Professional Sports Photographer/Education Alumnus Mike Carlson says Lakehead University Changed His Life

Mike Carlson (BEd, 1993) knows firsthand some of the challenges faced by reporters today, especially with many people believing that the news is fake. 

Mike earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Education – both at Lakehead University. He is a professional sports photographer who has covered the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and Major League Baseball. 

His advice to prospective journalists is that they must have persistence. 

“Journalism/photojournalism is a truly rewarding career, but with the recent developments in calling everything ‘fake news’ and disdain for the job by many – it does make it more difficult. 

“No one I know, and no one I’ve trained ever goes into it with an ‘agenda.’ I believe in presenting the truth without bias, and it’s an important trait for successful journalists,” he says, adding that it is also important for journalists to be multifaceted – so they can contribute in many different ways.

“I have the rare opportunity in professional sports to work with teams who have writers, videographers, and photographers – in many instances in journalism today one person should be prepared to do all of that,” he says. 

Based in Tampa, Fla., Mike also teaches digital multimedia courses at River Ridge High School. His students learn photography, illustration, graphic design, and video – skills they can eventually use in journalism. The school displays their work on its website and social media pages, among other places.  

It has been an interesting journey since he graduated from Lakehead University in the 1990s. In 1997, he moved to Istanbul to teach and bought a new printer that included a 35 mm film camera. 

“I figured since I was seeing a whole new world I may as well take some photos – and that’s when I became hooked,” he says. 

When Mike moved to Cairo, he would often visit a photography store owned by an Egyptian man who had lived in the US. That man soon recognized Mike had an eye for photography. 

“He gifted me an old Canon T50 – a fully manual film camera, which forced me to slow down and concentrate on all of the settings. This allowed me to really learn how all settings combined in a photo.” 

When his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, photography gave Mike a brief break from reality – and photography has continued to do that in the years since her passing.   

Mike, who grew up in Thunder Bay, says his favourite sport to photograph is either football or hockey. 

“I love the challenge of football because so much is potentially happening on every play. It means balancing three cameras and choosing a position carefully while at the same time reacting to the plays and fakes at NFL speed. It moves a lot faster down on field level. 

“But, I also love hockey – it’s the Canadian in me. It’s a different challenge shooting through a small hole in the glass and reacting at NHL speed . . . plus it’s a lot more comfortable in an arena than a 110 degree field in the Florida sunshine,” he says. 

Mike says the introduction of digital photography changed the game for professional sports photographers. 

“The challenge with digital in today’s world is the expectation that the results are delivered instantaneously, especially in sports. There is a constant race to have the photo out first. For most NFL games and big events, we all have internet-connected cameras that transfer photos of big plays to an editor, with the goal to have images available to post within a minute or less of them happening.” 

One of the highlights of Mike’s career occurred in 2013 when his photo of Alex Rodriguez ran on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

When he isn’t photographing winning touch downs or goals, Mike looks back fondly on the years he spent at Lakehead University, which he says changed his life.

“Being able to get into the concurrent education program allowed me to follow my passion at the time and get into education – both of my parents were long-time teachers in Thunder Bay,” he says. 

“It was also at Lakehead where I met and made connections to other teacher grads who headed out on the international school circuit and who introduced it to me.” 

While at Lakehead, he often frequented the Outpost Campus Pub. 

“I lived five minutes from campus, so the Outpost was where I spent time on campus with friends from out of town or who lived on campus. Studying, socializing, it gave me the chance to meet and get to know people who became life-long friends,” he says. 

Not only did Mike love attending school, he also enjoys teaching. Since graduating, Mike has taught in Canada, the United States, Turkey, Egypt, and Tanzania. 

“Through all of the diversity in schools/curricula/countries, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the students. Working with them on projects, on the fields, in the gym, in my studios, I just enjoy the energy and creativity (and chaos) of the teenage mind.

“It’s hard to truly explain, but a teacher will understand,” Mike says. 

Mike would love to hear from friends and former classmates. He is on Instagram (@carlsonphotos) and his website is

Drs. Sonia Mastrangelo and Meridith Lovell-Johnston’s Research Featured in Journey Magazine

Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo (pictured below, left) and Dr. Meridith Lovell-Johnston (below, right) are engaged in a SSHRC-funded research partnership with the Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre, which provides support to First Nations schools in the Sioux Lookout region of Northwestern Ontario. The goal of their research is to foster self-regulation and literacy in elementary students, so that they can better manage tension and cope with stressors in their daily lives.

To read about their research, see the Fall issue of Lakehead University’s Journey Magazine.

Dr. Gerald Walton Receives Distinguished Instructor Award

Faculty of Education Professor Dr. Gerald Walton is the recipient of Lakehead University’s 2021 Distinguished Instructor Award. This is the University’s most prestigious teaching award, recognizing an individual who has made a significant contribution to teaching excellence and educational innovation and leadership over a number of years.

The presentation of the award was made by Lakehead University’s Provost and Vice-President, Dr. David Barnett. He read the following citation:

“Since joining the Faculty of Education in 2008, Dr. Gerald Walton has established himself as an outstanding instructor, a committed researcher and communicator and valued colleague. It is, however, his commitment to equity that really makes Gerald the distinguished instructor that he is.

Equity in education is closely tied to the practices employed by an instructor. It means opening opportunities for all students to fully engage with challenging ideas in an environment that values that engagement. It means opening opportunities for all students to participate fully in the practices, and with the knowledge base, of the discipline. And most importantly, it means opening opportunities for all students to be seen and valued as full participants of the learning community. These are the practices that Gerald pushes himself to develop and model, and it is these practices that inspire Gerald’s students.

One criterion for this Award is to demonstrate leadership in teaching and other activities across the wider university landscape. Gerald has served on a number of university committees over the years, and has taken the lead on a number of initiatives that promote equity and support for international and graduate students. Further afield, Gerald has been prominent in fearlessly and honestly communicating the need for societal change across multiple media. These activities have contributed to raising the profile of important issues and leading the public discourse about them.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Gerald Walton, the 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Instructor Award.”

Faculty of Education September 2021 Newsletter Published

The September issue of our Education Exchange newsletter has been published. This newsletter brings our current and former students, as well as our educational partners, together to share news, successes, and innovations. In this issue, you'll find discussion of the Aki-based curriculum, a spotlight on an innovative course design, faculty news, alumni profiles, and more.

To access our Education Exchange newsletter, click the following link: 

Education Exchange Newsletter (September 2021)

To see previous issues of the newsletter, visit the newsletter archives.

Education Alumna Dr. Sarah Pash Re-elected Chairperson of the Cree School Board

Dr. Sarah Pash, graduate of the Joint PhD in Educational Studies program (2014), has been re-elected chairperson of the Cree School Board, the organization founded in 1978 to provide education in Eeyou Istchee, the Cree territory in northern Quebec. 

Pash campaigned for greater transparency, meeting firm education standards, and hiring Crees. 

This will be her second three-year term at the helm of the organization after first being elected chairperson in 2018. She is pushing to expand the range of Cree content taught in schools, in addition to the Cree language and culture classes, which see called "ghettoized."

"Why aren't our kids learning Indigenous technology in science class… [or] stories about the landforms and rivers in geography class? This would help with identity construction," she noted in a CBC news article.

Before becoming elected to her first mandate as chairperson of the Cree School Board, Sarah was executive director at the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou.

Royal Society of Canada Honours Dr. Ruth Beatty for Her Remarkable Contributions

Dr. Ruth Beatty (Associate Professor, Orillia campus) has been elected to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, which recognizes those who have demonstrated a high level of achievement at an early stage of their career.

Members of the College represent the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership and provide new advances in understanding, resulting from the interaction of diverse intellectual, cultural, and social perspectives.

Ruth was selected for the College as a result of her collaborative and community-based research on the connections between Indigenous ways of knowing mathematics and the Western mathematics found in the Ontario curriculum.

“I am honoured to receive this award for our work, which is primarily about building reciprocal relationships with Indigenous knowledge keepers, leaders, artists, and educators as we investigate the mathematics inherent in cultural practices,” she said.

Ruth, who joined Lakehead University in 2009, is a mathematics education researcher who works with Anishnaabe, Cree, and Métis communities to decolonize education. She does this by collaboratively designing culturally responsive mathematics instruction for all students, and emphasizing learning from and incorporating Indigenous pedagogical perspectives in inclusive classroom settings.

She has received a number of awards for this work, including Lakehead University’s Community Engaged Research Award and Indigenous Partner Research Award and an eagle feather presented to her by Colinda Clyne, who is Anishinaabe kwe (Kitigan Zibi First Nation) and the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Curriculum Lead for the Upper Grand DSB.


Decolonizing Math Education: Dr. Ruth Beatty and Colleagues’ Research Recognized

A research project focused on decolonizing math education by Dr. Ruth Beatty (Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Orillia) and co-researchers Colinda Clyne (Anishinaabe kwe and Curriculum Lead for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education for the Upper Grand District School Board) and Christina Ruddy (Algonquin artist and ethnomathematician) is featured on the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) website.

The project, which includes Indigenous artists and educators from local communities, connects Indigenous art forms including beading, birch bark basket-making and moccasin-making with mathematical concepts such as algebraic, proportional, and spatial reasoning. To date, more than 1,000 students across Ontario have participated in the work, and the project has expanded to include Saskatchewan and Manitoban communities.

The project has received three levels of funding from SSHRC (an Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation Connection Grant, a Connection Grant, and an Insight Development Grant) and received Lakehead University’s Community Engaged Research and Indigenous Partnership Research awards. You can read the story of their project, and how they are supporting learners by honouring Indigenous mathematical knowledge and practices, here: “What We Can Learn from Indigenous Teaching Methods.”

Pictured below: Grade 3 students at Eganville and District Public School show their beadwork projects, in which they learned about the relationships between wrist measurements, bead size and pattern dimensions, and how to make adjustments to get desired results.

Dr. Gerald Walton and Gianluca Agostinelli Co-Authors of New Book

Dr. Gerald Walton (Professor, Faculty of Education) and Gianluca Agostinelli (PhD candidate, Joint PhD in Educational Studies program) have recently published a new book, Being Boys: Shaping Gender Norms to Weaken Rape Culture.

The publisher, DIO Press Incorporated, notes that the book advocates for “the disruption of usual ideas about masculinity and how it shows in the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours of boys and men. These ideas are disseminated and validated through pop culture, schooling, athletics, social media, family, places of worship, playgrounds, pornography, and other sites of learning. With sharp, feminist-informed analyses of contemporary events and news stories, Walton and Agostinelli present a ‘heads up’ to boys and men: the problem of sexual violence against girls and women is ours to address and work through.”

Challenging damaging expectations of what it means to be a man in today’s world, the goal of the book is, ultimately, to prevent sexual assault through an unlearning of problematic gender norms that equate masculinity with sexual violence.

Pictured below: Dr. Gerald Walton (top) and Gianluca Agostinelli (below).

BEd Graduate Lauren Strauss Receives Ontario English Catholic Teachers Assocation Faculty of Education Award

Congratulations to Lauren Strauss (BEd graduate, 2021), who has received the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) Faculty of Education Award. This annual award recognizes teacher candidates’ academic excellence in preservice Catholic religion courses and their advocacy for social justice and related activities that support equity and inclusivity.

Lauren explains that volunteer commitments in various communities in her life have taught her about the value of developing relationships with others.

“Growing up, I was a part of a children’s choir and then became an Alter Server, both of which allowed me to play an active role within the church. I was also a volunteer reader at my school for any masses or liturgies that took place.

I have volunteered at two different camps aimed at inclusivity for children with special needs, and being part of these camps taught me important lessons about making sure every child feels included. I also coached a young girls’ softball team, which allowed me to give back to an organization that focused on developing team work skills in youth.

My involvements have contributed to my faith because they have allowed me to give back to my community, while building relationships with those around me. Through volunteering, I am able to see the positive impact I can have on others, which is at the core of having and practicing faith.”

Having recently graduated from the BEd program, Lauren plans to take an Additional Qualifications course in religious education and to seek employment within a Catholic school board.

“I hope to be able to inspire my students, as past teachers have done for me,” she says.

Congratulations Lauren on this award!

BEd Graduate Janae Grafham Receives Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Faculty of Education Award

Congratulations to Janae Grafham (BEd graduate, 2021), who has received the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) Faculty of Education Award. The award is granted to a graduating Intermediate/Senior Teacher Candidate who exemplifies award criteria, including engaging in social activism to promote the professional nature of teaching and demonstrating leadership among Teacher Candidates.

Janae’s dedication to activism and leadership is evidenced by her commitment to being a mental health advocate through her involvement with, an organization that trains and empowers young leaders to revolutionize mental health. She is an environmental activist, involved with the Ontario Nature program and recently presented at the Forests Ontario “Growing Our Future” conference. She is also a youth leader for The Youth Circle for Mother Earth, a group that aims to protect lands and waters for future generations through cross-cultural knowledge sharing, dialogue, and youth mentorship. As part of this role, she recently guided a team of youth on a month-long virtual Youth Summit for Mother Earth.

Janae explains that her longstanding passions for environmental science and working with others to make a difference culminated in her decision to pursue the Bachelor of Education program and the one-year Certificate in Indigenous Learning program. She notes that the OSSTF award “has encouraged me to consider what it means to be part of a team. When people come together for a common purpose, great accomplishments are possible.”

Since graduating, Janae has accepted a position teaching high school science.   

Congratulations Janae on these achievements!