Bridging Tradition, Drama, and Innovation: Krista Rutschmann’s Path to Imaginative Education

April 15, 2024

Abbotsford teacher Krista Rutschmann (PDP 2006, BEd2 2007, MEd 2021) was poised to embark on a transformative career journey at the intersection of tradition and innovation. With a background in drama and a heart brimming with stories, Krista has guided her path with a steadfast commitment to and passion for education.

"I grew up in a house that valued curiosity and stories," Krista reflected. “I fell in love with learning at a young age." This love for learning propelled Krista into the world of teaching. In 2006, Krista graduated from the Professional Development Program (PDP) where she landed a job teaching at the Integrated Arts School in Abbotsford. "My drama background helped me get a teaching contract where I worked as a Grade 2/3 teacher for 15 years," she recounted. During this time, she returned to SFU to pursue her Graduate Diploma, and it was while completing the program that she learned about Imaginative Education and was intrigued by its transformative potential. 

"I was completing my Graduate Diploma with SFU when I first heard of the Imaginative Education Masters [program]," Krista recalled. "I went to an information session and talked with Dr. Gillian Judson, who described the program as being about 'the teacher as a storyteller.' I couldn't stop the smile that formed on my face ­– that sentence settled in my heart, and I knew I had found the program where I meant to be."

Throughout her time in the Curriculum and Instruction: Imaginative Education MEd program, Krista was immersed in a supportive community of fellow educators, each driven by a shared passion for innovation and growth. "These folks were as inspiring to me as our professors," she shared, "especially when COVID interrupted our program, and we had to switch to online learning."

Implementing Imaginative Education practices in her classroom posed challenges, but Krista approached them with unwavering determination. "I had some doubts initially at the beginning of the program," she admitted. However, it was through embracing the role of the teacher as a storyteller that Krista discovered the true essence of Imaginative Education, especially in unit planning.

“This program has greatly impacted my view of curriculum and unit planning. The interconnectedness of topics and the vast, endless learning opportunities within the simplest topic are exhilarating. I aim to use this understanding to help other teachers who may feel constrained or uninspired. It's been the subject of workshops and presentations I have taught and plays a large part when I am supporting my student teachers in planning their units. I've never considered administration before, but I am now – if it will be an avenue to bring some inspiration to new teachers.”

"My students gain a further understanding... and are more engaged and interested," Krista observed with pride. Through her innovative approach to curriculum planning, Krista nurtured curiosity within her students. She paved the way for their future success.

One project stood out as a testament to Krista's dedication to transformative education: her action research on Imaginative Ecological Education. Through this project, Krista empowered her students to connect with nature and instilled in them a sense of environmental stewardship. This lesson transcended the confines of the classroom.

Since graduating, Krista continues working as a teacher, now in her 17th year, while also working with student teachers as a Faculty Associate in the Preservice Professional Studies (PPS) department. 

Reflecting on her journey, Krista has one piece of advice for prospective students: "If you're beginning to fall out of love with the habits you've cultivated ... this program offers opportunities to discover yourself more fully." With this wisdom in mind, Krista continues inspiring and empowering educators, bridging the gap between tradition and innovation, one story at a time.

“The wonderful and unique thing about this program is the focus on personal growth and professional development. I didn't just learn a theory that supported my practice as an educator – I learned a new way of approaching curriculum firmly rooted in my own teacher identity. It's the difference between putting on a one-size-fits-all robe versus stepping into something that you've had a hand in designing yourself – it is tailor-made to who you are and what you love. Suppose you're beginning to fall out of love with the habits you've cultivated as a teacher. In that case, this program offers opportunities to discover yourself more fully and step into something new.”

Are you ready to unlock the potential of Imaginative Education in your classroom? Discover how the MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Imagination in Teaching, Schooling and Place can empower you to transform your classroom practices and inspire your students.

Learn more about the program, how to apply, and register for an upcoming information session here.

Read more from our Imaginative Education Series