Category: Student Success Stories

Disrupted Studies: A Teacher-Researcher Success Story

Sylvia Smith


Typically, our Teacher-Researcher story features teachers who have completed their M.Ed. programs, having successfully defended their theses. However, one of the realities of educational journeys, especially for adult learners, is that they are often disrupted by life and circumstance. The following is an interview with Ottawa teacher and U of R grad student, Sylvia Smith, whose academic journey has been disrupted mostly because of a grad student project that has been taken up nationally: the Project of Heart. In fact, Smith won the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011 because of this project.

1. Why did you choose to do your graduate degree at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina? (especially given your location in Ottawa.)

At the time, my mom and dad were still alive and I had family in Saskatchewan. My family went there every summer to visit. Since I was a teacher and had summers off, it seemed like a fruitful way to combine my interest in graduate work as well as to keep the family connection going.

2. How would you describe your experience as a student at the U of R?

I have had nothing but GREAT experiences as a student at the U of R! Our second daughter was quite young and needed childcare when I started my course work in 2007, and we were able to enrol her in the summer programs that were held right at the University…in the gym in fact! So it was a very stress-free endeavour! We (myself, my partner and daughter) stayed in the residence there, had the childcare taken care of, and I was free to attend my courses!

3. While studying with us, you developed the Project of Heart. Briefly outline what a Project of Heart looks like.POH 003

Initially Project of Heart (POH) had five distinct parts, and now it has six. Part 1 dealt with learning about the Indian Residential Schools (IRS), why they were created, how many there were, what the conditions were like for the students, and so on. Because there were virtually no resources for teaching about the IRS at the time, materials donated by Legacy of Hope (LOH) filled the kits. With respect to the loss of life and deaths due to the IRS, I relied on primary source documents that I got from visiting Library and Archives Canada. The primary source documents were ways for the students to see that these children actually existed and that they never stopped resisting attempts to make their lives better, even if it meant fleeing the schools and many of them, dying while trying. These primary source documents brought the horrors of so many of these schools to life!

Part 2 is where the students choose a particular Indian Residential School and then learn something about the Nation on whose land that School stood, and their contributions to Canadian society. The facilitator or teacher can proceed with doing this part in whatever way that best meets the learners’ needs. Often, it is the first time that students find out the name of the Original Peoples of the territory that they’re living on. What students find out after doing this part, is that no matter how hard the Canadian Government tried to “kill the Indian within the child,” they were not successful. Students are able to see—and feel—that Indigenous peoples and their cultures must be incredibly resilient to have survived an onslaught that started 500 years ago and continues to this day.

Part 3 is the first gesture of reconciliation. It is the part where students take what information they’ve gleaned from doing Parts 1 and 2, and use their skill/talent at communicating, through art, their feelings. They may feel sadness, anger, or they may not even know how to feel. They may feel hope, especially after finding out that Indigenous people are not a dying race—that there are many who are devoted to rebuilding their communities and relearning their languages…and know that there is a place for them in today’s society. But whatever it is they are feeling, they communicate it through art. They decorate a small wooden tile, each tile symbolically representative of the life of one child who died. This child’s memory is brought back to life.

Part 4 is where an Indian Residential School survivor (or a cultural worker or an IRS intergenerational survivor, or an Elder) comes to the school (or church or business) and answers questions, gives a teaching, or just talks to the students about life. Normally, if it’s a survivor, she will answer questions from the group. This is where the lived experiential knowledge is transmitted to the learners.

Part 5 is the social justice piece, the second gesture of reconciliation where settlers who are doing this project, “walk the talk.” This part is missing from most government promises. Our Canadian Government, under the leadership of Mr. Harper, said we were sorry. But we didn’t mean it, because there were NO actions undertaken that would prove that we (as a country) were sorry. Project of Heart provides a way for its learners to truly enact our citizenship responsibilities, putting empathy into action, in a respectful way. (We want to build trust. We want to walk with, not over, Aboriginal people.) It demonstrates to Indigenous people that non-Aboriginals are prepared to act in support of their resistance struggles, whether it be for justice for the horrific number of Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or murdered, or the over-the-top numbers of Aboriginal kids who are in state care through various ministries of child and social services.

Part 6 is a relatively recent addition. It was instituted after the TRC National Event in Saskatchewan while under the care of Charlene Bearhead. One of the teachers in Saskatoon Catholic Board, Lynette Brossart, and her students, who had completed Project of Heart, were invited to come to the National Event. Lynette was very concerned to find out that there were IRS Survivors there who had never heard of Project of Heart and felt the need to do something about it. She came up with the idea of the learner groups making cards for the survivors. With this step, when there are events that Survivors are attending, they could be given a card with one Project of Heart tile attached to it, that would let them know that the learners cared about them, and that they were learning about their situation so that this would never happen again. It worked! Project of Heart had now come full circle.

4. What were the circumstances that led you to develop the Project of Heart?P1080462

There were a few ‘circumstances’ that led to the development of the project, but the easiest to explain is the fact that I couldn’t justify to my Grade 10 students why such a major part of our history was invisible. Young people will challenge their teachers if something doesn’t make sense, and in the only mandatory history course there is in Ontario high schools (contemporary Canadian History), there was a huge, absolutely gaping void. When a particularly inquiring student, Andrea, was finding evidence in her research that was creating a cognitive dissonance for her (it was the number of students that had perished while at the schools) she would not give up trying to figure out why this egregious part of history was so neglected. I had no choice but to be gently led by her curiosity, fast-becoming-anger. Our textbook dedicated two paragraphs (63 words) to the IRS era. Andrea couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t either. So between her righteous anger and my integrity on the line as a history teacher, we decided that if the textbook couldn’t tell us the truth, we would find it and learn it on our own! And not only that, but also we’d help others whom we knew were as ignorant, maybe even more-so, than we were! So Andrea got to work, continuing her research and at the same time, building contacts in both the Aboriginal and settler community that could help her and her classmates make sense of their past. They all felt betrayed. They had grown up proud to be Canadian, and now that identity was being challenged in a major way.

In a nutshell, there were a lot of relationships made, guest speakers invited, (IRS survivors in the community), and activists who supported the students in this educational endeavour right from the start. The students did what was within their capability to do (write proposals so we could get some money to buy the wooden tiles, and pay honouraria for Aboriginal guests to come and talk to us) and I did my part. Project of Heart began with the first ceremony to honour the children who had died.

This is where the U of R comes into the story: While the students were busy making poster boards, learning, and going class-to-class to invite students in other rooms to participate in their teach-ins and guest speakers, I was taking Dr. Spooner’s Social Justice course. I Skyped into the evening class once per week from Ottawa (I was the box-head that spoke through a TV)!

The first Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been struck, and there was a call for proposals to do “Commemorative Projects.” I thought, “Why not? Let’s do what we’re doing in the class already, and just formalize it?” I decided to ask permission to do a Project of Heart proposal in place of the essay assignment for the class: putting what we were doing, and the purpose for what we were doing on paper was the only thing that was missing. Articulating the project would allow other groups to join the effort.

Dr. Spooner accepted the proposal as my project, and Project of Heart became formalized: It was envisioned, and its parts fully explained. Supporters came through to help us build the teaching module. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers supplied all the boxes, free of charge. The Legacy of Hope Foundation gifted us with thousands of dollars worth of resources with which we would fill the kits. I would purchase the small tiles and fill the kit with a pre-arranged number. And perhaps the most important thing—cost—I wanted potential users to know that they could experience this transformative learning, for less than the cost of textbook. The only caveat was that their heart had to be in it, and they had to be willing to engage the Indigenous community. Project of Heart would only work if it was centered on Indigenous people and their experiences.

So, it is these resources that I sent out to any learner group who wanted them. It was truly a labour of love. My partner created the website ( where groups who do the project could upload pictures and a report on their experiences doing Project of Heart. This part was essential because as schools and other learner groups reported on their experiences, they gave ideas and inspiration to other groups. I insured that faciliator directions were packed in the boxes and that an inventory of what was included in the kit was included.

5. Has the POH made it difficult for you to finish your M.Ed. studies?

Yes, doing POH has made it difficult to finish my M.Ed. I started my thesis work in 2011. I was interested in finding out what teachers’ perceptions were of doing Project of Heart. I had done all the interviews and when the tough work began, we had an illness in the family and I too became very over-stressed. My work suffered. And the longer one leaves the work, the more difficult it is to come back to it. I’m also older, and don’t have as much energy as I used to have. But I am trying to complete it before next spring. In the interim, the landscape has changed so much. When I’d started, materials on Indian Residential Schools were almost nil. Now there are lots! And POH has grown exponentially! So what was supposed to be “snapshot in time” has now become much more, and figuring out how it’s all going to come together is challenging.


If you are teaching in Saskatchewan and interested in doing a Project of Heart with your class check out the Saskatchewan Project of Heart website: Let us know if you are doing a Project of Heart so we can add a report to the site. (


Kim Sadowsky, 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

In October 2015, Kim Sadowsky, a teacher at Thom Collegiate and a Master’s of Education (Curriculum & Instruction) student in the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, was announced one of six winners of the 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Recipients of this award are celebrated for their achievements in teaching Canadian history. Kim’s success is due to the design of her Native Studies class, which explores the question, “Who is a Treaty Person?” The class re-enacts Canadian history throughout the semester in a simulation.

The following is Kim’s description of the course:

“In Native Studies 10/30, students embark on a Treaty simulation that lasts the entire semester and takes them through an intricate role-play where students become the Indigenous peoples of Treaty #4 territory in what is now Saskatchewan. It is a living simulation where each day the students are playing out key events in Canada’s history and drawing their own conclusions about how the events of the past have influenced their place in Canada today as Treaty people. Their course goal is to create an inquiry-based or social-action project that demonstrates their knowledge of Canada’s Treaty relationships and encourages others to acknowledge that ‘We Are All Treaty People’ and as such have a responsibility in understanding and acknowledging our shared history of this land.

The semester begins with one simple question: “Who is a Treaty person?” From this question, our entire course unravels as students relive Canadian history from both an Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspective. The goal of the course is for students to begin to act on their understanding that being a Treaty person carries a massive responsibility in working towards decolonizing and reconciling Treaty relationships.

Students and even the teacher play the role of either the Indigenous peoples or the Government of Canada as they take part in the simulation. They begin with Treaty negotiations as the classroom is transformed into a historical time warp. Eventually, students are assigned reserves (certain areas of the classroom) in which they are to live. The Residential school, offices of the Indian Agents, and the Prime Ministers headquarters are also assigned locations in the classroom.

Throughout the semester, students experience day-to-day scenarios in which history is played out: Everything from the Indian Act, to attending residential school or being forced to leave their reserve because of Enfranchisement is re-enacted. Later in the semester, they visit ideas of revitalization and resource development on reserve, truth and reconciliation, and current events from society and politics.

Nearing the end of the course when the residential school is closed, students discuss the contemporary effects of inter-generational traumas and current social issues that have resulted from Canadian history. They explore their own family roots and stories, acknowledging their identities within this history. Students piece together how the past has impacted their understanding of the present, and as a result, they create hopeful healing and possibilities for the future. They acknowledge and celebrate the success and contributions of Canada’s Indigenous peoples to the building of Canada and society today.

During the simulation students gain knowledge and empathy as they navigate thru Canadian history and critically develop the skills to investigate the perspectives of various decisions that were made by the Canadian government and Indigenous people.

As much as possible, the content of the course is delivered in the oral tradition to honour Indigenous ways of knowing. Primary sources are used as much as possible if there are to be written documents. The students have access to elders, residential school survivors, local authors, politicians, and familial stories to really make this history live.

Students are connecting with material that makes it real and meaningful. It is one thing to learn about decolonizing from books… it is quite another thing to live it. That is what the simulation attempts to do.

The students’ final project is to create and show an exhibition of their learning. The outcome is to demonstrate their understanding of how Treaty relationships throughout Canadian history have shaped Canada today as well as acknowledge their roles as Treaty people. Whether class project or an individual work of art, writing, dance, or music, the results have been extraordinary. Not only have the students displayed internalization of knowledge, but also, as an educator, I have learned so much about Canadian history as a result of this simulation. The students have humbled me with their ability to become so completely passionate about history, moving learning far beyond the walls of the classroom!”

Kim graduated from the U of R, with a B.Ed. degree in 2001, with a major in Social Studies, and minor in Physical Education. In the program at that time, Kim says her experience was that, “the conversation around the impacts of colonization and Treaty relationships were totally absent.” She views this absence as reflecting a “systemic amnesia” that has existed in our society in regards to our shared history and the overall resistance to learning about it. What she is now learning about Indigenous history, along with her students, allows her, “to see that there were complete chapters in our shared history that had been left out.” Thus, when a colleague, David Benjoe, who was leaving Thom after paving the way for the Native Studies course, said to Kim, “You need to teach this course,” Kim felt unqualified. She says, “I was terrified. I knew nothing about Native Studies…and I was not Indigenous.” However, with David’s encouragement to “just be honest, respectful, kind and funny,” Kim agreed to teach the course.

With guidance from David and others, Kim found that being non-Indigenous opened up spaces for learning where students were the knowledge keepers in the classroom, not her. This allowed for opportunities to connect with families and community, moving learning beyond the classroom walls. In fact, she has since understood how important her role as a non-Indigenous person is in decolonizing her classroom through these learnings.

“To have been teaching for 15 years and to only now connect the dots of colonization, especially as a Social Studies/History teacher…It is shameful,” says Kim. This regret has been the driving force behind her course and how she teaches it.

Kim is passionate about “addressing the gaps that exist within our system when it comes to education and whose history is being taught and whose is being left out,” because she believes it “is integral when moving forward.”

As a M.Ed. student “surrounded by some pretty phenomenal professors at both the First Nations University and the University of Regina,” Kim is able to see that the Faculty of Education is also moving forward and addressing the gaps. She says, “The education program has changed a lot since I went through it. The U of R today is a different place and is engaging in authentic learning opportunities for future educators in a deeper understanding of the impacts of colonization and Treaty relationships and how this impacts the way we teach. The need to decolonize is now prevalent in the Education Faculty and gives much hope.”

Kim recognizes the importance and central role education has in the process of reconciliation and the hope of rebuilding the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. “We must realize that education had a key role in creating a legacy of hurt, pain, fear, racism, and so on, and as educators we have a massive responsibility in contributing to the healing process through education,” she says.

As part of the Building Our Home Fire project, students created commemorative tokens, which are exhibited in the hallway at Thom Collegiate. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

Unlearning colonized history and decolonizing relationships involves not only the content that is taught but also how the content is taught. Kim says, “I cannot stress enough, the importance of teaching Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from an Indigenous perspective. Many of these stories, events and accounts of Canadian history have been completely left out. By digging deeper and challenging uncomfortable learning students are able to recognize circumstances, events and key moments in Canadian history where we have struggled together as Treaty people.”

Kim’s passion has ignited the interest of others at Thom Collegiate. This fall, over 25 classes from a variety of subject areas took part in the “Building Our Home Fire” project, which explored the legacy of the residential school system. Participating students and teachers found it to be “an incredible experience.”

Student Success Celebrated

Dean Jennifer Tupper greeting students and recognizing their success. Photo credits: Shuana Niessen

On April 6, the Faculty of Education, SUNTEP and YNTEP gathered to celebrate student success. This year was different than previous years: The coordinators from the Student Program Centre, Dr. Val Mulholland, Nicole Glas, and Wendy Campbell, invited faculty from SUNTEP, YNTEP, and the various Faculty of Education programs and student societies to forward a list of students who have made contributions to learning and to leadership in the Faculty of Education through scholarship, activism, and engagement in coursework. In previous years, academic excellence was the only success that was celebrated. There were 166 students honoured at the celebration and their names were scrolled individually across the screen throughout the event.

Dr. Jennifer Tupper, Dr. Val Mulholland, and Dr. Michael Cappello  highlighted and honoured not only the students’ achievements in their classes, but also in their field placements, and in the community.

After welcoming the students and their families, Dr. Val Mulholland said, “You have been recognized by faculty members or program for having made a significant contribution to teaching, learning and/or leadership in the classes, in field placements or beyond classroom walls.”

Dean Jennifer Tupper said, “This celebration is more than recognizing academic excellence, which we value. It is recognition of our students taking seriously their call to teach for a better world, to inspire and transform education – which many of you may know is the motto of this faculty.”

And after listing some of the amazing initiatives with which students have been involved, such as the STARS Regina’s #TreatyEdCamp, and other sessions working towards social justice;  the Science Education students’ work with Treaty 4 schools; and the ESS’s PD opportunities, Dean Tupper said, “What I am struck by in my conversations with our teacher candidates is their passion for teaching and learning in the midst of the many challenges schools and teachers are facing.  I am struck by their commitment to social justice, and their desire to create meaningful and transformative learning experiences for young people in schools.  They are thoughtful, compassionate and courageous.”

Dr. Michael Cappello spoke about the students’ exceptional contributions which are helping to shape the field of education even before entering it as teachers.

Also unique to this celebration was the Skype connection with YNTEP students and faculty who are located in Whitehorse, Yukon. Through this connection, Faculty of Education and SUNTEP members were able to participate in the YNTEP celebration, and YNTEP students participated in the Regina celebration. Dr. Andrew Richardson, Dean of Applied Arts for Yukon College, spoke on behalf of YNTEP, recognizing the following YNTEP students:

Candice Cockney
Judy Leamon
Meghann Meadowcroft
Dwight Snowshoe

Photo Album:
2016 Student Success Celebration

The following is the list of Faculty of Education and SUNTEP students celebrated:

Amelia Andrews
Riley Arseneau
Nicki Bannerman
Gareth Bawden
Laura Beatch
Raquel Bellefleur
Mackenzie Bellegarde
Madison Biem
Curtis Bourassa
Orisha Boychuk
Bailey Braden
Jenny Brouwers
Miranda Brown
Miranda Button
Amy Campbell
Aimee Castillo
Matthew Chamberlain
Jennifer Chyz (Hackl)
Joseph Clark
Sarah Clarke
Candice Cockney
Petina Cook
Amanda Corbett
Celine Couture
Rachel Cronan
Kari Davis
Brandon Debert
Jenna DeBoth
Samantha Dech
Arnaud Demaria
Megan Dobson
Allison Doetzel
Jacquelyn Easton
Courtney Einsiedler
Jordan Ethier
Amanda Filipchuk
Chad Fisher
Steven Fraser
Taylor Frei
Lila Gaertner
Sally Generoux
Sheena Gigian
Graham Gilmore
Caitlin Grant
Isabelle Grégoire
Jessie Guraliuck
Christine Hall
Cassandra Hanley
Tara Hanson
Taylor Harder
Kylie Harder
Amanda Harle
Emma Harold
Allyson Haukeness
Madison Hawkes
Chandra Hawley
Laura Heinmiller
Kayla Henderson
Cassandra Hepworth
Jessica Hickie
April Hoffman
Victoria Howe
Hanna Hudson-Plante
Benjamin Ironstand
Rebecca Jalbert
Douglas Jarvis
Jarrod Jobb
Tammy Kadler
Nicole Keller
Christina Kelly
Amy Klassen (Thiessen)
Kristen Klatt
Landen Kleisinger
Amanda Koback
Brooke Korchinski
Shae-Lynn Kowaniuk
Jasmine Kuntz
Riley Lajeunesse
Brittany Larson
Judy-Ann Leamon
Amber Learned Garritty
Keith Lee
Kendra Leier
Janelle Letkemann
Matthew Leupold
Gillian Maher
Amy Martin
Daisy Martinez
Roxan McAtee
Aidan McKeague
Linda McNabb
Brigid McNutt
Meghann Meadowcroft
Christopher Merk
Matthew Mickleborough
Jesse Miller
Lexi Milligan
Amy Missal
Cameron Mohan
Renee Molesky
Alexandra Mortensen
Sarah Munro
Monica Nawakayas
Robert Neufeld
Cole Nicolson
Crystal Norris
Haleigh Oberkirsch
Emma Olson
Brooklyn Orban
Lexy Osborne
Fred O’Soup
Eriko Parker
Megan Pearce
Emily Perreault
Josie Phillips
Jaylyn Pierce
Alexis Poh
Marissa Poitras
Kendell Porter
Jessica Pouliot
Breanne Prazma
Mackenzie Raedeke
Amie Reid
Holly Robinson
Brooke Robson
Sarah Rohde
Kaitlyn Rohrke
Jolene Ross
Aidan Roy
Avery Saunders
Michael Schienbein
Garrick Schmidt
Rina Schmidt
Jason Shamel
Nissa Shiell
Bradley Slepicka
Charis Slusar
Tracy Smotra
Dwight Snowshoe
Shania Sonen
Connie Starblanket
Jacob Stebner
Kelsie Sutherland
Jessica Swartz
Zakk Taylor
Christina Thiel
Bryn Todd
Catlyn Todorovich
Caitlin Toews
Jayda Van Betuw
Dacy Vance
Willow Wallace-Lewis
Trisha Wallington
Robert Webb
Katlyn Weisberg
Raelyn Weisgerber
Crystal Whitehawk
William Whitten
Cameron Wiest
Dana Wilbraham
Benjamin Woolhead
Conor Woolley
Aysha Yaqoob
Cassidy Zacharias
Ziyao Zhu
Michael Zylak

Pre-Intern Takes the Leap: Teaching Treaty Education

Pre-intern Meagan Dobson at the Witness Blanket with Grade 6 students
Pre-intern Meagan Dobson at the Witness Blanket with Grade 6 students

Education student Meagan Dobson viewed her 3-week pre-internship field experience in the Winter 2015 term as an opportunity to try out a discomforting topic: Treaty Education.  “Treaty ed discomforted me because of my lack of experience with it. I saw my pre-internship as a safe environment for me to implement new things. If I made mistakes, that would be a learning experience,” she says.  A safe environment was important, but Dobson also feels strongly about the topic: “I view it as an injustice to my students, to not provide that knowledge,” she says.

Dobson didn’t learn about treaties or First Nations history and culture until her Indigenous Studies 100 course at the University of Regina. She says, “Some faculties don’t think they need [Indigenous Studies], but I think it is important because students are not getting that information.”

ECS 210 course studies on anti-oppressive education were pivotal for Dobson: “I met a few professors that I connected with and developed strong personal and professional relationships, people I can have critical conversations with, people I can admit my flaws to and people who help me through that reflective process of how I can make myself better. Seeing their passion inspired passion in myself. This has a lot to do with my upbringing, a privileged life in an affluent neighborhood, [where I was ] never exposed to anyone outside of my circle. University was an eye-opening experience. Everyone in my experience up to that point viewed the world similarly. Having these revelations and knowing that I was denied this knowledge, made me ask ‘Why?'”

Resolving to reverse this injustice to students, Dobson included Treaty Education in her pre-internship plans: “I had an outcome that focussed on comparing and contrasting contemporary issues with their historical origins, specifically Indigenous colonization.” She felt it was important to trace the problem historically, in order to “touch the surface” of racism towards First Nations people today.

Dobson determined from the outset to take a relational standpoint. “I didn’t want to teach Treaty as a focus. I talked about relationships with the land and what that means to First Nations people, and what it means today in terms of Treaties,” she explains. “I wanted to approach it in a relational and neutral way to allow students to develop their own perspectives, to become passionate about it. I have a strong opinion, but I didn’t want to push that on them. I wanted them to establish their own understanding. I didn’t want them to feel I was imposing this on them, even though Treaty education is mandated in the curriculum by the government,” Dobson says.

Students engaged in simulations, to help them understand about the concepts of fair and unfair.  “I broke promises, played games, so they could place themselves in the position of experiencing something unfair.” From there, students explored their questions about Treaties in Saskatchewan. “We talked about elders and their significance in our learning experiences…Elders have so much to offer,” says Dobson. “We talked about the Indian Act, to see shifts in Treaty promises; we talked about Residential Schools. The students really resonated with the residential school experience.” Students also engaged with the topic culture and identity loss.

Meagan Dobson with Grade 6 students in her 3-week pre-internship field experience

The Witness Blanket exhibit at the U of R was serendipitous. Dobson had originally planned to take students to the MacKenzie Art Gallery exhibit, “Moving Forward, Never Forgetting.” Dobson says, “I had gone with my peers two weeks before my pre-internship, and I was so emotionally moved by the exhibit on reconciliation, healing, and forgiveness. I was struggling about whether it was appropriate for Grade 6s…how would I feel if my child was exposed to that kind of knowledge. I knew it was important and I definitely think if I was a full time teacher I would have taken them, but we were too short of time for me to prepare students and unpack the emotional side.”  Dobson wasn’t aware that the Witness Blanket was going to be on campus until the day after she cancelled the trip to the art gallery.  “I found out the Witness Blanket was extended and it would be perfect so I coordinated with Keith Adolph and booked the Teaching Preparation Centre for the day. That way the kids were going to have a community-based experience, teaching them that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom,” explains Dobson. She spent a great deal of time preparing the students in advance, with videos and discussions.

An emerging Elder-in-Residence at the U of R, Joseph Naytowhow, had impacted Dobson’s decision to approach Treaty Education in a relational way. “I did a personal interview with Joseph…he encouraged a gentle context and relational standpoint…He also uses art.” Relationships and art: These methods help to develop trust and to deepen ones ability to speak about difficult issues. “I did both of those things in my 3-week block. After visiting the Witness Blanket at the U of R, we spent the entire afternoon working on art, using that as a vehicle to express their perspective. There were choices to represent what they learned.” Students prepared a video of their experience, as part of their gesture of reconciliation. They made “I learned, I wish, I promise” statements. Seeing the Witness Blanket exhibit made the issues real for students. Dobson says many students commented that they had heard of residential schools and treaties but didn’t realize that it was something so prevalent today, with such an impact on society.

Of her pre-internship experience, Dobson says, “Overall, this experience has given me more confidence in an area that I felt weak in. I’m glad I took the risk, disrupting some of the narratives that are the classroom about White privilege, stereotypes, and racism….I didn’t get as far into my unit as I would have liked, but I gave them foundations that will help them scaffold into Treaty education in the future.”

Dobson says she didn’t always want to be a teacher. “I was an outgoing person in high school; I liked to get laughs out of my friends. If some of my high school teachers knew that I was coming to the U of R to become a teacher, they would be shocked!” She didn’t see herself as a teacher until she became a Big Sister with the YMCA. “I was working one-on-one with children, and then I knew [teaching] was for me.”

Field experiences are a big part of the Faculty of Education’s B.Ed. programs, and a great way to discover if teaching is for you.

Find out more about our Bachelor of Education programs at



Award-Winning Dissertation: A Student Success Story

Dr. Darryl Hunter receiving the Governor General’s Award at the University of Regina 2015 Spring Convocation. Photo credit: U of R Photograph
Dr. Darryl Hunter receiving the Governor General’s Award at the University of Regina 2015 Spring Convocation. Photo credit: U of R Photograph

On April 1, 2014, Dr. Darryl Hunter successfully defended his PhD thesis, entitled, “About Average: A Pragmatic Inquiry into School Principals’ Meanings for a Statistical Concept in Instructional Leadership.” While researching, he was awarded several scholarships and fellowships: University of Regina Graduate Scholarships, Dean’s Scholarship Program, SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, Killam Trust Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Saskatchewan Innovation and Opportunity Scholarship, Jack and John Spencer Middleton Scholarship, League of Saskatchewan Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents Award. Since finishing his dissertation he has been awarded the University of Regina President’s Award, the Thomas B. Greenfield Award, and the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal. Dr. Hunter is now serving as an Assistant professor in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta.

An Interview with Dr. Darryl Hunter

1. Briefly summarize the topic of your research:

I am interested in the manifold ways that school principals-administrators (and adults in general) interpret numeric information in their quotidian practices. My mixed methods dissertation revolved around the ways that Saskatchewan school administrators construe the “average” in the phrase “average student achievement”—the average as both a quality and a quantity.

2. What circumstances/situation led you to research the topic of your dissertation?

Research topics are often inspired by direct experiences which point out the absence/inadequacy of existing theory. From my experience working with educators and policy makers as a civil servant over many years, it was plain to me that mathematics pedagogy and statistical textbooks and cognitive science could not explain the ways that well-educated, conscientious leaders actually reason and behave with numbers in the workplace. Moreover, I was dissatisfied with a massive research literature that makes sweeping, omnibus claims about “data use”, without looking in micro detail at the preliminary reading processes with numbers.

3. How has your research enhanced your professional life?

My dissertation has led me to approach questions of instructional leadership, both by school administrators and by teachers, in very different ways—less coloured by the assumptions that statisticians (as authors) and ideologues (as those who superimpose their ideas on both the author and reader) bring to these inanimate squiggles on a page. What was missing was the perspective of the reader, who wants to/has to make practical sense of things numeric without having the time or background or inclination to accomplish detailed calculations. Now, I start all teaching/research/scholarship/class discussion/lectures with a) a well-formulated question and b) clarity of purpose which seem central to interpreting both prose and numeric text.

4. What aspirations do you have regarding what your research might accomplish in the field of education?

I have several goals: a) to open up the field of numeracy without making impossible demands on the reader, analogous to the way we now foster literacy without demanding that students first become experts in literature b) to point out recognized and influential North American philosophers in education, without continually recycling Eurocentric ideas which originate from socio-educational milieux very different than those surrounding North American schools; b) to foster a better informed, healthier and saner discussion about assessment and evaluation matters in educational and academic circles

5. Was it difficult to achieve your research goals? How did you overcome obstacles (if any), whether personal or professional?

The Faculty of Education at the University of Regina has unfailingly, always flexibly, and often enthusiastically supported my academic excursions into less-explored and sometimes controversial territory. As always in research matters, the primary barriers are insufficient time and over-generalized stereotypes. Over the 18 years I was a public servant, I oscillated (some might say ricocheted) back and forth from daytime positions in the Ministry of Education to evening classes, teaching at the university–that is back and forth between actual administrative practice to the home of theory. My committee members recognized that assessment processes and research methods are complementary, one serving decision-making and the other satisfying curiosity. Both are forms of inquiry, with different audiences.

In many ways, I found my doctoral research to be less onerous than my Master’s thesis–primarily because I could concentrate full time on research. At the same time, I knew what I was looking for before I designed and carried out my research: what is the actual link between thought and action with numbers? My supervisor, Dr. Rod Dolmage, was absolutely committed and key to removing blockages on the road to inquiry.

6. Abstract/Excerpt:

“Whatever else it produces,” Kahneman (2011) has declared, “an organization is a factory that manufactures judgements and decisions” (p. 418). In Canadian schools, thousands of such professional judgements are routinely made during a school year by teachers with direction from school principals—when appraising student performances, when constructing assignments and marking student work, and when preparing reports for multiple audiences. To manage the meaning of these statistics, school administrators consider average student achievement not with the inferential patterns assumed within contemporary cognitive science’s notions of heuristic irrationality, but rather as a reasoned form of inquisitive thinking and behaviour which has been formalized and comprehensively described in North American philosophy for over 100 years. To adequately understand the meaning of the statistical average, we must avoid succumbing to what William James (1890) called the “great snare” of the psychologist’s fallacy: “the confusion of his own standpoint with that of the mental fact about which he is making his report” (p. 290)—superimposing our own categories on those of others.


Dr. Rod Dolmage (Supervisor), Dr. Larry Steeves,
Dr. Ron Martin, and
Dr. Katherine Arbuthnott (External Examiner)

Education Grad Student a Recipient of 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

Kim Sadowsky Photo reposted from

Kim Sadowsky, a teacher at Thom Collegiate and a master’s student in the Faculty of Education, is a recipient of the 2015 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching!

Listen to the podcast and read about Kim on Canada’s History website:

See full story under Student Stories tab:

Kish Earns Shutout as Cougars Blank Wildcats

Congratulations to several Education students who played in Sweden on Thursday, August 20 and are mentioned in this story. Reposted from Regina Cougars Hockey News
SUNDSVALL, Sweden – The University of Regina women’s hockey team was clicking all night long, as the Cougars cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Sundsvall Wildcats on Thursday night at Sundsvall Energi Arena.

Meghan Sherven, Bailey Braden and Nikki Watters-Matthes each had multi-point nights for the Cougars, as Sherven and Braden each collected a goal and an assist and Watters-Matthes notched two helpers. Kelly Regnier and Alexis Larson also scored in the win.

Jane Kish (pictured) wasn’t tested often in net, but looked comfortable when she was, stopping all 19 shots that she faced. Kish set the tone early, making a big save on a breakaway by the Wildcats in the first and controlling rebounds the entire game.

“I was feeling a little nervous in the first period but making the save on that breakaway really helped me settle in,” Kish said after the game. “The defence communicated well and made my job really easy tonight. We came prepared for the game and worked hard and it turned into a lot of positives for us.”

The Cougars played with an impressive pace from the start, dominating the time of possession and putting continuous pressure on opposing netminders Anna Engstrom and Jonna Kagstrom. Regina was relentless on the attack, registering 62 shots on net for the evening.

The Cougars went to the powerplay eight minutes into the first period after a tripping penalty by Anna Wassdahl. Kylie Gavelin put a couple of shots on net and the Cougars kept the puck in Sundsvall’s end for the duration of the powerplay, but failed to capitalize.

Regina finally cracked Engstrom just 22 seconds after the powerplay ended, as Larson fired a shot from the point that tipped off the post and in for the game’s first goal. Watters-Matthes and Braden assisted on the marker following a solid display of puck movement by the powerplay unit.

The Cougars went back to the powerplay later in the period but Sundsvall’s penalty kill was much more aggressive the second time around. The Wildcats successfully killed the penalty and the first period ended with the visitors leading 1-0.

The crisp passing that the Cougars displayed in the first carried into the second period, and it paid off with two minutes and 45 seconds gone. Regnier, on her 20th birthday, was the beneficiary of an impressive display of passing by the Cougars. The puck was worked around from Carleen Meszaros and Jolene Kirkpatrick on the point to Sherven, who found Michaela Esposito all alone in front. Esposito slipped the puck across the crease to Regnier who made no mistake and bumped the lead to 2-0.

The lead was extended to 3-0 with 6:56 left in the middle frame, as Sherven picked up her second point of the evening. Sherven took a feed from Watters-Matthes and went scorching down the left wing, putting a low shot on net. The rebound sat free in the crease just long enough for Sherven to tap it past goaltender Kagstrom who had subbed in just a few minutes prior.

“Our line really started to click today, and we got the bounces that we needed,” Sherven said of herself, Regnier and Esposito. “The whole team took advantage of the larger ice size by moving our feet and keeping the puck moving. We used our size, kept our heads up and made the defence work, and it paid off for us.”

The third period saw the Cougars pick up right where they left off, as an end-to-end rush by Kirkpatrick resulted in Emma Waldenberger controlling the puck deep in the corner. Waldenberger centred the puck and Braden was there, slapping a quick shot through the five-hole of Kagstrom to make it 4-0.

Kish made a few more saves late in the third to preserve the shutout, and does not hesitate to give credit Toni Ross when asked about her strong play.

“Toni and I played together in 2011 with the Weyburn Gold Wings, and she’s always had a great influence on me,” Kish said of her current teammate. “Whenever I have questions she’s been there to answer them and has been an excellent role model for me on and off the ice.”

The Cougars will make their way to Stockholm on Friday morning, and prepare for the game against AIK IF on Saturday evening.

“We’ve really grown together as a team,” Sherven said of the last seven days. “We’ve had a good positive atmosphere and have gained mental toughness, and it’s important that we carry this momentum and work ethic into the Canada West season.”

Student Stories

Dr. Tana Mitchell ~ Teacher-Researcher Profile

What was the intent of your research?

The intent of my research was threefold: First, I hoped to gain a deeper appreciation of the ways in which students who are categorized or racialized White in a senior high school social studies classroom perceive their racialized identity and its connections to privilege. Closely related to this exploration, I examined my assumptions and understandings as they have developed over time due to my racialization and other aspects of my subject positioning (such as socio-economic class, language, gender, sexuality, etc.). Third, I examined how I, as a racialized White teacher, contributed to the students’ perceptions, critical or otherwise. This inquiry was informed by Critical Race theory (CRT) and related approaches to critical race studies and was conceptualized as a qualitative ethnographic and auto-ethnographic study. The analysis of the student- and teacher-generated data involved critical discourse analysis.

What circumstances led you to research the topic of your dissertation?

I became interested in this research area for a number of reasons. First, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the seemingly uncritical acceptance of dominant discourses and nationalist narratives in my social studies classroom (a space wherein I hoped students would learn or continue to be critically engaged, life-long learners). For example, students often readily construct Canada to be a tolerant and accepting nation even though together we examine several historical and contemporary non-examples of these claims (like the devastating experiences of many First Nations peoples at government sanctioned residential schools, racist immigration policies, and inequitable economic, legal, social, and educational realities today). It has been my experience that even after these examinations, we seem to almost naturally perpetuate a pride in ourselves and in the nation as students often note how great Canada is and how lucky they feel to be Canadian. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, rather than rethinking their glowing recommendations of Canada as a peaceful, kind, and caring nation, students often either dismiss these negative events or issues or view them as minor blips in an otherwise spotless record, thereby essentially “whitewashing our racist history” (Lund, 2006, p. 206). While I can appreciate the desire to be proud of one’s nation, these nationalistic claims often precluded more critical examinations of our histories and contemporary society that required interrogations of the nation and its policies. Hence, rather than encouraging the development of critically engaged thinkers who acknowledge the complexities and inequities within society, it seems as though our shared experiences often enabled the perpetuation or (re)inscription of a nationalistic and inequitable status quo.

Second, with respect to educational policies and practices, it was becoming increasingly evident to me that the ways in which we were approaching teaching of and for diversity (often under the umbrella of multicultural, Aboriginal, and/or treaty education) and teaching for equity in mainstream educational spaces were not meeting with success (as defined by our stated goals such as equitable graduation rates or equitable access to programming). We were not (and still are not) ensuring equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students, nor were we reaching other social justice ideals like equality or the elimination of racial discrimination. While I was not able to articulate why we were falling short of these goals, I was beginning to appreciate that something significantly more than what we were doing was necessary. Hence this research inquiry grew from my desire to address the seemingly uncritical acceptance of the status quo in my classroom and to problematize my own pedagogical understandings and practices (as they reflect dominant approaches to teaching of and for diversity and equity in this province) so that I could develop a greater appreciation of the inherent structural racialized issues involved with these traditional understandings and approaches.

How has your research affected you professionally and personally?

My research has fundamentally affected many aspects of my life, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I have become more critically aware of the role I play as both a hegemonic and counter hegemonic agent within my classroom and the school at large. I am more aware of the structuring forces at work (many of which I am complicit in) that protect and (re)inscribe Whiteness in order to ensure its hegemony (and my privilege). Thus, my pedagogy is morphing into understandings and practices that are more critically and thoughtfully committed to the disruption of dominant racialized systems, towards more socially just ideals.

Perhaps even more fundamentally, this research has deeply influenced my personal identity as it has shattered the very way I see and understand myself and the place I occupy within society. The ways in which I understand myself (as a racialized White, middle class, English speaking, heterosexual, able-bodied, female teacher and mother in Saskatchewan) and the many privileges I enjoy at the expense of numerous others have changed significantly. While I have begun this process of developing a more critical consciousness, I imagine the enormity of these new-to-me realizations will likely have ongoing repercussions for many years to come.

What do you hope your research might accomplish in the field of education?

Beyond my own classroom and school space, I hope this research can inform the broader work of social studies education, development of educational policies and practices, and the professional growth of practicing and preservice teachers. Because social sciences courses often represent the primary places in which students engage with topics of power, privilege, the social construct of race, and processes of racialization, this research demonstrates the need to critically consider when and how these issues are included in the formal (and enacted) curricula, the impetus to thoughtfully and critically analyze pedagogical understandings and approaches for the ways in which they may (re)inscribe Whiteness and its corresponding privilege, and the call to authentically include and embed multiple and diverse knowledges, perspectives, and ways of knowing within the curricula and within classroom practice.

Even though this research speaks to particular issues within my classroom, and more generally within social studies education, it may also inform broader educational policies and practices like multicultural education. Traditional approaches to multicultural education have often served to (re)produce perceived nationalist traits like equality, tolerance, and fairness, rather than to engage students in critical analysis and reflection of their own identities and corresponding connections to privilege or their interdependence with others who are diversely produced. It is my hope that this research adds to the growing volume of work, illustrating the need to take a more critical approach to educating of and for diversity and social justice within Canada.

This research also has the potential to inform the professional development of practicing teachers and the preparation of preservice teachers in ways that encourage (even require) them to (re)consider their own subjectivities and to examine the ways in which schools and education systems as a whole ensure the ongoing production of Whiteness. As I discovered intimately through this inquiry, the dysconscious perpetuation of Whiteness through mainstream educational practices only serves to maintain the status quo complete with its systems of privilege and oppression. Thus, this research helps to illustrate the impetus to adequately prepare practicing and preservice teachers to engage critically and thoughtfully with issues of power, privilege, the social construct of race and processes of racialization (and their places within these relationships), and to give them the necessary time and support to engage authentically with multiple aspects of critical pedagogy and self-reflection. Only then may teachers be able to recognize and critique the systemic forces at play within classrooms, schools, and society as well as their own subject position within these spaces, and thus be more equipped to thoughtfully and effectively plan for learning experiences that may encourage students to do the same.

This study clearly demonstrates the multiple ways in which teachers and schools (through curricula, practices, and policies) continue to perpetuate the status quo through the ongoing acculturation of students into mainstream society. It is my hope that this research adds to our understanding of why it is critical to ensure schools (teachers, administrators, policy makers, and of course the students) to critically consider and disrupt dominant discourses, nationalist narratives, and the structuring forces of Whiteness in order to disrupt the perpetuation of systemic, racialized inequities. If we continue to approach diversity and diverse peoples in normalizing ways, inequity will continue to be inadequately addressed in schools. Rather our schools will continue to actively oppress, to actively marginalize, to actively colonize peoples who are racialized non-White and ensure the continuation of positions of privilege within this racialized society.

Was it difficult to achieve your research goals? How did you overcome obstacles, whether
personal or professional?

The greatest difficulty I faced in this research journey was striking the balance required to manage the arduous workload and to maintain personal relationships. Too often, I did not successfully negotiate a reasonable work-personal life balance and consequently, sacrifices were needed. Unfortunately these sacrifices often came at the expense of my time with others, including my family and friends. I was fortunate to have the generous and unwavering support of my husband and daughter as well as my extended family and friends. Their dedication to and support of me was the most critical aspect of my success. Some argue it takes a village to raise a child. I would argue it also takes one to complete a dissertation! I am so thankful for my generous and supportive village.

I was also incredibly fortunate to have a number of people make substantive contributions to this work and to my professional growth. The invaluable support, expertise, and compassion of my supervisor, Dr. Jennifer Tupper, and my committee members (Dr. K. Montgomery, Dr. P. Lewis, and Dr. M. Anderson) were critical to the successful completion of this research.

In addition to the support of my family, friends, and colleagues, I was fortunate to have the financial support of my primary employer, Regina Public Schools. I received release time from my full-time teaching responsibilities to complete aspects of this work. This financial commitment made me feel valued as a professional and enabled me to complete this work at less of a tremendous cost to my family.

The Heart of the Research

The following excerpt illustrates one of the major themes that emerged from the data.

Of particular interest for this study were the ways in which students were able to overtly and implicitly dismiss inconsistencies or discrepancies of these nationalist discourses (i.e. the tolerant and multicultural nature of Canada). A common thread seemed to be that others are ruining it for us and these others seemed to be older Canadians, people living in particular regions, provinces, or less metropolitan areas, and just generally intolerant people (who do not seem to be us). Some participants seemed to acknowledge that we have contributed to some of these inconsistencies but we generally do it without meaning to, we are better than we used to be, and we are better than many other places and people. Through the dismissal or displacement of these inconsistencies or disruptions to the nationalist discourses, the dominant national identity of Canada and Canadians remains relatively intact, reinforced by and through the prescribed and negotiated social studies curriculum. Rather than acknowledging these inconsistencies and thus problematizing the nationalist discourses, these discursive strategies serve as (re)structuring forces that (re)inscribe Whiteness. As Hytten and Warren (2003) identify, “the excessive use and reiteration of these rhetorics ultimately serve to maintain and protect whiteness’s discursively dominant cultural location” (p. 69).

Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Tupper
Committee Members: Dr. Ken Montgomery,
Dr. Patrick Lewis, Dr. Mark Anderson
External Examinator: Dr. Darren Lund (U of C)
Defended: November 2013