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!

January Issue of Faculty Newsletter Published

The January 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 move to online teaching, alumni profiles, faculty news, and more.

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

Education Exchange Newsletter (January 2021)

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

SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant Awarded: Fostering the Socio-Economic Resistance of a Maple Syrup Operation

Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo (Associate Professor, Education) is a co-investigator on a research project that has been awarded a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant. Sonia is working alongside Principal Investigator Dr. Gerardo Reyes (Assistant Professor, Biology, Lakehead University) and an interdisciplinary team on the research project entitled: Fostering the Socio-Ecological Resilience of CCO's Maple Syrup Operation in the Face of Climate Change.

The team’s research examines a maple syrup sugarbush operation at Camphill Communities Ontario (CCO), a not-for-profit organization in Simcoe County that provides support services to adults with intellectual disabilities. Using a socio-ecological perspective, the research examines:

  • adaptive strategies to reduce the sugarbush operation’s vulnerability to climate change. Maple syrup production is intimately tied to climate change, as increases in temperatures and changes to the frequency, timing, and duration of precipitation events and freeze-thaw cycles have altered sugar maple’s cycles of production;
  • the impacts of the sugarbush operation on tree health, syrup quality, and productivity;
  • the benefits of the sugarbush operation to the CCO community. In particular, the research examines which aspects of the social enterprise activities provide the most benefit to adults with developmental disabilities (e.g., acquiring new skills, improving self-esteem, etc.), which will help shape current and future practices in the sugarbush operation.

Together, these multiple layers of information will help to shape socio-ecological adaptation strategies to climate change, and thus, ensure that the sugarbush operation continues to meet CCO’s mission “to enrich society by creating meaningful opportunities to live, learn, and work together.”

Pictured below: Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo (left) with Principal Investigator Dr. Gerardo Reyes

Dr. Connie Russell Named Lakehead University Research Chair in Environmental Education

Dr. Connie Russell (Professor, Faculty of Education, Thunder Bay campus) has been named the Lakehead University Research Chair in Environmental Education. The adjudication committee noted that Dr. Russell is “an established scholar who has made major impacts in the field” and lauded her national and international reputation, publication record, editing work, and outstanding record of graduate student supervision. They also appreciated “the social importance and timeliness” of the research project she proposed on humour and environmental education.

As Dr. Russell notes: “Doom-and-gloom discourse is unfortunately quite common in environmental circles. That can leave learners feeling overwhelmed, so it is no wonder that some tune out or retreat in despair. There has been a surge of interest in the emotional dimensions of environmental education recently, but thus far the possibilities and pitfalls of using humour have received little attention in the field. There are many questions worth exploring, including why, when, where, and how environmental educators choose to use humour and what impacts it may have on teaching and learning, mental health, and environmental engagement.” She is currently collaborating with colleagues on a special issue of the journal, Environmental Education Research, that is focusing on humour. It has garnered interest from scholars, cartoonists, and comedians from around the world, and she hopes it will feed a number of research and teaching partnerships.

Dr. Russell says, “I am grateful to have been awarded a LU Research Chair since it gives me more time to focus on research as well as some funding that can be used to employ graduate students as research assistants.” 

BEd Student Michael Chen Competes in International “Climate Change-Makers Challenge”

Michael Chen, OCT (BEd student, Orillia campus) was part of a team that developed a climate change solution—entitled “Food Forests for All”—that won the “Best of the Rest” prize in the Grand Finals portion of the international Climate Change-Makers Challenge Hackathon.

The Hackathon event took place in February and March, when over 120 youth from across 15 countries and 5 continents came together at the Climate Change-Makers Challenge to build innovations to fight climate change. Each team worked over 48 hours to brainstorm, research, build, and present solutions to address climate change, and the top 12 teams were invited to the grand finals.

Michael, along with three teammates from Dalhousie University, Stanford University, and Rutgers University–New Brunswick, developed an educational website that provides resources and information on starting food forests, emphasizing Indigenous methods to help preserve the environment.

In their five-minute video pitch, Michael explains that transporting food over long distances contributes to higher carbon emissions. The team’s solution is to connect people to mobilize and start their own carbon sequestering food forests locally, while minimizing barriers such as the lack of access to space and funding, and a knowledge gap when it comes to Indigenous gardening practices.

The team’s prototype website outlines the potential of food forests to address climate change, including a guide to develop food forests and the required resources. It also features an interactive Impact Map, identifying Indigenous lands throughout Canada and a mapping of established, in progress, and proposed regions for food forests. The team plans to create a new website which will become a platform to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge keepers and those interested in starting a food forest.

Michael Chen

Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo Receives Grant to Explore Well-Being Among Residents of Camphill Communities Ontario

With the support of a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant, Dr. Sonia Mastrangelo (Associate Professor, Orillia campus) is undertaking a qualitative study to explore the lived experiences of adults with developmental disabilities living in a care farm setting.

Lakehead University has established a partnership with Camphill Communities Ontario, a not-for-profit organization that provides adult-centered residential programs for adults with developmental disabilities. The property, located in Angus, Ontario, is home to a biodynamic farm, garden, herbery, bakery, pottery studio, woodworking shop, and performance hall, and offers day programs, arts and crafts, artistic and wellness activities, and social and cultural opportunities for residents.

Sonia explains that the study will document well-being among the adult residents of Camphill Communities Ontario, and will closely examine the potential benefits and impacts of engaging in a broad range of activities, including farming, animal care, gardening, maple tree syrup collection/production, woodworking, baking, and pottery. The research will proceed using a community-based participatory action research model.

“Using a video-based observation research approach coupled with video-elicitation interviews, the research will honour the voices of marginalized adults (namely, those with developmental disabilities) in the research process and document well-being and outcomes from their perspective. I will explore their experiences, including the impacts and benefits of being involved in farming and program activities in the care farm setting,” she notes.  

Her research project, titled An Exploration of Well-Being in Adults with Developmental Disabilities Residing at Camphill Communities Ontario, marks the first time that Camphill Communities Ontario has undertaken a systematic evaluation of the impacts of their programming during their 30+ years of operation.

The research findings will assist Camphill Communities Ontario with future program development, program expansion, services and policy development. As part of the one-year research project, a documentary will be created and shared with other not-for-profit organizations that provide day and residential services to individuals with exceptional needs.

Sharing Geography Teaching Strategies and Resources: Randy Wilkie

Randy Wilkie (Contract Lecturer, Thunder Bay campus, and retired high school Geography teacher) has a long history of developing and sharing Geography-related teaching strategies, resources, and experiences with pre-service teachers.

He explains: “Geography and teaching are a passion. When I was contemplating retiring as a high school teacher, I witnessed other retiring teachers emptying entire filing cabinets of lesson plans and other resources in the school dumpster. I thought this was such an ignoble end to a great career. While I was about to retire, I knew that I wasn’t really ready; I just needed new challenges. So, when the opportunity to continue my career opened at Lakehead, I brought my resources, strategies, and experiences along for the ride to share with budding teachers.”

In recent months, Randy has developed and shared teaching strategies in a variety of forms: via posters, conference presentations, and publications. Here are three of his recent professional contributions:

  • “North of Amazing” poster with teaching strategies (pictured below): Randy developed his 20th poster for the poster series of the Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education. As OAGEE’s Regional Councilor for Northwestern Ontario, Randy develops annual posters that outline teaching strategies and activities, which he uses in his Faculty of Education teaching.
  • Tree Harvesting in the Boreal Forest: Inquiry and Thinking Skills book: Randy first developed this resource when he was teaching high school, and has perfected it over time. As part of the Forestry Series, this instructional guide for Geography teachers outlines an in-depth simulation activity in which students make decisions about tree harvesting in the boreal forest, using current logging practices within a context of profitability, sustainability, and environmental protection. In December 2020, Randy presented the simulation at the National Council for Geographic Education virtual conference.
  • “Is There a Cost to Living in a Cold Climate?” publication: This article, published in Interaction, an Australian Geography journal, outlines a comprehensive lesson plan to explore the costs of living in the Arctic region, including health, transportation, building design, construction and food costs. Randy notes: “As a member of the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria (AU), I thought, what better than to give the Aussies a perspective of what it is like to live in a northern nation."

Randy’s dedication to promoting geographic literacy among his students has been recognized through the OAGEE Award of Distinction, and his status as a Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Pictured below: Randy and his “North of Amazing” poster.

Dr. Gerald Walton Discusses Rape Culture, Politics, and Bullying in Online Interview

In an interview with the Centre for Education, Law and Society at Simon Fraser University, Dr. Gerald Walton (Professor, Faculty of Education, Thunder Bay), discusses culture, and rape culture in particular, and the impact it has on law and policies affecting schools.

He addresses the importance of teaching about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in schools. He also discusses the relationship between bullying, culture, and social politics.

BEd Student Melena Hope Awarded Ontario College of Teachers Primary/Junior Scholarship

Congratulations to Melena Hope (PhD, BEd Primary/Junior teacher candidate, Orillia), who has been awarded the Ontario College of Teacher's Scholarship award for the Primary/Junior division! 

This OCT award is granted to individuals who “demonstrate a high level of preparedness for teacher education through examples of community involvement, background and life experiences.”

Melena, who has spent her whole life in education, received a BFA Honours degree at York University and then travelled abroad to obtain a MA and PhD in art history at the University of London, at the Courtauld Institute of Art in England. This was followed by a two-year post-doctoral fellowship.

As a mature student, Melena’s first career was teaching as a sessional and visiting lecturer at colleges within the University of London, and then as head of art history at Morley College in London, England. Her decision to embark on a new career came after she took time off to raise her children and was encouraged to work as an unqualified supply teacher within a local elementary school board. It was during this time that she realized her calling in life. She feels that teaching the youngest of students and fostering a love for knowledge at an early age is a profound responsibility that she finds greatly rewarding. For this reason, she decided to return to school as a mature student and pursue her vocation as an elementary school teacher within the Primary/Junior division in the Faculty of Education, maintaining Dean’s List status throughout her studies.  

In addition to her strong background in education, Melena has also volunteered and worked with children in various capacities, including teaching art lessons and contributing her time to her local parent council by painting a mural at a local school and co-ordinating fundraising initiatives, among other activities.

“I am humbled and honoured to have received this award from the Ontario College of Teachers. To be acknowledged by the professional body in my field has inspired me even more,” she says.