Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was actually born in Lethbridge then moved to Saskatchewan when I was very young. I came back to Lethbridge each summer as a child to visit family so it has a strong sense of home for me. Having travelled a lot in my adult life, it feels very good to be close to family both here in Lethbridge and Saskatchewan.
I started out my career as a secondary school physical education teacher in Richmond B.C. Having come from a sporting background (basketball, volleyball, softball), teaching Phys. Ed. was a natural fit. But at that time, teaching jobs were difficult to come by, especially in Saskatchewan. I took a leap of faith after finishing my undergrad at the University of Regina and moved to B.C. I was able to get on a sub list my first year then got a full-time position in my second year. One lesson from that experience that has always stuck with me, and still guides much of my decision-making, is to remain open to possibilities and in doing so take risks. I have always been served well by both.
I did want to become a teacher but unlike the reasons that I hear from many students pursuing a career in education, who express a love of children or desire to make a difference, I chose teaching because at the time, as an uncertain and relatively unworldly 18-year-old, teaching felt safe and familiar.
I often tell the story of being inspired by my grandmother who was a primary teacher in the small Saskatchewan community of Rosetown. When I would accompany her downtown on short walks to the pharmacy or bank, I was always so impressed because so many people stopped to speak with her. As a child, it felt like a parade at times; everyone seemed to know and love her. Over the course of her career, she had taught so many people in the community who I believe felt connected to her because of her warmth and kindness. In the latter parts of her life, when she would reflect on her teaching career, she spoke with a great deal of pride. Difficult not to find inspiration in that.
But truth be told, if I am honest about where I was as a high school student, I was still very unsure about the world and what it held for me. Becoming a teacher was one of the few pursuits where I thought, ‘I could do that.’ So despite rather lackluster motivation initially, I feel strongly that I am exactly where I am meant to be and that my path has been the right one. Reflecting back and thinking through my journey as a teacher, educator and leader, it very much resembles a woven tapestry of individually mismatched materials, colours and threads but one that when viewed holistically is really quite beautiful. I entered into education with uncertainty but being open to what was possible has served me well.
After seven years of teaching in Richmond, I began teaching at international schools overseas. I lived and worked in Pakistan for two years, Kuwait for four years and Mongolia for one year. When I initially entered into teaching, I had no idea about international schools but am so glad I again took another leap of faith and taught in those countries. The schools I was employed by were very similar to the schools I had taught in while living in Canada yet were also vastly different. Curriculum and pedagogy were often the same as was the structure of schooling yet despite that sameness, navigating new cultural practices, and being welcomed and woven into new communities shaped my personal and professional identity in profound ways.
Those years profoundly informed my style as a leader and ongoing commitment to equity because I was continually challenged to think through decisions by considering multiple perspectives.
It was during that time that I completed my master’s degree in educational leadership which again presented me with choices. A common path for many who do a similar degree is to enter school administration which I considered. But, I found myself seeking a greater depth of understanding about what it meant to be a leader so I chose to do my PhD at the University of Victoria. Studying leadership and being in a leadership position complement each other well but those early teacher experiences both in Canada and abroad have had a significant impact.
What thrills me the most about education is that it is a site for possibility. In my experience, education has presented me with many doors to choose from. Some I have walked through, others not, but the opportunities that have been presented as a result of being in education have made for a fantastic life.
How long have you been at ULethbridge and what do you do here?
I arrived June 28th to begin work July 1 as the Dean for the Faculty of Education.
What is the best part of your job?
Meeting and getting to know all of the academic and nonacademic staff has been wonderful. The ideas they have shared are amazing and will play a significant role in advancing the Faculty of Education. Some of our pursuits for this year include building community and celebrating our people and achievements.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy gardening and biking, as well as writing, drawing, painting and other opportunities to create.