Jill Vanderheiden

Jill Vanderheiden

What education have you taken?

I graduated from the Aboriginal Community Campus in Winnipeg in June 2001 and subsequently attended the University of Manitoba, ACCESS Program from September 2001 to December 2002. I then started my Business Administration, Accounting Specialization at Neeginan College of Applied Technology in partnership with Assiniboine Community College. I graduated in 2004. I’ve now been at Brandon University since September 2013.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I’m proud of my time volunteering with my son’s football team, in various roles including Team Manager back in Warman, SK. Since I have been on campus, I have been a Student Leader, a Student Leader Coordinator, a Student Ambassador and the Orientation Coordinator. I have also been the Treasurer for the Brandon University Aboriginal Student Council, and I am currently the Mature/PT Director with Brandon University Students Union (BUSU). I have been honoured to have received the Pearce Bursary, Dr. JRC Evans Masonic Memorial Bursary, Louis Riel Institute Bursary (twice) and the Boom & Ellie Cristall Bursary during my time at Brandon University.

Tell me about yourself.

I am a single mom of an amazing teenager. He is the reason why I am back at university in my thirties! I am a Metis woman who was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived in almost every neighbourhood in the central to northern areas of the city. I had my son young and knew then that I couldn’t continue the rebellious teenage behaviour I was exhibiting. I had to grow up and get my life together, so I could provide my son with a good life. I was a high school drop-out when I found out I was pregnant and I immediately enrolled in the Aboriginal Community Campus so I could finish as much of my high school as possible before my son was born. He was born in November 2000 and I graduated with my grade 12 in June 2001. I always knew education was the key to success. Actually, my Mom used to turn off movies like Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty before the very end of the movie and tell me and my sister that first they went off to university, then they graduated and got married. I didn’t know the real ending to those movies until I was in my tweens! Education was always a way of life and a norm in our house.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I am at Brandon University to become a high school math teacher, grades 9-10 specifically. I had a horrible grade 4-5 teacher, it was a split class so I had her for 2 years. She didn’t like math at all. We did a lot of poetry and solar system work, but very little math. When I went into grade 7 I didn’t have the skills I needed to succeed; the same happened with grade 8. Due to school division policy at the time though, they kept passing me along. I got to grade 9 at Sisler High School in Winnipeg. My teacher was Mr. Hudson. He saw my skills and general disinterest in math and challenged me. He asked me to give him a chance. He asked me to do him this favour and all I had to do was attend and do the homework. He promised me that I could actually pass the course on my own. I agreed to try. I did try. I got a B in grade 9 math. I was sold. I loved math and I knew that one day I was going to return the favour and be a math teacher who could affect change like that with students. So that’s why I pick grade 9-10. By then the students either have a strong like or dislike for math. I foster this love and keep my fuel for my dream going by being a lab assistant in Professor Kathy Nichol’s Basic/Core 090 math class. Working with the students and being there to see their outlook of math change and the pride they get in their success keeps me going. They inspire me more than anything. (Oh man, I’m tearing up now writing this!!)

What is your philosophy in life?

My philosophy is just to try to be the best version of me. I am a human being like everyone else, and I am just here on earth “being” that human. I believe in the inherent good of people and the ability for us all to be kind to each other and how far that kindness can go to affect the world.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future I see myself in my classroom teaching. I am teaching grades 9-10 math and geography. I want students to enjoy high school and I look forward to getting involved with the student council and student newspapers too. I even have started collecting posters and things for my classroom! I would like to think that I also would have the ability to travel and see some of the world. I have seen and am planning to see much more of North America, but I’ve never been off this continent.

Nominator’s comments:

Jillian was an excellent student in my math class. Her notes were a true work of art – borrowed by many. Her enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. Way before Jillian was an assistant in the math lab, she was encouraging and helping fellow students in the class. She loves math and energizes students to work at it and understand. Her love of teaching makes her a delight to have helping. I loved her tales of all the interesting happenings and encouragement offered to students in the Indigenous Peoples’ Centre, and her part in it – such as making soup daily, and her drop in math study sessions. Jillian gives a great deal – in the IPC, as a student leader, and a student leader trainer, and in the Students Union. She brings a breath of fresh air!