Category: Alumni Stories

Talking about gender and sexual diversity in education

As part of our Faculty’s efforts to further develop a critical consciousness of, and stand in solidarity with, those who have been marginalized by gender and sexual diversity (GSD) in the field of education and higher education, in this article a diverse group of panelists—queer, trans, nonbinary, and cis het—all devoted to the work and research of GSD, talk about about the current challenges; personal and professional experiences that have motivated them to do GSD work; and how universities, faculties, professors, school divisions, and teachers can better support those marginalized by gender and sexual diversity.

Meet the Speakers

Jacq Brasseur (BSW’13, RSW’15, MEd’21) is the CEO and Principal Consultant at Ivy + Dean Consulting, a firm they founded to “bring social justice and equity into the non-profit boardroom.” In this role, they provide Professional Development (PD) for teachers and schools for improving 2SLGBTQ+ competency. Most recently, Jacq has been focusing on working with faith-based schools in Saskatchewan, with various Catholic districts as well as some private schools. As a proud member of the Regina Catholic School’s GSD Committee, Jacq is working with the district, as they endeavour to support 2SLGBTQ+ kids.

“While I have found this work challenging, I have also found it incredibly rewarding—there are queer and trans students (and teachers!) in Christian and Catholic schools in Saskatchewan, and they deserve to feel supported and affirmed in their whole selves,” says Jacq.

When Jacq moved to Regina in 2017, they took on the role of Executive Director for the UR Pride Centre. Among many other responsibilities, this role involved providing PD training for teachers and educators in Southern Saskatchewan schools. They also oversaw the transition of Camp fYrefly and fYrefly in Schools programs from the University of Regina to the UR Pride Centre. (Read about their Distinguished Alumni Award for Humanitarian and Community Service Award.)

Before moving to Regina, Jacq lived in Yellowknife, NT, where they co-founded what is now the Northern Mosaic Network, a 2SLGBTQ+ human service agency in Yellowknife, NT. Jacq worked closely with NT schools, educators, and the Ministry of Education to create more inclusive spaces.

Kyla Christiansen (BEd’91, MEd’14) is currently the Coordinator of Comprehensive School Community Health for Good Spirit School Division and Coordinator of Mental Health and Diversity for Regina Public Schools. Kyla has also served in many roles throughout her career, such as high school administrator, provincial school coordinator for fYrefly, Saskatchewan, GSA Summit coordinator, sessional lecturer for the Faculty of Education, and gender and sexual diversity consultant for five Saskatchewan School Divisions.

Dr. James McNinch (professor emeritus) is currently a consultant with the Saskatchewan School Board Association on a project about parent/teacher home visits. He is also conducting PD for Prairie Spirit School Division administrators and board members in the area of gender and sexual diversity.

During his 20-year career with the Faculty of Education, James served in a variety of roles: dean, associate dean, director of the Professional Development and Field Experiences office, director of the Teaching Development Centre, and Director of SIDRU (the Faculty’s research unit), as well as professor of professional studies. Particularly memorable was the anthology James co-edited and contributed to, entitled, I Could Not Speak My Heart: Education and Social Justice for Gay and Lesbian Youth (2004). Also that year, James created and taught a course on school and sexual (and gender) identities (EFDN 306). “This course continues to be an elective and has hopefully been updated to keep up with this dynamic field of teaching, learning, and research,” says James.

Camp fYrefly, a 4-day annual retreat that welcomes teens and young adults who identify as 2SLGBTQA+, has been an important part of James’ work over the years. As dean, he used his influence to help bring Camp fYrefly to Saskatchewan. James was program co-ordinator for Camp fYrefly and the fYrefly in Schools programs from 2016-2018 and he is still helping with fYrefly: “This year the camp returned to Regina as a live event after being online for the past 2 COVID-19 years. There were 57 campers and more than half of them self-identified as being gender fluid or non-binary. This is further proof that gender as a marker of identity is beginning to fade. It has already been 5 1/2 years since Parliament passed a bill (first proposed in 2005!!) protecting the rights of transgender and other gender diverse individuals,” says James.

Dr. Fritz Pino is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work. Fritz says her “research and community work have always been centred on exploring the experiences of queer and trans communities, specifically queer and trans sexualities and identities that intersect with race, age, class, and migration.” All of Fritz’s current projects are also centred on queer and trans lives. A few examples include the following: Fritz is conducting interviews to document the lived experiences of queer and trans Filipino immigrants to assess how being a racialized queer or trans intersects with migration and settlement in the prairies. Another project involves exploring the concept of social support of 2SLGBTQ+ faculty and staff at the University of Regina to contribute to the development of EDI related programs. Fritz is working on a manuscript about global transfeminisms, and the experiences of Filipino trans women during COVID-19 pandemic. She is also developing a graduate level course called Critical Social Work Practice with 2SLGBTQ+ communities, to be taught Winter 2024 with the Faculty of Social Work. Another area of her research involves 2SLGBTQ+ poverty and healthcare services.

Dr. Christie Schultz is currently the dean of the Centre for Continuing Education and an associate professor in the Faculty of Education. Since the early 2000s, Christie has participated in panel conversations, primarily in university classrooms, that have focused on gender and sexual diversity. In her work as a professional and an academic serving in a leadership role at the University, Christie works on being visible. “I think it is important to be who I am at work, to be a positive example of an out queer woman, especially for the next generation of scholars and leaders in higher education,” she says.

Dr. j wallace skelton is an assistant professor in queer studies in education. j has been addressing matters of sexual orientation and gender identity for 20 years, though as a queer and trans person, j has been engaging in systems of education for much longer. j’s work has included supporting and training students and staff teams, policy writing, research, piloting a high school gender course, conference organizing, planning for organizational change, mentoring teachers, running groups for trans and nonbinary children, human rights investigations, and assessing external partnerships.

j’s master’s thesis examined trans and nonbinary characters in children’s picture books. The findings led j to launch a press to publish the books that j and j’s husband wanted to see. With the understanding of the importance of listening to children and believing them, j’s PhD research invited gender independent and trans, nonbinary (GIaNT) children to show and tell what learning would be like if they were able to create it.

As a new faculty member, j says, “I’m currently very engaged in thinking about what it might mean for us to be a Faculty that celebrates sexual and gender diversity, and how to do that. There is a lot of faculty support for this, and I’m doing it with others, and it feels like an exciting place of possibility. We’ve not provided the support people need; we’ve not embedded 2SLGBTQA+ content across our curriculum, but we can, and we need to.”

What experiences brought you to the work and research of gender and sexual diversity? What was the need you were seeing or experiencing?

Fritz: I identify as trans woman of colour, born and raised in the Philippines. My work is connected and informed by my embodied social location and subject position. There is still a great need to increase trans literacy, and to develop scholarly, pedagogic, and policy interventions that address queer and trans issues of marginalization, invisibility/hypervisibility, oppression, and discrimination.

Christie: When I was an undergraduate student, seeing and learning from queer professors who I could admire made a big difference in my young adult life. Because of these professors, I could begin to imagine myself as both queer and professional—and professional in queer ways. (I know this wouldn’t have been important for everyone, but it was important to me in my young adult life.) In very subtle ways, they taught me I could be hopeful and I could be myself.

Kyla: As a rural school educator and administrator, I witnessed the impact of heternormativity, homophobia, and transphobia on individual students and my school community as a whole. Early in my career, I met people in both personal and professional capacities whose lived experiences were quite different from my own, and I realized just how extremely privileged I was because of “who I was and who I loved.” It became obvious to me that the moral and ethical imperative was to create spaces where my students (and staff) felt protected, respected, and included. In my educational career, I also worked for the provincial government. During that time, it became more about the “politicizing” of identities and I determined to become more involved in advocacy work. When I engaged in graduate work at the U of R, my commitment and passion for this work deepened, and I have been doing what I call “behind the scenes” advocacy work since—to create safer spaces where students and families voices can be heard.

James: As a man who came out later in life with the realization of my own sexual orientation and attraction to men, my journey out of the closet was an intense and sometimes painful process and it made me appreciate larger issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I was working with SUNTEP and the Gabriel Dumont Institute at the time and the struggles of the Métis, their unique history of marginalization, their ability to “see with both eyes,” and “to live in two worlds” and to act as intermediaries and go-betweens between two racialized solitudes, all of this was a huge inspiration to me. It made my “issues” seem trivial in comparison.

Jacq: I came out to my family and classmates when I was 11 years old—over 20 years ago, when children that young weren’t really as open as they are now. I lived and learned in a Catholic education context, and this significantly impacted the way that I experienced school as an openly queer kid.

I think I was really lucky to have progressive Catholic educators as parents. Both of my parents are established Catholic educators in the Northwest Territories, and they protected me unconditionally within my school system, and they were positioned to do so as educators and administrators who worked within it. I definitely experienced some homophobia from my classmates and teachers, but I think I was shielded from a lot of it because of who my parents were. I know other queer kids in Catholic schools aren’t that lucky.

Still, when I was in Grade 5, I approached my elementary school principal and asked if I could plan something in school for May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia. She said “no.” I walked out of her office thinking to myself: “You will rue the day that you told me I couldn’t do this!” Ever since then, I have had a strong commitment and motivation to work on improving learning spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ kids and teachers.

More recently, when I took my Master’s of Education at the University of Regina where I focused on queering curriculum and community-based curriculum development, I was in an early childhood education course where I heard my colleagues (most of whom were licensed and practicing teachers in Saskatchewan!) share anti-gay and anti-trans dogwhistles about queer and trans children. I was amazed at how many really competent teachers were spouting off talking points that I thought everybody understood were violent and obviously harmful towards 2SLGBTQ+ communities. This has led me to develop a stronger interest in queering children’s literature and queering early childhood education; however, I’m definitely not an expert yet!

j wallace skelton: GSD work and research is about me, my family, my children, my communities, and other 2SLGBTQA+ people who do not get the love, welcome, language, and celebration they deserve. For me, this question is like saying “Why do you work for justice for yourself and everyone you know?”

I was out as a queer person in 1990. By 1995, I was an official delegate for the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) to the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. I was lobbying with people like Palesa Beverly Ditsie and Dylan Scholinski. Palesa Beverly Ditsie is a South African activist whose work included ensuring that The Republic of South Africa’s constitution prohibited discrimination against on the grounds of sexual orientation. Dylan Scholinski is a trans person who spent his high school years in psychiatric hospitals undergoing conversion therapy, and who then became an activist against conversion therapy. I was deeply inspired by them both. Dylan and I almost got arrested, along with others, for supporting Palesa during her speech to the UN about the importance of supporting human rights of people of all sexual orientations. We were being taken down a long hallway by Chinese security, when Bella Abzug intervened by blocking the hallway with her wheelchair. Her aide got on the phone to the US State Department and Bella refused to move until they released us. It was a stunning moment of solidarity work.

Making queer and trans lives possible is about all of us engaging in community care. I am constantly inspired by people who do the ongoing work of making more possibility for themselves and others. It’s a giant group project and we inspire and support each other in it.

What successes, failures, or changes have you seen over the years in the work of gender and sexual diversity in education?

Fritz: My work has not necessarily changed over the years. However, I continue to engage in local or spaced-based research, community organizing, and advocacy. I believe that queer and trans issues are shaped and impacted by the politics and social structures of local settings.

The change I have seen, at least in the context of my work, is that the momentum of advocating for queer and trans lives has been magnified/increased. This is also based on my observation that queer and trans experiences of oppression and discrimination continue to manifest in varying levels, sometimes quite subtly within institutions and organizations.

j wallace skelton: I often remind cis het folks that we are still reasserting our own identities, and taking back our ability to name ourselves. Taking it back from medical establishments that want to pathologize us, taking it back from legal establishments that want to criminalize us. Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour continually have to assert their identities, value, being in the face of white supremacy and colonialism. Work I did a decade ago, that I felt great about then, now feels inadequate, and this work has to be constantly revisited and made better.

Fred Moten (2016), a Black thinker and philosopher I feel inspired by, when asked about the work of Black people said, “I love all the beautiful stuff we’ve made under constraint, but I’m pretty sure I would love all the beautiful things we’d make out from under constraint better.” Similarly, I think our culture has not yet seen what 2SLGBTQA+ people would do if we got to experience love and freedom. I want to get to see that. This drives my work.

It’s hard to write about successes at a time of push back and resistance. We’re experiencing more public transphobia, particularly directed towards trans women and trans femmes. Bathroom bans, bathroom violence, push back against Drag Queen Story Hours, barriers to participation in sports are about keeping trans people out of public life—they are about making trans lives unlivable. And that does not include challenges in accessing appropriate medical care, barriers to getting accurate ID, ways trans people experience violence and discrimination in housing, employment, and other spheres. I want to create the conditions where trans people can thrive, where all people have access to language about gender diversity, where there is freedom and where people are valued. We are so far from there.

And, there is more access to language. Some provinces, school boards and schools have policy.

We see moments of queering and transing curriculum. For a long time, work in education has been about accommodating individuals, and teachers can be really good at this —I’m very interested in dismantling the systems of oppression—the ways that sexism, cissexism, transphobia, and homophobia (along with colonialism, racism, ableism, and classism) shape our society and schools.

Jacq: Over the past decade, I’ve seen schools and school districts make huge strides towards 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in their schools. Many school-wide GSAs are thriving, including elementary school GSAs, and regular celebratation of Pride month. This is huge. It has become significantly easier for 2SLGBTQ+
people to work with schools to become more inclusive.

But while I have seen immense growth from educational organizations on the topic of GSD, I also have seen a move to performative and neo-liberal approaches to this work. Schools are hoisting Pride flags and sharing instagram posts about their GSAs, but they are still failing at providing 2SLGBTQ+ young people with a queer-affirming space to learn and grow. Trans children continue to be misgendered and belittled by their teachers and administrators, elementary students lack intersectional and critical pedagogy related to GSD topics, and queer-inclusive sexual health education is still far behind. There is so much more work to do—and schools need to recognize that a Pride flag, while important, needs to be accompanied with critical and radical approaches to education.

I would also name that I think that the training of future teachers is improving around topics related to GSD, notably because the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan have invested more energy into finding faculty who focus on queer or Two-Spirit studies in education. Despite this purposeful effort though, I continue to witness both BEd and MEd students
discussing GSD topics with little to no critical lens.

Christie: I think gay-straight alliances (GSA) in schools have created safe spaces and conversations that didn’t even seem possible 25 years ago. I know there’s still work to do, but I am grateful for the work of every student and every teacher involved in GSAs today.

James: Like sexuality and gender itself, this field of study and practice is fluid and dynamic and continuing to change. For example, when I graduated from high school homosexuality was not only considered a sin, a sickness, and a perversion, it was also illegal and individuals were imprisoned because of their sexual orientation. In the space of 50 years, our society has rapidly changed its understanding of sexual orientation and gender identities and gradually now appreciates that difference and diversity is a strength for all of us and something to embrace and celebrate. The struggle for basic human rights and equity is as old as civilizations themselves and we have a much better understanding now that all cultures over time have always had gender and sexual diversities.

Kyla: Markers of success include the fact that many students are expecting to be seen, heard, and believed; school division policies and procedures are being developed to ensure students are protected, respected, and included; Provincial curriculum is more inclusive of differing identities; the Ministry of Education has a policy statement (2015) on GSAs in schools; and more students are “out” in schools.

However, school divisions need to continue to educate students, staff, and families about diverse identities, including gender and sexual diversity. Some school divisions have “pockets” of advocacy happening but many school divisions do not have policies that articulate their beliefs and expectations specific to gender and sexual diversity.

Identity is becoming more politicized and less personalized, which has created an environment of debate. People are navigating how to be “religious yet supportive.” However, parents/families who are gender and/or sexually diverse are expecting that their identities are included and represented in classrooms.

James: It has been a long time coming, but finally we are acknowledging that the teaching profession can be a place for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and that sexual and gender diverse teachers have a voice. It is almost 50 years ago that Doug Wilson, a gay Master’s student from Meadow Lake in the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan was fired by the Dean for placing an ad in the student newspaper inviting interested people to a meeting to establish a gay association on campus. The idea that a homosexual be allowed to supervise teacher-interns in the schools was considered to be immoral and illegal and not in keeping with the “higher standards” to which all teachers are held.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission failed to support him because sexual orientation was not included then as a “protected category.”

Today, young student teachers, including gender and sexually diverse ones, are demanding that their school experiences be free from discrimination and that they must not just be tolerated but celebrated and allowed to be their “authentic selves” in the classroom, for their own benefit, for the benefit of the students they teach, and for the benefit of the school systems and communities in which they teach.

What do you see as the current challenges around gender and sexual diversity in education?

Christie: I find myself regularly reminded that the work of supporting sexual and gender diversity—in education and elsewhere—is not done yet. And, even where gains have been made, I think it’s important not to take these gains for granted.

Fritz: There are still so many challenges. Part of it sometimes is the reluctance in the field of education to create change on their curriculum that does not center on the heteronormative. There is still backlash from conservative groups even around the existence of queer and trans people in the academy.

j wallace skelton: Many teachers don’t receive any training on how to create safe and celebratory environments for 2SLGBTQA+ people. Even teachers who want to be supportive may be unclear about how to do that, or if they are allowed to.

Schools are often not safe for 2SLGBTQA+ people. Sexism, heterosexism, and cissexism continue to be the culture of most schools. Homophobia and transphobia continue to negatively impact staff and students.

Students who are outside of heterosexuality or cissexuality continue to experience the epistemic injustice of being denied access to words for their own identities, to histories, and to possibility models. Schools often don’t have text books, curriculum materials, images, and other forms of representation. What they do have is often by and about White, able bodied people living middle class lives.

There is a rising conservative backlash that is making schools less safe for 2SLGBTQ students and for educators who are doing 2SLGBTQ work.

Jacq: I think that the rise in transmisogyny as a political strategy is really alarming. While some might think that this is only happening in the extremes in places like Florida, where we recently saw the Governor ban trans affirming health care for children, we’re seeing this transmisogyny manifest in our own backyards. Recently, a Drag Queen Storytime event was protested in Saskatoon, and although it may be easy to simply describe this as homophobia, trans women and trans feminine people are overwhelmingly the targets for this kind of rhetoric and violence. Those who study this transphobia have made direct links between transphobia and fascism, and while some people may accuse me of overexaggerating or being overly concerned, this link is clear to anybody who spends a large amount of time engaging in these spaces.

Until educators and administrators have a significant grasp of transfeminist theory and trans studies in education, we can’t hope to overcome this challenge. Trans girls in schools across Canada and the U.S. are being unfairly targeted and made into a bogeyman that transphobic and “gender critical” activists are using to further anti-trans perspectives.

Kyla: The challenges include a lack of knowledge and capacity; fear of backlash and a lack of support; absence of policy and procedures; competing “priorities”; and a lack of government leadership.

Allyship: How can teachers, professors, and administrators better support 2SLGBQT+ students?

j wallace skelton: Create a safe environment for all your students. Don’t allow homophobia, transphobia, or gender policing. Ensure all students have access to language, information, history about 2SLGBTQA+ people. Acknowledge that homophobia and transphobia are tools of colonialism. Ensure that students have a safe and confidential way to share their name and pronoun with you. Ensure that you always use their name and pronouns, that other faculty do, and that if you have a substitute teacher, they get the right information. Openly talk and teach about 2SLGBTQA+ people, cultures, communities and our lives. Listen. Your students may be more familiar with 2SLGBTQA+ people and cultures, and you may have a lot to learn from them. Find your own co-conspirators, people who will support you in this work. Build your own network of allies. Know that this is part of the work of equity and justice, and that this work is on going and intersectional.

James: Allies are necessary, needed, wanted, and appreciated, especially in a profession like teaching.

Jacq: I’m actually not interested in “allyship” in education. I’ve learned from Indigenous Action, about the idea of accomplices, over allies. Cisgender, heterosexual teachers and professors need to be willing to put their bodies, jobs, incomes and safety on the line for queer and trans students and colleagues who are experiencing violence every day.

This means queering your classroom by challenging the status quo and disrupting power dynamics in the classroom. This means teaching about queer and trans existence, no matter how young the children are. This means protecting a trans kid from abusive colleagues or their abusive family. This means recognizing that police in schools harms queer and trans kids, especially Indigenous queer and trans children, Black queer and trans children, and queer and trans children of colour, and advocating for the removal of school resource officers. This means breaking school administrative procedures that segregate trans kids from their peers in gendered activities, changerooms and bathrooms.

Christie: I would like to defer to the experts in teacher education on this question. But, I will mention that symbols of 2SLGBTQ+ allyship still matter—perhaps especially to those who are listening and looking for that support. For instance, for some, listening and looking, displaying pride flags, and introducing your pronouns (if you use them) will matter a lot. (Please don’t require others to share their pronouns, though; simply creating the space for the possibility of sharing pronouns is what matters.) And this might go without saying for some, but using an individual’s pronouns and name matters; do that.

Fritz: Support begins with the self. This means mindset or epistemological change. One of ways of contributing to decolonization is to decolonize our minds and gazes from the dominant understanding of gender and sexualities. There is need to take action in supporting queer and trans initiatives and advocacies; standing up for queer and trans folks and helping to center their voices and experiences, especially when thinking about implementation of curriculum, student training and development, research, and service.

Kyla: Teachers and professors can support 2SLGBQT+ students by education and reflection; listening to diverse stories; diversifying resources; establishing alliances for gender and sexual diversity; attending professional development; reading queer academic work; asking questions of senior leaders; telling students, “I see you, I hear you, I believe you”; talking about privilege; challenging microaggressions; and learning to call out and to call in.

How have you personally been supported in education systems?

Jacq: In my MEd at the U of R, I navigated so much frustration, but it was an instructor who taught me my first early childhood education course who really meaningfully supported me. When I reached out to inquire about a lack of queer content in the syllabus, she immediately apologized and committed to adding material, and while she invited me to share my own thoughts around what should be included, she also recognized that it wasn’t my responsibility to teach myself. She went out of her way to add content that was relevant to me and what I wanted to learn.

Above that though, when my classmates engaged in that week’s content in homophobic and transphobic ways—she validated and affirmed my frustration and disappointment, and made sure that I was accommodated and able to express this frustration with my colleagues in a supportive environment.

All that being said, the most active form of solidarity that I’ve seen throughout my education is when educators are willing to be queer alongside me—whether that’s publicly as openly queer educators, or after they trust me, finding small ways to share with me that they’re queer, too. I think that these types of mentorships, between queer educators and queer students, is what really builds supportive education spaces. That’s why schools and universities need to actively hire queer and trans faculty and staff.

Kyla: My graduate studies at U of R deepened my understanding of gender and sexual diversity from an academic focus. My role as a coordinator in school divisions has opened the door for my advocacy work.

James: I moved from Saskatoon to Regina as a newly minted and openly gay man in 1995 and the Faculty of Education and the University of Regina was welcoming, supportive, and ready to move with the times. In particular, I have former colleagues Dr. Meredith Cherland and Dr. Liz Cooper to thank for such a climate. They pushed me to go farther than I might have on my own.

j wallace skelton: In Grade 5, when people thought I was a girl, I was cast in a skit for the Christmas concert as a mouse. My friend Heath was cast as Santa. I wanted to be Santa and wear a beard, but the teacher was clear that because Heath was taller he should be Santa, and I, the shorter person, should be the mouse. Heath and I secretly switched the night of the performance. Peers and friends have often supported me through acts of allyship even when the official system did not.

Fifteen years ago, I was part of an integrated equity team for the Halton District School Board. One of my colleagues was a Muslim woman who wore a hijab. She and I would often lead trainings for staff teams together—me the queer trans person, her the hijabi-wearing married woman. Teachers attending the trainings would look back and forth between us, and sometimes ask if we hated each other. Suzanne Muir absolutely had my back at all times. I had hers. Our ability to work together and support each other was itself a powerful training tool.

In grad school my supervisor, Rob Simon, encouraged me to copy him on any email about any transphobic issues I encountered. All through grad school I would continue to encounter systems with the wrong name, or the wrong honourific, or refusals to print my actual name on my diploma. These are the kind of things that suck your time and energy away from your actual work. I would copy Rob, and he would first respond to the email expressing his concern and then phone the person who was responsible for that area and make them fix it. Knowing that I did not have to fight these battles on my own made a huge difference. It would have been so much better if the university had fixed its systems, but it hadn’t and Rob Simon used his institutional power to address them.

What are some examples of unsupportive behaviours demonstrated by teachers or professors?

j wallace skelton: When I first started doing this work, I had a high school principal, who asked me “Why should I let you, a young gay man, have access to children.”

When I was advocating for a trans high school athlete, his principal physically assaulted me, throwing me against a concrete wall. She said this was so I would understand what would happen to him if he was in the boy’s changeroom.

I’ve encountered principals who have told me it is not possible for them to have an all-gender bathroom at their school, or who have designed processes so onerous that students leave the building to access the bathroom. I’ve seen teachers send students to the office when they don’t believe the student is who they say they are, because they have decided the sex marker on the attendance is more authoritative than the student. Teachers who are homophobic, who harass students, who blame students for homophobic or transphobic violence they encounter, who don’t stop students who are engaging in homophobia or transphobia—An unspeakable amount of casual, thoughtless heterosexism and cissexism exists and gender stereotyping is endemic.

Jacq: Throughout the work that I’ve done to support parents and students in Saskatchewan, I’ve heard all kinds of stories from them about what they’ve experienced. Parents have told me that they were told by openly gay educators, in response to their complaint that their kids were experiencing transphobia at school, that “transphobia doesn’t happen at this school,” as if being queer means it’s impossible to perpetuate transphobia. Students have told me about teachers refusing to use their chosen name, because it’s not “on their file,” and that they were unable to learn about queer sexual health at school. I’ve heard so many stories, and it gets so disheartening, especially when a lot of these stories are about teachers and administrators who claim to be allies.

In my Master’s program, I had another professor who consistently misgendered me and the other trans students in her class. After weeks of this, I finally explained to her that when she misgenders me, it makes it harder for me to focus and learn. She responded with gratuitous apologies, but explained that it was hard for her, and she didn’t mean anything by it. She kept misgendering me and my friends. I stopped engaging in that class.

Kyla: Examples of unsupportive behaviours include using binary language; resisting someone’s pronouns; not acknowledging microaggressions; heteronormative language, resources, authors, and so on; a lack of conversation about diverse identities; and an absence of representation.

What is your advice to the Faculty of Education (and other Faculties of Education)?

Jacq: We need to go further than 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive education, or GSD inclusive education—we need to aim for queering education, for queer pedagogy, for trans pedagogy, and for education that liberates all of us from homophobic and transphobic systems.

Christie: Let’s keep doing the work–begin by continuing to recognize that there is still work to do. And let’s keep making things better for all our students.

James: My advice is to continue to explain, teach, and show and tell that every person in the world has a sexual orientation and a gender identity and that, beyond any simple binary, such diversity, complexity, and fluidity is not just healthy but actually necessary for social and ecological systems in the Anthropocene.

And don’t think of sexual orientation and gender identity in schooling as an “administrative problem” to deal with, but a human issue involving uniquely real people who deserve to be embraced with the dignity they deserve.

Kyla: I have taught the EHE 487 class a number of times. It (or a similar course) should be a required course for all education students. We should ensure that the co-operating teachers with whom we are placing our preservice teachers have the understanding of anti-oppressive education and to role-model. Ensure there is a balance of representation of queer authors. Create a forum for queer preservice educators and their allies to talk about navigating and thriving in Saskatchewan schools.

j wallace skelton: Most schools replicate the ableism, classism, colonization, homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, and other forms of systemic oppression that are part of mainstream society. Education needs to be a place of justice, and that means challenging ourselves and our students to create equitable places where all students can thrive. Anti-oppression work needs to be explicit and intersectional. It needs to be central in teacher education because it is central to schools being just places. We can not teach as we were taught. We know that inflicted significant harm. We must do better.


Alumnus positively influencing change

Alumnus Christian Mbanza (BEd’17–Le Bac) is currently a French Immersion Educator at École St. Mary Elementary School in Regina. You may have seen Christian in the news recently regarding his work to bring Black history into prairie classrooms.

Christian has a passion for history and it is one reason he became a teacher: “I have a passion, not only about important events throughout history, but the people who were able to influence society. I had a history teacher in high school who would always tell us that ‘those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,’ and that continues to echo in my mind. I see how true that is throughout society today.”

Black history is a particular focus for Christian, who says, “I believe that teaching Black history is often misrepresented or ignored in general and has created a negative image and perception around Africans/African-Canadians. In order for the perception to change, we must first know the history and properly teach the history. When students, Black or White, learn about the positive contributions of Black people, whether it be in science, art, law, and so forth, they are able to gain an appreciation and a new understanding. To ensure that Black history is being implemented, I encourage teachers to use resources by Black authors, writers, artist, and refer to famous Black scientists and mathematicians and incorporate primary sources into reading lists.”

A second passion for Christian is people, especially youth, which is another reason he became a teacher: “An educator can positively influence and change the course of a person’s life and that has always been my goal in becoming an teacher,” says Christian.

After 5 years of teaching experience at the elementary level, Christian has had the opportunity to define and refine his teaching philosophy. He says, “Experience is the best teacher. I have learned that effective teachers allow their students to make connections between content and acquire new knowledge that transforms into new ideas. That is why teachers have such a crucial role in the advancement of the community. Further, I am a firm believer in the power of relationships. Strong, positive relationships between teachers and students in the classroom are fundamental to promoting academic and overall student growth.”

Christian values the B.Ed. program he took with the Faculty of Education, “The B.Ed program has shown me the importance of challenging students to be the best that they can be so that they can positively influence our community.” Earning an education degree was, says Christian, “One of the proudest accomplishments of my life… I gained a passion and found purpose in education. Education has allowed me to gain problem solving abilities from multiple perspectives and, in my opinion, it has always held an important role in shaping the future of our society.”

Offering shout-outs to former professors, Christian says, “I had some very influential professors like Clay Burlingham, who changed my entire perspective on how history was taught; Dominic Sarny, who was instrumental in teaching me about cultural pride; and Jean Dufresne, who showed me how to implement my passion into what I teach and how I teach it. A lot of how I teach has really come from my education at the University and these professors especially.”

The most memorable experience Christian had as a French le Bac student was his experience at Laval University: “As a French education student, in order to develop our skills in French, second-year students spend two full semesters in language and cultural immersion at Laval University. This experience allowed me to grow as a person, student, and a teacher. By far the most memorable experience!”

Christian has now decided to work on his master’s degree with the Faculty of Education. “Pursuing a master’s will allow me to grow as a person, and I believe that it will help me create an inclusive classroom in a diverse world, while learning and growing my passions. As an educator I believe it is very important to continue to create the necessary changes in your life and in your classroom to impact our youth and our community.”

Alumna envisions schools as environments of empowerment

In March 2022, alumna and teacher Kiah Holness (BEd ’22) was honoured by Sask LEADS with an exceptional student award for being “an exemplary advocate for the well-being of Saskatchewan students.” Kiah says, “I truly cannot put into words the honour it was and is to be an award recipient. It was surreal to even be in the same room with such distinguished individuals in my career field and have the opportunity to network with them. It reaffirms to me that the work I have been doing and will continue to do in EDI and youth mental health matters.”

While a student with the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education, Kiah served on the Education Students’ Society (ESS) Executive as Vice-President of Professional Development (PD). This position gave her opportunity to organize many professional development opportunities for her peers. Kiah describes these events as, “treasured memories.” Kiah says, “I was able to unlock my passion for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), truth and reconciliation, and youth mental health. I loved the real/raw conversations that we had during PD events, and I loved connecting and collaborating with our hosts to create an enlightening experience.”

Kiah has not only a passion, but also a vision for the mental health of youth and EDI in Saskatchewan. While an Education student, she worked on an initiative to promote policy change in Saskatchewan K-12 schools around recognizing mental health as an excused absence. The idea came to Kiah after watching a TED Talk about a student in the United States who was able to get three mental health days per semester passed. Kiah says, “I thought, wow, to create tangible steps towards destigmatizing mental health is so amazing! I wanted our schools to offer mental health days to students to destigmatize and target supports. Youth mental health and suicide rates are among the highest they’ve ever been. We need to be sure we can offer the necessary care and supports at the school-based level.”

Kiah decided to run the idea by some favourite professors. She says, “I had taken a class with Dr. Nathalie Reid, director of the Child Trauma Research Centre, who is absolutely one of my favourite humans. I could tell we had the same values and priorities when it came to education. This mental health days idea was on the back of my mind; I felt it was something I had to pursue, so one day I talked to her after class and I told her about my idea and asked her professional opinion and she was so on board. I ran it by Donna Nikiforuk, my field placement instructor, and she was also on board and so was the Dean, Dr. Cranston. Their responses were like, ‘Why haven’t we done this already?'”

With Nathalie’s guidance and support, the two were able to create a comprehensive Mental Health Attendance Policy Proposal, which Kiah says, “goes beyond the initial idea, but where we create professional development and opportunities for in-school mental health days for kids who don’t feel safe at home. We would also collect data to determine the schools that have the most mental health needs—just ensuring they are getting what they need.” Kiah hopes this policy would also create conversations around mental health in schools and at home.

As someone who has struggled with mental health since she was young, Kiah believes public conversations around mental health are important. Mental health was never really talked about at school. When that happens, it feels like you are othered. In high school, I realized how many of my friends struggle with the exact same thing.” Kiah sees that conversations are beginning to happen, but slowly. She has presented her idea to a school division and to Sask LEADS and continues to make plans in the hopes of creating change.

A second vision Kiah is passionate about is creating more representation in the education system. “I believe there needs to be more BIPOC/LGBTQ2SIA+ leaders and administrators, but in order to get there we need to create an environment in which they feel empowered to do so. We need to create an environment in which our marginalized students feel empowered every single day,” she says.

Creating environments of empowerment is all about “representation,” Kiah says, “so students see themselves in positions of power, leadership and authority. But even on a smaller scale, see themselves in literature and daily practices. I want to make sure that as a system, every student is perceived as valued. Having many BIPOC/LGBTQ+ people in leadership will let students know they can aspire to be in leadership in any field.”

This vision for representation, too, comes out of Kiah’s lived experiences. Kiah’s father immigrated to Canada from Jamaica with his family at the age of 4. Her mother’s family immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine in the 1900s. As a bi-racial student in a predominately White school community, Kiah encountered discrimination, racism, and microagressions from her peers and some teachers. Recalling an English class that was reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which repeatedly used an offensive racial slur, Kiah says, “Even if the literature uses racial slanders, I feel there is no ground that teachers should feel comfortable to say it. When the teachers say that word, the students think it is okay to use it. Some of my friends would just say the first three letters of the “n” word and say, ‘Oh, you’re just that.'”

Kiah’s curly hair also became an issue when she went to school: “I had a huge curly afro. I didn’t see a problem with it until I went to school where I was in a predominantly White community and I was the only one with curly hair. I started straightening my hair in Grade 1 or 2. It has taken me 20 years just to start to be comfortable with that part of me and letting it be curly sometimes,” she says.

In high school, Kiah began to find her voice and to relate with many of her teachers, to feel empowered: “A lot of my teachers really saw my potential and they didn’t look first at the colour of my skin, or who I was on the outside, they saw what I could do. I remember one teacher in particular believed in me so much, she pulled me out of my English class one day and she said, ‘Kiah, I believe in you, you are so good at public speaking, I want you to come and be part of this Business CASE competition at the U of R.’ Giving me that opportunity, she understood my strengths, and let me shine. It was so amazing. Instances like that were so empowering, where teachers just believed in me for what I could do rather than seeing the front. But the opposite happened too.”

These experiences inform Kiah’s teaching and her vision for creating environments of empowerment: “I had different privileges than someone who isn’t as White-passing as me. So I definitely learned where that got me in life. But there was also a battle between people who didn’t see me as White–passing, who saw me as Black, and then from others, somedays I would hear, ‘Oh, you don’t even seem Black, you don’t even talk like a Black person.’ What does that even mean? Hearing that I’m not Black enough, and not White enough meant I was constantly trying to figure out where I fit in. All youth are trying to figure out where they fit in. This experience really gave me the foundation to ensure that my classroom was a space that no matter who you were, you would fit in, you would have a place, feel safe and feel brave, and that you could have a conversation about these things.”

“Brave” is a word Kiah adopted from an ESS PD series on anti-racism with Dr. ABC: “Teachers are always talking about creating a safe space, and that’s great, but the idea of a brave space where you feel safe enough and then brave enough to actually go and do something—that just stuck with me, and will stick with me forever. I just really want students to feel brave within themselves, empowered within themselves, that they can do whatever they please, no matter who they are. Who they are and what they look like should not even be a consideration. They should feel like they have the strength and support, everything they need to go out into the world and do it at their best capacity.”

How cultures are represented in school also matters to Kiah. For instance, she says, “With Indigenous learning, we focus so much on the trauma and I think it is really important history, but as much as we are focusing on that, we need to focus on the brilliance behind those cultures. We are learning about death and broken promises every semester in every other class, which is really important for history, but I think it needs to be paired with the beauty and all of the amazing things that come with the Indigenous culture. Every culture is so much more than what happened to them, it’s how they rose from it.” This is wisdom she acquired from her bi-racial uncle who is from Ocean Man First Nation.

Making a difference, changing the world, empowering others: these are the reasons behind Kiah’s decision to become a teacher. “I realized my true ‘why’ behind teaching is that teachers have the power to literally alter the beliefs of society, change the world, and that is simply done through love. When we are leading from a place of love in our classrooms and alongside our students it allows us to give students a brave space to be themselves, to feel acknowledged, respected, safe, welcome, empowered, and above all, loved. I became a teacher to change the world and ignite more love.”
The teaching profession is all about loving relationships, says Kiah, “I think that content is really important and obviously the foundation, the curriculum, but relationships, that’s how we make change. When your students respect you and they listen to what you say, and what you say is about any of the EDI or mental health topics, they’re going to listen to that and take it to heart.”

On her internship, it was relationships that kept Kiah energized: “Those relationships really fueled me. A lot of times I would have students come to me and open up about their mental health struggles. They knew they could talk to me and we would figure it out, or I would walk them to guidance. I felt every single day I was there, it was for a purpose. I was doing what I was supposed to do.”

A highlight for Kiah while an Education student, and one that has given her a taste of what it is like to influence change, was an opportunity in 2021, when she was chosen as the sole student representative for the U of R President’s transitional committee. “That was something I will never forget. Being the student chosen out of all the students at the U of R. I was shocked. To be on a committee with Dr. Jeff Keshen, someone with so much authority, was really impactful for me. And not only to be on that committee, but to actually have real conversations about reform at the University, and BIPOC representation, just to have those conversations was so memorable. I felt like I was just one step away from making a change.”

Kiah is still envisioning her next steps that she hopes will lead to change in schools. She is planning to extend her initial plan for mental health days: “I’ve been thinking about creating a larger scale, more generalized non-profit that works to do the same thing, with the eventual goal of the mental health days, but to create PD opportunities, resources, funding for mental health/ first aid, all of that encompassed, and add in EDI, too: an organization that could really push the boundaries and make these issues a priority in schools.”

Even though she is brand new to the profession, Kiah has successfully pitched a change in her current school that works toward daily calls to action and truth and reconciliation. She is excited to continue to grow in her EDI practices as she moves through her career with Regina Public Schools.

Spring 2022 Education News

Click image to access the animated copy of Education News.

In this issue:
A note from the Dean….. 3
Change maker: Tranforming schools and society….. 4
Alumna envisions schools as environments of empowerment….. 10
Why become a teacher? To be a role model….. 16
Alumnus positively influencing change….. 20
Le Bac student helping to preserve Indigenous languages….. 22
Teaching hard truths in a positive way: Kâsinamakewin….. 24
De/colonising Educational Relationships….. 29
Study informs services and supports for South Central Saskatchewan newcomers….. 30
Equity, diversity, and inclusion research partnership agreement announced….. 32
Successful defences….. 34
Funding and awards….. 35
Published research….. 36
New book….. 38
Long service recognition….. 38
New staff|New position….. 39
Student fundraising….. 40

Alumni recognized

Alumni Spotlight: Christian Mbanza

Alumni Spotlight: We’re shining light on Christian Mbanza (BEd’17–Le Bac), currently a French Immersion Educator at École St. Mary Elementary School in Regina.

You may have seen Christian in the news recently regarding his work to bring Black history into prairie classrooms.

Christian has a passion for history and it is one reason he became a teacher: “I have a passion, not only about important events throughout history, but the people who were able to influence society. I had a history teacher in high school who would always tell us that ‘those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,’ and that continues to echo in my mind. I see how true that is throughout society today.”

Black history is a particular focus for Christian, who says, “I believe that teaching Black history is often misrepresented or ignored in general and has created a negative image and perception around Africans/African-Canadians. In order for the perception to change, we must first know the history and properly teach the history. When students, Black or White, learn about the positive contributions of Black people, whether it be in science, art, law, etc., they are able to gain an appreciation and a new understanding. To ensure that Black history is being implemented, I encourage teachers to use resources by Black authors, writers, artist, and refer to famous Black scientists and mathematicians and incorporate primary sources into reading lists.”

A second passion for Christian is people, especially youth, which is another reason Christian became a teacher: “An educator can positively influence and change the course of a person’s life and that has always been my goal in becoming an teacher,” says Christian.

After five years of teaching experience at the elementary level, Christian has had the opportunity to define and refine his teaching philosophy. He says, “Experience is the best teacher. I have learned that effective teachers allow their students to make connections between content and acquire new knowledge that transforms into new ideas. That is why teachers have such a crucial role in the advancement of the community. Further, I am a firm believer in the power of relationships. Strong, positive relationships between teachers and students in the classroom are fundamental to promoting academic and overall student growth.”

Christian values the B.Ed. program he took with the Faculty of Education, ” The B.Ed program has shown me the importance of challenging students to be the best that they can be so that they can positively influence our community.”

Offering shout-outs to former professors, Christian says, “I had some very influential professors like Clay Burlingham, who changed my entire perspective on how history was taught; Dominic Sarny, who was instrumental in teaching me about cultural pride; and Jean Dufresne, who showed me how to implement my passion into what I teach and how I teach it. A lot of how I teach has really come from my education at the University and these professors especially.”

The most memorable experience Christian had as a French le Bac student was his experience at Laval University. “As a french education student, in order to develop our skills in French, second-year students spend two full semesters in language and cultural immersion at Laval University. This experience allowed me to grow as a person, student and a teacher. By far the most memorable experience!”

As advice to students, Christian says, “Obtaining a university education is more competitive and challenging than ever and it may not be easy but it is important to enjoy the process. Preparation is key. Immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is important to set your goals and see them through despite how long it may take and the challenges you may face along the way.”

Alumni Spotlight | Bushra Kainat

Bushra Kainat graduated with Distinction with her Baccalauréat en éducation secondaire and was the Fall 2021 recipient of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Award.

In today’s spotlight, we’re recognizing the student achievements of a new member of our alumni family, Bushra Kainat, who graduated in Fall 2021 with distinction with her Baccalauréat en éducation secondaire.
Over the course of Bushra’s program, she was the recipient of the Centennial Merit Plus Scholarship (2017 Fall), an Academic Silver Scholarship (2020 Fall), and an Academic Silver Prize (2021 Spring/Summer), and finally the 2021 Fall Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation award recipient.
Bushra wanted to become a teacher because she says, “During my schooling, I met many educators that inspired me, and I wanted to be that inspiration to others. I have a passion for the French language and I wanted to share that passion with the next generation. I highly value education and learning, and wanted to encourage the same passion in the next generations.”
Among her University experiences, Bushra says, for her what was most memorable, was her second year in the Bac program, “which I spent at Universite Laval, where I got to experience the French language and the French culture first-hand.”
In terms of on campus experiences, Bushra especially enjoyed “having the opportunity to have some amazing professors!” Three of her professors were especially influential: “I really enjoyed Laurie Carlson Berg’s courses, as well as Stephen Davis’ courses. These two professor’s showed me the impact the educator has on the content being taught. They were very involved with their students’ progress and learning. Lucie Anderson was also an amazing educator. She gave us some of the best teaching advice I have received.”
From her experiences as a student, Bushra offers the following advice to current and future students: “My number one advice would be to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Join the club, apply for the award, participate in conferences, volunteer with an organization, etc. It will go a long ways! Not only will it help you gain experience, but you will develop many skills on the way.”
Bushra says, “The most significant aspect of earning her degree with the Faculty of Education was that “through this degree, I was able to gain a variety of experiences that helped shape me into the educator that I am becoming. From the variety of in-classroom experiences to the exposure to various learning and teaching environments, it all helped me build my skills as a teacher.”
Bushra began teaching with Saskatoon Public following her graduation, and she looks forward to returning to University of Regina for her master’s in education in the near future.

Alumni Spotlight – Joanna Sanders

Our spotlight today is shining on award-winning alumna Joanna Sanders (BEd’05), Director of Professional Learning for Let’s Talk Science, “a national, charitable organization that has been providing educational experiences to educators and their students at no cost to them for over 25 years.” In her role as director, Joanna leads a national team, that, “provides professional learning opportunities in STEM education to thousands of Canadian educators every year.”
In her career, Joanna has also served as the Consultant of Digital Fluency at the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education and as a French Immersion Teacher with Regina Public Schools. She is a Google Certified Innovator, a YouTube Star Teacher and an Apple Teacher with Swift Playgrounds recognition. She is the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence (2011), and a Saskatchewan Ministry of Education recipient of the “Excellence in Education Award for Student First/Citizen-Centred” (2017). She was recognized in 2016 as a CBC Saskatchewan “Future 40.”
Looking back on her time as a student in the Baccalauréat en Éducation program in the Faculty of Education, Joanna feels she was well-prepared to teach, lead, and learn in the variety of educational roles she has served in: “The Bac program gave me the skills, confidence and knowledge to be a leader in my field in two languages. I learned how to be an innovator in my classroom so that I could support the best learning environment possible for my students. This has led to opportunities to become an educational leader at local, provincial and national levels.”
The most memorable experience for Joanna was her internship: “I got to put everything together that I had learned during my studies and put it into practice over many months in a real-life situation. After completing my internship I had much more confidence in my skills and abilities as an educator and I felt equipped to take on my first class as a new teacher the following year.”
Joanna recommends the Bac program, which she considers unique in that it is “led by a small team of professors who supported our growth in different classes. …Being known and supported by this team allowed me to customize my educational experience to fit my unique needs and goals as a student, while still following a core program of courses in my second language.”
As advice to new and future students, Joanna recommends our Education program: “This program is special. Having four years to learn, practice, reflect, and grow as an educator provided a solid foundation to be able to start a new career with confidence. It also instilled an appreciation for life-long learning as an education. Being a good learner is essential to being a good educator.”
What is most important to Joanna about earning her B.Ed with us is that, “The Faculty of Education at the University of Regina has a strong commitment to social justice. The learning experiences offered through this Faculty helped me grow my own worldview and perspectives and further solidified my life-long commitment as an advocate for equity and inclusion for all.”

Alumni Spotlight | Claudia Castellanos

It’s a pleasure to shine our spotlight on alumna Claudia Castellanos (MEd’14). Claudia is the founder and CEO of Connected World Translation (CWT), an award winning company of translators and interpreters based in Saskatchewan.

“CWT is the only translation agency operated in Saskatchewan that actively offers 45 languages including Cree and lnuktitut,” says Claudia.

When Claudia looks back to her studies with the Faculty of Education, she says what was most memorable for her was “unlearning the concepts I had when I started my studies.”

During her M.Ed. studies, Claudia’s favourite professors were Dr. and Dr. . “Dr. Carol Schick was my favourite professor because she challenged our thoughts and beliefs in order for us to question and confront the status quo. She was always fearless to teach us the truth about systemic issues that are certainly part of our everyday life. Her robust knowledge about anti-oppressive education was inspiring!! Dr. Andrea Sterzuk was one my favourite professors because she pushed us to reach our maximum potential. Her knowledge regarding applied linguistics is incredible and I felt honoured to be her student.”

Claudia says that what was most important about earning her M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the Faculty of Education was “to have had the opportunity to learn from a faculty whose passion for social change is relentless. Teaching us to view the world in the eyes of the oppressed is something that makes one challenge the status quo. THANK YOU!!”

Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipient – Christine Selinger

Christine Selinger BEd’11, BSc’11

Outstanding Young Alumni

Christine Selinger is a dedicated advocate, athlete and volunteer. While a student, she served as president of several student societies and received the President’s Medal for her academic achievements and extracurricular involvement. Selinger is an educator and emerging leader in the field of sex and disability. She is a two-time world champion in Paracanoe and, in 2010, she became the first paraplegic to traverse the rugged Nootka Trail off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“After my injury, I was willing to try every sport I could, mostly because I wanted more social time with other people who have disabilities,” Selinger says. “I learned so much from my peers and I was eager to learn more. When I discovered paddling, I really fell in love with it. I loved being on the water and that kept me coming back each day. It didn’t feel like a chore to go to practice and I was eager to get faster and to keep up with my peers.”

Selinger sustained her spinal cord injury in a climbing accident at the age of 19. Subsequently, she completed two concurrent bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and education in 2011.

“My time at the U of R was transformative,” she says. “I feel that university in general is a time for discovery and I definitely felt that in my time with the U of R through both my studies and extracurricular activities. It gave me a view into the wider world that I was craving and chased after graduation. It gave me a view into the wider world that I was craving and chased after graduation. My university experience gave me a clearer idea of who I am and what I want to and can contribute to help my community thrive.”

Selinger worked as a peer support coordinator and instructional designer for the Canadian Paraplegic Association and Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. Through her openness and candor, she has had a tremendous impact on the lives of individuals with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities.

Selinger was a Canadian national Paracanoe athlete from 2008 to 2013, a two-time world champion, and Saskatchewan Athlete of the Month in August 2010. She was also shortlisted as International Paralympic Committee Athlete of the Month in August 2011.

In her professional and personal life, Selinger bravely faces challenges to help improve the lives of people with disabilities. Her contributions to promoting women in sport and her advocacy for the community of persons with disabilities, particularly related to issues of sex and intimacy, make her an extraordinary member of the University of Regina alumni community.

“I’m thrilled to receive an Alumni Crowning Achievement Award,” Selinger states. “Being recognized by peers and other alumni for my work means that the work is noticed. As someone who works in advocacy and awareness, that means a lot. It means I’m reaching people.”

When she’s not working, Selinger enjoys reading, playing games and crafting. She and her husband, Jerrod Smith, whom she met in a U of R modern algebra class, recently moved to Calgary after spending six years in Toronto and a year in Bangor, Maine. The couple have one dog named River, a mixed-breed rescue pup.

Reposted from

Also see Where has your BEd taken you? Christine Selinger at