Class Notes Spring 2023

Education alumni reflect on the varied paths their lives and careers have taken following their time at the U of A.

9 May 2023

You are invited!

National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and, Métis peoples. This year, the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta is thrilled to welcome children and educators onto our campus to celebrate with children’s author and educator David A. Robertson. We are opening this event for the alumni to attend virtually on June 21 at 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. Find out how to register!

Already have plans that day? No worries. Simply register for one of the sessions and you will still be sent a link to a recording of the event.

In this installment of Class Notes, we hear from alumni about the initiatives and projects that fuel their passions outside the classroom, about the places their teaching journey has taken them, and how they’ve maintained their love of learning into retirement.

Vern Pachal (‘58 PEB, ‘63 BEd) — Hi everyone, my wife Marilyn and I are both in our 90s and travel is no longer an option for us. We are both in pretty good health, still live in our home, able to care for It inside and out, asking for help when necessary. We are still driving, but our kids insist we limit that to Yorkton and no further.

I still look forward to time at the cabin each summer. I still golf, but only play nine holes.

Our grandson Brayden bought our cabin. We are now great grandparents and we have two beautiful “greats,” a girl and boy. We have two married grandchildren, and another wedding this summer. It is obvious that we are proud of our children and grandchildren, and are thrilled to be great-grandparents.

Nothing very exciting or thrilling but we are so grateful to be able to manage our lives independently, to live and manage our home lives. We have always been grateful for the friendships we shared while I attended the U of A and beyond.


Arthur Cropley

Arthur Cropley (‘63 MEd, ‘65 PhD) — My story is one of constant travel from humble beginnings. I was born in the tiny desert township of Marree, South Australia, in 1935. After graduating from the University of Adelaide I spent seven years as a schoolteacher then obtained my doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Alberta in 1965, under the superb guidance of Dr. Charles Anderson. 

After teaching at the University of Regina I became a professor at the University of Hamburg in Germany. I have published 30 scholarly books which have been translated into a total of 12 languages. Upon retirement in 1999 I spent part of each year until 2010 as a visiting professor at the University of Latvia. Fascinated by the Latvian national epic poem Lāčplēsis, I translated it into English (“Bearslayer”) and later translated several Australian bush ballads into German (Pferde, Reiter, Berge und Ebenen). I have been honoured with life membership of the European Council for High Ability, the Creativity Award of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, a visiting fellowship of the British Psychological Society, an honorary doctorate of the University of Latvia, and the Order of the Three Stars of the Republic of Latvia. The Latvian Academy of Sciences chose my book Bearslayer: The Latvian Legend as one of 2007’s top 10 scholarly achievements. In 2015 the Creativity Research Journal published a Festschrift in my honour. During all of this, I was selflessly and constantly supported by my late wife Alison and, later, my two sons Andrew and David.


Ed FergusonEd Fergusson (‘68 BEd) I taught high school at Vic, Eastglen, M.E.LaZerte, and Young Offenders for a total of 37 years. I also coached weightlifting all those years and, at 88 years old, I am still coaching, training, and competing in weightlifting in Parksville, B.C., where my wife Brenda, and I retired. Brenda just set new B.C. and Canadian records in weightlifting for women 80+ years at our March 4 B.C. Masters Championships. On April 28, at Buck Lake, Alberta, we conducted a weightlifting clinic for teachers there.


Wilbur Collin (‘71 MEd, ‘73 PhD) & Edith Collin, (‘67 BEd) — My wife Edith Collin and I both graduated with a BEd degree (a PDAD — my first degree was in Agriculture, Edith`s was in Home Economics) in the fall of 1967 while we were both employed as instructors at Olds College. Later in that year, I began employment as coordinator of agricultural education with the Department of Agriculture, and Edith began employment as a home economics instructor at Louis St. Laurent High School in Edmonton. During that time I was able to complete a MEd degree in 1971, and a PhD in Educational Administration in 1973. I was subsequently employed as principal of Olds College (1972-78), and as associate vice-president academic responsible for program development and evaluation at Grant MacEwan Community College until retiring in 1990. During my tenure as associate VP academic, I was seconded on two occasions to work in  CID- funded projects in East Africa. Edith was employed as an instructor of clothing design and construction at Olds College from 1973 to 1996 when she retired. During her tenure as instructor at Olds College, she completed a Senior Diploma in Fibre Arts, with distinction at the Banff School of Fine Arts (1981), and a Master of Science degree in Clothing and Textiles at Oregon State University in 1985. Following retirement we lived on and operated our own farm near Athabasca until 2007, when we moved to Edmonton. 


Robert Gielen on HorseRobert Gielen ('73 BEd) — Here is a photo of my horse Bang, a 14-year-old bay Arabian, and I competing in a 160 km endurance ride in Abu Dhabi, UAE. For those not familiar with the sport of endurance, it is like a marathon on horseback with six stages of roughly 20 to 30 km and mandatory rest stops for the horses to pass veterinary criteria. We had a maximum of 12 hours to complete the 160 km course in the desert of Abu Dhabi. There were 129 starters and we finished in 11 hours and 30 minutes , for a 40th place finish. We competed against the best endurance horses in the world from around the world. What an incredible journey, driving my horse from Florida to Texas, handing him off to the professional flight grooms for his 18-hour flight to UAE , and then boarding my 14-hour flight so that I could meet him at the barn in Abu Dhabi. 

We arrived five days prior to race day. My horse and I and my support crew were treated to first class accommodations — the humans at the Ritz Hotel Abu Dhabi and Bang in a temperature controlled barn. All the flights, hotels and most of the meals were at the expense of the UAE Endurance Committee! Ride day was hot and dry but with lots of water stations for crewing on trail. The horses are amazing athletes as the track was all sand; my best analogy would be to try doing a marathon on the beach. We began at 5:45 a.m. in the dark and finished at 9:30 a.m. in the dark with four hours of stop time. Trip of a lifetime! Oh yes, and I was also the oldest competitor at 72! 


Wayne D. Madden (‘74 BEd) — I have been fully retired since 2012, but I am still involved with teaching as a volunteer at the school across the street from where I live here in Edmonton. I am a "grand-teacher" to a class of Grade 4 students and another class of Grade 1 students. Once a month, I also help the parent group on hot lunch day, and occasionally I am involved with other activities such as our school's recent book fair. Hopefully, health and other factors can allow me to continue to do these things for another three or four years.


Painting of 3 small dogsGayska Suter (‘74 Dip(Ed), ‘00 MEd) —  As a retired art teacher I am really enjoying painting as a hobby. Here are some of my works. After receiving a PDAD after an Arts degree I went on to complete a master’s degree in secondary education. I ended my career as an art teacher at Vernon Barford Junior High in 2011 and have enjoyed a wonderful retirement.


Cal BotterillCal Botterill (‘77 PhD ‘77) — I am forever grateful for my experiences at the U of A (MA, PhD, Cert Ed.). My professors brought and shared wisdom as well as knowledge! This has been personally & professionally invaluable in dealing with the world’s escalating overload and stress! The wisdom and support facilitated by mentors at the U of A helped me develop values, confidence and perspective. These attributes have been invaluable as a parent, mentor and “health and high performance” counselor. In the modern world, “work is commendable, but recovery is essential.” Sharing lessons with others has been a rewarding privilege. A huge personal and professional “thank you” to my mentors!


Faith Irving (‘86 BEd) — I graduated with a BEd (Elementary generalist) from the University of Alberta Faculty of Education in 1986, with a specialization in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and an interest in linguistic, social and cultural diversity. As a mother of four small children, the University of Alberta offered me the flexibility to develop this interest. 

A pending family career move to Australia suggested a term paper topic for my cross-cultural studies class about Aboriginal Australians, arguably the oldest continuous culture in the world. It was puzzling to find so many books in the U of A library that were about Indigenous people, but not authored by them. I could not hear the ‘voices’. This became a springboard. I worked with the Adult Education Multicultural Service, (AMES), then in the primary sector, in a culturally diverse environment. I was asked to implement the Australian government’s Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation project in the school, where most had refugee or migrant experiences. Sensitivity was needed. I asked an Indigenous Elder for advice. “I want the children to know whose traditional land they are on.” 

Indigenous perspectives and involvement became part of our curriculum. We were asked to submit what we were doing to the Victorian Social Studies Teachers Journal. This led to my being given the inaugural non-Indigenous section of the Peter Clarke Teaching for Reconciliation award, a great honour.. A Teacher Release to Industry placement (TRIP) followed, to develop a booklet about building working relationships, native title obligations and the changed legal landscape. Indigenous people suggested good practice: “Tell them to come and talk with us.” What we do as teachers impacts on the next generation and beyond, yet many teachers have not had the chance to build their own knowledge and relationships about Indigenous culture and diversity.

My commitment to professional development resulted in The Koorie Education Awareness Project (KEAP), with the key feature of the promotion of cultural awareness training for teachers; to give opportunities for non-Indigenous teachers to work with Indigenous mentors to develop the skills and relationships to teach Indigenous studies programs relevant to their local area. “Voice” can also be found in the visual and performing arts, TV and radio, Indigenous-authored film and song. Lobbying funding and support by local government led to visual arts spaces being available for Indigenous artist students’ use.

Undertaking professional doctoral studies at Monash University in building bridges of understanding in education, I presented a paper at the Australian Association for Research in Education conference in Parmatta, NSW, 2005. I observed that,“Self-determination, identity and the role of education are closely linked and policy-making about Indigenous education is set within the current discourse of evolving national identity, citizenship and cultural pluralism.”

Also, that, “Some inherent challenges may be predicted in the implementation of Indigenous education policy occuring at the personal, interpersonal and organizational levels.”


David FalconerDavid Falconer (‘89 BEd) — Besides being a school principal in Calgary, I am also the executive director and founder of Classrooms Without Walls (CWW), an organization that provides free online lessons to students living in conflict zones. Our mission is to bridge the gap between education and conflict by providing access to high-quality education to children in areas affected by violence.

CWW currently serves elementary school to university-age students in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Ukraine. The organization offers a wide range of courses including math, science, English. Students can access the lessons through Zoom, Moodle, WhatsApp, Telegram and other platforms. 

CWW has made a significant impact on the lives of students in conflict zones. Many of the students who participate in the program have limited access to education due to conflict or displacement. By providing access to education, CWW is empowering these students to build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

To continue expanding the reach of the program, CWW is currently looking for volunteers to support this work. Volunteers can contribute by teaching, creating educational content, translating materials or helping to manage social media platforms.

In conclusion, CWW is providing an essential lifeline to students living in conflict zones. Our dedication to ensuring that every child has access to quality education is making a profound impact on the lives of students and their communities. If interested please email:


Sherry Heschuk at outdoor festivalSherry Heschuk (‘89 BPE, ‘91 BEd) published her poem The River and Her Canoe with the Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association for her Ukrainian students. She shares her love of water and canoeing with them not just by taking them on rivers and lakes and bio-blitzes to name plants and trees in Alberta’s northern boreal forest and also to connect over Zoom. Over the winter she spent her time with students remotely in Lyiv and Kyiv with an organization called Smart Osvita. She was a boat captain for her canoe club Ceyana Canoe Club at the Flying Canoë Volant Festival and shared that experience with her students. Her poem was translated by her students from the summer and can be read online. Classrooms without Walls encourages ‘Teachers for Ukraine’ a Facebook group in supporting these students who are in need of teachers and you can contact the email to help teach online at  She is busy also with hosting a new Ukrainian family from Mykolaiv who arrived in April.


innes-1.jpgTracy Innes (‘94 BEd) —  I decided to go on an adventure to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. In 2019 after getting married, having three boys, being a vice-principal, principal, teaching pre-kindergarten to college level, helping to start two Alberta accredited schools, teaching Alberta, American and PYP (IB) curriculums, I came home with my three teenage sons so they would be ready to live in Alberta and attend university.  I am now teaching a Grade 1, 2 and 3 class in Brownfield, Alberta and absolutely loving every aspect! I do miss the heat and the traveling. My oldest son is in his second year of a bachelor of science degree at U of A. 


Mary Kritz (‘96 BEd, ‘00 MEd) — While working at my chosen career, I attended an introductory course in bookbinding and paper making. Following that, I was self-directed in learning book- making, paper cut work, paper marbling and paper decorating. Upon ‘graduating’ from my career and moving into retirement, I continued making books and participated in solo and group exhibits, nationally and internationally. I taught Book Arts at the local art school on a part-time basis over a three-year period. Currently I focus my book-making practice mostly on creating artist books, using my personal writing and that of other artists and writers. The pleasure I get when making books is equal to the pleasure I took in being an educator. Here’s a photo of an accordion artist book I made called Dr. Frankenstein's Collection of Spare Parts for an exhibit in the U.S.  

Frankenstein illustration

Vanessa McLeod and other founders of MMMathManiaVanessa McLeod (‘01 BEd) — After graduating from the University of Alberta in 2001, I am grateful to have spent the last 21 years teaching in public schools in Edmonton, always with a passion for math. Along with three of my wonderful colleagues, Ashley Elford (‘09 BEd), Silvia Greco (‘97 BEd) and Nadine Taylor Wilson (‘92 BEd) I formed MMMathMania in November 2020, during the height of Covid. It brought us a sense of joy, passion and connection during a very challenging, uncertain time. 

We founded MMMathMania to provide teachers and families with free videos of math games and activities. As we are all classroom teachers and moms, MMMathMania keeps us busy on evenings and weekends, but it brings us a lot of joy. We are dedicated to making math engaging, meaningful and fun! Our games are engaging, easy to differentiate and low prep. Our focus is on helping students deepen their conceptual understanding of math and develop greater confidence in their math abilities, through a games based approach. 

We are grateful for the MMMathMania community we are creating and love connecting with other educators around the world who share our passion for math! You can find us on social media (Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, at teachers conventions and we’ve recently begun doing Family Math Nights at schools in the greater Edmonton area). We are humbled by the response to MMMathMania so far and are excited about what the future holds! We are grateful for our beginnings at the University of Alberta. 


Sara BatkeSara Batke (‘04 BEd) — I’ve been a public school educator for 20 years across three different countries. Due to a random series of events I’ve found myself based in New York City for the past 15 years working as a high school English teacher and school counselor in Washington Heights, the northernmost neighborhood on the island of Manhattan. I continue to love my work and am thankful for my undergraduate after-degree experience at the University of Alberta.

When I went back to get my master’s in school social work at NYU, my U of A background helped me to balance a demanding graduate program with the stressors of teaching at a high-needs urban public school. My students are mainly Dominican and African-American, and most are going to be first-generation college students.


Adam Culligan (‘02 BPE, ‘04 BEd) — I’ve managed to have an incredibly rewarding global career simply by embracing the philosophy of teaching and helping people get better. That is what brought me to the Faculty of Education to begin with and I made every career decision following that with a goal of teaching. 

I’ve worked as the athletic director for a private ice hockey program; I’ve taught new university graduates how to accelerate the first years of the new career and I now head up leadership development programming for a global energy company after having spent the last decade between Australia, the UK and North America. 

Teaching doesn’t only happen in a public or private school classroom. The world of educating and teaching is much broader than I was aware when I was at the U of A and I would love to help our incoming teachers appreciate and understand this. 


Edward and Awit DalusongEdward and Awit Dalusong (‘03 BEd) — After completing our degrees in 2003, we both returned to the Philippines to resume our work with our college (Colegio de Dagupan) in the Philippines. Since then we are happy to report that the college earned its university status last year and is now named Universidad de Dagupan. 

On a more personal note for us, life had some other plans. Our son Ethan was diagnosed with autism a year after that momentous spring at the Jubilee Auditorium. We decided to move to Southern California to take care of his needs and, in doing so, Awit refocused her career in the field of special education and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D). Since then she has moved on to become the intensive behaviour intervention manager for the Riverside County Office of Education. Edward is a board member for the Autism Society Inland Empire. 

While it has been some time since we left the U of A, we continue to reflect on the impact that our education had on our personal and professional growth. The skills, lessons and knowledge that we acquired during our time there in Edmonton have been invaluable in helping us navigate the challenges and opportunities of the real world.


nadine-spring.jpgNadine Spring (Franko) (‘06 BEd) — My BEd from the U of A led me to London, England straight after convocation in 2006. There I ran into a few former classmates, including Lorena. I found out she was there from an article in this magazine. Through her I got my first full-time teaching job. After returning to Canada in 2009, I taught ESL in Lethbridge.  Then I married an Aussie in 2015 and lived and taught in a small country town in Queensland for five years before having three kids in 11 months (a singleton, followed by identical twin girls). Last year I became an Australian citizen. We live on a small hay farm just outside of town. I miss teaching, but I also am fitting in some professional development in the meantime. I have a lot I want to learn yet about teaching!


Beards on IceJerry Aulenbach (‘07 BEd ‘07) — After my APT, I decided to continue my career as a realtor, which I had begun in my third year, selling in the summer and returning to studies in the fall. 

For many years, I have been a supporter of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation by organizing fundraising events designed to gather people together and have a good time. In 2016, I began a coast-to-coast skating tour called Beards on Ice. I would organize nine to 14 events in cities across the country, invite friends and colleagues out for a skate, then go for dinner and haggle people for donations to the cause. In 2020, after five years and many flights (and only one near-faceplant on the ice when I forgot to remove my skate guards), I narrowly escaped the shutdown before my final skate in Montreal. 

This year, I took a different approach to fundraising and began hosting cooking classes. Inspired largely by the classes offered at the Stanley Milner Library's new kitchen (of which I have attended many), I saw how great this type of event could be for uniting people, having a good time, and learning some great skills, all while contributing to an important cause. Each ticket had a built-in donation amount, which I submitted to shelter after the events.


Angus McMurtry (‘07 PhD) — When I graduated from my PhD in Education in 2007, I was a more mature student in my late 30s. For the last 16 years, I have been a professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education. The inspiring ideas developed by my UAlberta supervisory committee members — Brent Davis, Tara Fenwick, Dennis Sumara and Elaine Simmt, among others — still fuel my research interests in complexity science, sociomaterial learning theory and new ways of understanding learning and knowing generally. One thing I added to the mix is interdisciplinary (and interprofessional) learning, based largely on a long relationship with the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies. Recently, I have developing interdisciplinary studies courses at UOttawa.


Christine Vernon (‘07 BEd) — I have been teaching for a total of 15 years (with two maternity leaves in that time). I was one of the fortunate individuals who was able to start my career by teaching in Alberta’s northern communities, first in the welcoming hamlet of Janvier and second in the beautiful town of Wabasca, and finally here in the city of Edmonton. I was encouraged by my family to join education and received amazing mentorship by a very caring principal and his wife, Randy and Maureen Chernipeski, with whom I still connect and receive mentorship from today. They helped to instill in me the attitude that every student has the ability to learn and that every student deserves the best education possible. I have taught students from all walks of life and I have held to that mindset. I have found truth in the phrase “we learn more from the students than they learn from us.” Currently, I have a distinct interest in literacy and working with teachers to develop programs for students within our special needs community. I hope to join the leaders who help teachers to better meet the needs of all students by providing the tools and mentorship that is necessary to feel equipped to do just that. I am a lifelong educator, but also a lifelong learner. Thank you to the professors of the University of Alberta who have scaffolded and continue to scaffold my journey. 


Stephanie ForemskyStephanie Foremsky (‘10 BEd, ‘13 MLIS) — My work in libraries is coming into its tenth year. I am so grateful and proud of the relationships that I have built with the Métis community in St. Albert and area. This has led me to a very awesome opportunity to host Métis Jigging workshops at the library with Métis educator Aura Leddy. 

This has been such a cool initiative, to be able to offer the opportunity to learn this dance and learn the stories connected to it has been such an honour and gift to the community. It is incredible how little the general public still knows about the Métis and their culture. Given that it is easy to access a variety of cultural dance classes but not jigging, it meant to me that the library really needed to support filling this gap.


Cover of Rise of the Archaea bookJamie Smithson (‘10 BEd) — I graduated from the U of A with a bachelor’s degree in conservation biology and another in education. One cool project that I have been working on lately is writing children’s chapter books. I blended my backgrounds of science and teaching when writing my middle-grade fantasy, Rise of the Archaea.

The story follows two siblings on a camping trip in the mountains who get more than they bargained for when they learn monsters are real. The book is fast-paced and combines magic, monsters, and a sprinkling of science facts for ages eight and up. The overall message I hope readers will take away from the story is that we need to reconnect with nature and face our fears. When I worked as a teacher, reading books to the class was one of my favorite activities and that really led me to write my own. Rise of the Archaea is available at all major online bookstores, and is a great read for kids who like action and adventure. 


Hannah Slomp (‘12 BEd) — I now live on Vancouver Island, in the Comox Valley. I teach at G.P. Vanier High School. This year I started a Model UN group in the school. Last month the school district hosted our first district Model UN conference on the topic of child trafficking. It was a great success. I was asked to be the keynote speaker because of my social justice work over the years.


Kira Romans (‘20 BEd) — I am an elementary education graduate. When I first graduated I taught music and Kindergarten in an elementary school for two years. It wasn’t the perfect fit for me as I was traveling a far distance from my home for the position. However, I stumbled upon a unique position in the education field! I now work for a not-for-profit organization, and I work one-on-one with two to five-year-old children to deliver early intervention to them. It is such a rewarding and flexible job! I would encourage anyone graduating in the education field to look at opportunities outside of the school boards! I would have never pictured I would be working where I do today, but I absolutely love it! 


Feature image: Christine Vernon (‘07 BEd) with her family (supplied).