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Extraordinary educator completes master's despite significant obstacles

March 08, 2018

Returning to university later in life is always a challenge, but Cheryl Schweizer53, of the Tlazt’en Nation, encountered more obstacles than usual.

An itinerant Aboriginal education worker, Schweizer travels throughout the Prince George School District to teach students about Aboriginal language and culture. The Tlazt’en Nation resides in the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, which encompasses Prince George, B.C.

In fall 2016, intent on improving her teaching strategies and assessment, she enrolled at SFU to begin a Master of Education (MEd), driving nine hours bi-weekly to attend classes at the Surrey campus.

But in late October, she suffered a major stroke. A week later, she had open heart surgery. It was three months before she could begin rehabilitation work to overcome significant brain damage from the stroke.

“It left me with disabilities, including the loss of much of my long-term memory,” she says. “I had to re-learn a lot, including how to drive, how to type, and even why I was accepted into the MEd program.”

Unable to attend classes during the spring 2017 semester, she remained determined to complete her degree.

“She formed a study group with colleagues and friends with the support of her professors, and worked through the curriculum with her local colleagues as pseudo classmates,” says education professor Cher Hill, who coordinates SFU’s field and community graduate programs.

Says Schweizer, “I had wonderful people to read to me and the learning they experienced along the way in my healing journey was incredible. I want to ignite that same experience in the kids—to have them read something and have a great conversation about it—to get them excited.”

Read the rest of this inspiring story via SFU news.