Katherine MacFarlane

2021 International Women's Day Nominee - Katherine MacFarlane

Give a brief bio about yourself/ your background/ your history.

I was born and raised within a tight-knit, music loving family in Portage la Prairie. By the time I was in high school, I understood that I was a ‘people person’ and that my future would lead me to work in a profession that would allow for the development of meaningful relationships.

My social circles have often centred around musical pursuits and opportunities, including band, choirs, and musicals. Within these communities, I found opportunities to grow as a person and to develop my leadership skills.

In the year between high school and university, I was fortunate to work in a variety of settings that allowed me to explore possibilities for my future. I worked in a day care, worked as an educational assistant for a term in a life skills classroom, served as a summer camp counsellor at a day camp for children with special needs, and worked as a psychiatric nursing assistant. These opportunities affirmed my desire to work with children and youth, and strengthened my commitment to supporting the development of inclusive environments.

After 19 years as an early years classroom teacher, I accepted a position as a Resource Teacher and thoroughly enjoyed that role for 6 years. For the past three years, I have served in a school leadership role; two years as a Vice Principal and currently as an Acting Principal.

What education have you taken?

I received my high school diploma from Portage Collegiate Institute in 1988, then started at Brandon University in 1989. I graduated from BU with my Bachelor of Education in 1993 and began teaching in the Brandon School Division that Fall. I took a leave of absence from teaching in the 1995/96 school year to engage in graduate studies in Special Education at the University of Victoria.

I started working on my Masters in Educational Administration at Brandon University in 2017 and completed my summative seminar in December 2020.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

Currently, I am proud – and humbled – that Dr. Kirk nominated Carolyn Blaine, Raven Willoughby and me for this award, as a group. I believe this speaks to the heart of how women can lift each other up and use their collective passion and strength to positively impact the spaces in which they live and work. I am so thankful for the relationships that we have formed and am grateful that we have the opportunity to serve our Prairie Hope High School community together.

I am proud that I have ventured out of my professional ‘comfort zone’ to become a school leader. Moving into school leadership meant leaving a school where I had worked for 10 years and had many treasured relationships with students, their families and with my colleagues. It was a leap of faith to accept a vice-principalship in 2018 and then to move again to become an acting principal in 2020.

I am grateful that I have had many opportunities to support performing arts in our community. I have conducted the Mecca community choir for many years and have taught Mecca classes to young people in our community for over a decade. I have conducted orchestras for musical theatre productions and have performed in many musicals. I’m so pleased that, although my personal and professional life is busy, I have found ways to nurture and share my love of music.

I am most proud of my son and of being a Mom. He brings joy to my life, each and every day. We share a love of music, both feel strongly about matters of social justice, and both share a deep love of family. I’m beyond grateful for our relationship.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I think I answered this in the question above when I spoke about my background and history!

What is your philosophy in life?

I believe that relationships, compassion, and kindness should be at the core of all that we do. I am confident that if I am thinking of others and am holding space for everyone around me to safely feel, be seen, be heard, identify, and speak their truth, then I will successfully serve my loved ones and my community.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I plan to continue in school leadership, with a focus on building inclusive school cultures and forming meaningful connections with our students, their families and our staff.

I am enjoying the journey of becoming a (very) seasoned teacher and am grateful for each day that I get to enjoy my life’s journey.

In one sentence, what do you #ChooseToChallenge?

I #ChooseToChallenge othering.

Nominators Comments:

I have nominated Katherine for this award alongside classmates Carolyn Blaine and Raven Willoughby This group of women were enrolled in my Summative Seminar course in the Fall of 2020. I admired the way they supported each other in the completion of their master’s degrees, how they supported other students, and how caring and supportive they were towards the university and for me. They are an amazing group. As I listened to their stories about the changes that they had made in their school and how they were approaching the important work that they do with at-risk learners, I admired the community spirit that they worked to develop. One at a time, each in their own way, they shared their stories about the work that they do in the school. Each of them re-confirmed how much their work was part of the whole and how they could only do it because they were part of this amazing team. As each of them completed their final presentation (and with it, the requirements for the master’s degree), they celebrated the accomplishments of the other two by showing up with party preparations, cards, balloons, and gifts at the door, even though we were all socially isolated and connecting through Zoom. This authentic support for the important initiatives that they lead in their schools and for the real people who are their colleagues is worthy of recognition. They are making a difference for students and families that experience marginalization within our community.