Category: Grad student stories

Award-winning master’s student researches immigrant mothers’ experience of their children’s language loss

Willow Iorga

Willow Iorga (MEd’22) was recently awarded one of two Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Awards. Willow is currently an Employment Instructor (just promoted to Team Lead of Work Experience and Employer Relations) with the Open Door Society, where she teaches newcomers Canadian workplace skills. She has a BA in geography and an after degree in elementary teacher education, both from the University of Regina. Willow’s award-winning thesis is entitled, “The Immigrant Mother’s Experience of Their Children’s Heritage Language Loss.” What follows is Willow’s research story:

Willow grew up on Pender Island, BC, located off the west coast of Canada, on a 3-acre organic farm/garden. When she was 11, her parents introduced her to world travel, selling their Pender Island property and traveling to Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan and Australia. “We backpacked and camped a lot,” says Willow, “Sometimes I liked traveling, but a lot of times I missed my friends back in Canada.” In Australia, Willow experienced a foreign school system. “It was really different, we had to wear uniforms, it was a lot more strict, they taught Japanese instead of French as a second language, and I was really behind in math,” she says.

It wasn’t so much these younger childhood experiences, however, that have given her insights into what it feels like to be a newcomer, informing her current work and research with newcomers. Willow points to living in Quebec in her late 20s as an experience that really helped her feel what it is like not to speak the language of the context in which one lives. “We were living outside of Montreal and no one spoke English and I was in language classes .… In my French classes, I couldn’t understand anything, unless they translated into English, I was just so lost all the time in that class. I know how confused and lonely that period in Quebec was.”

What led Willow to her research topic, immigrant mothers’ experiences of their children’s heritage language loss, was an experience teaching at the Regina Immigrant Women’s Centre, where the majority of her students were Syrian refugee mothers. Willow says, “They would come to class part time, all were homemakers, responsible for taking care of the children and cooking. They had virtually no time to do homework or practice outside of the class. It was a real struggle to make any progress. When we would chat we would use Google translate to communicate, so we could have real conversations. A lot of them would tell me that their kids were starting to forget Arabic. The kids were put into the school system, into ESL classes, and they were forgetting how to speak Arabic. I wondered, ‘How on earth can they have children that don’t speak the same language?’ cause they can’t communicate in English at all, how can they communicate with their kids? That’s why I chose this topic.”

Due to ethical considerations, Willow did not conduct her research with these particular mothers, but she had relationships with newcomer co-workers and peers who participated in her research. Willow’s findings include the following:

  • Language is fluid. It can be learned and lost at any age, by any family member, depending on their environment and whether one is using their language or not.
  • English quickly becomes the dominant language for newcomer children no matter how much reinforcement they receive at home.
  • Even if kids share a language, they will convert to English rather than their home language.
  • Online resources are important resources that parents can utilize in maintaining their children’s language. “For example, when I asked what mothers did to maintain their child’s language, they all used YouTube channels that they had their kids watch,” says Willow.
  • A lack of shared cultural framework can create a divide between mother and child.

What impressed Willow during her research is a story that a Chinese-speaking participant told her: “Her daughter was in Grade 4 or 5, and a new student who came from China joined their classroom. The teacher sat two Chinese Canadian girls next to the newcomer, to help the new student. But the girls couldn’t understand the newcomer. Even though they all spoke Chinese and understood the words, the context didn’t make sense,” says Willow. This story showed Willow how “language evolves and it is really dependent on context and culture. It’s not just the words.”

The recommendations coming out of Willow’s study target schools and administrators, settlement agencies, and the Government:

  • Schools and school administrators should move toward more inclusive linguistic policies in the classroom.
  • Settlement agencies should move toward more inclusive linguistic policies.
  • Governments should allocate greater resources towards language heritage centres and education.

Willow explains her use of “inclusive linguistic policies” saying, “In my research I found that as a teacher you don’t have to know, speak, or include the child’s language in the classroom. Your attitude alone toward that language can determine whether the student retains it or not. A lot of classrooms and workplaces have English-only rules.”

When asked what she hopes will be the outcome of her research, Willow responded, “For a lot of teachers to change the way they approach language; there are a lot of misconceptions, such as children need to know English to be successful and English needs to be dominant. If you have two or more languages, it is better for your brain development.”

As for future plans, at this point, Willow doesn’t plan to pursue a PhD. For the past four years, she has been a busy mom, full-time instructor at the Open Door Society, part-time teacher at the YWCA, and a master’s student, as well as while a student working as a teaching assistant or research assistant; she is now looking forward to some rest and a slower pace. That decision may or may not sit well with her dad, Dr. Patrick Lewis, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Regina, who was a major influence in her decision to pursue a career in the field of education (and also influenced her to take a thesis-route master’s program). Willow says, “When I was little, I would go to school with my dad who was a teacher, and then I would have to wait after school until he was done his prep work at the end of the day. I was always in his classroom. And when I had to do co-op hours for the career and personal planning program in high school, I always did those in my dad’s classroom.” Another influence was her teaching assistant work with Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich, a professor of language and literacy education at the University of Regina. Willow says, “While I was a geography student, I was a teaching assistant for about 3 years and Fatima had a SSHRC grant and we were doing a pretty big project at Cornwall Alternative School. I was in the classroom a lot with the kids.”

After her geography degree, Willow earned a 2-year elementary education after degree. What Willow enjoyed about her after degree program in education was the internship and field experiences because, she says, “Instead of doing a degree with an idea in your head about the career, you get to be in that environment and decide if you actually want to be in that environment. I was in a Grade 2 class for my internship, and I really didn’t like it. I love kids but I don’t love trying to get them to do math, or be quiet at assemblies, or not hit each other on the playground.” When she graduated, Willow did not chose to apply to teach in a K-12 school system. She says, “You can do so many things with an education degree. There are so many possibilities; you don’t have to be in the K-12 system. I applied to settlement agencies to teach English with adults. When I started teaching I was assigned students who had really low English levels, the majority were refugee women from Syria or Sudan … I did have literacy skills from the elementary program but adult brains are pretty different. So I ended up going back to do my master’s.”

What makes education significant enough to choose a life career in it? Willow says, “I enjoy it. It’s that simple. You have to work your whole life and you have to spend your time doing something, and teaching is something that, no matter what, it’s always enjoyable, always different. I can always change things, and renew things. You have so much creative control. If I’m bored of something, I can change what we’re doing this week.”

 

Award-winning master’s student researches Indigenous language revitalization using video-chat technology

William (Bill) Cook (MEd’22) was recently awarded one of two Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Awards. Bill is from wapâtikwaciwanohk (Southend, Reindeer Lake) Saskatchewan. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. Bill has a BA in Cree Language Studies from the First Nations University of Canada and has taught Cree language at all levels for over 20 years. Bill’s award-winning thesis is entitled, “Indigenous Language Revitalization: Connecting Distant Cree Language Learners With Cree Language Speakers Using Video-Chat Technology.” The following is a Q & A with Bill about his research story:

Q & A with Bill Cook

Why did you chose to do your master’s degree (thesis route)?

I chose the thesis route because when I started considering doing my masters, I was told by a few people that if I were considering doing a PhD program after my masters, then going the thesis route would be beneficial to getting into PhD programs. For me, doing a thesis was much more beneficial than I thought. It taught me how to do a study, how to collect data, how to work with people as participants and co-researchers, and I learned some different methodologies both Indigenous and non-Indigenous on how to approach research. I feel that going this route prepared me to be a better researcher.

 Why did you choose the U of R?

I was a Cree sessional instructor at the First Nations University when I met Dr. Andrea Sterzuk. She had taken a couple of Cree courses that I taught. I had inquired about an EdTech grad program and Andrea mentioned a master’s program through the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education called Curriculum and Instruction, which included EdTech courses that interested me. She thought this would be a good fit. I agreed. I applied for the program and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and the Education Research and Graduate Programs offices were so helpful to me during this process. It also allowed for me to continue working close to home.

What were the circumstances that led to your research thesis topic?

My research topic was Indigenous Language Revitalization: Connecting Distant Cree Language Learners with Cree Language Speakers Using Video-Chat Technology. This topic was an easy choice for me to decide on. I have been teaching the Cree language for over 20 years at all levels of education from instructing kindergarten students to university courses. One question I have been asked by many language learners throughout the years has been “What do I do next to become fluent in the language?” and my answer is always to immerse themselves in the language and, if possible, to move into a community that predominantly speaks the target language. Most times, language learners are not able to move to those locations, which are typically First Nations communities. By identifying that distance was the barrier, I wanted to see if using technology to make these connections would be beneficial in language learning and also if this could be an option to anyone from anywhere for Cree speaking practice.

How did this topic become important to you?

I believe the work in Cree language revitalization is very important work. If we ever lose our Indigenous languages in this country of Canada then where do we go to learn them? This is our home, our land. Our Indigenous cultures, languages, traditions, identities stem from this land; the land is our language. This is all we have, we have nothing else, we can’t go anywhere else. We have a responsibility to reclaim, revitalize, preserve, and maintain our Indigenous languages.

What were your research findings?

In doing my research I found that having regular synchronous video-chats were effective in remote language learning in both language and culture. Fluent speakers can share their language and culture just by being themselves from wherever there is Internet access. Also, when working with non-tech savvy participants, you must assist with the technology or else find them someone they are comfortable with to assist them. Laughter was a dominant factor throughout the daily virtual conversations, having fun with your project is a good thing. It was enjoyable to see everyone getting more comfortable with speaking in Cree as much as they could. Video-chat technology is a good tool for connecting grandparent with grandchild; this grandparent/grandchild pair in my study made bannock in real-time while repeating Cree words of the process. (See video below).

What impacted you most about your findings?

What impacted me the most was that once the connections were made, the conversations began to flow naturally. The project began a life of its own and seemed to have a spirit of its own. The participants were able to adapt to technology. I am so grateful to all my participants for their work. The relationships built during this process allowed for the conversations to happen naturally. I wondered if the participants not being face-to-face would be able to achieve this connection and I was impressed that it had.

What was the highlight during the process?

The highlight for me was to get to do my study in my hometown and spend time with my family back home in Southend was a bonus. It reminded me of my childhood, growing up and doing things like netting, plucking ducks, filleting fish, making bannock, and cooking on an open fire. Another highlight was watching my participants, especially my parents, gaining confidence in using the tech tools. Lastly, hearing the Cree language being spoken between the learner and speaker was enjoyable to observe.

What recommendations did you make based on your research findings?

The recommendations I developed were:

  • The use of video-chat technology as a language learning tool is only one way to share language and culture.
  • Investing in tech tools that fit your language learning style is a good investment.
  • Finding ways to employ fluent speakers to share their language and culture using technology is a good step towards revitalizing, preserving, and maintaining language.
  • If you don’t know the protocols of the area then ask; there is nothing wrong with asking.
  • For communities: they can find ways to employ their fluent speakers within their organizations, training community members in technology-based language platforms is a good investment.
  • For schools, universities, and other organizations: they can help in Indigenous language and culture revitalization by incorporating fluent speakers and knowledge keepers within their education systems.

What do you hope will be the outcomes of your research?

I hope to see more opportunities like this study. When the pandemic hit everyone went online to spend time with each other, communicate, and speak, in all languages. I think I have reached an outcome of seeing more people using video-chat tech to communicate and practice language learning. Today, I see many platforms for Indigenous language learning. I hope people continue and grow.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue working in Indigenous language and culture revitalization. I recently got accepted to the Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization Doctorate Program at the University of Hawaii in Hilo. I look forward to where that opportunity takes my work. I would like to create employment for fluent Indigenous language speakers with or without having Western education degrees/certificates. This is URGENT to do, as we are losing fluent speakers daily and many of them are not certified to teach in a Western setting. Why do we have to wait for fluent Indigenous language speakers to get certified to pass on their languages? I believe there is a way to incorporate and employ fluent language speakers into Indigenous language programs and courses. I am currently an Assistant Professor at Brandon University. There I will continue teaching the Cree language, creating opportunities for other Indigenous languages, and continued service work in the community and online. I have also been offering a weekly Cree speaking practice group called ‘The Cree Group’ using video-chat. We can be found through Facebook. My work continues with Indigenous languages and cultures using different platforms of technology.

What have been your experiences in the First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina?

The First Nations University and the University of Regina were both supportive during my studies. All the professors and classmates made my experience enjoyable. The atmosphere was welcoming and I felt at home in these spaces. I give credit to the instructors for being so helpful. There were many opportunities to help me along the way which included study groups, writing groups, financial funding and other support systems that played a role in my success. I am thankful for that.

Who were your influences in deciding on a career in the field of education?

I have to give credit to my late brother and mentor Darren Okemaysim kakî-itît for influencing me in my career in teaching the Cree language. He was my teacher; I took many classes from him. He was my mentor, and gave me the opportunity to teach classes alongside him. He always encouraged me to speak the Cree language, rarely did we ever speak English to each other. He once told me “If you continue your work in the Cree language, you will never go wrong” and he was right. Also, my wife and parents are always supportive and influential of what I do. I feel I am on the right path; this is what I am meant to do. There is lots of work to be done in Indigenous language and culture revitalization.

________________________

Links to Bill’s ongoing Cree language and culture work:

Facebook Group page (announcements) https://www.facebook.com/groups/1422458251268465

Bill’s Website where you can sign up for the Cree Group events: https://www.creeclass.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II Centennial Aboriginal Scholarship

Congratulations to PhD student Jessica Madiratta for being awarded $20,000 for the 2022-2023 Queen Elizabeth II Centennial Aboriginal Scholarship.
“Jessica is obtaining a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education Studies from the University of Regina. Her research is the first of its kind in the province and will explore how building a community of educators over multiple culturally responsive professional development sessions can impact instruction in the classroom and benefit the academic achievement of Indigenous students. This scholarship is awarded annually based on academic excellence.” (Source: Saskatchewan Students)

Visit the website to read the announcement: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2022/may/17/2022-23-queen-elizabeth-ii-scholarship-recipients-announced

Change maker: Transforming schools and society

Grad student and teacher Keilyn Howie (BEd’19) is a change maker. Keilyn’s lived experiences have given her a drive to make schools and society safe for racialized minorities.

Growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the 90s with a White family taught Keilyn what it feels like to be different. “I come with my own privileges because I was born and raised in Saskatchewan, but in a lot of ways as I was growing up I was made to feel very different, and it was quite obvious I was very different, and I was treated differently,” she says.

Following an initial unsuccessful attempt at university, Keilyn moved to Regina in 2011 where she met a Black professor who encouraged her to go into education: “I was helping her out at Footlocker, where I worked, and she said, ‘You would make a really great teacher! You should go into education.’”

Though Keilyn couldn’t envision herself as a teacher at the time, she was still drawn to the field of education because she had a younger brother with autism, and she had witnessed her mother’s impact as an advocate for him and his needs in the public school system. When Keilyn took a job with the Autism Resource Centre, she was motivated by their requirements to work on her Educational Assistant (EA) certificate.

Later, in 2014, while working with Regina Public Schools (RPS) as an EA, Keilyn had the privilege of working with a teacher who inspired her to become a teacher: “I was with an amazing educator who was so inspirational, just the way she worked with students. I was so touched and moved and I thought ‘I want to be like that.’ She encouraged me to go to university to get my education degree.” The RPS community school she was working in also affected Keilyn: “Education looked different in a community school, just the impact you could have as a teacher. I felt that I could contribute something, just through the relationships formed with students. Teaching is so relationship based, especially in a community school. I felt that who I am and my experiences and lenses would fit well in a community school setting.”

With all this encouragement, Keilyn finally decided to become a teacher. She entered the Elementary Education program at the University of Regina and found the experience life changing. “The first class was BAM, so eye opening;” Keilyn says, “Dr. Carol Schick’s class gave me the language to describe my experience. Growing up in Saskatchewan, we didn’t really talk about race and racism. Especially when I was growing up in the 90s, there wasn’t a lot of diversity; it was a pretty lonely world. I learned the language for the world around me, to name, recognize, and address oppression and racism in different forms. I’ve been drawn to this work in this field ever since.”

Reflecting further on Dr. Schick’s class, Keilyn says, “My identity was being validated in that class—to learn that this is how society is and that it needs to change. Before I had thought it was just me that needed to change. Even for the other students in the class to learn the language of anti-racism and anti-oppression … it wasn’t only my introduction to this language, it was also new to my peers. I remember another person in the class making sense of intersectionality and binaries, saying, ‘So if you’re a woman and you’re Black, it’s like a double negative?’ It was so jarring for me to hear that, but at least he was trying to make sense of it, and he was realizing that somebody who looks like me has a lot more to overcome than somebody who looks like him. Even with moments like that, as hard as they are to hear, there is hope: people are still learning, and people are changing, and it gives me much hope for the future.”

In her third year of university, Keilyn experienced her first Black professor, Dr. Barbara McNeil, who had encouraged her while she worked at Footlocker: “I think that shows how important representation is. I had lived my whole life with White teachers who never told me that I could be a teacher or that I would be a great teacher. I didn’t feel seen when I was growing up, didn’t see myself reflected in the classroom. I didn’t see Black kids in books or hear Black voices. It inhibited my identity growth for a long time.”

After graduating in 2019, Keilyn began her teaching career in a community school. Just one month later, she was challenged by the pandemic and the movement to remote teaching. The pandemic, she says “really opened my eyes to some of the inequities that community schools face, so I really wanted to become an advocate for these communities. That’s been driving me ever since.”

To make the changes that are needed, Keilyn is active with her Division’s Diversity Steering Committee and an Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive Advisory Committee. “All of these experiences over many years have put me in a place to speak and advocate for people in these communities, to advocate for the change that is so desperately needed in our Division, not only in community schools. The necessary conversations are being shied away from and I really want to be the voice to open those doors and make it seem less daunting to talk about what’s right, justice and equity, even with my young students.”

Now in her third year of teaching, Keilyn brings all of her personal and professional experiences, to her classroom of Grades 1 and 2 students at Thomson Community School in Regina. “I just love it here. Being a person of colour is really helpful in a community school. The demographics in a community school are diverse and representation is so important. With my experiences, I feel I’m able to connect with these students and even their parents who might be new to the country, or who might have some generational mistrust of schools.”

In her master’s program in education, Keilyn is planning her thesis and anticipates exploring anti-Black racism in Saskatchewan. “It’s such a big void, but it’s something I still personally experience and I’m from Saskatchewan so I can only imagine what other people are experiencing.”

Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission model, Keilyn says, “First there needs to be truth so we can get at what the issue is, how deep this issue is, what we even need to address, and then working on the action pieces to follow: How can we create these changes? How can we create more safe and inclusive spaces?”

With her work to make change in education, Keilyn hopes we can “re-imagine education. I think we can use education as a tool to transform schools and societies. [see K. Kumashira’s anti-oppressive model]. We can make sure that kids don’t go through what I went through when I was younger.” Keilyn summarizes with a quote by Ivan Fitzwater, saying, “The future of the world is in my classroom today.”

Keilyn’s Recommendations for Safe, Inclusive Classrooms

A foundation of belonging. Creating a classroom climate where kids feel safe and have a sense of belonging is important for them to learn. Keilyn says, “I’m intentional about making sure they all see themselves in the classroom. Even little things like this board on wall (see photo left.) My students love it. It builds that community.” This sense of belonging is fostered by several aspects in Keilyn’s teaching:

Conversations guided by great literature. Having a great selection of books with diverse topics and characters is Keilyn’s top teaching best practice suggestion. She says, “I don’t use a lot of pencils and papers, or worksheets. I teach through conversations, started with high quality literature. We have amazing conversations. Books are so important. I aim for three read alouds every day. I look for a books that match what I want to achieve. I don’t just read the book and move on. We talk about it. I ask them ‘What are your questions?’ which is more inviting than ‘Are there any questions?’ I am honest when I don’t know the answer to their question and we research it together.”

Responsive teaching. Part of creating a sense of belonging is being guided by the interests of students and their identities. Keilyn says, “I try to be culturally responsive. I use that globe all of the time because we are always talking about who we are as people and how we are all connected on this beautiful land. If I get a new student, we pull out the globe and look at where they come from and what languages they speak. If they are comfortable, they tell us about that, and we learn some of their language. It’s really important to me to let the kids be leaders and to introduce them to as many viewpoints as possible.”

Flexibility. Flexibility with daily plans is another aspect of Keilyn’s responsive teaching. “I’m very flexible–I have my day plans, if I veer from that, it’s okay. Listening to students and where they are at and what they are wondering might be the most important thing you do that day. If something negative happens, such as an experience of racism, stop your lesson to address what is happening because that will be the most important lesson of their day. We want students to feel seen and validated, so if we brush off their experiences or the things they are feeling, that’s not going to help them, the classroom climate, or the world. We have to address these things as they come up.”

Critical self-reflection. Keilyn adds that critical self-reflection is another important piece of developing a culture of belonging: “Teachers need to keep educating themselves about, for example, anti-racism. This is a pretty new field for a lot, especially in Saskatchewan. Teaching is so influential because were not just teaching the curriculum but also the hidden curriculum. If you don’t take the time to address your lenses or biases that you might be bringing, you might just be perpetuating those norms.”

Decolonize and Indigenize. Keilyn is working to decolonize and Indigenize her classroom as well. Walking into her classroom, one immediately sees the bundles of wild sage hanging on the door, which were gifted to her class. The next thing you might see is the classroom treaty that she and her students develop at the beginning of each year. Keilyn explains this activity is “a simple way to talk about treaty and historical context.”

Using the resources she finds through the School Division, Keilyn develops new opportunities to start conversations about what people have experienced, what they did historically, how newcomer settlement affected their lives, and how to get back to learning on the land. “I invite a lot of guest speakers into the classroom and I have the school Elder come in once a week to spend times with kids.”

Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award recipients

Congratulations to Master’s students Willow Iorga and Bill Cook on being selected as the two  recipients of the Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award!

The Faculty of Education Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award was established in 2021 to recognize outstanding academic performance of thesis-based graduate students (Masters and PhD) in Education.

This $2,000 award is granted to a student in a graduate program in the Faculty of Education who has exemplified academic excellence and research ability, demonstrated leadership ability and/or university/community involvement, and whose thesis was deemed meritorious by the Examining Committee.

Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow Incentive Award recipient announced

Award announcement: Dr. Needal Ghadi has been awarded the inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow Incentive Award in the Faculty of Education. Dr. Christine Massing, who has co-published with Dr. Ghadi on four refereed journal articles, will serve as his Postdoctoral Fellow supervisor.
 
Dr. Ghadi completed his Ph.D. in the Faculty of Education in 2020 with the supervision of Dr. Andrea Sterzuk. Given his outstanding academic performance, the Faculty of Education nominated him for the Governor General Academic Gold Medal and he was the recipient of the Associate Dean’s Graduate Students Thesis Award in 2021. He has co-published six journal articles and presented locally, nationally, and internationally.
 
According to Dr. Ghadi his doctoral study, “documented the intersections between language learning and capital of Syrian men living in Regina; finding that their established identities were eroded or altered due to the loss of their linguistic capital.”
 
As a Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Ghadi will extend his doctoral work to study the impact of COVID-19 on the language learning of adult Syrians in urban and rural Saskatchewan.

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

Vanier Scholarship Candidate | Jessica Madiratta

This week we are shining light on Jessica Madiratta, currently in her second year of a Doctor of Philosophy in Education program with the University of Regina. Jessica recently received the good news that she has been selected as a University of Regina candidate for the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships–Doctoral Awards 2021-2022 competition. She will find out in spring if she has been successful in the national competition. For her dissertation, Jessica’s proposed research is a critical participatory action research project which she hopes will improve teaching practices through professional development in culturally responsive pedagogy. “This project challenges educators to build deeper relationships with their students, to bring in authentic learning experiences for students, and to explore social issues happening around student lives,” says Jessica.
 
Living up to her maiden name “Wesaquate,” which means “sharp as a whistle,” Jessica’s been a non-stop student on campus since 2006, earning her BEd from SUNTEP Regina in 2010, her MEd (C&I) in the Faculty of Education in 2015, followed by a BA in Indigenous Studies from FNUC in 2019. Jessica’s been working as a teacher with Regina Public Schools since 2010. Beginning in 2018, she took on the role of Indigenous Advocate Teacher at Kitchener Community School in Regina.
 
Jessica’s fondest memories come from her favourite MEd course, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, which she took with Dr. Angelina Weenie (FNUC): “This class showed me the importance of decolonizing and indigenizing my classroom practices and shared the power of culturally relevant and responsive pedagogies. It had a huge influence on my PhD research topic. Someone should take this class if they are looking for ways to engage their diverse student population,” she says.
 
In Dr. Weenie’s class, Jessica had the opportunity to attend culture camp: “It was completely dedicated to Indigenous ways of knowing, doing, and being. I had the chance to learn from many elders, participate in a sweat, and to be on the land,” says Jessica.
 
Jessica, who grew up in Regina, and has roots with Piapot First Nation, considers the most significant aspect about earning her degree from the Faculty of Education, “is the opportunity to learn in my traditional territory with learnings connected to the Regina area.”
 
As advice to students, Jessica says, “Connect with other students. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions and learn from the experiences of those that have already started their schooling journey.”

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!!”

Inaugural fall 2021 recipients of the Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award

Dr. Titi Olayele
Dr. Katia Hildebrandt

Congratulations to the inaugural fall 2021 convocation recipients of the #UREdu Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award: Dr. Titi Olayele (BIPOC) and Dr. Katia Hildebrandt (the Faculty of Education nominee for the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award).

 
The Faculty of Education Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Award was established to recognize the outstanding academic performance of thesis-based graduate students (Master’s and PhD) in Education. Each recipient is a student in a graduate program in the Faculty of Education who has exemplified academic excellence and research ability, demonstrated leadership ability and/or university/community involvement, and whose thesis was deemed meritorious by the Examining Committee.
 
One award (of $2000) will go to an applicant who has self-identified as a Black, Indigenous, or a person of colour (BIPOC).
 
The second award (of $2000) will go to the Faculty of Education nominee for the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal (Spring) or the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award (Fall).
 
There are four awards annually, each valued at $2,000, divided between two convocations:
*Two awards in Spring (from the list of eligible candidates for the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal) and
*Two awards in Fall (from the list of eligible candidates for the President’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award)

View Dr. Olayele’s 3-minute thesis presentation