At the heart of Alice’s life and work is a recognition of the complexity of individuals and communities. She strives to positively contribute to schools while consciously developing her relational understandings. She is currently an international educator in a Pre-K to Grade 12 International Baccalaureate School in Zürich, Switzerland.
Alice has served as an elementary and secondary teacher in both private and public education in four different cities on three continents: Vancouver public schools in Canada, Hong Kong public schools in China, and private international schools in Fukuoka (Japan), Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China) and Zürich (Switzerland). Her formal and informal identities in varied socio-political contexts have provided Alice with a breadth and depth of cross-cultural lived experience beyond the limits of her own global identity as a Canadian national.
Alice is of Indigenous and African ancestry. She was born in Plains Cree Territory to a Nêhiyaw mother and an Igbo father who continue to serve as her cultural protocol guides and educators for particular Nêhiyaw and Igbo ways of knowing and being in the world.
As Alice’s father is an alumnus of UBC and a retired faculty member, she grew up primarily on Musqueam territory and attended both University Hill Elementary and Secondary schools on the UBC campus. She completed her Bachelor of Arts (French linguistics) in 1994, her Bachelor of Education (K-7 Elementary and French as a Second Language) in 1995, and her Master of Education (Educational Administration and Leadership) in 2006. It is one of Alice’s great hopes to one day return to Turtle Island and serve public education again for the dignity, wholeness, and achievement of all children.
What is your most memorable experience from your time in the Faculty of Education?
Specifically, I recall developing my learning edge in some of the most challenging courses and seminars I have ever undertaken at UBC: Queer Theory (Gender Studies), Collaborative Media Production with Youth, The Medicalization of Education (Disability Studies), and The Internationalization of Education. These courses broadened my lens and provoked further self-reflection beyond the course work which has carried over into my career as an international educator.
Where has your education from the Faculty of Education taken you in your career?
As a result of my BEd and MEd from UBC’s Faculty of Education, I have successfully worked in public and private schools at the K-8 level as an elementary generalist, French as a Second Language, and English as an Additional language teacher. The UBC teacher education degree program is a well-known and accepted teacher credential both within and outside of Canada. As a result, I have enjoyed an incredible career learning and teaching alongside educators with formal teacher training from Australia, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, England, Taiwan, the USA, New Zealand, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Spain, Hong Kong, Scotland, and Canada.
Where do issues of inclusion find a place in your life or at work?
Issues of ethnolinguistic inclusion have been a part of my life and work for as long as I can remember. It almost goes without saying that as a Canadian of Indigenous and African ancestry, I have occasionally been queried, in Canada and abroad, about my family origins in both personal and professional contexts. I enjoy answering queries about my heritage with stories to help the inquirer understand the dignity I feel that comes from embracing my various identities.
Culturally speaking, my personal life has always had the inclusion of languages and ethnocultural identities as key elements in my understanding of my family ecosystem. My father was born in Nigeria and speaks Igbo as his first language and my mother was born at Poundmaker First Nation (Treaty 6 territory) and speaks Nêhiyawêywin as her first language. My parents grew in number over the years as I also enjoy my relationship with my first-generation Dutch-Canadian step-mother and my Swiss-Canadian step-father who was born and raised in Switzerland. Finally, I married a man with additional ethnolinguistic identities, and I am now also a daughter-in-law to a German national and Danish national who both immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s.
My late Dutch step-grandmother had a visual impairment, and one of my sisters experienced the amputation of her left leg due to osteogenic sarcoma at age 8. She is featured in the documentary film, A Day Without Cancer (Frank Content, 2013) narrated by Bryan Adams, along with photos and more stories about our family. In addition, one of my parents worked to support community living for individuals with developmental disabilities in the Vancouver-Richmond area. Thus, I was sensitized at a young age to the importance of using inclusive and respectful language when speaking with and about people with (dis)abilities. More recently, I have been learning more about inclusion through reading about the experiences of my step-uncle who has dementia as outlined in the book Four Umbrellas: A Couple’s Journey Into Young Onset Alzheimer’s (Dundurn Press, 2020) by June Hutton and Tony Wanless.
Navigating diverse ethnocultural, linguistic, national, and (dis)ability identities in my family has been helpful in developing my empathy, cross-cultural communication abilities, and advocacy of the use of inclusive language in my career and personal life. Learning, teaching, and leading in schools require that we welcome the knowledge of individuals in our schools and communities, who are experts in their own experiences so that equity for all is maintained in education.
Do you have any words of wisdom for current students? Newly graduated folks?
As an educator and/or educational leader, you have a tremendous responsibility to deeply understand yourself and human development because your work impacts the lives of everyone in your educational ecosystem each and every day. An additional source of learning that has helped me in my career is understanding child development in the years prior to formal schooling. I have studied with the Neufeld Institute and I highly recommend taking the Intensive I, II, and III courses to complement what you have learned in your teaching or educational leadership program. In many cases, parents are a child’s first teacher before a child engages with formal schooling. Understanding the maturation process, attachment needs, and developmental antecedents can support your effectiveness and collaboration when interventions are required in your career as an educator and/or educational leader. At the very least, you may learn something helpful about your own development as a human being.
I can offer some final suggestions for current and newly graduated students. Find a trustworthy mentor who can develop and maintain a reflective relationship with you. Make time for a daily reading and writing habit to help you process and deepen what you learn along the way in your career. Have many intergenerational and intercultural dialogues. Establish an affinity group. Take hopeful, informed, and compassionate action to support a better future for all.