Category: Spotlights

Faculty Spotlight | Stephen Davis, Intérim coordinateur Maîtrise en éducation française and professeur adjoint

Aujourd’hui, nous mettons en vedette Stephen Davis, professeur adjoint et étudiant doctoral dans la Faculté d’éducation à l’Université de Regina. Stephen enseigne au Baccalauréat en éducation française (le Bac) et contribue à la formation des enseignant.e.s de l’immersion française et des programmes francophones en Saskatchewan. D’ailleurs, Stephen a accepté de servir comme coordinateur par intérim de la Maîtrise en éducation française.

Stephen est passionné de l’apprentissage des langues, de l’enseignement plurilingue et de l’éducation inclusive et équitable. Il souligne l’importance de l’enseignement du français en situation linguistique minoritaire à travers les prairies canadiennes, ainsi que la valeur du plurilinguisme et de toutes langues minoritaires en Saskatchewan. Aux yeux de Stephen, les moments les plus inspirants de l’enseignement sont quand les étudiant.e.s partagent leurs connaissances culturelles et leurs répertoires linguistiques diversifiées pour apprendre ensemble.

Quant à sa recherche, Stephen s’intéresse à plusieurs sujets en éducation, y compris l’immersion française, l’éducation équitable et inclusive, l’enseignement plurilingue, la politique linguistique et l’éducation des élèves nouveaux-arrivants au Canada. Stephen a reçu une bourse doctorale du Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines (CRSH) pour explorer les expériences des élèves réfugiés et les perspectives des enseignant.e.s en immersion française à travers les prairies canadiennes. Les élèves réfugiés sont souvent exclus de l’immersion, et Stephen s’intéresse à apprendre comment adapter ces programmes pour mieux inclure et soutenir tous les élèves nouveaux-arrivants. Stephen est également impliqué dans d’autres initiatives langagières en Saskatchewan, incluant un projet pilote avec Saskatoon Open Door Society pour enseigner l’anglais comme langue additionelle aux élèves réfugiés, ainsi qu’un camp d’immersion michif. Dans son enseignement, dans sa recherche et dans son service communautaire, Stephen cherche à promouvoir la pédagogie plurilingue et l’éducation équitable et inclusive au Canada.

Si Stephen avait des conseils à offrir aux étudiant.e.s du Bac, il les encouragerait à saisir l’occasion de collaborer avec des camarades de classe provenant des communautés culturelles et linguistiques diversifiées. Les étudiant.e.s du Bac viennent de plusieurs pays autour du monde et ont tellement d’expériences valables à contribuer à l’éducation en Saskatchewan. Stephen inviterait tous les étudiant.e.s à partager leurs cultures, leurs langues, leurs perspectives et leurs expériences vécues pour contribuer à une éducation interculturelle et transformative.

Dans son temps libre, Stephen aime faire du vélo, faire du ski de fond et jouer au basketball. Il joue également du saxophone dans un groupe de jazz à l’Université de Regina. Stephen adore surtout voyager, faire du camping et passer du temps avec sa femme et leur chien.


Faculty Spotlight | Dr. Jennifer MacDonald, New Assistant Professor – Physical Education and Outdoor/Land-Based Education

Dr. Jennifer MacDonald, Assistant Professor in Physical Education and Outdoor/Land-Based Education. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

September spotlights continue with today’s spotlight on Dr. Jennifer MacDonald, our new Assistant Professor in Physical Education and Outdoor/Land-Based Education. As a newbie to Saskatchewan, Jennifer has been “learning more about the prairie ecology through walking and watching the sky.” Taking (and enjoying) a Cree language course is also a part of her orientation to living in Saskatchewan.

These Saskatchewan activities reflect Jennifer’s research and educational interests: “My focus is in outdoor and land-based practices with commitments also to Treaty Education. Particularly, in my classes, I endeavour to expand perceptions of wellness so that teaching and learning include the complex ecologies that we are enmeshed in as human beings.”

Ongoing goals for Jennifer include understanding her “role in conversations of truth and reconciliation, and collaborating with others to generate new knowledge and stories that approach place, teaching, learning, relations, wellness, and curriculum differently.” This work is important, says Jennifer, “to increase consideration, discussion, and education to help renew co-existence and restore right relations on shared land.”

As a Canadian of settler descent, Jennifer says, “I endeavour to take seriously guidance from Indigenous mentors who encourage me to proceed in ways that respect treaty wisdom: good relations, peaceful co-existence, and honouring the gifts. Therefore, my research interests are aimed at recognizing and unlearning the ongoing presences of colonialism and Enlightenment-based modes of knowledge and knowing and prioritizes practices to can expand and renew relationships.”

The transformative potential of educational experiences to renew and enhance relationships is the reason behind Jennifer’s passion for education. “As an educator, I am constantly learning to have more trust in the possibilities inherent in kinetic forms of learning, such that the objectives of experiences cannot be fully known in advance and require us to pay attention to the world. In this way, I believe educators and learners can learn about themselves, the stories they are a part of, to understand their relationships more deeply and even differently. Once I starting inquiring into processing of wayfinding with students, all sorts of creative expressions emerged. I am excited by the diversity of knowledge that comes into view when room is created for it and the interconnections that can be drawn through sharing stories. This form of learning gives me hope for a more sustainable and equitable future.”

A highlight in Jennifer’s research was successfully defending her doctoral dissertation in the summer of 2022. In her doctoral research, Jennifer says, “I journeyed alongside secondary school students involved in multi-day wilderness expeditions. I was interested in how students experienced and understood place-specific lifeforms. Simultaneously, as their guide, I wanted to humbly live out holistic relational teachings kindled through visits with nêyihaw Elder Bob Cardinal. Bringing these threads into dialogue helped me to generate insights toward a kinetic process of narrative mapping and to develop principles for wayfinding toward more ethical relationships.” Jennifer is excited to build on this research, inquiring into “how these principles might live in other settings and across disciplines to enliven place-specific ecologies as the living curriculum and to support educators in guiding all students towards life-sustaining relations in everyday contexts.”

Students should consider the Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education (HOPE) course of study “to develop the skills to not only design and facilitate a range of physical activities, but also to understand and enact the holistic potentials of education more broadly and to explore processes of learning that include the life of places we live with,” says Jennifer.

As advice to students, Jennifer says, “It is important to surround yourself by positive people who will push you to be your best. At the same time, seek out others who think differently than you and practice listening to their experiences in the world. Build routines and habits that will allow you to spend time outdoors as much as possible.”

Faculty Spotlight | Dr. j wallace skelton, New Assistant Professor – Queer Studies in Education

Dr. j wallace skelton, Assistant Professor in Queer Studies in Education

As our spotlight series continues, we shine light on Dr. j wallace skelton, our new Assistant Professor in Queer Studies in Education. j says that students should consider taking a course in queer and trans studies because these courses “invite us to move beyond binaries, and to expect, respect, and celebrate people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” This movement is important because, “It’s about making classrooms safe and welcoming and celebratory for 2SLGBTQ people, refusing to see heterosexuality and cissexuality as normal—heck about refusing the idea of normal. It’s about centering the views, experiences, and knowledge of 2SLGBTQ people, and about queering and transing curriculum. For me, it means doing this informed by Queer of Colour Critique, Disability Justice, Feminism and Social Justice,” says j.

j is inspired by bell hooks’ vision of education, “as a place of community building, where love and justice are not only possible, but also necessary.” As an educator and teacher educator, j says, “I am committed to children’s rights and children’s agency, and to moving away from education as a practice where a teacher has power over students. Movements towards education as a practice of justice and abolition excite me. Our justice is tied together, and we cannot create equity for one group at a time. I see this work as intersectional: anti-racism and decolonization are essential to just education.”

The research j has done focuses on trans justice: “I believe that imposing the gender binary on all people is an act of colonialism and deeply harmful. Focusing on the needs and desires of trans people means elevating the voices of people most harmed by this imposition, and creating greater freedom for all of us. I’m particularly interested in the needs and desires of Two-Spirit, Gender Independent, Nonbinary, and Trans children. My work is about creating education spaces, families, and communities where such children are believed, safe, and valued.”

j’s personal interests reflect the work j does as a professor: “Trans justice. Queer liberation. Yes, those are also my interests at work, but my work interests have grown out of my personal experience and my communities. I’m a parent of three children, and I am deeply interested in supporting them and learning from them.”

As advice to students, j says, “Be willing to be wrong. Being wrong means taking risks. It means putting together ideas and then sharing them, allowing them to be tested by others. It means a commitment to learning and to trying again. I think it’s really hard to be wrong in public but that kind of risk taking, listening, and learning is a powerful way to learn. Ask questions. Faculty are here to support you, and we will see your questions as an indication that you are engaged, learning, and wanting answers.”

Faculty Spotlight | Dr. Xia Ji, New Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs

Dr. Xia Ji, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

Today, we’re shining light on Dr. Xia Ji, our new Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs. In getting to know Xia, we pause to consider the identifiers often put on ta in the Canadian context: an immigrant/newcomer; an Asian/Chinese Canadian (lumped into the category of ‘BIPOC’); a woman; an English language learner; a visitor/visiting scholar, and more. Xia says, “Very few Canadians can see beyond my Asian/Chinese look and non-Canadian accent. Here are some identifiers which are less perceived by people: a daughter (to a brilliant mother); a mother (to three amazing children attending Regina Public Schools); a sister (to a most kind brother living in mainland China and to many more); an English teacher (taught English to elementary to university students in China for about 3 years); a friend and mentor (to people from various parts of the world); a citizen (of any place ta inhabits, especially of the land); a leader (including Director of Professional Development & Field Experiences for 5 years); a professor of education (14 years at the U of R); an education scholar/qualitative researcher/autoethnographer; an environmental educator (taught K-12 as well as graduate students in Minnesota from 1999 to 2007); a democracy advocator; a warrior for the human spirit; and a person who cares deeply about human development, liberation, and awakening.” At this stage of ta de life, Xia identifies as all the above, and none of the above. Xia says, “To borrow Yo-Yo Ma’s words, ‘I am constantly becoming as I move towards that which I do not yet understand each day. The result is a continuous accidental learning which constantly shapes my life.’”

In ta de work and life, Xia is passionate about and fascinated by people. This passion and fascination translates into ta de classroom context as Xia attempts to create “ethical space for various knowledge systems to come into dialogue, debate, and mutual understanding,” and “to form learning communities where we can come to know and to be known,” says Xia. “Your horizon will be expanded if you sign up!”

Xia’s passion extends to ta de research interests, which, for Xia, “are continuously evolving, but have been primarily about ecological identity/ self-realization, civic discourse, teacher education, holistic well-being, and human awakening/transformation. I value and understand research as a ‘ceremony to build stronger relationships or bridge the distance between our cosmos and us’ (Wilson, 2008). With the presence of and guidance from our Elders in Residence and Indigenous colleagues/scholars, I have come to see that Indigenous knowledge systems are vast and profound, and are not only necessary but also essential to the survival and flourishing of all life on Earth.”

As advice to students, Xia likes to pass on the words of caution ta received when ta decided to do ta de PhD: “My friend and mentor Betsy Damon ( said ‘Don’t let your PhD ruin you.’ Xia always remembers these words and says: “No matter what you study or research, also engage in self-study, get in touch with your inner curriculum, tap into the full intelligence as well as the shadows within you. Indeed, the study of self is the beginning of wisdom. After all, what we are, the world is!”

Outside of work, Xia enjoys “doing nothing, just being.” Ta practices insight meditation, and is involved in the Re-evaluation Counseling (RC) Community as the leader of the Mandarin RC Group for Oversea Chinese. Xia also loves reading and writing. Lately ta is immersed in reading Indigenous literature from Canada, as well as classic Chinese and Indian literature.

Faculty Spotlight | Claire St. Cyr-Power Interim Director of le Bac

Claire St. Cyr-Power, Interim Director, le Bac. Photo by Shuana Niessen

Aujourd’hui nous mettons en vedette une ancienne étudiante de l’Université de Regina, Claire St.Cyr-Power, qui est la nouvelle directrice par intérim du Baccalauréat en éducation française (le Bac).

Claire encourage toute personne considérant une carrière en enseignement, soit en immersion française ou en français langue maternelle, de choisir le Bac pour tous les avantages que ce programme offre aux étudiants. Entre autres, « le Bac permet aux étudiants d’utiliser et de développer leurs compétences langagières en français tout au long de leurs études », nous partage Claire. D’ailleurs, elle souligne le fait que la deuxième année du programme se passe à l’Université Laval à Québec afin de permettre aux étudiants de vivre et d’étudier dans un milieu totalement francophone. Étant elle-même diplômée du Bac, Claire a vraiment apprécié tous les cours et les expériences de stage, mais plus particulièrement cette deuxième année en milieu majoritairement francophone lorsqu’elle était étudiante.

Le développement et le perfectionnement langagier des étudiants du Bac lui tiennent grandement à cœur. Selon elle, il est primordial que les enseignants en contexte minoritaire francophone soient des modèles langagiers hors pairs pour leurs élèves. Par conséquent, elle ajoute que le temps passé à l’Université de Regina et à l’Université Laval doit être maximisé à son plein potentiel afin de bien développer et perfectionner les compétences langagières du futur enseignant.

Les études de maîtrise et la recherche entamée pour son mémoire ont permis à Claire d’explorer l’importance de la communication orale et écrite dans l’enseignement et l’apprentissage des mathématiques. Le tout a consolidé sa passion pour le développement des compétences langagières. En effet, Claire continue à explorer l’importance du développement langagier dans tous ses cours. Elle affirme que le développement des habiletés langagières ne peut pas se limiter aux cours de français, mais doit s’appliquer à l’enseignent de toutes les matières.

Si Claire avait des conseils à donner aux étudiants du Bac, elle leur dirait qu’il faut saisir toute occasion d’écouter, de lire, de parler et d’écrire en français. Elle encourage ceux qui ont le français comme langue maternelle à ne pas hésiter à partager leurs connaissances et compétences langagières avec leurs collègues. Pour ceux qui apprennent le français comme langue seconde ou additionnelle, elle souligne l’importance de ne pas avoir peur de faire des erreurs et de profiter de la rétroaction qu’ils reçoivent.

Selon Claire, le proverbe «C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron» dit tout. La pratique est la meilleure façon de développer la confiance et les compétences.

Faculty Spotlight | Dr. Michael Cappello, Interim Associate Dean

Dr. Michael Cappello, Acting Associate Dean of Student Services and Undergraduate Programs. Photo by Shuana Niessen

Today, our spotlight is shining on Dr. Michael Cappello, who is currently Acting Associate Dean of Student Services and Undergraduate Programs and Chair of the Elementary Education Program.

Michael teaches in Educational Core Studies (ECS), specifically in anti-racism and anti-oppressive education. Studying anti-racism/anti-oppressive education is important because, “If we acknowledge that the society that we live in is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc… what do we do we that? How do we (un)learn these things? What might it mean for the future classrooms that we teach in? Some might hear this as negative, but I want to underline that this is positive,” says Michael. He quotes Dr. Cornel West, who says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Michael adds, “These commitments to anti-oppressive education are rooted in and motivated by love.”

Decolonizing education has become Michael’s passion: “As a non-Indigenous person, over the last 5 or 6 years I have become increasingly passionate about decolonizing education, and what it means to live into the obligations of being a treaty person in this space. I think that schools can become places where we unlearn the genocidal dreams of my ancestors and begin to imagine what it might look like to live ethically here, in support of the dreams/futures/nationhood of Indigenous peoples.”

As advice to students, Michael says, “Your engagement is the single most important determinant of your learning. Never do an assignment that isn’t meaningful to you. To be clear – this isn’t an invitation to not do things, rather an invitation for you to make your work meaningful. While the instructor and the syllabus all matter, you alone have the ability to ensure that your work has meaning for you.”

Outside of work, Michael enjoys the outdoors, and tries to travel to the mountains every year.

Spotlight on Katherine Williams – seconded lecturer, le Bac program

Aujourd’hui, nous mettons en lumière Katherine Williams. Elle est enseignante en prêt de service dans le programme du Bac. Katherine pense que les étudiants devraient envisager le programme de formation des enseignants de français, car dit-elle, « il y a tellement de possibilités d’emploi pour les diplômés en éducation française et en tant qu’enseignant.e, nous pouvons avoir un impact énorme sur nos élèves en encourageant leurs rêves pour l’avenir. »

Aider les élèves à apprendre est ce qui passionne Katherine. Elle aime particulièrement enseigner la lecture, l’écriture et les mathématiques au niveau élémentaire. Elle a récemment pris la décision de passer de l’enseignement en immersion à la formation des enseignants en français au Bac parce que, dit-elle, « Je suis passionnée par l’éducation en français des élèves de la Saskatchewan dans les écoles francophones et d’immersion. Bien que j’aime travailler avec les élèves, c’est intéressant de pouvoir avoir un impact plus large que ma propre classe élémentaire en travaillant avec des futur.e.s enseignant.e.s qui auront un jour leur propre salle de classe. »

Katherine a commencé à travailler avec des étudiants du Bac en tant qu’enseignante coopérative pour le pré-internat et a tellement aimé voir la croissance et le développement des compétences pédagogiques chez les pré-internes qu’elle s’est inspirée de se joindre à l’équipe du Bac. « En tant qu’ancienne étudiante du programme du Bac, c’est mon grand honneur de participer dans le parcours d’apprentissage des futurs enseignants en continuant la tradition d’excellence dont le programme du Bac est reconnue. J’ai hâte de partager mes expériences en tant que titulaire de classe avec les futurs enseignant.e.s et de les aider à croître et à apprendre. »

En dehors du travail, Katherine aime passer du temps avec sa famille et son chien, se promener en plein air et cuisiner.

Comme conseil aux étudiants en éducation, Katherine dit : « Soyez engagé, curieux et essayez de nouvelles choses dans votre enseignement et votre apprentissage. Rappelez-vous que nous apprenons tous en faisant des erreurs de temps en temps. Et, posez beaucoup de questions ! »


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.”

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.”

Why become a teacher? To be a role model

A story can be told about each of Education student Nahanni Evelyn Rose (Adams-Lindberg)’s names, which is not surprising when you consider that she was named by her mother, Carol Rose GoldenEagle, the 9th poet laureate of Saskatchewan. She was named after the Nahanni River located near Yellowknife, in Canada’s beautiful North West Territories (NWT). Yellowknife is where Nahanni spent her early years until the end of Grade 6, when her family moved to Saskatchewan. “Nahanni” is a Dene word that means “strong rock,” referring to a large rock that juts out of the Virginia Falls on the Nahanni River. Nahanni herself is a mix of Cree and Chipewyan (Dene). Her middle name, Evelyn, was given to her after the Evelyn Falls in the NWT. Given the meaning of her names and a childhood lived out in Yellowknife, it is little wonder that Nahanni loves to spend time in the outdoors and to hike.

Nahanni feels little connection with her current last name Adams-Lindberg. Adams is the name of the family who raised her mom after she was scooped in the 60s. And Lindberg is the family name of her father, who left when she was very young. “I still have a close relationship with my dad, but my name has no significance to me; that is why I want to change it to Rose, which has more meaning.”

Rose was name of the family’s first pet dog, adopted when they relocated to Saskatchewan. The significance of the name Rose, says Nahanni, “is that there are four letters in the word and there are four people in our family. Roses are beautiful but they have some thorns, like we have.”

Rose, the pet, brought their family together through the hardships they experienced after moving away from Yellowknife and through the difficult financial and emotional time while Nahanni’s mom, Carol, transitioned from being a journalist with CBC to a full-time artist/writer. Carol had been working on her first novel, Bearskin Diary, on top of her regular job and single parenting while the family lived in Yellowknife. But after a friend who had deferred his dreams until retirement passed away, Carol decided not to put off working on her art.

A year or so after settling down at Regina Beach, Carol left her job with CBC to establish herself as an artist. Nahanni says, “We ended up getting poorer at first. I know what it is like to grow up without money. But it all paid off in the end.” Nahanni points to the struggles faced by their family as showing, “what it’s like being raised by a single mom from the 60s scoop.” The difference being, “My mom ensured we grew up with a loving mom, something she never grew up with, a mom. I am living a happy life regardless of the obstacles my family has faced—we always make it out strong.” This outcome aligns with the oft-repeated family mindset of “Everything is going to work out.” And it has. Carol is now a successful published novelist, poet, playwright, visual artist, and musician and Nahanni is on her way to her chosen profession: teaching.

Growing up in Yellowknife was a great experience for Nahanni: “I loved it! I grew up with my brothers, grew up on the back rocks, playing outdoors, in the bush.” Nahanni is the twin sister of her younger brother (by 11 minutes) Danny, and the younger sister of Jackson. “It was like growing up with your best friends. They really looked out for me and made sure I was included,” says Nahanni.

Comparing her schooling experiences in Yellowknife to Saskatchewan, Nahanni says, “In Yellowknife, the students were mostly Indigenous. We didn’t see each other as colour; we saw people as their personalities. We were also taught Indigenous culture in our curriculum with activities like sewing class and a hunting class where teachers and Elders would take us out to the bush to learn how to snare rabbits and to dry meat. When we moved here, I felt like it was Danny and I, probably two out of the five Indigenous people in the school. It was hard making friends here. I’m just happy that I had Danny, he was kind of my best friend. I felt like I didn’t get bullied a lot. It took adapting to a new environment to learn who I am and I am happy in my place in life. I didn’t experience racism the way my mom did, but I felt that people did judge me by my look and not my personality.”

A couple years after moving to Regina Beach, however, their family became accepted as “locals” in the small town, and life became easier. “Now I work at the Beach Bar and I’m a local and everyone knows me,” says Nahanni.

When the time came for choosing a career, Nahanni couldn’t decide. “When I graduated high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all,” she says. It wasn’t until she turned 21 that Nahanni took steps towards deciding on a career. She made a pros and cons list for a variety of career options, and education was the option that stood out for her. “It checked off all the boxes: I’m good with people, love kids, and I want to be a good role model. I want kids to grow up with someone who actually cares because I feel like I’ve had teachers in the past, where some cared and some didn’t. I could see myself as a teacher who cares. Something inside of me spoke to me: ‘Be a teacher.’ You just get those gut feelings.”

While many of her family and friends affirmed and encouraged her choice to become a teacher, Nahanni remembers specifically one of her Lumsden high school teachers, Ms. Winter, who was a great influence on her. “She was the one who paid close attention to me; she built that student-teacher relationship. She made me feel seen and heard. Ms Winter would say, ‘Your mom raised you well’ and ‘You’re a good kid.’ That made me feel seen as an individual who is capable, able to do things, even if I didn’t understand something right away.”

Nahanni considers her older brother Jackson a role model as well because he tutored her throughout high school in math: “Jackson was patient even when I was frustrated. He would calm me down and encourage me.”

Being a role model is why the teaching profession is so significant; Nahanni says, “We are the educators that need to be there for students, not just as a job, but as they develop. A teacher should be someone that students look up to for the rest of their lives. Someone who is a role model. I want to be a role model.”

Nahanni chose the University of Regina (U of R) for her elementary teacher education program for several reasons: She wanted to stay in Regina because it was close to her mom and her twin brother. Nahanni adds, “I thought it would be a great place to study. I had heard from friends and friends of friends that this education program is the best in Canada.”

Her experience at the U of R has been positive. Nahanni says, “I love it. I was first accepted into the Faculty of Arts. I didn’t get into the Faculty of Education, I think maybe because I was a bit late sending in forms. I took three classes in the Arts program that all transferred over into my education program.”

The next year Nahanni was accepted as a transfer into the Faculty of Education. “I was so happy. It was the best thing ever. I called my mom and my dad and I cried and danced. It was a lot of emotion. I was alone in my house. I am really happy. It all worked out. That mindset of when I was a kid—I stay true to that today. Everything will work out,” she says.

A major obstacle Nahanni had to overcome to go to University was her tendency toward procrastination. Nahanni says, “I kept making excuses and putting it off, telling myself I was going to apply. Mom and Jackson kept saying, ‘Just apply!’ Jackson on a daily basis asked ‘Have you applied yet?’ One day I just did it because I didn’t want him asking me anymore. The next time he asked, I could say, ‘I did it already.’”

As advice to others considering becoming a teacher, Nahanni says, “Just put in your application. Don’t make excuses and see where it goes. Who knows, it might change your life. If you’re nervous or scared, that’s the point where you push yourself a little, because you know you want to become a teacher. I was nervous, too, afraid I wasn’t good enough to be a university student. Now I don’t think that at all. I know I can do it.”