Carol Suhr

"My graduate studies experience was more than ‘studying;’ it was a community of caring individuals—REAL teachers and mentors that saw you as a novice researcher that would benefit from mentorship"

Year Graduated: 2014
Program/Degree: Teaching English as an Additional Language Fieldwork MEd

Year Graduated: 2009
Program/Degree: C&I: Foundations MA

I had been involved in the English Language Teaching field for 10 years before coming to Canada, and have always wanted to study about the field I was teaching without any theoretical knowledge.  I enjoyed my first master degree program so much that I had to continue! I decided to study another master degree at SFU (M.A. in C&I: Foundation), this time focusing on the areas I became so intrigued during my first graduate studies—relations and care in learning and teaching. My focus shifted slightly and ended up writing an autoethnographical piece using my personal story to reflect on experienced teacher’s identity re-construction during a shift in one’s teaching-context. I have taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at a public college, and am currently working as a teacher trainer for the TESL program and the Teaching (English to) younger learners program for a private career college.

Please tell us how you first discovered your program.
At first, I came as a post-baccalaureate student (From Korea), but found out the program had been cancelled! I was able to take some 1st and 2nd year education courses while I figured out what to do. During that time, I “met” two Tutor Markers (TAs for online courses), who were PhD candidates at the time. They listened to my story, and invited me to attend a mini-conference called EWOB (Education WithOut Borders) in 2008. Later, I was introduced the professor supervising the MEd program, and that was the beginning of a new chapter of learning!

Please tell us why you chose the Faculty of Education at SFU for your studies.
I chose SFU because when I was in Korea, everyone at SFU responded to my questions with sincerity. I decided NOT to apply to other schools after receiving the replies from SFU staff. For the second master degree, I knew it had to be SFU because the experience I had with every staff and faculty members in FOE was beyond my expectations! I may have stepped in without knowing or expecting much, but I certainly couldn’t leave!

Who is a faculty member you have enjoyed working with and why?
Everyone, to be honest. Everyone was uniquely wonderful to work with! I have learned so much from every individual faculty member, and was inspired from observing how they dealt with students in their classrooms. Everyone was honest, down-to-earth, grounded and practical. Most importantly, they were approachable, and treated students, including myself, as a fellow researcher that requires more mentoring, not as a blank slate that needs to be “filled.” I can go on forever talking about every single professor and staff member I have had the pleasure of working with. However, I would have to say Dr. Roumiana Ilieva and Dr. Kumari Beck went out of their way to support me during my MA studies. Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my M.A. in Education. Dr. Bonnie Waterstone, Dr. Ian Andrews, and Dr. Heesoon Bai helped me overcome my emotional journey during my first studies as an international student. Dr. Ann Chinnery, Dr. Charles Bingham, and Dr. Wanda Cassidy reassured my belief of the power of relationship in teaching/ learning.  Being in Dr. Margaret MacDonald’s course was an eye-opening experience learning about the efforts people make to preserve heritage language. I still wish I had accepted her invitation to go visit that school! Courses like Dr. Cheryl Amundsen’s research course gave me an opportunity to realize that a classroom does not have to be taught by one instructor, but can be a space for multiple teachers to share and inspire learners. During her research methodology course, Dr. Alyssa Wise let me explore the type of research I wanted to try out (which wasn’t a typical type of research used in the field of Ed. Tech.). I am grateful for the detailed feedback that I had received during her course. Unfortunately, I have never taken Dr. Michael Ling’s course, but he took time to reply to my random questions, just because an international student needed some guidance. I also have to mention Dr. Sepideh Fotovatian for her comments about my thesis, and the invitation to write a piece in the future together. I literally can go on forever.

What do you miss most about your graduate studies in the Faculty of Education?
The people. My graduate studies experience was more than ‘studying;’ it was a community of caring individuals—REAL teachers and mentors that saw you as a novice researcher that would benefit from mentorship. There was never a hierarchical atmosphere. I miss the conversations with each and every one of them. Where in academia would a professor get you a box of chocolates and a card just because an international student (i.e., Me) received a fulltime job offer that made her closer to becoming a permanent resident of Canada?

What would you say to prospective students who are considering graduate school in the Faculty of Education?
Contact professors directly and ask!  They are that willing to help you. If you want more than just a degree, and if you value the role of relations in the process of learning, SFU is the place for you.

Is there anything else you wish to share?
I hope one day I can work for SFU and be a part of the mentorship I had received, either as a faculty or an admin staff that involves supporting international graduate students. I wish to pursue a doctoral degree here as well.