Roots and Resilience: Leanne Joe's Ecological Learning Experience

June 12, 2024

Senóqw’iye Leanne Joe's journey through the MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Ecological Education program at Simon Fraser University (SFU) is a powerful narrative of resilience, community, and dedication to Indigenous ways of knowing. Born and raised in Sts'ailes, a Stó:lō community, with her matrilineal lineage in Katzie, Leanne's deep connection to her culture and the land has profoundly influenced her educational path.

Leanne's passion for education stems from a lifelong commitment to learning and cultural revitalization. "I've always been committed to learning more about anything and everything I can, especially relating to my culture and revitalizing my language. My grandparents were strong advocates for continuing education," she explains. This drive led her to the Ecological Education program, where she found an ideal alignment with her love for land and place-based learning intertwined with Indigenous ways of knowing.

Reflecting on her time at SFU as she prepares to walk the stage, Leanne emphasizes the profound impact of the faculty and the support she received. "I absolutely loved this particular program. I felt very well supported by each of the professors in this program. Special shout out to Drs. David Zandvliet, Vicki Kelly, and Cher Hill, who will remain an important part of my future academic and professional endeavours," she notes. In addition to the support from faculty, the sense of community within her cohort played a pivotal role in her perseverance through the program, especially during challenging times.

For Leanne, it was not just the cohort model that kept her going but the bonds she formed with her peers. "We became such great friends through various activities," she shares. These activities included sharing personal growth and weaknesses, which built trust within the group. "We reached out to each other to offer and ask for support with physical and mental health issues, to share moments of gratitude and success," she adds.

Despite the camaraderie, Leanne faced numerous personal challenges, including family illnesses, deaths, and other significant hardships. "I went through multiple family illnesses, deaths, missing persons, loss of funding, situations with discrimination, challenges in the workplace, and sexual assault; any one of these could cause someone to take a leave or even withdraw from the program," she recounts. However, the support of her cohort made her want to stay and complete the program with her friends.

Reflecting on her experiences, Leanne particularly valued extended field experiences, which included learning about other territories and practicing various learning methodologies. "I loved being out on the land and learning about other territories. These experiences allowed me to explore new ideas and practices for my teaching," she explains.

Leanne's journey through the program has been enriching both personally and professionally. "I have made lasting connections and gained significant confidence in my journey as an educator. I have transitioned from teaching K-12 to sharing my Indigenous ways of learning in a post-secondary environment," she reflects. Consequently, the program has instilled in Leanne the confidence to explore and implement new methodologies.

Currently employed at the University of the Fraser Valley, Leanne plans to continue as a post-secondary educator while maintaining connections with K-12 educators. "This program has helped me by encouraging community and networking opportunities for future working groups," she says. Therefore, her advice to incoming graduate students is to be open to making new friends and to embrace every experience, both good and bad, as a learning opportunity.

Leanne's story displays the profound impact of community and Indigenous knowledge in education. Despite facing numerous challenges, she was able to persevere and complete the program, thanks to the support of the faculty and strong bonds formed with her cohort. Her journey exemplifies resilience, a deep sense of community, and a steadfast commitment to Indigenous ways of learning–values that are central to the Faculty of Education and the Ecological program.  

Applications for the 2025 intake of the MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Ecological Education open September 2024! Visit the webpage to learn more.