By James Oloo, Research Coordinator, Gabriel Dumont Institute
It seems like yesterday when 25 individuals gathered together at Gabriel Dumont Institute in Prince Albert to start their first day of a two-year Community-based Master of Education class. Exactly two years later, the same individuals gathered at Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club to celebrate the completion of their studies.
Congratulations to our third graduating cohort, the Class of 2019, which includes Joanne Berg; Jennifer Brown; Caitlin Crawford- Morley; Suzanne DePeel; Heather Carter; Darcie Eschyschyn; Amanda L. Fisher; Joel Hamilton; Tristan Hayunga; Elisa Hryniuk; Leanne Jordan; Joseph Kaufhold; Kari Korczak; Lazar Lafleur; Rebecca Lafond; Jodi Lentendre; Tracy Mckay; Bonnie Novotny; Rayanne Patterson; Kristin Pawliw; Christine Quennelle; Angela K. J. Rancourt; Shauna St. Amand; Robyn Stanford; and Megan Walsh.
To celebrate their achievements, Gabriel Dumont Institute held a reception for the graduates and their loved ones on July 25, 2019, where we had a number of faculty and staff who have been integral to the program’s development express their congratulations to the graduates.
Almost all the graduates are teachers at schools in the Prince Albert Area. Many knew each other or had common friends before they came to Gabriel Dumont Institute. When asked what they liked about the program, which is offered by Gabriel Dumont Institute in partnership with the University of Regina, many of the graduates mentioned “smaller classes” and the “cohort system,” in which the whole class start the program together and graduate together as a group. One said, “We have been a family for the past two years. I have learned a lot from my classmates. Even after graduation, we will maintain a strong professional learning network.”
Suzanne DePeel described the Master of Education program as “Amazing!” Caitlin Crawford-Morley pointed out that because the program is offered at an area with a big Indigenous population, “it has provided me with a culturally responsive pedagogy that not only benefits me, but will also enable my students to be successful.”
Megan Walsh liked the fact that the program is offered locally in Prince Albert thus expanding access for students who are working as they don’t have to travel or leave work to enroll in the program. Megan asserted,
“The program used instructional scaffolding technique which involved breaking down learning objectives for each class into manageable steps, and providing adequate support throughout the programs.”
The program employs a cohort-based system which enables students, usually bachelor of education degree holders who are working as teachers, to take same classes together. The focus in cohorts allows for students to think independently and engage in innovative learning while the continuity it presents could result in more effective supports and success for students. The Class of 2019 included a cohort of 25 students who started the program in the summer of 2017. They all plan to attend the fall 2019 convocation at the University of Regina later this year.
The Master of Education program head Michael Relland congratulated the graduates and thanked families and friends who were in the audience for their “support, sacrifice, and guidance,” noting that he was “so proud of this program and seeing the students grow and develop. We have always believed in the importance of making a positive change for ourselves, our students, and our country as we take steps towards reconciliation.”
The fourth cohort of 24 students commenced the Master of Education program in July 2019. As we congratulate the graduating class, we would like to extend a warm welcome to the Class of 2021 and wish them well in their studies.
Just over 70 students have graduated from the Master of Education program to date. While the program is relatively new, Gabriel Dumont Institute has played an important role in advancing Indigenous teacher education in Saskatchewan since its own founding 40 years ago. The Institute’s Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP), offered in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert in partnership with the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan, has graduated more than 1,300 Indigenous teachers. And, in the fall of 2019, the inaugural class of the newly established Northern Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP) – to be delivered by Gabriel Dumont Institute in partnership with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band – will start their studies in Air Ronge, Saskatchewan.
Pauline Copland has come a long way since her years of working as a clerk interpreter at a health centre in her small community of Arviat, Nunavut. A love for learning and a latent desire to become a teacher induced her to quit her job to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree at Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP), which was offered in partnership with the Faculty of Education, University of Regina (U of R) for over a decade.
“My teachers inspired me to become a teacher. I had been a long time employee at our local health centre, but my love for children and education was always with me; so, after I had all my children, I decided to go back to school to pursue a teaching degree,” says Copland.
In 2013, Copland applied, was accepted, and began her B.Ed. program. Going back to school was challenging at first with adjustments to academics, while also parenting her five children, the youngest of which was only 15 months old when she started the program. Copland says, “I often had mom-guilt feelings because I closed the door on my kids so many times and found a quiet place to study. After the first year, things got easier and my brain got back to student mode.”
Adjustments made, Copland thrived, graduating from the NTEP/U of R Elementary Education Program with distinction in June 2017. But she wasn’t ready to stop learning: “My love for learning grew throughout the program; the more I learned about children and their development the more I was inspired to dig deeper and gain new knowledge. I had my own sense of raising children through a mother’s lens, but it was interesting to learn more about children from an educational perspective.”
Choosing a master’s program with the University of Regina made for a smooth transition: “I decided to take my Master’s at the U of R because I took U of R courses throughout the undergrad program. U of R was partnered with the Nunavut Arctic College at that time, and I kind of knew what to expect from the courses because of my experience at NTEP,” explains Copland.
With only her internship experience to qualify her for a Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) program, Copland decided to apply anyway and was accepted to the U of R program in Curriculum and Instruction: She says, “I knew I had the determination and work ethic to pull through another program after completing the NTEP program, even without the teaching experience that was required upon application. I remember telling myself, ‘I don’t have to believe everything I read, so I’m going to take a chance at this.’”
The difficulty would not prove to be academic; the decision to take the degree in Regina meant she would be leaving behind her children for extended periods of time. She says, “The hardest part of my journey was leaving my kids. It was a different story every single semester. First semester, I had two of my kids who were 5 and 12 years old and in my second semester, I had just my youngest. In my third semester, I left home without any kids to attend the spring semester.”
Each semester, leaving home was a struggle: “It was so hard to board that airplane, but I didn’t turn back and I constantly reminded myself that I am doing this for them. The first few weeks away were brutal, but as soon as I got into a routine, time went so fast. I went home in between semesters so that breather really helped me get pumped up and prepared for another semester.”
In Copland’s second year and final semester, she had the unexpected pleasure of studying alongside her daughter. Copland says, “My daughter, Michaela, decided to come to study at the U of R because she wanted to ‘take the road less traveled.’ A number of our young high school graduates go to Ottawa or Winnipeg, but she wanted to try something different. She was accepted to the Faculty of Arts, but now she is thinking about majoring in education.”
When Copland first arrived, the only person she knew was Faculty of Education Instructor Julie Machnaik, whom Copland had met through Machnaik’s work as coordinator with the NTEP partnership program for several years. Copland says, “Julie’s nice warm welcome to Regina made me feel closer to home. I live in a close-knit community, and she made the adjustment so much easier to cope with. My friend helped me in more ways than one; she took me and my kids to our new home and made sure I was settled before she left us. She was also my ‘go-to’ person as both campus and city life was new to me. I am thankful she was part of this journey.”
Living on campus gave Copland the opportunity to meet new friends who also gave her support throughout her program, and helped her deal with the hardship of being away from her children. “I met amazing people throughout the program; it was a bonus to have the support from my circle of friends,” says Copland.
Copland graduated from the master’s program in June. She says, “It was an amazing feeling to walk across the stage even for a short moment. Time went way too fast so the convocation ceremony was a great way to wrap up my thoughts around being a long time student.”
Her education has fortified her vision for education: “Every child deserves to learn in a safe and respectful environment. I think each individual should be valued in the classroom as we all learn at our own pace and time. More importantly, giving them the opportunity to learn with respect to their culture and background is something I strongly support,” says Copland.
Reflecting back on what she has accomplished, Copland says, “I close my eyes and I see and feel the campus atmosphere—I never thought, 18 years ago, that I’d get back into books and study alongside my daughter. I was a young mother so I thought I had lost all my chances of getting back into something that I liked doing and dreamed of becoming. Turns out, there is no age limit; you just have to go after your dreams and never stop believing.”
Copland has returned to Nunavut and will start her teaching career in the fall, teaching Grade 3 students. She says, “I will start in my home and comfort zone, but who knows where I’ll end up in a few years time.”
Moving Towards Ethical Internationalization: Bridging Plural Knowledges in English as Foreign Language Curriculum and Instruction.
In 2014, as part of University of Regina/Chengdu University of Technology’s (CDUT) partnership, an ethical internationalization in higher education research and instructional program was conceptualized and initiated by Professor and Dean, Duan Chengand Associate Professor, Zheng Huan (CDUT, College of Foreign Languages and Cultures), Dr. Fran Martin (University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education) and Professor Fatima Pirbhai-Illich (University of Regina, Faculty of Education).
Over the past five years, Drs. Martin and Pirbhai-Illich have engaged in academic work at CDUT that has focused specifically on learning and engaging in ethical internationalization practices in higher education in the College of Foreign Languages and Culture. Dr. Martin, Associate Professor Zheng Huan and Professor Pirbhai-Illich conducted research and in 2016, disseminated findings at a conference on Internationalising Higher Education at Simon Fraser University. They have also co-authored one journal article titled “The critical intercultural dimension of the processes of internationalization in higher education” which is under review.
Graduate Students Invited to University of Regina for Doctoral Program.
As part of the overall project, for the past three years, Dr. Pirbhai-Illich has invited one graduate student each year to apply for entry into the Faculty of Education’s doctoral program. Each doctoral student takes their required courses with faculty members and for their doctoral research project, engages in academic work with Dr. Pirbhai-Illich to understand issues around plural knowledges, curriculum and instruction in teaching English as a Foreign Language, and working towards ethical ways of doing education that honour and bridge the best of these knowledges for their particular context.
CDUT Sponsors Former Student to Return to China for EFL Internship,
In 2018, CDUT sponsored Dr. Pirbhai-Illich’s doctoral student,Fadi Tannouri from the English Language Institute at the University of Regina to visit, learn and teach Academic English in the Chinese context. This year, CDUT has sponsored one of its own former graduate students, Miss Feng Leyuan. Now entering her third year of the doctoral program in the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, Miss Feng Leyuan has returned for two months with Dr. Pirbhai-Illich as a preservice teacher to her alma mater to teach and engage in a 3-week English as Foreign Language internship program under the guidance of lecturers, Ms. Chen Fan, Ms. Luo Yuan, Mr. Zhou Yi and Dr. Pirbhai-Illich.
On June 19, Miss Feng Leyuan presented her first paper to faculty and graduate students at CDUT titled, “A self-study of my journey: Working towards becoming an ethical global educator of English as a Foreign Language.” Miss Feng Leyuan is the first of the three doctoral students to return to CDUT.
The following story, submitted by former grad student and French Immersion Kindergarten teacher Ellen Lague and Minority Language Professor Heather Phipps, describes the development of a multilingual Saskatchewan-Belgium collaboration that evolved out of Ellen’s participation in the Social Justice and Globalization Study Tour to Belgium (EDFN 803) in July 2018.
“What Fills Your Heart with Happiness? kîkway kîya kisâkasineh mîyawhten kiteh ohcih?”
As part of my Master’s in Education program, I participated in the study tour to Belgium. The course was instructed by Dr. Heather Phipps, with whom I have shared interests in Early Childhood Education, French Immersion instruction, and literature. While in Belgium, we met with Heather’s colleague and long-time friend Caroline Moons, who instructs university students studying to become Kindergarten teachers at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
We discussed doing a multilingual project together with my Kindergarten students and Caroline’s university students. With Heather’s guidance, we chose an activity with Monique Gray Smith’s picture book My Heart Fills with Happiness/ni sâkaskineh miŷawâten niteh ohcih. Monique Gray Smith is an award-winning author of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish heritage. The picture book, written in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and dedicated to IRS survivors, is a positive representation of Indigenous happiness, love, strength, and life experience. Each page, vibrantly illustrated by award-winning, Métis-Cree artist, Julie Flett, expresses the happiness experienced in the simple joys of life, such as holding the hand of someone you love or smelling fresh-baked bannock. Heather suggested this book for the multilingual reading possibility, with a Cree/English edition recently published by Orca Books.
With the book chosen, my students spent most of February preparing for our project with Caroline and her students: discussing First Nation storytelling, and reading two different versions of How the Earth was Created; talking about Nanabosho or Nanabush and how he has several different names; and discussing oral storytelling and why oral stories might change in the telling, and about why February is the traditional time for storytelling because it is when the snow covers the ground. I read My Heart Fills with Happiness aloud with my students every school day in the month of February. During the break, students were asked to think about what fills their heart with happiness using specific examples. I received several responses from parents who loved the idea of our project.
On February 27, students and teachers in Regina and Belgium connected through Skype. Belgian students began by asking my students about First Nations storytelling. Next, we read the book, What Fills My Heart With Happiness in four different languages: English, French, Cree and Flemish. The children knew the story so well, they were excited to hear it read in two languages that were new to them; they “oohed” and “ahhed” when hearing Cree and Flemish. Then, all the students shared what filled their hearts with happiness. One of my students mentioned speaking with her family that lives in the Philippines. Another student spoke about the sound of popcorn popping. The children were delighted to share, and the pre-service teachers in Belgium also expressed their joy in meeting with the class.
For Heather, being in Ellen’s Kindergarten classroom during this multilingual reading of My Heart Fills with Happiness was a beautiful and meaningful experience. While reading together across the world and in four languages there was a feeling of interconnectedness, where each person was invited to share one’s own inner joy and to listen respectfully to others. The story is meant to be shared and makes for an ideal read-aloud. The university students listened attentively to the voices of the children in responding to the story, and the children were eager to share their knowledge and life experience. The shared interaction with the picture book inspired the children and adults to reflect on their own sources of inspiration, love, and happiness.
This spring, we were delighted to learn that the author Monique Gray Smith, alongside authors Louise Halfe and Wendy Mirasty, would be speaking on an Indigenous Author Panel at the Regina Public Library. This was a wonderful opportunity to listen to each author’s journey to becoming a writer. Monique spoke about the importance of story and how empowering it is for Indigenous readers, particularly young children, to see themselves represented in picture books. She mentioned that she has met many young readers who tell her, ‘I’m on the cover of your book.’ Furthermore, this story of sharing love and happiness ends with a significant question, “What fills your heart with happiness?” which opens up a conversation for intergenerational sharing and healing as readers of all ages are invited to reflect on love.
A journey that began in Belgium was able to take root back home. In reconnecting with Caroline we could continue the journey of reconciliation with our students, and share the
journey with students in Belgium. Two weeks after the Skype call, Heather and I shared the project with her first-year university students. To be able to culminate our project with meeting Monique Gray Smith brought happiness to my heart and a strong purpose to continue on the path to reconciliation.
Conor Barker, a school psychologist from Swift Current who is currently pursuing a PhD in Education (Education Psychology) from the University of Regina, is the recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowships Program Award of $40,000 for his research study entitled “Using communities of practice to develop clinical competency with rural school psychologists.”
Abstract: The practice of a rural school psychologist is challenging, and can be fraught with aspects of isolation, role confusion, and burn out. In many rural communities the only qualified mental health professional may be a school psychologist, and as such, these psychologists require a great number of skills in order to meet the diverse needs of their community, as a referral to a specialist outside the community may not be feasible. To determine the competencies required of rural school psychologists, Conor is conducting a collective case study of rural school psychologists from across Saskatchewan using a Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998) conceptual framework. Preliminary results have focused on the Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, and Behaviours (KSABs) required of rural school psychologists, the ways in which rural psychologists gather in communities to maintain their competency, and their ability to use creativity when faced with difficult situations so that they can support students, schools, families, and communities. This study acknowledges the general-practitioner role that rural school psychologists play within the field of psychology, when present discourses tend towards a more specialized practice and discussion of clinical competency. It further describes the ways that rural psychologists can gather within communities of practice in order to sustain competent and ethical practices in psychology.
Conor says, “I would like to acknowledge the support from my committee, supervisors Dr. Laurie Carlson Berg and Dr. Joel Thibeault, and committee members Dr. Kristi Wright (Psychology), Dr. Jenn de Lugt, and Dr. Scott Thompson who assisted with the development of the SSHRC application. I also must acknowledge the work of Tania Gates who made sure the application was perfect before final submission. This was truly a group effort and I am very appreciative to the staff and faculty within the Faculty of Education.”
What is the connection between horses, educational psychology, and Indigenous youth and culture?
Reconnecting with cultural and traditional ways of knowing and being is increasingly seen as a significant part of the healing and learning process for First Nations peoples, whose culture has been historically and systemically oppressed by the colonization process. Language revitalization has been a key focus of cultural preservation and reclamation, but Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is a relatively new and less understood approach to learning and healing, at least among the scientific community. For Indigenous peoples, however, horses have long been viewed as carriers of knowledge and healers. The preservation of the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies, then, is part of the process of cultural reclamation and preservation, and thereby healing and learning, as relations between Indigenous horses and peoples are (re)established.
Dr. Angela McGinnis, an Assistant Professor of educational psychology in the Faculty of Education and an Indigenous Health Researcher, and her graduate student, Kelsey Moore, are conducting SIDRU-funded research to better understand how and why Indigenous youth benefit from working with Indigenous horses, specifically the seven Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies being cared for by Angela and her partner Cullan McGinnis at The Red Pony Stands® Ojibwe Horse Sanctuary. Founded by Angela and Cullan, the Sanctuary “is an Indigenous owned and operated not-for-profit.” The Sanctuary receives some financial support by private and corporate sponsors and donors; however, these supports do not cover all of the costs: Angela says, “The majority of the work and expenses fall on my partner (Cullan) and I to keep the ponies happy and healthy, both physically and spiritually. Our mission is to protect, promote, and preserve the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed.”
Angela, Cullan, and the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies all originate from Treaty 3 territory in Northwestern Ontario. Horses have been part of Angela’s life from her earliest memories at her home in Fort Frances. “I have a picture of me on a horse before I could even walk,” says Angela. Her parents were caretakers of Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies and Nez Perce horses. Angela credits her father as a mentor who has taught her a great deal from his knowledge of working with horses.
Reconnecting with her Métis/Ojibwe cultural identities has been a focus of Angela’s education and healing. Cultural connectedness was a central concept in her research at Western University, where she received a PhD in clinical psychology in 2015. As part of her doctoral research, Angela developed a measure to assist in determining the extent to which cultural connectedness is associated with health and well-being, specifically among First Nations youth. Angela’s findings indicate that cultural connectedness is a positive predictor of mental health. This is critical knowledge because, as Angela says, “the mental health and well-being of youth is one of the most urgent concerns affecting many First Nations communities across Canada.” Angela views her work in educational psychology as “a perfect fit” for the research in which she is engaged. She says healing and learning are inseparable: “You can’t have healing without learning, or learning without healing.”
Since completing her doctoral research, Angela has been seeking to understand how cultural connectedness can be developed through, what she calls, “real-world experiences,” which include strengthened relationships with the land and all its “more-than-human” creatures, particularly the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony. Broadening health research to include the more-than-human world is important to Angela because, she says, “We need to situate well-being within a larger network of social relations, with both the human and more-than-human worlds. We need to focus beyond the individual and extend our understandings about health and well-being to living in relation to all else, not just for the present but for future generations as well.”
With her expertise in psychology and her passion for the preservation of the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed, Angela is perfectly situated to bridge, in her words, “often seemingly conflicting world views… I understand Western mental health perspectives, but this work requires an understanding of Indigenous perspectives of holistic wellness to fully understand the role of the ponies in the resilience process.” Angela likens the loss of contact with Indigenous horses experienced by Indigenous communities to the loss of family members: “Part of their family has been ripped away,” she says. Reconnecting Indigenous youth and adults with Indigenous horses brings about “indescribable moments,” says Angela. These moments spark the ‘I remember when…’ stories told by Elders about the ponies and traditional ways of life and are, Angela believes, charged with healing potential. “These are moments that could potentially change someone’s life. To see that happening in front of you, it’s a privilege.” Angela felt especially privileged to hear of the repatriation of the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony to Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, from which her partner, Cullan, originates. She says, “I was completely moved by the return of three black geldings to this community.” During a recent visit to see the community’s ponies, Cullan had opportunity to meet the geldings for the first time. Angela says, “The reunion of these family members was so powerful—an emotional reuniting. The bond between the geldings and Cullan was instant. It’s a culturally specific relationship that dates back to pre-Colonial contact. This type of relationship can’t be replicated with any other breed of horse.”
Reunions such as these lead to the beginning of relationships with the more-than-human world, and are what Angela calls a “doorway to the culture,” which can help youth make other cultural connections, such as ceremony. For instance, Angela and Cullan’s relationship with the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies at the Sanctuary has meant that they have sought guidance from local traditional Elders and engaged in horse-specific traditional ceremonies held in communities, such as the Horse Dance. Angela would like to share the doorway experience with her Educational Psychology students: “I want to help students step through that doorway. That’s how we understand how to help others, by experiencing it ourselves. And in return we help the ponies. That’s the whole mutual helping process, helping the horses in their fight against extinction. We need the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies as much as they need us,” says Angela. She plans to start bringing her students out to the Sanctuary for classes in Spring. A 20-foot tipi will be raised as Angela prepares to bring her students in contact with the ponies and the land.
Master’s student Kelsey Moore, who received a B.Ed. in Indigenous Education from First Nations University of Canada, is now undertaking her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Regina under the supervision of Dr. McGinnis and the mentorship of Life Speaker Noel Starblanket. Kelsey is Métis and grew up in Yorkton. Her lifelong passion for horses began with several summers spent working with youth at horse camps and riding stables and continued with her experience of getting to know the Curly Horse breed at her inlaws’ farm. Her thesis research question perfectly intersects with Angela’s interest in understanding and offering evidence-based research to explain how and why Indigenous youth benefit in both educational outcomes and mental health, through establishing relationships with horses and how Equine Assisted Learning programs can be successfully culturally adapted.
Kelsey and Angela are amazed to have found each other. Angela says, “What are the chances of me finding a student who wants to work with Indigenous horses?” The two researchers are working toward the same ends as those involved in language revitalization: “We are all tackling a shared goal: Cultural preservation,” Angela says. The actual preservation of the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony extends as a metaphor for cultural and identity preservation: “Their mere presence is a counternarrative to the colonial narrative of the extinction of Indigenous horses to the Americas,” says Angela. Indeed, the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony’s survival itself inspires hope. But beyond that, Angela feels that interaction with Indigenous horses gives “Indigenous youth opportunities to connect with horses who have resilience and strength, like their own, that they can identify with, a culturally specific story,” she says.
What exactly is Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)?
Snowshoe and Starblanket (2016) state that EAL “is a relatively new approach to knowledge acquisition that draws primarily on the tenets of experiential learning, that is, learning through hands-on experience with the horse (Dell, Chalmers, Dell, Sauve, & MacKinnon, 2008).”
To deepen her understanding of EAL, Kelsey received EAL certification in August at Cartier Farms, near Prince Albert. Cartier Farms teaches that establishing an experiential hands-on working relationship with horses, with their sensitivity, non-verbal communications, resilience, and forgiving ways, can be an effective approach to learning, to self-knowledge, and to self-evaluation.
Angela, who has been guided by the traditional Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and communities with whom she has worked, sees the potential for healing and learning in culturally adapted EAL. Angela views horses as “more-than-human co-constructors of knowledge.” Horses have much to teach us about the land and living on the land, she says. Elders and Knowledge Keepers have taught Angela that, with their four feet always on the ground, horses have a greater connection with Mother Earth, and through this connection, the Creator. Thus, traditionally, horses have been considered a source of maintaining and recovering holistic wellness.
Upon the arrival of Angela’s first Pony at the Sanctuary, a beautiful stallion, affectionately named Sagineshkawa (Pleasure with my Arrival), she says, “I realized that I should not rush things. I needed to slow down and have humility, especially around a powerful being like a horse…This was the horse that I had to pay attention to and listen to spiritually.” Angela is grateful to all her ponies for their patience in teaching her. Kelsey’s experiences with horses have similarly given her the understanding that she must “slow down and be present in the moment,” she says. “Helping humans slow down is a way that the horses care for us,” says Angela. She views the horse-human relationship as one of mutual caring: “We are caretakers of them and the land, but the ponies also take care of us.”
Yet, there is an urgency that requires speed in this research due to the need for Indigenous youth to be able to access culturally adapted healing and learning programs. As a mother of a toddler, Kelsey had intended to move a bit slower with her research, but she says everything is moving much quicker than she planned or expected. Kelsey’s research, using what Angela describes as “a pure Indigenous research method,” seeks to understand the spiritual and cultural connections between Indigenous youth and Indigenous horses. Incorporating ceremony as research, Kelsey is documenting her interactions and deep listening experiences with the ponies, along with the conversations she has with Elders and Knowledge Keepers to make sense of what she observes.
The two researchers are already envisioning and talking about future plans. Angela says, “We hope to apply for an operating grant to help Kelsey set up her own Indigenous-centered Equine-Assisted Learning and healing program in the community, following the completion of her academic work.”
The Sanctuary has recently gained international attention. It will be featured in a short documentary film currently being produced by National Geographic as part of the Natural Connections Project. The film will document how EAL contributes to the well-being of First Nations youth. Through the film, Angela hopes to showcase “how Indigenous communities are using horses to connect with culture, strengthen positive relationships, and learn through activities with horses and nature.”
“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.”
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
Graduate students with diverse backgrounds have come together with a common goal of decolonizing adult learning.
The graduate course, Trends and Issues in Indigenous Adult Education, explores research, theory, and the practice of trends, issues, and perspectives in Indigenous learning.
Students from six countries were in the class from Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The diversity speaks to the higher number of international students who are choosing to further their studies at the University of Regina.
Having such a mix of backgrounds and viewpoints in one class made for some eye-opening perspectives on trends and issues involved in decolonizing adult learning in order to improve Indigenous education.
The class was led by Dr. Cindy Hanson, Associate Professor of Adult Education/Human Resource Development in the Faculty of Education.
“The class was important in this case because it was a coming together of international and Indigenous students in a very organic way and with a broad range of understandings regarding history, culture, and politics in Indigenous Adult Education,” says Hanson. “The course offered an opportunity to put this into practice. Experiences from the field of adult learning were built into the content.”
Many also feel little has been done to build structures and programs in communities for adult learning about decononization and Indigenous issues. They see this class as a good start. The students appreciated the participatory approach to Hanson’s class, allowing for discussions.
José Wellington Sousa is from Brazil and is working on his PhD in Adult Education at the U of R. He has earned a BA in Economics and a Masters of Science in Administration at the University of Amazonia in Brazil.
“The class was a great example of what is going on in Canada right now. I can see the diversity in the classroom. We can learn from each other. We had many nations and sharing and reflecting on Indigenous education,” says Sousa. “In Brazil, we are kind of behind in the discussions of decolonization. So we are not even talking about reconciliation and addressing the injustice. I see this class as an opportunity to understand and learn.”
Issah Gyimah, who earned his Bachelor of Education at the University of South Africa, grew up in the post-Apartheid era. He’s taught in South Africa, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. He started his studies at the U of R in September.
“Coming from Africa and knowing about Apartheid, colonization, and racism, I have learned a lot from here and this class,” says Gyimah. “It has changed my perspective on how I see things. This class is a good foundation.”
Gyimah points out that adult education in South Africa is a growing area and a field that is not completely developed.
“We’ve been looking at children, but adults have influence on the children. There is a backlog of adults who did not get an education so this has left a big gap in South Africa,” he says.
Pauline Copland earned her Education Degree from Arctic College in Nunavut. She’s working towards her masters in curriculum and instruction at the U of R. Her first language is Inuktikut.
“From the readings and talking to my classmates, I learned things about our Canadian history, even my own history, like residential schools. It affected who I am without knowing,” says Copland, who appreciates the class diversity. “Compared to where I went to school, coming here looks like the whole world is here. The diversity is really nice, meeting people from different countries.”
The class includes one student from Saskatchewan, who sees her experience and diverse views as an asset that will help her down the road.
Chantelle Renwick has a Business Degree from the U of R and a graduate diploma in teaching from New Zealand. It was her experience in New Zealand that started her passion for Indigenous education. She’s working on her masters in Indigenous Education.
“What we hear over and over is that colonization has happened in so many part of the world and that Indigenous people have been dealing with the loss of culture and language,” says Renwick, who is an instructor of Office Administration at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Regina.
“You realize with such a diverse class the different history and different feelings and perspective that the adult learners bring to the classroom. You become more conscious about the impact colonization has on people.”
The final class December 5, in the presence of elder Alma Poitras, featured a discussion about what the students learned and how it could be applied to their workplace or personal lives.
The classes also featured speakers including elders, a speaker from the Office of the Treaty Commission, a Metis lawyer storyteller, a talk by the U of R’s James Daschuk author of Clearing The Plains, and a fieldtrip to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum led by curator Dr. Evelyn Siegfried.
“Decolonizing adult education is a current theme in the field of adult education and a critical perspective on how to do this with a range of learners is important,” says Hanson.
The University of Regina has enjoyed an increase of graduate students. As of the Fall 2017, 1,902 graduate students are furthering their studies at the University.