Category: Student Experiences

Educating about life with a service animal

Erin with her service dog Stella. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

Erin Strueby (BEd/BKin ’20) has a passion for working with students with exceptional needs. But teaching wasn’t Strueby’s career goal when she first came to the University of Regina (U of R). After being recruited to the U of R Cougar’s Track and Field team, she started out as a Kinesiology student. Teaching became her goal through working in the U of R Summer Sports School (SSS) as a camp leader.

“Through SSS, I discovered that I really enjoy working with children, building relationships, and teaching new games and skills,” says Strueby. After her second year of SSS, Strueby decided to do a joint degree, beginning her Education program while also completing her Kinesiology program. Because Summer Sports School had given her an opportunity to work with children of all abilities, Strueby says she, “developed a true passion for working alongside children with exceptional needs.” She thus decided to complete a Certificate of Extended Studies in Inclusive Education. Strueby says, “Although becoming a teacher was not where I thought I would end up, I am incredibly happy with the path I ended up on and cannot wait to start my career as a teacher.”

However, Strueby has concerns about her career path as a teacher because Strueby herself is a person with an exceptional need: She requires the assistance of her service dog, Stella. Strueby’s reasons for needing Stella are not immediately apparent to others: As a student, she has demonstrated academic proficiency having just finished her seventh year at the University of Regina and she is also a dedicated athlete, as seen in her competitive cross country and long distance running with the U of R Cougars for four years.

Strueby says, “Because my disability is not visible, I often get asked, ‘Why do you need a service animal?’ I have also been asked, ‘What is wrong with you,’ ‘Are you blind or something,’ and ‘Whose service animal are you holding?’ Fortunately, these questions do not easily offend me and I am able to respond in a way that provides people with further knowledge on service animals.”

In her public life, Strueby faces challenges and obstacles because of a lack of knowledge about the use of a service animal. For example, many public places do not know the difference between a service animal and a support/therapy animal. Strueby says, “According to the Saskatchewan Code of Human Rights, support or therapy animals do not have the same rights as service animals do, and are restricted access to many public places. I have often been denied access to places because people think my service animal is a support animal. Trying to explain the difference between a service animal’s role and a support/therapy animal’s role can be rather difficult when people are not open to understanding. This is where I have encountered many issues and struggles when I am trying to live everyday life.”

While Strueby turns many difficulties into opportunities to educate, she also experiences situations which can’t be responded to. For instance, she says, “People have glared, whispered, and said ‘I guess anyone can get a service animal for anything now-a-days’ or ‘They seem to just let dogs everywhere.’”

Another challenge Strueby faces is how others respond to her service animal. She says, “I have also had people swoon over my service animal, make kissy noises or whistle at her to get her attention, and mention how cute she is. Additionally people also try to take pictures of her as if seeing a service animal is a rare phenomenon.”

Strueby compares Stella to a wheelchair: “It is not often that people make snide remarks to people who are in wheelchairs, or to comment on ‘how cute’ a wheelchair is, or to take pictures of it.” Strueby points out that societal norms about visible disabilities teach the public not to ask about how another person is managing their disability, but these norms don’t extend to invisible disabilities.

For example, because Strueby requires Stella only in certain conditions, she is often asked, “Where’s Stella?” when she leaves Stella at home. Strueby says, “Seeing that I make use of my service animal only when I feel I need it, people often think I am faking mental illness, or only had Stella certified because I wanted to be able to take her places with me. This is so far from the truth—having to take a service animal with you in order to function can be such a burden; it is not ‘fun,’ it is not ‘cool,’ and it can make everyday tasks much more difficult.”

“Stella is an incredible tool I have the privilege to use. When I am in busy environments she acts as a barrier between me and other people to ease my social anxiety. During stressful and overwhelming moments in class she will lick my hand or become restless when she recognizes I need a break from the environment I am in. When I have panic attacks or moments of distress she will lie on the floor beside me and paw at me until I am fully focused on her. At home Stella can usually be found right by my side; however if she is not with me, she is constantly checking up on me. Whether I am napping, working on homework, or even in the bathroom… it is never long until she pushes her nose through to see what I am up to,” says Strueby.

While troublesome, these experiences have taught Strueby about what she needs and when she needs it. Though she has some bad days, she says, “I now have the ability to understand exactly what I need during those moments in order to push through.”

“Moving forward, I am working on feeling less guilt and judgment around how I use my service animal,” says Strueby. The use of Stella has been a topic that has weighed on Strueby for some time. Her concerns rise as she anticipates how misunderstandings around her use of Stella might impact her employment in the education field, the work she has become passionate about.

In the fall of 2019, the final year of her Education program, Strueby, with Stella by her side, was required to complete a semester-long, in-school internship. After some initial struggles, and with the support and encouragement of the field placement staff at the U of R, Strueby was finally placed at Luther College High School in Regina under the supervision of Erin Woods and Troy Casper, where she was encouraged by a successful internship.

Strueby says, “Luther provided me such a positive internship experience. Everyone at Luther welcomed me with open arms, was continually supportive, and made my teaching experience one to remember. The Luther community accepted me for who I am and was more than open and willing to learn about my needs, and how a service animal can be used to help those with all types of medical complications. I loved every minute I spent at Luther and I am so thankful for everyone who pushed and challenged me during my teaching experience. I made many relationships with the staff and students and I am looking forward to strengthening those relationships through volunteer work (ex. coaching), and through continuing to share resources and regularly connect with my co-operating teachers and colleagues.”

Through telling her story, Strueby says, “I hope others are able to gain a better understanding about how people’s needs are never the same.”

SUNTEP Regina students engaged in project replicating Road Allowance home

Follow along the Twitter journey posted by SUNTEP Regina professor Brenna Pacholko, outlining the student project that resulted in an accurate portrayal of the interior of a Road Allowance House. The display can be viewed at the GDI Library, 2nd floor of the College West Building. They will be presenting about the project on February 27 at 7:00 pm @ the Artesian on 13th as part of  the Heritage Regina Lecture series, “gee meeyo pimawtshinawn It was a Good Life. Stories from the Road Allowance People.”

Mother and daughter from Nunavut: Students together at the U of R

Pauline Copland has come a long way since her years of working as a clerk interpreter at a health centre in her small community of Arviat, Nunavut. A love for learning and a latent desire to become a teacher induced her to quit her job to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree at Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP), which was offered in partnership with the Faculty of Education, University of Regina (U of R) for over a decade.

“My teachers inspired me to become a teacher. I had been a long time employee at our local health centre, but my love for children and education was always with me; so, after I had all my children, I decided to go back to school to pursue a teaching degree,” says Copland.

In 2013, Copland applied, was accepted, and began her B.Ed. program. Going back to school was challenging at first with adjustments to academics, while also parenting her five children, the youngest of which was only 15 months old when she started the program. Copland says, “I often had mom-guilt feelings because I closed the door on my kids so many times and found a quiet place to study. After the first year, things got easier and my brain got back to student mode.”

Adjustments made, Copland thrived, graduating from the NTEP/U of R Elementary Education Program with distinction in June 2017. But she wasn’t ready to stop learning: “My love for learning grew throughout the program; the more I learned about children and their development the more I was inspired to dig deeper and gain new knowledge. I had my own sense of raising children through a mother’s lens, but it was interesting to learn more about children from an educational perspective.”

Choosing a master’s program with the University of Regina made for a smooth transition: “I decided to take my Master’s at the U of R because I took U of R courses throughout the undergrad program. U of R was partnered with the Nunavut Arctic College at that time, and I kind of knew what to expect from the courses because of my experience at NTEP,” explains Copland.

With only her internship experience to qualify her for a Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) program, Copland decided to apply anyway and was accepted to the U of R program in Curriculum and Instruction: She says, “I knew I had the determination and work ethic to pull through another program after completing the NTEP program, even without the teaching experience that was required upon application. I remember telling myself, ‘I don’t have to believe everything I read, so I’m going to take a chance at this.’”

The difficulty would not prove to be academic; the decision to take the degree in Regina meant she would be leaving behind her children for extended periods of time. She says, “The hardest part of my journey was leaving my kids. It was a different story every single semester. First semester, I had two of my kids who were 5 and 12 years old and in my second semester, I had just my youngest. In my third semester, I left home without any kids to attend the spring semester.”

Each semester, leaving home was a struggle: “It was so hard to board that airplane, but I didn’t turn back and I constantly reminded myself that I am doing this for them. The first few weeks away were brutal, but as soon as I got into a routine, time went so fast. I went home in between semesters so that breather really helped me get pumped up and prepared for another semester.”

In Copland’s second year and final semester, she had the unexpected pleasure of studying alongside her daughter. Copland says, “My daughter, Michaela, decided to come to study at the U of R because she wanted to ‘take the road less traveled.’ A number of our young high school graduates go to Ottawa or Winnipeg, but she wanted to try something different. She was accepted to the Faculty of Arts, but now she is thinking about majoring in education.”

Copland says, “We both felt so lucky to study alongside each other. I think it’s rare for a mom and daughter from Nunavut to attend the same university at the same time. The best part of it all was the support I was able to give her. We are from a small community and there was a big change in scenery so being there for her when she was trying to adjust to all the change was something I’d want to do with all my children. I want them to know that there is a whole world for them to explore out there—‘it’s a small world after all!’”

When Copland first arrived, the only person she knew was Faculty of Education Instructor Julie Machnaik, whom Copland had met through Machnaik’s work as coordinator with the NTEP partnership program for several years. Copland says, “Julie’s nice warm welcome to Regina made me feel closer to home. I live in a close-knit community, and she made the adjustment so much easier to cope with. My friend helped me in more ways than one; she took me and my kids to our new home and made sure I was settled before she left us. She was also my ‘go-to’ person as both campus and city life was new to me. I am thankful she was part of this journey.”

Living on campus gave Copland the opportunity to meet new friends who also gave her support throughout her program, and helped her deal with the hardship of being away from her children. “I met amazing people throughout the program; it was a bonus to have the support from my circle of friends,” says Copland.

Copland graduated from the master’s program in June. She says, “It was an amazing feeling to walk across the stage even for a short moment. Time went way too fast so the convocation ceremony was a great way to wrap up my thoughts around being a long time student.”

Her education has fortified her vision for education: “Every child deserves to learn in a safe and respectful environment. I think each individual should be valued in the classroom as we all learn at our own pace and time. More importantly, giving them the opportunity to learn with respect to their culture and background is something I strongly support,” says Copland.

Reflecting back on what she has accomplished, Copland says, “I close my eyes and I see and feel the campus atmosphere—I never thought, 18 years ago, that I’d get back into books and study alongside my daughter. I was a young mother so I thought I had lost all my chances of getting back into something that I liked doing and dreamed of becoming. Turns out, there is no age limit; you just have to go after your dreams and never stop believing.”

Copland has returned to Nunavut and will start her teaching career in the fall, teaching Grade 3 students. She says, “I will start in my home and comfort zone, but who knows where I’ll end up in a few years time.”

By Shuana Niessen

U of R doctoral candidate returns to China for EFL internship

Moving Towards Ethical Internationalization: Bridging Plural Knowledges in English as Foreign Language Curriculum and Instruction.

In 2014, as part of University of Regina/Chengdu University of Technology’s (CDUT) partnership, an ethical internationalization in higher education research and instructional program was conceptualized and initiated by Professor and Dean, Duan Cheng and Associate Professor, Zheng Huan (CDUT, College of Foreign Languages and Cultures), Dr. Fran Martin (University of Exeter, Graduate School of Education) and Professor Fatima Pirbhai-Illich (University of Regina, Faculty of Education).

Over the past five years, Drs. Martin and Pirbhai-Illich have engaged in academic work at CDUT that has focused specifically on learning and engaging in ethical internationalization practices in higher education in the College of Foreign Languages and Culture. Dr. Martin, Associate Professor Zheng Huan and Professor Pirbhai-Illich conducted research and in 2016, disseminated findings at a conference on Internationalising Higher Education at Simon Fraser University. They have also co-authored one journal article titled “The critical intercultural dimension of the processes of internationalization in higher education” which is under review.

Graduate Students Invited to University of Regina for Doctoral Program.

As part of the overall project, for the past three years, Dr. Pirbhai-Illich has invited one graduate student each year to apply for entry into the Faculty of Education’s doctoral program. Each doctoral student takes their required courses with faculty members and for their doctoral research project, engages in academic work with Dr. Pirbhai-Illich to understand issues around plural knowledges, curriculum and instruction in teaching English as a Foreign Language, and working towards ethical ways of doing education that honour and bridge the best of these knowledges for their particular context.

CDUT Sponsors Former Student to Return to China for EFL Internship,

Miss Feng Leyuan, doctoral candidate, University of Regina

In 2018, CDUT sponsored Dr. Pirbhai-Illich’s doctoral student, Fadi Tannouri from the English Language Institute at the University of Regina to visit, learn and teach Academic English in the Chinese context. This year, CDUT has sponsored one of its own former graduate students, Miss Feng Leyuan. Now entering her third year of the doctoral program in the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, Miss Feng Leyuan has returned for two months with Dr. Pirbhai-Illich as a preservice teacher to her alma mater to teach and engage in a 3-week English as Foreign Language internship program under the guidance of lecturers, Ms. Chen Fan, Ms. Luo Yuan, Mr. Zhou Yi and Dr. Pirbhai-Illich.

On June 19, Miss Feng Leyuan presented her first paper to faculty and graduate students at CDUT titled, “A self-study of my journey: Working towards becoming an ethical global educator of English as a Foreign Language.” Miss Feng Leyuan is the first of the three doctoral students to return to CDUT.

 

 

 

A multilingual international collaboration

The following story, submitted by former grad student and French Immersion Kindergarten teacher Ellen Lague and Minority Language Professor Heather Phipps, describes the development of a multilingual Saskatchewan-Belgium collaboration that evolved out of Ellen’s participation in the Social Justice and Globalization Study Tour to Belgium (EDFN 803) in July 2018.

“What Fills Your Heart with Happiness? kîkway kîya kisâkasineh mîyawhten kiteh ohcih?”

As part of my Master’s in Education program, I participated in the study tour to Belgium. The course was instructed by Dr. Heather Phipps, with whom I have shared interests in Early Childhood Education, French Immersion instruction, and literature. While in Belgium, we met with Heather’s colleague and long-time friend Caroline Moons, who instructs university students studying to become Kindergarten teachers at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

We discussed doing a multilingual project together with my Kindergarten students and Caroline’s university students. With Heather’s guidance, we chose an activity with Monique Gray Smith’s picture book My Heart Fills with Happiness/ni sâkaskineh miŷawâten niteh ohcih. Monique Gray Smith is an award-winning author of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish heritage. The picture book, written in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and dedicated to IRS survivors, is a positive representation of Indigenous happiness, love, strength, and life experience. Each page, vibrantly illustrated by award-winning, Métis-Cree artist, Julie Flett, expresses the happiness experienced in the simple joys of life, such as holding the hand of someone you love or smelling fresh-baked bannock. Heather suggested this book for the multilingual reading possibility, with a Cree/English edition recently published by Orca Books.

With the book chosen, my students spent most of February preparing for our project with Caroline and her students: discussing First Nation storytelling, and reading two different versions of How the Earth was Created; talking about Nanabosho or Nanabush and how he has several different names; and discussing oral storytelling and why oral stories might change in the telling, and about why February is the traditional time for storytelling because it is when the snow covers the ground. I read My Heart Fills with Happiness aloud with my students every school day in the month of February. During the break, students were asked to think about what fills their heart with happiness using specific examples. I received several responses from parents who loved the idea of our project.

On February 27, students and teachers in Regina and Belgium connected through Skype. Belgian students began by asking my students about First Nations storytelling. Next, we read the book, What Fills My Heart With Happiness in four different languages: English, French, Cree and Flemish. The children knew the story so well, they were excited to hear it read in two languages that were new to them; they “oohed” and “ahhed” when hearing Cree and Flemish. Then, all the students shared what filled their hearts with happiness. One of my students mentioned speaking with her family that lives in the Philippines. Another student spoke about the sound of popcorn popping. The children were delighted to share, and the pre-service teachers in Belgium also expressed their joy in meeting with the class.

For Heather, being in Ellen’s Kindergarten classroom during this multilingual reading of My Heart Fills with Happiness was a beautiful and meaningful experience. While reading together across the world and in four languages there was a feeling of interconnectedness, where each person was invited to share one’s own inner joy and to listen respectfully to others. The story is meant to be shared and makes for an ideal read-aloud. The university students listened attentively to the voices of the children in responding to the story, and the children were eager to share their knowledge and life experience. The shared interaction with the picture book inspired the children and adults to reflect on their own sources of inspiration, love, and happiness.

This spring, we were delighted to learn that the author Monique Gray Smith, alongside authors Louise Halfe and Wendy Mirasty, would be speaking on an Indigenous Author Panel at the Regina Public Library. This was a wonderful opportunity to listen to each author’s journey to becoming a writer. Monique spoke about the importance of story and how empowering it is for Indigenous readers, particularly young children, to see themselves represented in picture books. She mentioned that she has met many young readers who tell her, ‘I’m on the cover of your book.’ Furthermore, this story of sharing love and happiness ends with a significant question, “What fills your heart with happiness?” which opens up a conversation for intergenerational sharing and healing as readers of all ages are invited to reflect on love.

A journey that began in Belgium was able to take root back home. In reconnecting with Caroline we could continue the journey of reconciliation with our students, and share the
journey with students in Belgium. Two weeks after the Skype call, Heather and I shared the project with her first-year university students. To be able to culminate our project with meeting Monique Gray Smith brought happiness to my heart and a strong purpose to continue on the path to reconciliation.

By Ellen Lague and Heather Phipps

Education students participate in Re-Imagine Education with STF Executives

n 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.

Study Tour to Belgium

U of R study tour students, UCLL students, a teacher educator from Bhutan, and facilitators at the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training in Brussels

In July, five B.Ed. students, eight M.Ed. students, and one professor boarded international flights and converged in Belgium for a 10-day course exploring the theme of Social Justice and Globalization from an Educational Perspective. Students spent time in Leuven and Brussels for the course. Leuven is a university city in the Flanders Region, a region established mainly along ethnolinguistic lines. In Leuven, the dominant language spoken is Dutch (Flemish), and in Brussels, just a 20 minute train ride away, French and Dutch are spoken. Brussels is the capital city of Flanders, Belgium, and Europe. Belgium has three official languages, Dutch, French, and German. Belgium students learn, as part of their core curriculum, four or five languages. All of the UCLL students in the summer institute spoke fluent English as well. Fittingly, in this multilingual context, the U of R course was offered in both of Canada’s official languages: French and English, and students could use any language of choice for their assignments.

Dr. Heather Phipps, Assistant professor in the Bac program, spent many hours over the past two years organizing the course in partnership with the UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) University colleagues. She says, “We aimed to connect students internationally in a bilingual course that focused on global citizenship. As a language education professor interested in social justice, the whole experience was both rewarding and transformative, from planning the course to travelling with the students in Belgium.”

For undergrad students, the experience included volunteering for one full day in a summer language camp for young Flemish-speaking children who were learning French and English.​ Dr. Phipps says, “It was a very memorable day as the students worked alongside camp monitors from Italy and Turkey who spoke many languages. The students gained confidence through this experience and also made new international friends!”

As part of the course, the University of Regina students joined with five undergraduate students from UCLL and a teacher educator from Bhutan for a 4-day institute on global citizenship, which explored UNESCO’s key concepts for a sustainable future, and was facilitated by UCLL’s Katrien Goosens and Leen Alearts. This diverse community of learners and educators generated international and even intergenerational perspectives on current global issues. Ashley Churko, a teacher working in French and a graduate student, found the diversity of perspectives a highlight of her time in Belgium. She says, “The class was not simply a master’s class, but was combined with undergrads as well. I found that the undergrads from both the University of Regina and those we connected with from Leuven gave very interesting insights and perspectives… I very much appreciated the mixture of people that we had in our group as it always led to fascinating conversations.” Erika Baldo, also a teacher working in French and a graduate student says, “I thoroughly enjoyed this cultural, educational, and bilingual experience. In addition, I appreciated meeting wonderful people and making new friends.”

Leaving one’s country, one’s comfort zone, and exploring another country takes courage, requiring one to meet new people, and navigate new cities and multilingual contexts. There were many ‘firsts’: for some students this was the first trip overseas and for many of the students, the tour was their first time staying in International Youth Hostels. Discomforts were met with courage by the students. For instance, one of the Canadian student’s luggage didn’t arrive with her and she only received it when she got back to Canada. And, two students spent a night sleeping on the floor of an airport due to delayed flights. Despite these difficulties, everyone remained in good spirits.

Walking and talking, and at times jointly solving navigational problems, was a big part of the learning experience. Professor Phipps says, “I learned alongside my students as we explored the goals of the course through experiential learning, local visits, and workshops on topics related to social justice and global education. Being in Europe, we spent a lot of time walking and having conversations along our walks. One evening, a student pointed out to me that we had walked over 15 kilometres that day in Brussels. Walking and taking public transit was aligned with the course focus on sustainability and global citizenship education. Importantly, those long walks enabled deep conversations, often sparking a desire to make changes in society. From my perspective, it was refreshing to take learning outside of the classroom, to a new context, and to see the professional and personal growth occurring during the course. I am also filled with hope about the positive changes that the students and teachers will make in their own classrooms.”

Math teacher and graduate student Mike Stumph, reflecting on his experience and study tours in general, says, “We often hear in Education how concepts and ideas come ‘full circle.’ As a grad student, the pursuit in making connections between theory, practice, and experience is one of the key features of these programs. This course reminded me of the full circles that are continuously happening within my own teaching experiences. For me, this course was different in so many ways. Firstly, it happened in Belgium. Secondly, it required an urgency to understand, to communicate, to question and to listen that is indicative of study tours that lead to impactful learning. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my experiences with Canada World Youth many years ago, traveling and living in South America where my desire to become a teacher began and where the learning was profound. Spending time in Leuven, Belgium, our traveling group and hosts were incredible, adding so much to the experience. We shared ideas on social justice, oppression in education, multicultural viewpoints, immigrant perspectives, and global issues within the classroom.” Erika Baldo, also reflecting on the value of the study tour, says, ” As a student, I look for new opportunities to acquire more knowledge with different people in new environments. As a traveller, I seek out new places to explore and new adventures to embark upon. Finally, as a lifelong learner, I try to push my boundaries to challenge myself. I am thankful that this study tour gave me the opportunity to do all of the above and more. Overall, this was a powerful and rich experience that I will cherish forever.”

Students had opportunities to tour the sites, including museums, historic and heritage sites, art galleries, a bell tower, university library, abbeys, local agencies, the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training, and an amazing learning facility called Arts Basics for Children.

An especially unforgettable experience for many students was the walking tour guided by a medical student who came to Brussels as a refugee at age 16. The group walked the path that a refugee or asylum seeker would take in seeking permission to stay in Belgium, a grueling process involving long line ups and interviews. Teacher Ashley Churko gained insight into “what it is like to be a student when you are a refugee or immigrant,” and has changed some of her classroom practices as a result. She says, “It was very sobering to see the journey that refugees must take once they arrive in Belgium. One of the biggest take-aways from my conversation with our guide was that I need to make more of an effort to value all languages in my classroom. As a French immersion teacher, I tend to value only French. My days are spent constantly reminding students to « parlez en français » and I didn’t appreciate any other language in my classroom. After this class, I have given myself the challenge this year of letting go of that need for full time French, and I have started to let the students use their language of choice during the planning stages of writing. It has made an incredible difference. My students are actually writing better in French because they are organizing their ideas out without worrying about the restriction of language. They are more willing to look up words in the dictionary without complaint or me telling them to do so and take risks with their writing.”

Remembering her experience on the walking tour, undergraduate student Nicole Gebert says, “Before the tour started, I asked the guide “What is this?” I was referring to the rows and rows of sleeping bags occupied by people in the park. He told me they were refugees, waiting. They were people without homes who came for a better future.” As an art student, Nicole was asked by a graduate student to create a piece of art from a quote in the course text. The excerpt, referring to Mark Cocker’s Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold (2000), went as follows: “Europe’s conquest of indigenous peoples all over the world was bent on a unilinear but multidimensional project of achieving riches via creating extensive streams of blood, which eventually created and sustained the world order we have today.”

Nicole created the following piece:

In explanation for her art, Nicole wrote in her travel journal: “As one steps into society on a daily basis one is bombarded with hate and racism. Whether they experience it for themselves or see it happen right before their eyes it is evident that people stand on uneven grounds… Hence the curtains. Perhaps this is a show to some people or a form of entertainment to see who is better than the other. Battles are fought, people are hurt, the pain flows like a subtle stream where no one seems to notice or care about its impact. The bump in the roads are represented by rocks, the broken bridge is the broken connection to humanity itself. But wait… There is hope. There is a glimmer of light in the sky of lost languages and memories trying to break through the walls of society. Perhaps it is such that we need to break free and gain a rather different perspective on who we are as a nation. Break the stereotypes, and repair society.”

Grad students contextualized their learning by their professional employment. Teacher Ashley Churko has incorporated into her classes a new discussion method, learned in the Philosophy for Children workshop during the summer institute: She says, “An idea I took away was the red, orange, and green papers for discussions. It is such a great way to entice all students to participate in a discussion, even if they are not speaking. Since September, I have used this system so much, that anytime I say ‘discussion,’ my students automatically take out their papers, even without me saying so. I love it so much because I know the opinions of my students who barely say a word in class because they show their opinions. It has been a great way to encourage participation without forcing everyone to speak.” Teacher Erika Baldo says, “I found the session on Philosophy for Children to be particularly interesting and relevant. As a teacher, I search for creative and innovative ways to engage in critical thought, challenge perceptions, and enlighten the minds of my students.”

Deni Miclea, who works as a Student Success Analyst for Treaty 4 Education Alliance, had another perspective to offer on the learning in the course. He says, “I learned that Belgium has a complex education system that is governed by national, regional, and local authorities. In Belgium, students learn in the country’s three official languages: Flemish, French, and German. Each language group promotes their unique language and culture while meeting similar Educational outcomes. In Canada, there is an increasing need to cooperate between Provincial and First Nations educational authorities to shape our curricula. It is important to promote Indigenous language and culture instruction in schools.”

Mike Stumph says, “So what does a senior secondary mathematics teacher do with an experience such as this? The simple answer is; be a better teacher. The complete answer is to weave the ideas from this experience, along with further readings of Paulo Freire, Marilyn Frankenstein, Eric Gutstein, Andrew Brantlinger, Ole Skovsmose and others, into a pedagogy that is inclusive, flexible, decolonizing, empowering and emancipatory. Many of my colleagues argue that mathematics is neutral, its universality and bias-free perspective is how every class should be taught. Mathematics is a human endeavour, complete with bias, perspective, purpose, and influence. It can be used to build or destroy systems of oppression as well as empower or disenfranchise citizens. The role the teacher plays is a crucial one.”

Mike is looking forward to applying his learning in his Spanish classes, too. He says, “I’m hoping to bring the world into my classroom, relying heavily upon my interactions with Spanish speakers and experiences living in Mexico and Uruguay. I feel ready for the language component but I will also be working hard to include the concepts brought forward from this tremendously valuable study tour. My gratitude cannot be understated to the organizers and participants who pushed me to see and understand more.”

Another ongoing effect of the study tour is the community that formed through travelling and learning together. On one of the final evenings of the tour, the group sat late into the night on the terrace of a youth hostel in Brussels, chatting about their experiences, discussing global citizenship issues, and telling life stories. Their level of enjoyment was evident to others: another guest at the youth hostel asked if they were having a family reunion. Going through this experience together, walking, talking, getting lost, and sharing food and stories, formed family-like bonds, but also a professional learning community. Even now that the students are back in Canada and working in their separate environments, the conversations continue.

By Shuana Niessen