Author: Editor Ed News

The life story of a former faculty member

By Gertrud Bessai

It is important to remember how the Faculty of Education all started not so very long ago! Here is the life story of someone who was instrumental in the development of the Faculty.

Fred Bessai, BA’58, BEd’60, MEd’62, PhD’64, Fellow of the Royal Society in London

Fred was born November 9, 1932 on the family subsistence farm near Southey, Saskatchewan. He was the second son and fourth child. At home both parents and children spoke a Germanic dialect and in school the children learned English. Fred’s parents were multilingual and could easily talk with the Romanian and Ukrainian speaking neighbours. At 5 years of age, Fred entered the nearby one-room school where he did so well that he skipped a grade somewhere along the way. The school only offered Grades 1 to 10 and so he decided to to earn Grades 11 and 12 through correspondence, four classes at a time while working on farm. During this time he and his younger brother cleared a fairly large piece of land of a huge number of stones. The first crop off that land paid for a year at Teachers’ College in Moose Jaw. Fred managed to land a job teaching in a one-room school fairly close by and so was able to return home daily and continue to help out on the farm. Following in his elder brother Frank’s footsteps, Fred went off to study at the University of Saskatchewan after having taught in various schools. He entered the arts program and graduated with a BA in 1958. Summers were spent sieving and testing bearing capacity for the Department of Highways. But then disaster struck! His younger brother died and Fred had to hurry back home. By this time his father was ailing! The decision was made to move their parents into Southey and to convert the farm to a strictly wheat farm. Fred was able to do the seeding, and the pasture was rented out, while spraying and summerfallow was accomplished with the help of others. After their parents were settled, Fred went back to work for the Department of Highways, this time as inspector, to earn enough to continue with his education. After harvest, it was back to Saskatoon, to enrol in the College of Medicine. But, medicine proved to be the wrong choice! Fred returned to the farm at end of term. The income from the farm had to support his parents! But his need to further his education was huge, so Fred worked out a system to accomplish both. 1960 saw his graduation with a BEd and a trip to Europe where Frank, was working on his PhD in English. While there they looked up their father’s relatives who had made their way from the Bukovina/Roumania to Germany. They also found their mother’s mother in East Germany and managed to get her out and ultimately to Canada! Back in Canada, Fred enrolled in a master’s program with the help of a scholarship provided by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. During that time he met Gertrud von Gernet, who later became his wife. With the Master’s finished in 1962, Fred looked further afield for a PhD. Since Frank was now teaching English in Edmonton, Fred decided to try his luck there. The Dean offered a teaching fellowship. With his livelihood secured, Fred threw himself into studies and teaching. But the farm still needed attention, and so he drove home to seed, arranged for spraying and summerfallow, drove back for summer classes, and then returned for harvest and to sell the crop. This pattern of academic life and farm life ended up the pattern for his entire life.

In the summer of 1964, with the thesis completed and accepted, he was hired by Dr. Lester Bates, dean of the newly formed College of Education in Regina. The teachers from the Teachers’ College in Moose Jaw joined the Arts and Science professors in Regina to form the new junior campus of the University of Saskatchewan. In the beginning there were three PhDs in the Faculty of Education: Dr. Bates, dean; Dr. Buck, formerly head of the correspondence school; and Fred! The rest of the faculty were Fred’s former teachers. Since he was the youngest and most familiar with the current research, he was tasked to help develop the Education library. Then, when the new campus was being built, he was delegated to help design the new Education building. All the while he was teaching whatever classes seemed to be needed in his field: measurement, early childhood education, and finally research. He worked hard to get the master’s program on the books and finally started the PhD program. During this time he was also the Education delegate to Saskatoon when the Regina campus wanted to separate and become an independent university.

Many of his former teachers and others wanted to upgrade and Fred was always ready to lend a helping hand. But his greatest joy was to help the young teachers to earn their master’s degrees. It did not matter in which direction their interests lay, he was there to ensure that they learned the all important methods of research and writing. He kept up with the most recent research by attending NCME and Learnet Society. Meanwhile, the farm was looked after on weekends and during holiday time. The only time he took a sabbatical was to go to Prince Edward Island, where a perfect “lab” situation had materialized. The small one-room schools were to be replaced by large consolidated ones. What was the learning environment? How well did students fare? The result was a book authored by Dr. Edward L. Edmonds, dean and Dr. Frederic Bessai (1979). Fred spent his entire career at the University of Regina, although he was offered several other positions including a deanship. His two great loves: teaching and farming kept him here. Today he has celebrated his 90th birthday, and still enjoys reading about the history of the province and reminiscing about days gone by!

Bessai family at the farm
Photo credit Gerald Saul

Student awarded U of R Retirees Legacy Scholarship

Congratulations to Education student Ace Casimiro on being awarded one of three University of Regina Retirees Legacy Scholarships! The $8000 award goes to three University of Regina students going into their final year whose “potential for doing graduate work has come to the attention of faculty members.”
Dr. j wallace skelton, who nominated Ace for the award, wrote, “Ace’s final project was a series of detailed on-line learning modules for teachers of English Language Learners to support them in becoming more inclusive of 2SLGBTQA+ students. It was interactive, rigorous, detailed, engaging, thorough. The sheer volume of research Ace had done to put this together was well above my expectations for a 3rd-year class. It’s classic Ace that his response to the assignment was to see an actual need in the world (a lack of 2SLGBTQA+ resources specific to ELL classrooms) and to then work to create professional quality resources to meet that need. It was clear that he had a deep understanding both for the topic and ways to motivate teachers to change their practice. In education, we encourage students to employ a social justice lens a teach for justice. It’s clear that that infuses Ace’s work and thinking.”
This is only the second time the award has gone to an Education student!

SCPOR-funded research

#UREdu Dr. JoLee Sasakamoose is part of this SCPOR-funded research team which will be working “Toward a Community Led and Culturally Responsive Mental Health and Addictions Care in Saskatchewan” which “aims to enhance access to high-performing and culturally responsive mental health services for First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan.” The team is lead by alum Dr. Mamata Pandey, and the co-principal investigators include Pamela Sanderson, Sarah Todd, Dr. Jolee Sasakamoose and Dr. Charles Plante as well as patient advocates Priscilla Johnstone and Loree MacPherson.


Whisperings of the Land Indigenous Speaker Series presentation

The Whisperings of the Land Indigenous Speaker Series invites you to a presentation by Dr. Kevin Lewis:

kâ-nêyâsihk mihkiwahpa Centre of Excellence- Cree Language Immersion Land Based Program

April 6, 2023
11:00 a.m. CST via Zoom

Register at

What would localized indigenous pedagogy look like? This session will cover topics of core subjects, projects, seasonal and year-round activities that the Immersion School has been piloting since 2018. Language learning assessments will be discussed as well as policy development. This will be a good look at developing our languages within the existing frameworks and how we can engage our communities to find out what is important for schools to teach. There will be time for Qs & As in this session.

Speaker bio:
Dr. Kevin wâsakâyâsiw Lewis is a nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) instructor, researcher, and writer. For the past 21 years, Dr. Lewis has been working with community schools in promoting land and language-based education and is founder of kâniyâsihk Culture Camps (, a non-profit organization focused on holistic community well-being and co-developer of Land-Based Cree Immersion School kâ-nêyâsihk mîkiwâhpa. Dr. Lewis is from Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 Territory.

The Gabriel Dumont Research Chair presentation

The Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Michif/Métis Education invites you to talk by Dr. Darryl Leroux.
Family Lore as Settler Colonial Fantasy: The Role of Trauma
Wednesday, April 5th, 2023 at 4:00 pm.
ED 228 (TPC)
Education Building
University of Regina
Family lore is a tricky concept to define — not outright lies, but not factual either, it’s a form of intergenerational communication that imagines historical events and relations in a manner that positions a given family as having unique customs or values. In their creation of lore, families often circulate stories about overcoming adversity and injustice, an apparent strategy to downplay more troubling stories linked to their social advantage or power. One common form of family lore for white Canadians involves creating Indigenous ancestry and identity where it didn’t exist in the first place. This presentation is part of a wider research study that examines the circulation of family lore about indigeneity in white settler families. The focus here will be on 5-10 public statements released since 2017 by high-profile individuals exposed by the media as making false claims to an Indigenous identity. These statements are quickly becoming a new genre of writing — one that exposes the intimate settler-colonial fantasies that propel the reconciliation era forward.
Presenter Bio:
Darryl Leroux is currently Visiting Professor of Sociology at the University of Ottawa. Starting May 1st, he’ll be an Associate Professor of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. His book Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity, published in 2019, was selected as one of the University of Manitoba Press’s top ten books of the 2010s. His current academic work disentangles how family lore propels white settlers to falsely claim Indigenous identities. Otherwise, he can often be seen fishing on a backcountry lake or stream.

La Ruchée projet

Le vendredi 3 mars, les étudiants du Bac ont eu l’opportunité de participer à un atelier d’une durée de 7 heures offert par La Ruchée, un projet de recherche en éducation artistique financé par Patrimoine Canada et porté par la Fédération culturelle canadienne-française (FCCF). Le projet a été développé en réponse à la pénurie nationale d’éducateurs francophones et dans le but de promouvoir la place des arts et de la culture dans les milieux d’enseignement francophones au Canada.

L’atelier a été offert dans le cadre du projet pilote créatif Atelier Bâtir la confiance de La Ruchée, qui vise à doter les étudiants à la formation initiale en enseignement et les enseignants en début de carrière de la confiance en leur créativité et leur capacité à enseigner les arts et à intégrer les arts dans leur propre enseignement.

Cependant, les étudiants du Bac n’étaient pas les seuls apprenants de l’atelier. L’équipe de recherche a également cherché à comprendre les besoins des éducateurs artistiques francophones du point de vue des participants à l’atelier. Ce que La Ruchée apprendra servira à offrir des services aux enseignants francophones dans le cadre du développement futur d’un centre d’expertise pour l’éducation artistique francophone au Canada.

À propos de la journée, la professeure Anne Brochu Lambert déclare : « Quel privilège que La Ruchée vienne à Regina pour lancer son initiative, grâce à la vision de la directrice du Bac, Claire St-Cyr Power. Cette équipe nationale et moi-même sommes au diapason sur l’approche pédagogique en art et toute la journée a permis d’explorer et de renforcer des concepts clés. L’atelier était dynamique, mené avec expertise, les étudiants ont en retour été bien engagés dans l’expérience. Je suis convaincue qu’ils ont gagné de nouveaux outils et une bonne dose de confiance en leur future pratique d’enseignant. J’ai senti et vu que plusieurs ont vécu de vrais moments révélateurs! »


On Friday, March 3, le Bac students had the opportunity to be part of a 7-hour workshop offered by La Ruchée, an arts education research project funded by Heritage Canada and led by the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française (FCCF). The project was developed in response to the national shortage of French-speaking educators, and in order to promote the place of arts and culture in French education settings in Canada.

The workshop was offered as part of La Ruchée’s Atelier Bâtir la confiance creative pilot project, which intends to equip French-speaking preservice and novice teachers with confidence in their creativity and their ability to teach the arts and integrate the arts into their own teaching.

French education preservice teachers were not the only learners in the le Bac workshop, however. The research team also sought to understand what is needed by the French-speaking arts educators from the workshop participants’ perspectives. What La Ruchée learns will be used to provide services for French-speaking teachers through a future development, a center of expertise for Francophone arts education in Canada.

About the day, Professor Anne Brochu Lambert says, “What a privilege to have this national initiative come to Regina, thanks to the trust and vision of le Bac’s director, Claire St-Cyr Power. This team and I are on the same wave length when it comes to approaching the arts and the day allowed for exploring and reinforcing key concepts. It was really all about building that crucial confidence. The format was dynamic and expertly led, the students were engaged and generous; in the end, all got new tools and many experienced that proverbial ‘a-ha’ moment!”

International Women’s Day 2023

On behalf of the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina, which is situated on the homeland of the Métis Nation: Saskatchewan and on Treaty 4 Territory, the traditional territory of the Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Lakota and Dakota people, and with a presence in Treaty 6 Territory, as the Dean and more importantly as a human being, I support the CCGSD’s calls to action to address anti-trans hate in all its forms and specifically as outlined in the “There’s No Gender Equality Without Trans Women” statement to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.

The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity Statement is found at