connection.”
Since her time as an undergrad student, Carla has had many other experiences that have contributed to her success as a teacher. Working for a time as Acting Vice Principal, gave Carla the opportunity to develop an appreciation for the administrative side of education. Though she likes to teach, as she says, “outside of the box,” she also respects the administrative process. “Having admin experience has made me a better teacher. I understand the Division’s vision. I try to keep up on what’s been changing with the Division. I want to abide by my Division’s philosophies. I don’t want to step outside their vision. They allow me to expand the bubble a lot.”
Carla also attributes the experience of working on the writing team for the Health Science 20 curriculum with her new understanding of teaching outside of the box. Through this process, she realized, “We don’t have to teach a prescribed curriculum. We have to teach the outcomes, but the indicators can be taught in the way that we like them, or grouped together with indicators from other units, or you can make up your own.”
For Cooper this understanding has unleashed her creativity, which she realizes through the incorporation of arts-based projects. For instance, she decided to model her human anatomy unit after Grey’s Anatomy. Students are placed in resident groups, and each group is assigned a fictional celebrity patient, those Cooper has assessed as being a match with certain types of health issues, such as Will Smith whom students will diagnose and treat for sickle cell anemia. Using the Diagnosis for Classroom Success program booklet, which is a book of labs to be worked through in a week or two, students “delve deeply,” working through the book over four months. Cooper says, “We weren’t learning about the human body for the next few weeks, we learned about a patient, learning through the eyes of a patient.”
Cooper allowed for the ethical and diagnostic conversations that developed, pushing the students to deeper learning. She says, “At that point I didn’t know what deeper learning was, but the deeper questions students were asking, we just ran with.”
Because this wasn’t a Grade 12 course, the final assessment was not a test. Instead, students were asked, “Did their patient live or die? How did they treat? Was their treatment ethical? Did they do invasive or non-invasive? What secretions did they evaluate, and why? What was the chemistry breakdown of that? And, how did the physics work for the cat scan? They had to do a peer review and self-review.” Carla created a rubric to go with the project and students marked themselves on the rubric. “These simulations have helped students either enter a science-oriented career, or decide against it. It has also helped prepare them for their post-secondary classes,” says Carla.
When she first received the news in May that she was a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching STEM, Carla wasn’t sure if the letter was for real. She sent it to her husband, asking, “Am I reading this right?” When she finally processed what was happening, she felt humbled and thought, “What makes me different? I am no different than any other teacher. But I’m just realizing that I do things a bit different.” Carla is excited, by the new connections and opportunities to pass on her curricular understandings to others, including preservice teachers, generated by this recognition.
When asked what excellence in teaching looks like, Cooper says, “I don’t even know if I am excellent, yet. I feel like I’ve done excellent teaching when I’ve excited students by allowing them to be who they are. We have student-directed study and I don’t put any constraints on that. I don’t teach in a box, and I want students I take risks, too. I want my kids to become healthy risk takers. If something flops, it flops. I’ve adopted the phrase fail forward. We are F-squareds in C-squared rooms.” As Carla continues to envision what teaching outside of the box looks like, she finds her focus moving towards a new kind of box: a sandbox. She says, “My whole focus is practicing real world science and getting kids back in the sandbox. At recess the kids are playing, communicating, problem solving, building, and doing the six big Cs in education. Why are we not doing that? I take them to the playground, to the teeter-totter, if there is one. So in the last few years, I’ve been working to bring the students back to a metaphoric sandbox, but I hope to have a real sandbox in the classroom as well.”
Congratulations to the following extraordinary Faculty of Education Alumni/Alumnae:
Dr. Allan Bonner BEAD ’78 (Business and Language Arts)
Distinguished Professional Achievement Award
As a journalist, educator, political advisor, mentor, author, and lifelong learner, Allan Bonner has tackled some of the most controversial and public issues of our time. Allan began as a journalist locally and then nationally in Canada and the US, and now holds graduate degrees in political science, education, business administration, law and urban planning.
Allan has worked with peacekeepers, international diplomats, oil, gas and chemical companies, and other blue chip clients on five continents. He is the author of eight books on communication, leadership, urban
planning, and crisis management.
Amy (Mickleborough) Moroz BEd’98 and Andrea (Gottselig) Ward BEd’00, MEd’10
Dr. Robert and Norma Ferguson Award for Outstanding Service
Amy (Mickleborough) Moroz and Andrea (Gottselig) Ward are best known as award-winning athletes in the U of R Cougar Womens’ Basketball program. Both graduated with education degrees and now work in Regina schools as teachers and coaches – lending their skills to the next generation of young basketball players.
In March 2018, they applied their collective energy and leadership skills to host of the U Sports Women’s Basketball Championship at the University of Regina. Together with an ensemble of Cougar and University
of Regina alumni, they delivered events and hospitality to eight teams from across Canada. The 2018 Cougar Women’s Basketball team captured the bronze and the championship weekend was among the most successful U Sports tournaments in the University of Regina’s history.
Sometimes it’s the simple act of asking a question that can get a girl into trouble.
Ituna, 165 km north of Regina, is home to a small but mighty extra-curricular club for grades 4-6 students who identify as female. Girl Power, the creation of Ituna School principal and University of Regina alumna Brittany Frick, meets several times a year to discuss empowerment and opportunities for girls.
When ten Girl Power members, along with Frick and a parent chaperone, joined five women in University leadership around a boardroom table at the U of R on June 11, the girls came armed with a series of questions and stories of their own.
“I was made fun of when I asked, ‘Do cats run faster than dogs?’” said one of the grade 4 participants. “I just really wanted to know.”
Dr. Gina Grandy, Associate Dean Research and Graduate Studies and Incoming Dean of Business Administration, knows well the power of a question.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she shared with the girls. “Your belly may turn over, but don’t be afraid to ask even if it doesn’t come out just right. Questioning, and mistakes, are what help us learn.”
Grandy is the RBC Women in Leadership Scholar and the roundtable event was supported by the RBC Women Executive in Residence, the Hill and Levene Schools of Business, and Ituna School.
Rae Staseson, Dean of Media, Art, and Performance, agreed. “Be curious, open, talk about things that matter to you, and ask questions!”
“I encourage each of you to talk to your teacher or someone you know who has gone to university. Ask them their story and what you need to do and how to do it,” shared Dr. Andrea Sterzuk, Acting Dean of Education.
Dr. Judy White, Dean of Social Work, shared that it was only later in life that she has found out about other career opportunities. “As a girl, I never knew that marine biology, for example, existed.” She encouraged the girls to take the time to be curious, travel, and consider every possibility before making their career choices.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, asked for a show of hands of how many of the girls were surprised that she was the president of a university.
As several hands went up, she asked why.
“Because you’re not a boy,” one student was quick to respond.
Timmons came from a strict East Coast family where, she said, roles were defined by gender early on.
“Our chores, as girls, were to do the dishes and clean the house. And we were told to be ‘nice girls,” she said. “Listen to how many times girls are told to be ‘nice.’ Boys are not.”
Heads nodded in agreement as Staseson stated, “That’s true. Caring, compassion, and empathy tend to be thought of as feminine traits. We are judged for how well we do those things and for how we look and even how we age; our male counterparts do not usually receive the same judgment.”
“I was bullied – they called me fat and lazy,” says a grade six student responding to a question by President Timmons about if the students had experienced bullying.
Unfortunately, many of the girls and women around the table were able to recall times when they had been bullied.
“Ask the why question,” another student offered. “That’s what we’re taught. Ask why the person is bullying you and let someone in authority know what’s going on.”
“Hang around people who lift you up, friends that make you feel good about who you are,” advised President Timmons. “And always look for opportunities and take them as they come your way.”
After the roundtable, Frick shared that, “The importance of a club like Girl Power is about helping students to realize that there are no limitations on their success. That being a girl is in no way a limitation. The roundtable proved that and was a great way for the club to end the year.”
Before heading home, Girl Power members were treated to lunch in the Riddell Centre and a tour of the University with another U of R graduate, Erica Chan, a member of the U of R Recruitment Services team.
On Friday, March 2, a make-shift Theatre in the Round in the Faculty of Education drama room set the stage for Globe Theatre Actors Daniel Fong, Angela Kemp, David Light, and Kaitlyn Semple as well as Craig Salkeld, the Performance Pianist, to perform two short excerpts from Us, which is currently being performed at the Globe Theatre Main Stage.
“Us is a heartwarming, brand new musical that explores what happens when LGBTQ+ youth come together in a group of peers at a summer camp. Created by award-winning playwright and radio producer Kelley Jo Burke and internationally renowned singer-songwriter-pianist Jeffery Straker, Us is an uplifting play about “coming in”—finding acceptance within yourself and in your community.” (Globe Theatre)
Arts Ed students were privileged to be part of this up-close performance and discussion as part of their PLACE experience. Playwright and alumna Kelley Jo Burke talked about her experience at Camp fYrefly, where she listened to LGBTQ+ youth and counsellors talk about their experiences of coming together at summer camp, the research she drew on in writing the script for this fictional play. Other members of the creative team, such as Director and Musical Director Valerie Ann Pearson and Set and Costume Designer Wes D. Pearce, discussed the thought behind their areas of development for the musical.
A panel presentation followed the performance moderated by Dr. Kathryn Ricketts. Panel participants discussed the importance of the play (and summer camp) for youth who have identified as LGBTQ+, who are needing to find an Us to which they belong, and addressed current issues around diversity and inclusion.
Naomi Fortier-Fréçon and Leia Laing are still relatively early in their teaching careers but they have already left an important legacy.
This past November, Fortier-Fréçon and Laing, both graduates of the U of R, received the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. Governor-General Julie Payette, presented the award at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
They were recognized for co-founding the Treaty4Project in 2014 while they were teachers at Regina’s Campbell Collegiate High School.
Fortier-Freçon, while still teaching, is a U of R student once again, working on her PhD.
“When we accepted this honour we were very happy to see that our project was recognized at a national level,” says Fortier-Fréçon. “A lot of work and effort was put into this project and it was very exciting to see how this education project has evolved since it began in 2014.”
The idea for the project came when Laing and Fortier-Fréçon concluded that students were not receiving the treaty education required.
So they started working on a program.
“First, the inspiration was to find a way to ‘think outside the box’ and find a creative way to teach about treaty education,” says Laing. “We were troubled by the reality that our students seemed to know very little about treaty education and when they knew something we noticed that they weren’t necessarily applying their knowledge in their lives. Therefore, they seemed to know the “right answer” on paper, but unfortunately that reality was not reflected in their actions or relationship with their friends and the community around them.”
The teachers started developing their idea. They searched for input. They approached Calvin Racette who was the Indigenous Education Coordinator with Regina Public Schools.
Racette supported the project from the beginning and suggested the teachers include Noel Starblankett, Knowledge Keeper at the University of Regina and Sandra Bellegarde, Indigenous Education Consultant with Regina Public Schools.
“Noel Starblanket was essential in the creation of this educational project,” says Fortier-Fréçon. “His presence allowed us to learn in a personal way about the importance of treaties. He also guided us regarding the respect of Indigenous protocols and offered support to our students.”
More people came onboard and the project “quickly snowballed into a group of inspired, passionate members who became the founding committee. Together we started to imagine the Treaty4Project,”says Fortier-Fréçon.
The principal aim of the project is for student to understand their generation’s relationship with Treaty 4 in Saskatchewan. The project provides students with an opportunity to engage with community members including elders, Indigenous artists, university professors, activists, and education students.
Laing had the idea to use art to help the students reflect about the meaning of treaties in a creative context. The result was a major mural project with Cri-Métis artist Ray Keighley at Regina’s Scott Collegiate in 2015.
A second mural created in 2017 and created with Cri-Ojibway artist Lloyd Dubois is on display at the library at École Elsie Mironuck Community School in Regina.
The Treaty4Project founding committee worked on organizing a youth conference to deepen the knowledge previously taught in the classroom and allow members of the community to share their stories with the students. Elders were regularly brought into classes.
More than 200 students from four high schools took part in the first conference in 2015. Two more conferences followed and now a fourth one is scheduled for 2018.
“The Treaty4Project has allowed us to have the opportunity to work in collaboration and build relationships among students, teachers and institutions and this is what we believe to be the true meaning of reconciliation,” says Fortier-Fréçon.
Says Laing: “Using personal stories from guest speakers, our students are invited to unlearn the official narrative and open their heart to other realities that they might not be aware of. Understanding these stories helped our students access a more inclusive history narrative and acknowledge that they have the privilege of living here because in the past a treaty was signed.”
Leia Laing is now teaching Grade 6 at École Monseigneur de Laval. She earned her Bachelor of Education at the U of R in 2008.
Naomi Fortier-Fréçon teaches French Immersion at École Elsie Mironuck Community School in Regina. She earned her Bachelor of Education at the U of R in 2007 and her Master of History at Université de Sherbooke in 2010. She is currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Education working under the supervision of Dr. Fadila Boutouchent.
Laing and Fortier-Fréçon say this project was made possible thanks to the support from:
Saskatchewan Arts Board
First Nations University of Canada
Faculty of Education (U of R)
The McDowell Foundation
Regina public schools
Founding Committee Members:
Dr. Angelina Weenie
Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly from First Nations University of Canada
Artists Ray Keighley and Lloyd Dubois.
The teaching team since 2015 are all U of R Education alumni:
Heather Findlay – Martin Collegiate
Tamara Ryba – Scott Collegiate
Tana Mitchell – Balfour Collegiate
Tiffany Agopsowicz – Martin Collegiate
Janine Taylor and Jessica Moser – Sheldon Williams
Elizabeth Therrien – Campbell Collegiate
Tracey Ellis – FW Johnson High School.
Other Presenters and Supporters:
Dr. Shauneen Pete (former Indigenous Lead/U of R)
Dr. Anna-Leah King (Faculty of Education)
Dr. Jennifer Tupper (Former Dean of the Faculty of Education)
Dr. James Daschuk, (U of R)
Rap singer Brad Bellegarde (aka InfoRed)
Cadmus Delorme (Chief of the Cowessess First Nation)
Dr. Mike Cappello (Education Faculty) and many more presenters from 2015 to the present day.
University of Regina feature story by Costa Maragos
*Naomi Fortier-Fréçon et Leia Laing
Lauréates du Prix d’histoire du Gouverneur général pour l’excellence en enseignement 2017
Naomi Fortier-Fréçon and Leia Laing
Recipients of the 2017 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching
Projet multi-écoles, Regina (Saskatchewan)
Le Treaty4Project a principalement pour but d’aider les élèves à comprendre les liens qui relient leur génération au Traité 4 en Saskatchewan, aujourd’hui et dans les années à venir. Grâce à la participation d’aînés, d’artistes autochtones, de professeurs d’université, d’activistes et d’étudiants en éducation, le projet donne aux élèves l’occasion d’échanger avec des membres de la communauté et d’acquérir les connaissances fondamentales dont ils ont besoin pour s’attaquer à des dossiers très complexes. Le projet a été mis sur pied en 2015 avec le soutien du Saskatchewan Arts Board et comporte maintenant deux composantes. La première est une conférence pour les élèves du secondaire à l’Université des Premières Nations du Canada où l’on propose aux participants des ateliers, des discussions de groupe et des réflexions sur l’histoire du traité et l’éducation. En 2016 s’est ajoutée une nouvelle composante faisant appel aux élèves du niveau élémentaire; ces derniers ont alors collaboré avec un artiste local à un projet visant à explorer le concept de réconciliation. Mme Fortier-Fréçon et Mme Laing sont des enseignantes d’histoire du Canada enthousiastes et dévouées et le Treaty4Project est un bon exemple de la façon dont les enseignants peuvent intégrer des gestes de réconciliation concrets dans leur salle de classe.
Multi-school project, Regina (Saskatchewan)
The principal aim of the Treaty4Project is for students to understand their generation’s relationship with Treaty 4 in Saskatchewan, both today and in the future. Through the participation of elders, Indigenous artists, university professors, activists, and education students, the project provides students with a chance to engage with community members and gain the fundamental knowledge they need to tackle very complex issues. The project was first implemented in 2015 with the support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and now has two main components. The first is a youth conference for high school students at the First Nations University of Canada, which features workshops, group discussions, and reflections on treaty history and education. As a new component in 2016, elementary students collaborate with a local artist on a project that explores the concept of reconciliation. Ms. Fortier-Fréçon and Ms. Laing are enthusiastic and dedicated to teaching Canadian history and the Treaty4Project serves as an example of how educators can incorporate meaningful acts of reconciliation in their classroom.
Naomi Fortier-Fréçon is a graduate of the Bac program and currently a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education (Supervisor: Fadila Boutouchent). Leia Laing is a graduate of the Bac program. Both are French immersion teachers at Campbell Collegiate in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Naomi and Leia will be presented with the Governor General’s History Award at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, ON, on November 22, 2017.