Q: What do you teach at Garneau? What clubs are you involved in?
A: I teach most of the classes under the Social Science and Humanities umbrella. I’ve been teaching for nineteen years total and here for five. In those five years, I’ve taught Parenting, Living and Working with Children, Philosophy, Religions, Genocide, Learning Strategies, Civics, Careers, and Social Justice and Equity.
I’m involved with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). I’m also one of the editors for the Reckoner and I’m working with Ms. McCalla and Mr. Smith on the student voice panel.
Q: Why did you decide to be a teacher?
In university, I found that my peers in study groups would often look to me to take the complicated academic stuff in a lecture and make it understandable. The feeling of helping people understand things was really rewarding.
I first thought I wanted to be a professor, but what they want professors to do the most is write and publish articles. I want to teach. That’s the part that I find inspiring. I was inspired by those who taught me, so I thought that I wanted to inspire other people.
When I worked in a grade two classroom, I went home and cried every day because all the kids in my room needed things—hugs, love, parenting, food—that I couldn’t give them. I felt so powerless to affect any positive change in these young people’s lives. I worked as an emergency supply teacher in a high school and realized these are my people. You could still be that little kid that might not have been treated well at home. But now, I can tell you you matter by literally telling you you matter. I can make you feel seen by just seeing you. I can affect the change I wanted to affect in the little people.
Q: Why is GSA important to you?
Representation matters. I think that being a queer teenager is super hard even in today’s society. I also think it’s very important for me to be out as queer because of that.
Safe spaces matter. Even if you’re closeted and never show up to a single GSA meeting, knowing that there’s an educator inside that building who runs that tells you that somebody thinks you should exist. Even if you’re not ready to join and not ready to think about your own sexuality or any of that. Maybe you’ll get a little bit of courage and a little bit of understanding that you are normal, that you have a right to exist and you have a right to be your authentic self.
My whole agenda is that I want adolescents to feel safe and comfortable being their authentic self, whatever that looks like. You shouldn’t be beholden to anybody else, not your parents, not society, not anything. Eventually you’re walking it alone, so you better figure out who you are.
Q: How has the idea of being true to yourself been a part of your teaching?
If I didn’t tell anyone I was queer, no one would know. I masquerade as a hetero white lady. I married a man and have two children. I am somebody who has the ability to move through this world with quite a bit of ease, in the grand scheme of things. Because of that, I think it’s important for people who have it a little easier to sometimes make more space for people who don’t feel included and for people whose voices are more silent.
It’s important to me to give everybody space to be their authentic selves and to not make assumptions about their experience. That includes gender, race, religion, and everything. I try to wait until students tell me who they are, but also make space for those answers to be different. I don’t want them to feel like there’s only one answer available that they can give. So he, she, they, them, whatever you are, you should be able to bring that into the classroom, and it should feel welcoming and safe. School isn’t my space. It’s your space.
Q: What’s something that you think students should know?
Do what you love, because money is never going to be it, ever. Find a way to build a life that fits in as much joy and happiness and satisfaction as you can. I hear students already going, oh, I have to be a nurse, social worker, whatever. You don’t have to be anything, because anything that you pursue with passion, you will be a success at. If it’s what you love and it is what brings you joy, what allows you to flourish, the money, and the survival will come. If you do something you hate, there is not enough money in the world to buy you joy.
Q: What do you want to see happen in the school in the future?
To all the things that were said at the student voice forum, I want every teacher in this building to listen, and I want every teacher in this building to respond appropriately.
The student voice panel is made up of students from different interest groups, including GSA, the Black Student Association (BSA), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), etc. The students have gone out and collected data from other groups that weren’t represented. They were so powerful. A room full of teachers was told to listen while the panel said their truths. The hope is that teachers change.
There isn’t a single young person in this building who shouldn’t feel like they belong and feel welcome in every classroom they enter. I want this school to change based on what the students are asking for. I want the staff to respond and I want the school to change accordingly.