First encounters

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It’s interesting to note how first encounters can change the way we see an institution.

In May 1969, I walked into the administrative centre of Simon Fraser University with my marginal transcripts in hand and very doubtful of my chances of being admitted. At the Registrar’s Office, I was met with the warm greetings of Margaret Sawyer whose brief interactions with me communicated a whole realm of possibilities. My sheepish request to see the Registrar, upon mentioning that my gaining admission may be a long shot, was immediately addressed and within minutes I was met by the then Registrar, Dr. Harry Evans (deceased), who explained the possibilities available through the Senate Appeals Board. This committee provided students like myself, and in my case those with extensive community service experiences in marginalized communities that accompanied their otherwise ‘marginal’ transcript, with an opportunity to state reasons for seeking a university education at SFU.

Before the end of that summer I was granted entry. Soon after, I arranged a meeting with the Dean of Education, John Ellis (deceased), who made clear to me that before I could be considered for the teacher education program I would need to take three education foundation courses, earning at least a B+ in each. I was successful, and in 1971 completed the Professional Development Program. In 1997, I completed a M.Ed. degree, and I am now a Doctorial candidate.

Now at age 70, I see how my 37 years of working in teacher education at SFU were shaped by those first encounters at SFU. Those first individuals with whom I initially came into contact with were steeped in a philosophy and practice that called them to be in service to others. They actively informed students of what was possible for them within the SFU postsecondary institutional context.

For some students it would be a series of incremental steps, learning to manage everyday life responsibilities along with their student responsibilities. Within this perspective of being in service to others arose a series of community-based Teacher Education programs that emanated from the Faculty of Education. These were designed to provide access to teacher education throughout many rural communities of B.C. Together, SFU professors and professionals in the field discovered the importance of learning in context and in place, respecting the ways of the people in their communities, and reciprocating with their best technical resources, efforts, knowledge and understanding to those who might not otherwise be able to access teacher education. 

SFU’s first Native Indian teacher education program came about as a result of a request in 1974 by the Mt. Currie Board of Education to the Dean of Education, Dan Birch. The request was to form a partnership in delivering a community based Native Indian Teacher Education program. An eager and new professor assigned to that program was June Beynon who, along with the Mt. Currie school board, helped to lay the foundation for future partnerships with other First Nations communities in other rural B.C. locations that included Enderby, Alert Bay, Prince Rupert, Terrace, Haida Gwaii, Smithers, Nass Valley, Kamloops, Fort Ware and Quesnel. I worked in eight of those locations guided by my earliest of SFU memories.

What was gained by both SFU and the communities that were served in these very real, face-to-face and heart-to-heart encounters, and as a result their struggles, possibilities, and amazing accomplishments, is well worth our pondering as we go forward another 50 years.

Kau’i Keliipio
PDP 1971, BGS 1973, M.Ed. 1998, EdD (current)
former Associate Director, PDP