Congratulations to Eva Koch, our M.Ed. Outstanding Project Award recipient!
QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH SESSION WITH Eva
What does receiving the award mean to you?
This award means that all the hard work – all those moments where I didn’t want to make “just one more change” but somehow found a way to make myself to keep going – paid off. It’s also a recognition of all the incredible support along the way – from my family, my incredible supervisor Dr. Lynn Bosetti, School District 67’s cultural coordinator Anona Kampe, my graduate colleagues, and the talented professors I met along the way that challenged my thinking and shaped who I am as a thinker, writer, activist, and educator. It’s all our accomplishment, really!
What has your experience been like with the Okanagan School of Education?
I really didn’t want to complete a fully online master’s from some random university in some town/country somewhere else. It was important to me that the learning be situated within the context of British Columbia, but ideally also in the traditional territory of the Okanagan Syilx people as this where I am lucky to call home now. It was important to me that some of my classes and some of my professors had connections to local knowledge keepers so that I could continue to learn about reconciliation in this local context specifically.
I was also thrilled to find a program that I was able to complete while still teaching so that my teaching could inform my research and my research could inform my practice. I think they complement each other – graduate studies support innovation, critical reflection of our practices and create a community of colleagues who are also willing to change their pedagogical approach. Conversely, keeping one foot firmly planted in the classroom means philosophical musings are still grounded in lived experience and reality. While I believe asking big questions and challenging the status quo can shape our current and future reality, educational reform is gentler when theory is not completely removed from practicality and current political & educational context.
Finally, I was really happy that most of my classes were in person, on campus (at least until the pandemic hit, that is!). Being able to commute with other teachers over the summer or on Saturdays created a sense of community that was… priceless.
What was your research project?
My initial draw to a master’s program was a deep curiosity of how best to support the Indigenous learners in my classroom, while offering a more historically inclusive and socially just curriculum. As a non-Indigenous teacher, I am not alone in wondering how to embed the BC renewed curriculum in meaningful and authentic ways. It’s a huge topic with so many layers that are still being grappled with, not only in the field of education, but also as a society.
I wanted to explore some of the ways I could respectfully and accurately embed Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies in my own teaching, but also create something practical that other teachers in my district could use as a resource guide. I know there are many competing demands for educators’ time and not every educator is able to digest & sift through nuanced academic literature. And yet reflecting on past and current research is critical. Findings and recommendations – particularly from Indigenous scholars and local knowledge keepers – need to be communicated in a way that can be practically incorporated. So, I decided to create a teacher magazine. I wanted my contribution to be an accessible guide for teachers new to the work of reconciliation – a “how-to guide” for those starting up on the journey of decolonizing their teaching practice.
I also felt it was important to showcase some of the incredible work already happening in my district – to celebrate those taking up some of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action with courage. Finally, I wanted to share some reflections on the journey of taking up the work of the “settler-ally” within the context of BC public school education, in the hopes that other educators could benefit.
You can read more about Eva’s capstone project and find her educator research in our capstone repository.
Why did you choose that topic?
I chose this topic because of a handful of students who touched my heart in deep and unexpected ways. I chose this topic because it is long overdue and while the province has made some important changes to the curriculum and the professional standards of educators, there is much work to be done in terms of implementing these curricular reforms.
I hope this works provides a safe space for non-Indigenous teachers to explore what it means to be a “settler-ally”. I hope it gives others, specifically non-Indigenous teachers, some ease in knowing that they are not alone in trying to figure this out, that there are no easy answers, and that the work can be uncomfortable. But I also want to highlight how critical hope and the pedagogy of discomfort can be a guide in the work of reconciliation. Rather than shattering worldviews and collapsing in despair at the ‘Truth stage’, the very act of sitting with the discomfort & critically reflecting can be an antidote that helps create the positive changes we are desperately needing.
What advice do you have for future graduate students?
I think it’s important to do you research and look into different schools and options before making a decision. And to make sure you have the headspace to commit to 2 years of solid work. It’s also critical to have a support network, especially if you have a young family – having a plan for childcare whether it’s a spouse, grandparent or setting up lots of playdates with friends and neighbors.
Finally, I can’t overstate how important it was for me to have a “buddy” during my master’s. Janice Moase and I applied at the same time, took many of our courses together and we also met others in our district who were just slightly ahead or behind us in terms of coursework. It was so key having others who had advice on which courses to take (or not to take!), reminders about important steps and deadlines and just the friendship of being able to laugh and got out for a meal on the way back home to Penticton. Having that team of educators really brightened the journey and made it so much more fun and doable! So if you can, sign up with a friend or group from your school district because teaching can already be an isolating experience when we get busy with our own classrooms; graduate schools doesn’t need to be that way. We all learn more when we can learn from each other. Plus it’s more fun that way.
Graduate Supervisor: Dr. Lynn Bosetti