Student experiences during the MATE pogram

Marcy Nardi

MATE 2016-2018 cohort

Dear Prospective MATE Student,

My name is Marcy Nardi and I am a high school English and Biology teacher in the Surrey School District. I joined the MATE program in my second year of teaching because I wanted to further my education in English, contribute to my philosophy of being a life-long learner, and expand my knowledge of Indigenous literature. Our cohort was the first to have an Indigenous focus, with three courses exploring areas of Indigenous literature, pedagogies, histories, and cultures. At first, this cohort’s focus was intimidating as my understanding was limited. However, the professors were accepting of our position as settler scholars who had a genuine interest in broadening our knowledge base.

Initially I thought that the program would be impossible to balance with my busy life and it certainly was difficult at times. During the two years of the MATE program, I was planning a wedding, buying my first home, establishing my new career, and managing everything that life throws at us. However, the program was tailored to the schedules of teachers, and professors were understanding of our lives and careers outside of the program while still keeping the courses challenging.

The MATE program was so memorable because of the amazing teachers and the cohort style. Our professors modelled a variety of teaching strategies and were interested in making the courses useful and engaging for us as working professionals. The classes were designed to help better us not only as students, but as professional teachers. We also had the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers in a new environment beyond the confines of our schools or districts. The cohort style afforded us the opportunity to meet both high school and elementary teachers from all over the lower mainland, united by a shared passion for literature. MATE has reinvigorated my critical thinking skills and given me a base from which to pass teachings on to my students in a meaningful way that honors Indigenous protocols.



Shirley Burdon, MATE 2009-2011 cohort

Shirley Burdon, graduate of the MATE 2009 cohort, has been a leader in promoting Aboriginal literature in the classroom. An article she has co-authored is now published in the November 2015 issue of BCTELA's English Practice. Her article can be found on page 34 of Starting a Circle: Exploring Aboriginal Education.

Shirley currently teaches English First Peoples 12 at Gladstone Secondary in Vancouver and has been doing so for the last four years. Shirley states that her interest in Aboriginal literature was ignited while taking a course with Deanna Reder in the MATE Program.

The MATE Program will be focusing on Aboriginal literature for the 2016 cohort.

Barbara Ellison, MATE 2010-2012 cohort

Achieving that Master’s degree fulfilled a life-long goal.  Words like “life-long learning” and “professional development” are easy to say, but when you are a working teacher, they are much harder to do.  Besides the usual life challenges of money, relocation, children, partners, and health, maintaining or, better, enlarging one’s professional expertise can appear impossible.  So it was with great joy that I discovered the Master of Arts for Teachers of English (MATE) at SFU.  This program is designed for teachers who love their subject, English literature and language, and who wish to deepen their knowledge; it is not another “methods” course. Rather, while carefully accommodating the schedules and commitments of working teachers, this Master’s program presents a rigorous, modern, intellectual challenge that, for me, reshaped the way I looked at literature and completely refreshed my work in the classroom.  And, as a bonus, I am now part of an ongoing support group – my Mates!

Yusuf Varachia

MATE 2016-2018 Cohort

Dear Prospective MATE Candidates,

My name is Yusuf Varachia and I am currently working in a full-time administrative position at SFU. Prior to this, I was a teacher with the Toronto District School Board. I applied to MATE because I was looking for an MA program that would be academically rigorous, provide social and political insights into the demographics that I currently work with, and help hone my critical thinking, writing and reading skills. Within Greater Vancouver, the only program that I felt would allow me to meet my personal goals was the MATE program at SFU, given the multiple courses on Indigenous literature that would be offered for my cohort and the faculty members that would be available to teach them.

One of the strengths of the program is that it is cohort-based. This has allowed me to develop strong relationships with my colleagues. The dialogues I have had with them have profoundly impacted how I read and see the world. It is important that many of my colleagues in the class are teachers, as this reminds me of the need to think about how material is taught in the classroom and helps me understand who these elementary and high school students are that eventually end up at SFU.  

I have benefitted from the process of writing my capstone paper. While I won’t lie to you and say that it has been easy, revising and reflecting further on an earlier course paper that was very meaningful to me has been a great learning experience. This revisionary process has been useful in terms of my own personal growth and has also had benefits in the workplace. I wish you the best in your future studies and hope to see you on campus.

Best wishes,


Sarah Grant, MATE 2012-2014 cohort

As the mother of three kids under age 5, I didn’t think the time was right for a Master’s program, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to earn an MA in a program made for teachers and focused entirely on literature.  Choosing to enroll in MATE was the best decision I could have made.  As a student in the MATE program, I felt supported from day one by my cohort, by the support staff for the program, and especially by the amazing professors.  Scheduling made attendance a breeze. MATE was a challenging program that helped me to develop the critical thinking and communication skills I need as a professional educator, but it was also personally enriching, and I could not recommend it more highly.

Kevin Wallace, MATE 2009-2011 cohort

The MATE program came along at exactly the right time; I was starved for the kind of focused intellectual engagement that I had loved so much as an undergraduate, and which my job as a full-time teacher - which is often a juggling act of a million fragmented projects - made difficult. The reading was consistently interesting and, for me, timely; the instruction was consistently supportive and challenging; the structure of the program was rigorous yet flexible. In short. the MATE program gave me exactly what I needed in the perfect form. I am thankful for the opportunity to have my eyes opened (and re-opened) to theoretical perspectives that have already begun to reshape my teaching practice, and also for the chance to experience literature, and perspectives on literature, that are fresh and exciting on personal and professional levels. The chance to revisit some old favourites and view them through new lenses has resulted in a sort of personal renaissance. Thanks for making MATE available. I hope others take the opportunity that I had with it.