Mud bath in the Dead Sea: Sean, Luke, Declan, and Daphne Sander

As an ESL Specialist Teacher with the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, Daphne Sander (BA/BEd ’92) meets with families who come from different parts of the world, providing support and helping students transition to life within Southern Alberta.

This role has given Daphne a unique perspective and has helped shape her sense of wellness and gratitude: “When I hear the stories of what some people have had to endure or overcome in order to live here, I recognize that we are in a very privileged position,” says Daphne.

“Meeting with these families and having them share their stories and background gives me an idea of how we can support these students,” Daphne continues, “What they have to share is very interesting, oftentimes sad, and it's a good reminder of what we have here in Canada.”

What activity would you say contributes most to your personal sense of wellness?
I’m not sure that I can just narrow that down to just one, but I was thinking about this beforehand and how spending time with family and friends is really at the heart of everything. That’s really what makes things special for me. I’m fortunate to have a big family, and a really great friend network. Doing things with these groups revolves a lot around travel as well. I love travelling, I love food, so I love trying different types of food from different cultures.

Prior to everything shutting down and changing due to COVID, our family had travelled to Israel, and that was an incredible experience. That whole year was incredible — we visited our son who was studying in England, another son who was studying in Victoria, and we’d been to Israel to visit another son who was doing a co-op there. In between all that travel, we’d also visited a few places in the United States. After we returned from Israel, I decided that every year I would like to plan a trip to a new country, somewhere that is different and would provide new cultural perspectives. And then of course, COVID hit and plans changed.

Camel ride following trip to Ein Gedi (natural spring reserve): Declan and Daphne Sander

Other than travel, living in Lethbridge we have the beautiful coulees, and our house is right next to them, so I spend a lot of time walking in the coulees with friends and family. I also love reading and learning about other cultures.

How do you think having a strong family and friend network has benefited you as an educator?
I think it really speaks to the importance of connection and developing that relationship with others. As educators, we need to develop a connection with students for them to feel comfortable with us. And it’s often the small things.

My office is actually in a junior high school, and on the first few days of school I notice things like the Grade 7’s who are all learning how to use a lock for the first time, and the look of terror as they are trying to figure this out. If you can help them with the small things like that, you develop a connection with them, and then they are more willing to come ask you for help with the bigger things.

What would you say you are most grateful for at this moment?
I’m very grateful for my family — my husband and my four kids and their significant others. My youngest just graduated high school last year and he’s now at the University of Calgary, so with four kids away at different universities we don’t have anyone at home. With that, I’m really grateful for the opportunity we get every day to text. Well, I text them, and whether they respond or not it doesn’t really matter, I know that they’ll see the message and know that I’m thinking about them.

Cultural dinner in Tel Aviv: Sean Sander, Iain Sander, Rebecca Brassington, Luke Sander, Declan Sander, Rebecca Brindza, and Daphne Sander

I’m really thankful for my friends as well, and they have been especially great during COVID. This past summer I went with three other friends of mine who are also teachers to Ottawa and Montreal. As I mentioned earlier, I love food, so it really became a food tour! We all have common interests, so we really got to experience the culture of both cities through food and we made the most of it. Recently, a few other friends and I stayed at my friend’s cabin, where we planned a hike in Waterton and a few rounds of cards, so just doing activities with friends has been great.

Do you think that your sense of gratitude has shifted since the COVID-19 pandemic began?
I think it's really given me a sense of the privilege I have; I’m very fortunate. Not to say that there haven't been challenges along the way — there certainly have been — but I recognize that I have a lot of good in my life and the pandemic has reminded me to celebrate that.

I also recognize that a lot of people don’t have the same privilege, so I think my attitude has been one of gratitude, but also a sense of responsibility that we need to help the more vulnerable, and there are a lot of people who are vulnerable in different ways. There is a lot of polarization that has happened in our society, and hearing and recognizing that diversity of thought is important, so we have a sense of where people are coming from so we can move forward.

Writer: CJ Tuff
Photos courtesy: Daphne Sander

Faculty of Education Wellness and Gratitude  series:
The Link Between Wellness and Gratitude: Dr. Robin Bright
Wellness and Gratitude: Speaking openly about living with bipolar disorder, Jason Wegner
Wellness and Gratitude: "I want to make sure that my students are well from top to bottom," Heather McCaig (BEd ‘95)
Wellness and Gratitude: "Although I hate the routine, I need the routine", Dan Grassick (BSc/BEd ‘02)
Wellness and Gratitude: "It’s honestly been a rollercoaster," Brae Clowes (BA/BEd ‘21)

Faculty of Education Wellness Initiative series:
The Faculty of Education WELLNESS INITIATIVE: Supporting a Focus on Health and Well-Being
Wellness is Keeping Active, Both Mentally and Physically, Brae Clowes
Wellness is The Joy of Cooking: Dr. Jeffrey MacCormack
Wellness is Feeling Productive: Sally Leung (BA/BEd '17)
Wellness is About Writing: Teri Hartman (BA/BEd '02, current MEd student)
Wellness is Spending Time Outdoors: Dana Visser
Wellness is Stillness: Jane O'Dea (dean emerita)
Wellness is Coping with Stress Through Art and Music: Jenn Pellerin
Wellness During the COVID-19 Experience, PSII, and Staying Connected: Kelsey Shoults
Wellness is Being in the Moment: Kenneth Oppel
Wellness is About Having a Consistent Routine: Alex Funk (BEd '17)
Wellness is Spiritual: David Slomp
• Wellness is Ranching: Danny Balderson
Coping with COVID-19: Harnessing our Natural Stress Response
Coping with COVID-19: Loneliness
The Intersectionality of Faith, Mental Health and Wellness for Racialized Populations During the Pandemic


For more information please contact:
Darcy Tamayose
Communications, Dean's Office
Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
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