Category: Education Students’ Society

The ESS is navigating pandemic and making connections

Jordan Balfour, ESS President

When Jordan Balfour was voted in as Education Students’ Society (ESS) President for 2020/2021, he didn’t expect he would be navigating a pandemic.

“The world we are living in now, it isn’t what I signed up for from the start. There have been a lot of bumpy roads, and still are. I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate, how to communicate, how to represent the students, how to communicate with faculty and represent that to students. I wasn’t sure how to do this—it’s really been a complete adjustment.”

Balfour is a busy third-year secondary Education student, with a major in Biology and two minors, who is also working on a second degree in Indigenous Environmental Sciences. Despite the difficulties of remote studies and pandemic restrictions, Balfour with the ESS team are finding their way and making connections.

The addition of a new executive role, VP of Community Relations, is one way that the ESS is reaching out. “I thought we didn’t have enough representation in the community, so we created a new position called community relations,” says Balfour.

Paige Hamann, ESS VP of Community Relations

The position was offered to Paige Hamann, new to the ESS and in her second year of the Secondary program with a major in Social Studies and a minor in English. Hamann says, “I inquired about how to become an ESS member, had an interview to see what team I would fit best in, and then they offered me the position on the executive because of my experience with nonprofits.” Hamann had started her own photography business in Grade 10 and then last summer, following the loss of a friend who struggled with mental health, she incorporated Inside the Box, a nonprofit seeking to address the stigma around mental health within the sports culture.

Hamann says her vision for ESS community relations involves, “letting the community know that the University of Regina ESS wants to support them. We want to do as much as possible to help everybody in our community.” The Community Relations team of five has been providing opportunities for students to volunteer and creating spotlights on local organizations that support education, such as the Inspiring Young Minds book store and Ascendant Martial Arts.

The ESS is reaching out through donations as well. Balfour says, “we donated $500 to five schools for PPE funding because we could not go to the schools and volunteer our time. We also provided Street Culture and Rainbow Youth Centre a large sum of pumpkins and donated time to carve pumpkins with youth.” And they have purchased gift cards to contribute to giveaways for student draws.

Balfour says there have been many changes because the social events typically hosted by the ESS are restricted. “We just had a social event that we were worried about hosting. A month ago we rented a movie theatre, and we had to follow the COVID-19 restrictions, limiting our numbers from 20 to 15. We were worried about how it would go. We did get some backlash, but we followed our protocols. It was our last face-to-face social event.” To ensure they could keep to the restricted number who could attend, the ESS charged a $5 ticket price and had students register to attend. All proceeds from the event were donated to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Foundation of Regina.

Without face-to-face events, the ESS has found it difficult to connect with students and build an Education student family. Balfour says, “Because we are online we don’t have the same ability to build that connection, a culture of relying on each other for support while we are undergrad students.”

Danielle Meader, ESS VP Social
Sara Tokarz, ESS VP of Communications

Instead of face-to-face socials, the Social Team, headed up by Danielle Maeder, is offering giveaways and prizes in exchange for tags, follows, and likes on the ESS social media, managed by the VP of Communications Sara Tokarz.

Balfour has realized that remote studies due to COVID-19 have given ESS executives another new role. “We benefited from a really bad situation. We had a lot of first-year students sign up. New students who joined the ESS are trying to achieve this social, cultural connection with the University that they don’t get through remote classes. Some of them have never been on campus. We are trying to help them with that community. Some of the best aspects of the Faculty are the classes we get to attend. I was looking forward to the interactions and being a part of the educational experience in the Faculty of Education. We are here to provide…almost a peer mentorship. We’re like big brothers and sisters, cause we are experienced in the program,” says Balfour.

Kiah Holness, ESS VP Professional Development

With new students in mind, the ESS’s Professional Development (PD) team, headed by Kiah Holness, offered their first virtual event, “Ed’s Declassified School Survival Guide” where more experienced students offered tips and tricks for when new students finally come to the campus, such as where to buy the best coffee, how to find parking, how to buy textbooks, and how to navigate their own involvement. Other PD events offered virtually were “Building Resilience for Stress of Teaching” presented by Dyan Roth and “Indigenous Brilliance” with Justin “Jah’ kota” Holness.

The ESS executive is also working with Dr. Pamela Osmond-Johnson, the associate dean for undergraduate programs, to develop a new pilot program to provide small grants to pre-interns and interns to support practicum-based projects. Balfour says, “They are the only ones out there facing everything going on with the pandemic. Interns and pre-interns are unable to connect with community resources and bring them into the classroom because schools are locked down. With funding, they will have the resources to assist their practicum experience. Students won’t have to pay out of pocket.”

Hanna Gross, ESS VP Finance & Secretary

To apply for funding to provide resources, to make community connections, or to assist in lesson planning, pre-interns and interns can apply to the ESS for a specific amount with a proposal for PD funding.

There are more plans for collaboration with undergraduate Student Services. Balfour says, “Pam is excited about what we are accomplishing. We will be working with Student Services to host events where they can provide feedback for students, such as town halls and other opportunities for students to learn to navigate the ‘what’s next?’ in their programs.”

The ESS is also looking into collaborations with the University of Saskatchewan Education Students’ Society to broaden and extend their reach to offer PD events to Education students across Saskatchewan.

“The ESS team is amazing this year. They are so thrown out there even during pandemic. They are doing so much with the resources they have,” says Balfour. “This year has brought more than I expected. I didn’t expect 25 team members. These young individuals are so self-driven with their leadership and where they want to take their careers and what they want to accomplish.”

Balfour continues, “The pandemic has really changed everything. The way we can support students and the University at the same time. We’ve had to figure out how to navigate through that. It has been a challenge to make sure we follow proper protocols and to make sure we are inclusive to team members and the student body. Some of the ESS executive has navigated in ways that they couldn’t even anticipate. The experience has been phenomenal.”

Finding Phyllis Webstad approved Orange Shirts at Karen Mah’s Inspiring Young Minds store in Regina was just the beginning of the ESS’s work in the community. Finding out that the store was doing a toy drive to support Gifts of Hope 2020, an initiative started by a Grade 12 student, Emily Messier, to give the gift of play to children in need during the holiday season, the ESS purchased items from the store to donate to the Toy Drive as well as purchasing gift cards to contribute to a giveaway at a Regina School.

2020 Education Student Society Executive

Meet the new ESS team!. They’re doing what they can to help build future teachers through professional development, community relations, (virtual) social events, and communications.
President of the 2020/2021 academic school year: Mr. Jordan Balfour
Secretary: Miss Hanna Gross
Vice President of Professional Development: Miss Kiah Holness
Vice President of Social: Miss Danielle Maeder
Vice President of Community Relations: Miss Paige Hamann
Vice President of Communications: Miss Sara Tokarz
Vice President of Finance: Miss Hanna Gross

Education students participate in Re-Imagine Education with STF Executives

In November 2018, the STF Senior Administrative and Executive staff visited the U of R to deliver a Re-Imagine Education workshop to Instructor Julie Machnaik’s pre-intern students. ESS President Laura Bieber made the arrangements to have the workshop presented. STF Administrator Withman Jaigobin said that it isn’t typical for the STF to deliver the workshops, and especially not typical for the STF Executive and Administrative staff to deliver the workshop. This was a special occasion. STF staff presenting the workshop also included President Patrick Maze and Debbie Ward. Following the workshop, students were invited to a focus group with Communications Officer Shuana Niessen to talk about their visions for the future of education. STF staff demonstrated their interest in hearing from students about the future of Education. Students really appreciated the chance for their views of education to be heard.

Education Students’ Society President Laura Bieber speaks about her involvement in bringing the STF Re-Imagine session to the U of R.

STF President Patrick Maze explains the idea behind bringing the Re-Imagine Education initiative to Education students at the U of R.


Some Faculty of Education, University of Regina students participate in a focus group following the Re-Imagine Education workshop facilitated by STF Senior Administrators.

Student gatherings

Wednesday, November 8 was a busy night for the Faculty of Education. Education Students’ Society organized a Bowling night for students, faculty, and staff. The event was well attended and pizza well enjoyed. Graduate students held a potluck and students attended from as far away as Nunavut (NTEP)!  TEP (Teacher Education Program) graduate students were here for a TEP Indigenous Knowledge Exchange.

Student Gatherings Fall 2017To view the photo album, place cursor over the photo and click on arrow.