On December 7, the Faculty celebrated the career of former Dean Dr. James McNinch who retires at the end of December.
Dr. James McNinch began his 20-year career at the University of Regina in 1995, when he was hired to kick-start the Teaching Development Centre (TDC). In 1996, he was appointed Director of the TDC, with a cross-appointment in the Department of English and the Faculty of Education. In 2005, McNinch became a full-time faculty member with the Faculty of Education, where he taught core studies and adult education. He was the Director of the Field Placement Office, then Associate Dean, and then Dean for six years, stepping down in 2014 while remaining Director of the Saskatchewan Instructional Development and Research Unity (SIDRU) until his retirement in December 2016.
What was the highlight/memorable moment of your career here at the U of R?
There have been many memorable moments. As a teacher, I have many memories of students working hard and being grateful for the feed-back I gave them. This is particularly true of the first 10 years when I regularly taught English 100. Helping students improve their reading, writing, and comprehension, and to expand their world view was extremely rewarding. As a writer and editor, I found great satisfaction in working closely with 3 colleagues, Mary Cronin, Carol Schick, and Marc Spooner as the co-editor of 3 collections of articles and in seeing the impact these books had on subsequent teaching and scholarship. As a university administrator, I was told many times over the years that people admired me for being straight-forward, standing up for what I believed, and supporting faculty, staff, and students as best I could.
What significance does the work we do at the U of R, Faculty of Education have, in your estimation?
Teacher education, including preservice, in-service, and graduate work is critical pedagogical work because we are critiquing, influencing, and shaping the kind of society we live in. It means encouraging teachers to help students to become engaged citizens able to advocate for themselves and for others and to strive for a civil, just society where everyone is treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve. I know it sounds like a cliché, but trying to make the world a better place is a big job that never ends. I have seen tremendous advances in Indigenous education in this province and I know this Faculty will continue to be a leader in that regard.
What are your retirement plans?
Now that I am retired, I feel as if I am as engaged as ever but on my own terms. No more alarm clocks sounding angry at 6:00 in the morning during the dark days of January! I am currently writing a chapter about social justice and gender and sexual minorities for a text-book used in Human Justice courses. I am still directing Camp fYrefly and fYrefly in Schools as community-based projects that make a difference in people’s lives. We just hired a new co-ordinator to be based in Saskatoon so we have increased capacity to meet demand. This week I was working with a school division and the STF to make plans for a teacher who is transitioning from female to male and sorting out the implications this will have for students, staff and the community. If someone had told me at the beginning of my career 40 years ago that I would be involved in such work I would not have believed them. I have a new three week old grand-daughter. It takes my breath away to see how helpless and vulnerable she is and how much she is loved and cared for. And it is spring, so time to transplant the tomato seedlings that I germinated.
Do you have any words of advice/wisdom to offer the faculty/staff or field of education?
My Dad, with whom I had a conflicted relationship, did always say “Don’t be afraid to ask or propose something if you believe in it. The worst someone can say is NO and you can try again.”
I am not very good with my hands but “righty tighty and left is loosey” has been helpful over the years. Trans performance artist and writer, Ivan Coyote, quotes Dolly Parton saying “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” In hindsight I think I have lived like that.