Former educator invests in the future

Ida Wiens had a love of learning that motivated her to complete her education, drove a successful 36-year career as a teacher and inspired a gift that will help future teachers, like Chelsa Cumming.

Grateful for her own education and successful career in teaching, Wiens made a bequest in her will for the University of Lethbridge to ensure more students had the opportunity to go to university.

Although Chelsa Cumming and the late Ida Wiens never met, they share a passion for education that has united them in a unique way.

Cumming is one of the first recipients of the Elmer and Ida Wiens Faculty of Education Bursary, which will help provide the financial means necessary to train the next generation of teachers. Thanks to this legacy gift, up to eight U of L education students will receive an award each year.

Now in her fifth year of university, 22-year-old Cumming has paid for her education by working part time and through student loans. From a financial standpoint, the bursary is of great help.

"It's easier knowing I'm not going to have to pay this back," she says. "It's really nice to have bursaries and scholarships available to help with the burden of paying for an education."

However, the bursary's real significance comes from its origin – the estate gift Elmer and Ida Wiens left to the U of L.

"Because Ida was a teacher, I love knowing that my education will help continue Ida's legacy," Cumming says. "For her to be able to give back to future teachers is awesome."

Like Cumming, Wiens also worked her way through school, completing high school by correspondence before being accepted to normal school in Regina.

Once she received her teaching certificate, Wiens taught in small schools throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta before settling in Coaldale in 1948. While she taught full time, she also completed a bachelor of education degree through the University of Alberta by taking classes over several summers.

For Cumming, her journey – teaching and learning – is really just beginning. This year she will complete her education and management degrees and final teaching practicum as well as a co-op for her business management degree. Once finished, she's hoping to further round out her experience by teaching abroad for six months to a year.

"I really want to make a difference in a child's life – that's the reason I went into education," says Cumming. "It's a very rewarding and important job. The students I will be teaching are our future."