SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship Award | Esther Maeers

Congratulations to 4-th year PhD candidate Esther Maeers on receiving a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Award (Doctoral Fellowships) of $40,000 (2022-2024) for her project: Unpacking a Child’s School Backpack: A Narrative Inquiry Into Object Stories and the Implications for Parent Engagement Within Early Childhood Programs. Esther has also been a recipient of FGSR Thesis only scholarships, totaling $3,672 since 2021.

Using new materialism as a theoretical framework, Esther’s doctoral research will explore how children and their teenage parents “intra-act with objects,”  by mapping the journey of a child’s school backpack as it travels from home to school and back each day. Esther says, “There are established programs to assist teenage parents in advancing in their own schooling; however, supports for teenage parents to facilitate engagement in their child’s schooling are lacking. Meshing both parent engagement philosophy and new materialist theory, while looking to objects as storytellers and as conduits of parent knowledge, teenage parents can become integral to curriculum and pedagogy through material objects.”  Esther hopes this research “will move educators away from solely humancentric engagement, and towards seeing the value of objects as bridges between home and school, thus generating new approaches for educators and traditionally marginalized parents to partner and support children in their learning.”

As a teen mom in high school, Esther’s experience of being pushed to the margins in the school system motivated her to this research focus. “I am passionate about working with young parents and educators to find ways to create counter-narratives of teenage parents that highlight their parent knowledge and experience,” she says.

While Esther is working on her PhD, she is also working as a sessional instructor at the University of Regina, and as a research assistant on two SSHRC-funded projects: Sketching Narratives of Movement Towards Comprehensive and Competent Early Childhood Educational Systems Across Canada, with Dr. Christine Massing (her PhD supervisor) and Systematic Parent Engagement in Teaching and Learning: Creating a Prototype to Enhance Academic and Social Outcomes for Children and Parents, with Dr. Debbie Pushor (University of Saskatchewan and a member of Esther’s PhD committee).

Esther’s co-authored chapters include the following:

Ricketts, K., Maeers, E. & Munro, R. (2021). Bitter toughness meets fierce love: Reflections on a project with teen mothers. In E. Lyle (Ed.), Rehumanizing education (pp. 95-108). Brill Publications.

Pushor, D. & Maeers, E. (2022). Re/centring families: Principal as school landscape architect. In E. Lyle (Ed.), Re/centring lives and lived experience in education (pp. 152-164). Brill Publications.

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