When I was first out of high school, I completed a Bachelor of Science, Specialist degree at Brandon University (1982). The four years spent studying in the Brodie Building gave me an excellent foundation in both science content and skills. I was fortunate to have one-on-one access to my professors, who were always willing to share their time and expertise. They even attended my wedding at the end of my program! I next went to the University of Winnipeg, entering the after-degree program and student teaching at various schools in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba. I completed my Bachelor of Education in 1988. That experience paired me with cooperating teachers who were the first of many excellent mentors in my career. Their passion for their students and their subject areas was contagious. Thirty-one years after starting my initial degree, I returned to Brandon University to begin my graduate studies as part of the Winkler Cohort. I am still using my original student number and that does prompt some questions.
What accomplishments are you proud of?
Personally, my greatest accomplishment is raising my family with my husband Grant. I have a son studying science at the University of Winnipeg and a daughter finishing high school.
Professionally, I was fortunate to receive various scholarships during my undergraduate training. As a working teacher, I continued to learn and my markers were both positive feedback from my students and colleagues, and my writing accomplishments. I am proud to have contributed to Success for All Learners: A Handbook on Differentiating Instruction (1996) and The Senior Years Science Teachers’ Handbook (1997). More recently, I am pleased to have an article published in the BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education last fall.
Tell me about yourself / your background / your history.
After completing my Education degree, I taught at Nellie McClung Collegiate in Manitou, Manitoba (high school science and math) for twenty years. My focus was on hands-on learning, strategic teaching, and environmental education. During that time, I was able to visit various schools, in-servicing teachers on best practices. Working on a provincial curricular team and writing curricular documents, both helped stretch my thinking about teaching and learning. In the last three years, I have been fortunate to work on the divisional administration team as the Learning Services Administrator for Prairie Spirit School Division. It is a privilege to work with teachers as they develop new strategies in light of our shifts in thinking about education.
More recently, I have been very satisfied with my decision to come back to Brandon University. I have been impressed by the approachability of my BU professors. They have been quite willing to provide descriptive feedback in order to help me learn. I also appreciate the flexibility of the Department of Graduate Studies, which recognizes the challenges of students face while working full-time.
How did you become interested in your field of study?
My first teaching experience was as a lab assistant at BU. In that role, I discovered that although I was fascinated by science I was more intrigued by helping people learn.
What is your philosophy in life?
In my first year of teaching, I remember a particular conversation with my vice-principal. I was so pleased that I had ended up with a job teaching Biology and asked him if he taught what he was trained for. “Of course” he said, “I teach kids”. That response stopped me in my tracks. Over time, I came to see my role in the classroom in the same way. I moved from focusing on subject content to strategic teaching of skills development and finally to an interdisciplinary perspective. The “what” we teach gives richness to the lessons but “teaching kids to think” is far more powerful. I also believe that we need to look beyond the classroom walls to invite the community in. When we work with community partners, we can teach students to think about real-life problems for authentic audiences. This is the essence of place-based education.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I want to continue in my present position, learning alongside the teachers in my division. Education is a complex and rapidly changing field. In my graduate studies, my area of focus is on professional development for rural teachers.
Lynda has just completed her first year of the Graduate Diploma program, and is working towards a Masters in Education (Educational Administration with Curriculum and Instruction). Lynda’s work is outstanding. She is excited about her new challenge in Graduate Studies and I think she is an excellent model. She talks openly and enthusiastically about her learning experiences. In class I observed the way that she worked as part of a group. Her group became a strong support to each other throughout the class. Although they were allowed to meet electronically or communicate by email, they chose to meet face to face. The strong attachment to the group that was indicated by all members illustrates the relationships that they developed. I think this is also an indication of how Lynda works within her school division and community.