Student experiences during the MATE pogram

Shirley Burdon, MATE 2009-2011 cohort

Shirley Burdon, graduate of the MATE 2009 cohort, has been a leader in promoting Aboriginal literature in the classroom. An article she has co-authored is now published in the November 2015 issue of BCTELA's English Practice. Her article can be found on page 34 of Starting a Circle: Exploring Aboriginal Education.

Shirley currently teaches English First Peoples 12 at Gladstone Secondary in Vancouver and has been doing so for the last four years. Shirley states that her interest in Aboriginal literature was ignited while taking a course with Deanna Reder in the MATE Program.

The MATE Program will be focusing on Aboriginal literature for the 2016 cohort.

Barbara Ellison, MATE 2010-2012 cohort

Achieving that Master’s degree fulfilled a life-long goal.  Words like “life-long learning” and “professional development” are easy to say, but when you are a working teacher, they are much harder to do.  Besides the usual life challenges of money, relocation, children, partners, and health, maintaining or, better, enlarging one’s professional expertise can appear impossible.  So it was with great joy that I discovered the Master of Arts for Teachers of English (MATE) at SFU.  This program is designed for teachers who love their subject, English literature and language, and who wish to deepen their knowledge; it is not another “methods” course. Rather, while carefully accommodating the schedules and commitments of working teachers, this Master’s program presents a rigorous, modern, intellectual challenge that, for me, reshaped the way I looked at literature and completely refreshed my work in the classroom.  And, as a bonus, I am now part of an ongoing support group – my Mates!

Maureen Butler, MATE 2007-2009 cohort

After over 20 years of teaching, I have found the opportunity to reinvent myself as an English student to be stimulating, challenging and exciting. The MATE Program has offered me a structure in which to read literature and to explore, discuss and write about ideas.

A lot has changed in the world of literary theory since I took English at UBC in the 80's. I like the course-based format of MATE because it gives me many choices of areas to study.

The professors are very helpful, and attending classes with a cohort of English teachers is a supportive experience for those of us who haven't been in university for a long time. And finally, the location of MATE at the Surrey Campus of SFU makes attending classes much less stressful for busy teachers who work outside of Vancouver.

Beth Richardson, MATE 2008-2010 cohort

What I have valued most about the MATE program is the chance to engage in discussions on contemporary issues surrounding literary and theoretical studies.  It has been very stimulating to become a student again and to experience that rush of excitement when you are grasping a new concept or making a new discovery about a piece of text. I appreciated that this program demanded the same requirements as a regular Masters of Arts in English program and proved to be a rigorous and stimulating program.

The cohort format helped facilitate a sense of community and a feeling of safety so that we could take some risks as learners. It was also great to talk frequently with other teachers from different districts and discuss pedagogical philosophies, classroom practices, texts, etc. Although this certainly was not the focus in the material covered in the classes, the discussion would occasionally turn to how certain ideas or theories might translate to the classroom.  I feel confident that my experience in MATE has improved my teaching in the classroom because it reignited my passion for literature, research and learning, and it removed me from the position of teacher and made me reconsider assignments and learning objectives from a student's perspective. 

I enjoyed the flexibility of being able to take courses at the Burnaby campus in my second year and to tailor my course schedule to better fit my needs.  As much as I enjoyed the cohort setup, it was also refreshing to take some courses with regular English masters students at the Burnaby campus.  

Brandy Gibb, MATE 2009-2011 cohort

After spending several years searching for a graduate program in English that would work with my teaching schedule, I was thrilled to discover the MATE program at SFU.  Beyond its pragmatic value for a working teacher, this program is enriching my teaching, improving my writing and expanding my thoughts on literature on a daily basis. I also feel very fortunate for the wonderful camaraderie of the cohort which adds to the overall experience.  But what has impressed me the most has been the instruction.  How wonderful it is to be working under professors who are at the top of their game and are willing to help us reach new heights in our own writing and research.

Sarah Grant, MATE 2012-2014 cohort

As the mother of three kids under age 5, I didn’t think the time was right for a Master’s program, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to earn an MA in a program made for teachers and focused entirely on literature.  Choosing to enroll in MATE was the best decision I could have made.  As a student in the MATE program, I felt supported from day one by my cohort, by the support staff for the program, and especially by the amazing professors.  Scheduling made attendance a breeze. MATE was a challenging program that helped me to develop the critical thinking and communication skills I need as a professional educator, but it was also personally enriching, and I could not recommend it more highly.

Deborah Stellingwerff, MATE 2007-2009 cohort


As a full-time English teacher, I wondered where I would find the time to return to my studies and continue to work full time. When I first heard about MATE, I knew this program was designed with me in mind, and my experience so far has confirmed my first impression.

The coursework is stimulating and challenging, and the structure of the cohort has generated a supportive and encouraging learning environment. One of the things I appreciate the most is the willingness of the professors to accommodate the needs of working teachers when scheduling the classes and assignments. My only regret about taking the MATE PROGRAM is that it will be over so soon!


Mike Sapic, MATE 2007-2009 cohort


Since completing the MA for Teachers of English, I have been reflecting on what the MATE experience has meant to me. Although working and going to school full-time for two years was a very difficult challenge, I feel that I have grown both personally and professionally. I value this experience and am proud of my accomplishments. I see my recent experience as a large step in an ongoing program of professional development.

What made the MA especially fulfilling was the contributions of my professors and their passion for teaching. It was particularly evident that besides the scholarly approaches brought into the class, the professors also used a wide variety of pedagogical strategies that I have rarely experienced in undergraduate or graduate classes. As a teacher myself, I appreciated their concern for how engaged students could be. I found the classes both refreshing and interesting.

The MATE Program has allowed me access to the type of Masters degree program that I've always secretly dreamed of taking. MATE offers the highly-respected SFU brand, in an area of study that demands a high academic rigour, with the opportunity to further my professional aspirations. With its central location in a beautiful campus, interesting and personable instructors and sensitivity to the needs of working professionals, the MATE program has been everything I had hoped it would be.


Petra Willemse, MATE 2008-2010 cohort

The MATE Program at SFU has given me the chance to rediscover why I fell in love with English in the first place. Taking that reinvigorated passion for English language and literature and applying it to the classroom during the past year, has made me a better teacher and, in turn, given my students deeper understanding of the subject.

Kevin Wallace, MATE 2009-2011 cohort

The MATE program came along at exactly the right time; I was starved for the kind of focused intellectual engagement that I had loved so much as an undergraduate, and which my job as a full-time teacher - which is often a juggling act of a million fragmented projects - made difficult. The reading was consistently interesting and, for me, timely; the instruction was consistently supportive and challenging; the structure of the program was rigorous yet flexible. In short. the MATE program gave me exactly what I needed in the perfect form. I am thankful for the opportunity to have my eyes opened (and re-opened) to theoretical perspectives that have already begun to reshape my teaching practice, and also for the chance to experience literature, and perspectives on literature, that are fresh and exciting on personal and professional levels. The chance to revisit some old favourites and view them through new lenses has resulted in a sort of personal renaissance. Thanks for making MATE available. I hope others take the opportunity that I had with it.