Fondest Memories: Faculty of Education
In celebration of the University of Lethbridge's 50th anniversary, the Faculty of Education has produced a number of videos that tell the story of the program through personal memories. This collection reveals what makes this teacher education program one of the finest in Canada – community, relationship, sound cornerstones of teaching and research, and heart.
DR. PAM ADAMS
Dr. Pam Adams (BEd '81, MEd '00) grew up in a home that was a haven for teachers – her mother was an educator. She recalls the excitement about the Faculty of Education at the new U of L in 1967. So, it seemed natural for Adams to then become a student.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I was fortunate to be attending one of the best teacher preparation programs in the country, and eventually I became a faculty member.” Pam has also served as the assistant dean of field experience and now teaches and conducts educational research throughout Alberta on school improvement, teacher professional learning, and leadership.
One of her fondest memories is “when those faces come into my mind and I see those people who founded this place. I think back about what courage, strength, foresight, vision, and innovation they must have had to actually be able to commit to that. It is astonishing to me.”
DR NOLA AITKEN
Dr. Nola Aitken’s experience with assessment and leadership practices extended throughout her career. “I specialized in test development and mathematics, working for Alberta Education for five years assisting teachers with writing exam questions,” she says. After joining the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge in 1992, Dr. Aitken was involved in the MEd Leadership program, and also taught assessment courses at the undergraduate level.
Her fondest memory is about accepting change. “I came at a time when there was a lot of change in Alberta Education with regards to instruction and assessment – particularly fair assessment theory and practice. What I remember is the faculty support, students took it on, and there was terrific support from the deans. I can’t thank them enough. It’s hard to change things sometimes. But, they were fantastic.”
Christy Audet (BA’94, BEd’98, MEd’11) credits her success as an educator to the mentoring she received as an undergraduate student while in the Faculty of Education, later as a Secondment, and most recently as a full-time faculty member. According to Audet, s program in which even mentors are mentored, builds an unshakeable foundation for excellence in education.
Former Literacy educator, Dr. Michael Pollard, was key in the mentorship role for Audet as she progressed through her first years as a pre-service teacher in the faculty. She recalls him saying, “You’ve been trying so hard to be that teacher that everybody says you should be. Just teach the way you want to teach.” So, from that point going forward as an educator, that is exactly what she did. “It was the best advice I’ve ever had.”
“This place is all about mentoring,” says Audet as she now enters another chapter. “That’s what we do, not just as beginning teachers. We just keep doing that over and over and over again. That’s what makes this faculty so good.”
Doug Checkley (BEd ’04, MEd ’10) sums up his Faculty of Education experience in one word: trust. His trust in the strength of the Lethbridge program was confirmed at a provincial conference he attended while on the executive of the Education Undergraduate Society (EUS); his MEd advisors inspired him to trust himself; and now, as a PhD student, he instills in tomorrow’s teachers the importance of trust in themselves and their pupils.
While flexibility to combine teaching with post-graduate studies drew him to the University of Lethbridge for his masters degree, the quality of the educators and research opportunities drew him back for his doctoral studies.
“This is definitely the highlight so far – being a PhD student both in the research and teaching capacity, and being able to work alongside this faculty.”
Author and educator, Heidi Garnett (nee Wiehler) is a member of the first Faculty of Education graduating class that convocated before sod was turned on the University of Lethbridge campus. The tightly-knit Class of 1968 had completed most of their studies at Lethbridge Junior College. Garnett maps out her early years as a student – memories that include coping with financial struggles, a one-room school house on a Hutterite colony, and her passion for literature.
“University was like opening a door to a place I’d imagined, but didn’t think was real,” says Garnett. “It felt as if I’d found my people and my place in the world when I began my studies at the University of Lethbridge – I felt like I’d come home.”
Alumni, Will Lowry (BSc’11, BEd’16), was already established in a career, living a full life before he considered teaching. Why would a journeyman carpenter with a degree in mathematics, his own company, and six children want to return to school to become a teacher?
“I wanted to encourage kids who don’t think they’re academically strong to consider Career and Technology Studies (CTS) as a valid stream of education,” says Lowry. “So many think entering the trades will put them on easy street. They won’t have to do school anymore, they won’t have to think, they can just work and make money. But trades employers are looking for hardworking, intelligent people who can problem solve and think critically. That’s the trades. I feel strongly that trades education requires just as much work as a university degree.”
Lowry’s fondest memory of his experience as a student in the Faculty of Education was the relationships developed with his fellow classmates as they went through their practicum together – sharing classroom moments, pre-service teacher dialogue, and supporting one another. “That feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood … I just really liked that,” Lowry recalls. “That was my favourite part of the experience.”
DR. CHRIS MATTATALL
Shortly before completing his PhD in Special Education, Dr. Chris Mattatall taught at a maximum security facility for youth. “Young men and women in prison have the same fears and desires as everyone,” he says. “They want to learn, succeed and contribute. “Teachers can take students from feeling absolutely worthless to feeling important.”
The spirit of collaboration within the Faculty of Education was a key factor attracting Mattatall to the University of Lethbridge. He was ignited by the passion of a closely knit group of interns he worked with in an international school in Oman. “I’ve never heard students praise their school like they did the University of Lethbridge,” he says. “I was very impressed before I came here, but I became more impressed after I arrived.”
DR. JANE O'DEA
As former dean of the Faculty of Education (2000-2010), Dr. Jane O’Dea reflects upon her time here at the University of Lethbridge. “It’s a place that believes in people, a place that believes in liberal education.”
One of the many notable accomplishments during O’Dea’s tenure, was the establishment of the Niitsitapi Teacher Education Program in collaboration with Red Crow College, the Kainai Board and Blackfoot communities. A program that she explains had great meaning and purpose for the faculty. “Our campus and our community are situated in the heart of Blackfoot territory. Niitsitapi made us realize how much more we could learn and provided us access to people with extraordinary wisdom."
O’Dea will be leaving the Faculty of Education this year – she fondly recalls her first impressions of the teacher preparation program all those years ago when Dr. Eric Mokosch interviewed her for a position. “They weren’t just committed to the theory of it, they were committed to the practice of it. You got this feeling that it all really mattered. That it meant something.” says O’Dea. “They really understood the point of view of community, and belonging.”
The Technology Support team for the Faculty of Education is there to offer guidance, support, and help whenever needed. They provide up-to-date expertise in that ever-evolving world of technology. Kevin Orr, System Support Specialist, is part of that team. One of his favourite memories doesn’t relate to the dissection of Macbook motherboards, electrostatic discharge diagnostics, or finding gremlins in the iPad cart – it’s more personal.
“One of my fondest memories has to do with the people that I work with. I wanted to introduce my fiancée to the faculty,” says Orr. “We had this Christmas party in one of our classrooms. It was really important that she meet the people that I work with. The reception we received was very welcoming, warming, uplifting. Craig Loewen announced our engagement. Everyone turned toasted us, and kind of sent us off in their own way. It was very special, that’s for sure.”
The Faculty of Education secondment program brings teacher-leaders from southern Alberta to campus in order to share their expertise and valuable front-line teaching practises with Education students. Lisa Prawdzik (BA, BEd ’96) is a shining example of why the program is such a success.
Prawdzik was raised with rural roots – “I come from small town Medicine Hat.”. One of her fondest memories is of faculty member and former dean, Dr. Jane O’Dea. “I remember walking into the class – it was within the first few moments of Jane O’Dea beginning to speak,” recalls Prawdzik. “She had such enthusiasm and passion. I knew this was where I wanted to be.” O’Dea’s Philosophy of Education class made an impact upon Prawdzik as an undergrad. “She was going to challenge me, make me see things from different viewpoints, and really take me outside of my comfort zone. Jane had such an impact upon me just within the first few hours of my touches here in the Faculty of Education.”
Prawzik continues her University of Lethbridge academic journey and is currently pursuing her MEd in the
Curriculum and Assessment program.
After Wayne Street (BASc’72, BEd’74, MEd’85) retired from thirty-one years of teaching and administration he returned to the University of Lethbridge as Faculty of Education Research Officer. His career exemplifies the same strong tradition of field/faculty partnership that he observes in the longstanding collaboration between the University and the City of Lethbridge.
Street remembers his Physical Education experience after transferring from the ‘Junior College’ to the new University of Lethbridge: “We had no Phys Ed facilities in UHall, at all. Every activity offered was downtown somewhere – YMCA for gymnastics, Fritz Sick for swimming, Civic Centre for volleyball, and golf at Bridge Valley Par Three. We used the community facilities when we were just starting [as a university] and now the U of L is at the stage where we can say to the community come on back and use ours.”
Dr. Ed Wasiak holds a lifetime of music education memories related to curriculum, assessment, classroom management, and leadership practices. Artistic literacy and all values that support it are a passion for him. “We say things through the arts when words fail.”
A fondest memory that has a place in his heart as the quintessential ‘take away’ speaks to the character of student that enters the Faculty of Education. At a time when he and wife, Katherine navigated a particularly challenging time in their lives, Wasiak remembers having to announce to the students the difficulties being faced. “Sometimes you just get one of those special classes where the dynamics are positive and wonderful.” He recalls how truly moved he was by the kindness and compassion extended by these students. “That really speaks to the quality of human beings that come into our program, and that we prepare as teachers,” he says. “That’s a memory that will stick with me forever.”