Today we are congratulating Dr. Wendy Klassen on her new position of Associate Professor Emeritus.
Dr. Klassen began her teaching career more than 40 years ago as an educator at School District 38, Richmond, BC. Her drive to transition from K to 12 teacher to post-secondary professor came from a secondment to UBC Vancouver. For one year, she taught math education to student teachers and quickly decided that was the path she wanted to continue. She went on to pursue her PhD and the rest is history.
For the last 25 years, she has made an impact on the Okanagan campus — inspiring, supporting and mentoring hundreds of pre-service teachers, mentor teachers, graduate students and field advisors.
In 2013, she became the Director of Undergraduate Programs, where she was instrumental in the redesign of the Bachelor of Education (BEd) program, and ensured alignment with UBC Senate and the BC Teachers Council.
“I also designed two Community Field Experience placements,” says Dr. Klassen. “One explores NumerARTcy in Haida Gwaii and that was developed with Desiree Marshall-Peer, my graduate student at the time, and Sharon McCoubrey. The most recent one is in Frieburg, Germany in partnership with Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg.”
Throughout her career, she has focused on integrating and embedding Indigenous Education in the BEd program. She facilitated two different teacher education pathways for Indigenous students: the Development Standard Teaching Certificate, where students would take three years of coursework and then the certificate. The Certificate has now been replaced by the Okanagan Field Centre NITEP entrance pathway, which began accepting students in 2023. She also supported the development of the OSE Indigenous Education Council, a council that provides the School with advice, recommendations, and guidance to enhance the program’s academic and field education.
“Beyond the School, I have also been involved in Senate, and various campus and advisory committees,” she says. “For the past 10 years, I have been the co-chair of the Behavioural Research Ethics Board, and that role allowed me to see all the amazing research that was being conducted in other faculties.”
In 2023 to recognize her dedication, passion and commitment to education, she received the Association of British Columbia Deans of Education (ABCDE) Teacher Educator Award.
Reflecting on her time on campus, she shares fond memories of having all four of her girls attend UBCO, and stopping by her office for lunch. Her office walls and shelves are filled with photos, small souvenirs and gifts.
“It’s not just ‘stuff’,” she says with a laugh. “I can tell you exactly where every piece is from, whether it was a conference, family holiday or gift from a student. I love my office. It’s my happy place.”
Seeing all the memories throughout her office, it comes as no surprise that she says the best part of position has been the relationships she has built.
“What I’ve learned in this career is that there are many sides to a story and to come to any kind of decision, you need to know the people.”
Her advice for new teachers also aligns with relationship building.
“You need to build positive and respectful relationships with everyone from your students and their parents, to your fellow teachers and those that work in the operation side.”
When asked about her favourite moment from the last 25 years, she thoughtfully reflects, and says, “Anne MacLean [former Field Experience Coordinator] is known for saying, ‘bloom where you’re planted.’ And I think I have tried to do that throughout my career. I could say this or that was my favourite or a highlight, but it’s not about the time. It’s about what you make of the time and the people you work with.”
Although if she had to pick a favourite colleague, she says her husband, Bob Sellinger, support throughout her academic journey and career has been exceptional; especially as he still believes he wrote her PhD dissertation for her.
She is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren, golfing and travelling. She is especially excited to once again be accompanying the teacher candidates to Germany in May 2024 for their Community Field Experience.