Category: Alumni Stories

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. https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/features/bringing-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 https://alumni.uregina.ca/pages/alumni-awards/2020/Christine

Also see Where has your BEd taken you? Christine Selinger at https://www2.uregina.ca/education/news/alumna-christine-selinger/

Grad student discusses talking to students about climate change on CBC’s What on Earth

Aysha Yaqoob (B.Ed. 2018) founded Pencils of Hope while a student. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

In today’s email communication from the U of R President Dr. Thomas Chase, faculty and staff were made aware that,

“Alumna and current #UofR Education grad student Aysha Yaqoob (BEd’18) is talking to young people about climate change.

Laura Lynch of CBC’s ‘What on Earth’ January 10 broadcast, a segment on talking with children about climate change, features award-winning U of R alumna and current MEd graduate student Aysha Yaqoob, who teaches at Balfour Collegiate in Regina.”

This interview is summarized in the what follows.

Lynch asks, “Why teach climate change in an English class,” Yaqoob outlines how her teaching practices were formed by her own experiences as a student, and what stuck with her were the things she could relate to.  So when she thinks about making learning relatable, she thinks about “bringing in real-life situations: what’s going on around them, [and] how they can contribute to it.” Yaqoob says, “I’ve learned that climate change is something young people really care about.”

Lynch then asks Yaqoob how teaching about climate change in a high-school English class “dovetail[s] with lessons about Shakespeare and grammar.” Yaqoob responds that the Saskatchewan English curriculum is thematic so quite open ended. The theme she builds around is Equity and Ethics, which ties into Shakespeare’s Macbeth and also climate change and climate crisis.  Yaqoob begins by asking students where they are at and what they already know about this topic. Yaqoob says, “Over the years, I have found that that’s usually the best way that we can start our learning and move forward.”

Students often think they know a lot about a topic but after their conversations, they realize “they only understand the tip of the iceberg,” says Yaqoob. Students are generally familiar with concepts such as reduce, reuse, recycle, and plastic straws, but with “some of the more complex conversations such as greenhouse gases, when we bring those in, a lot of kids are shocked,” Yaqoob says. “We are constantly debunking information or misinformation that they find online. That’s actually part of the course that I teach earlier on, that critical thinking piece, so by the end of it, they get pretty good at cross referencing, fact checking…so it’s a pretty cool experience that we do together.”

In her first year of teaching, Yaqoob realized that she needed to approach the topic differently so the students can feel empowered and inspired rather than panicked. After conversations with students, she and her students started to look at people who are making change, such as youth activists. Students wrote to people who were making decisions, such as the Mayor of Regina, the Provincial Government and the Prime Minister Trudeau.  Students did receive responses, and these contributed to a feeling of empowerment and advocacy.

Go to https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-429/clip/15817583 to hear the 7-minute exchange. Select the 10 January segment of “What on Earth” and forward to about the 12’15” mark.