I am working in partnership with the British Columbia Aboriginal Child Care Society and the Vancouver Aboriginal Early Years Network to enhance early childhood educators' practice and pedagogical leadership, and to inform the creation of Indigenous Professional Development programs.

 
Co-supervisors: Dr. Margot Filipenko and Dr. Claudia Ruitenberg
Mexico City
Canada
 

Research Description

My research supports the development of a “Collaborative Inquiring Community” (Wells, 2001) for Indigenous early childhood educators who are working together to strengthen their relationships with children, families, colleagues, and communities. I am working in partnership with the British Columbia Aboriginal Child Care Society and the Vancouver Aboriginal Early Years Network to enhance early childhood educators' practice and pedagogical leadership, and inform the creation of Indigenous Professional Development programs. By supporting the development of “culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families” and “identifying teacher-training needs” related to the residential school system, this project constitutes an Indigenous-led response to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

As a Public Scholar, I am invested in building and strengthening relationships of responsibility, respect, and reciprocity with community partners. I strive to work with and for the community to achieve social change, so I tailor my research to support communities' interests. Being a Public Scholar also means breaking with academic silos and being compelled to find and create interdisciplinary intersections within academia and beyond. Solutions, undoubtedly, are needed and offered in a variety of fields. Public scholars are living and inspiring proof that diversity, passion, and creativity are essential to broadening social change. In the midst of the solitude that at times characterises the doctoral journey, being a Public Scholar and belonging to this diverse, purposeful, and thriving academic community feels like a breath of fresh air. It means connecting and learning from a wealth of brilliant scholars and colleagues, and feeling inspired and motivated to continue moving forward in our academic pursuits.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The PSI is to be celebrated because it has been advancing the development of non-conventional ways of producing and implementing research. It acknowledges that it is imperative to articulate interdisciplinary responses that effectively supports innovative ways of generating, communicating, and applying academic knowledge. Critically, it advances a new conception of the role of academics and the responsibility we have for the betterment of society. By adding visibility to our doctoral research and highlighting scholars’ creative capacities, the PSI is leveraging the social impact of UBC’s scholars, while at the same time leading the way for other universities themselves to re-imagine the Ph.D. in their own spheres.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

As an early childhood educator, I often felt challenged when working with young children who had had traumatic experiences thus realised that the knowledge that I had was insufficient to meet those children’s needs. I also noticed that some of my colleagues were struggling in a similar way. Through my doctoral work and future career, I seek to contribute to the development of collaborative and iterative explorations of the convergences between research and practice. My purpose is to advance early childhood education scholarship with the ultimate goal of enhancing young children’s mental health and well-being. In the years to come, I envision myself drawing further learning and experience from my frontline work with children, families, and colleagues. I will also continue to facilitate learning and engage in conversations to raise awareness and support for young children within and beyond our field. Indeed, I am committed to finding better and more ethical ways to conceive of and relate to young children.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

I have the privilege of working with the British Columbia Aboriginal Childcare Society and the Vancouver Aboriginal Early Years Network. The purpose of our partnership is to support collaborative inquiry processes to enrich educators’ professional development options. These processes will build capacity throughout the network and beyond. By enhancing educators’ practice and pedagogical leadership, we seek to impact the well-being of children and educators, their families, and communities. Our work highlights the early years as an essential time to strengthen children and build the social fabric of Indigenous families and communities. Through this partnership, my research is contributing to the development of self-directed, integrated, and community-based childcare services. By foregrounding educators’ lived experiences, resources, and needs, I aim to advance the development of collaborative and culturally safe research for the benefit of my partners, their Nations, and communities.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

It is a critical time for Indigenous children and their families in territories where reconciliation has become both a Canadian social goal and a government policy. As we all seek to recover and move forward in the wake of colonization, supportive and collaborative projects and partnerships like the one we will develop are ethically necessary; indispensably so. My work will enrich the professional development options of Indigenous and non-Indigenous early childhood educators. Hence, it will contribute to the “public good” by enhancing the health and wellbeing of young children, their families, and communities. By striving to make my research legitimate on Indigenous terms, my purpose is to “lift up” Indigenous educators. My work will be to support them to become leaders in their field so that they may find more and healthier ways of overcoming continuing challenges as people who have suffered the evils of colonization. As part of my academic work and professional experience, I also hope to have the opportunity to continue supporting children’s emotional well-being by exploring some of the contributions and limitations of a trauma-informed approach to early childhood educators' practice.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Acknowledging the importance and complexity that characterise early childhood education is an ongoing and unfinished process. Indeed, we have come a long way in understanding the foundational character of the early years, and so we recognize how crucial early childhood experiences and education are. After spending more than ten years promoting Indigenous languages and games in rural communities across Mexico, I worked with Indigenous children and families who, fleeing rural poverty, had moved to Mexico City. Being witness to the violence and marginalization they encountered every day showed me that my cultural promotion aims and play-based approaches were inadequate. The challenges that these children and families face results from profound socioeconomic inequalities and historical discrimination. As such,  different responses and approaches are required. During my master's degree, I deepened my involvement with those communities and sought to bolster the resilience of homeless Indigenous children. My findings evidenced that caregivers, and particularly early childhood educators, have a primary role to play in evoking change. My Ph.D. is a continuation of that work. It is also the platform from which I will continue to advocate for young children contributing, I hope, to freeing them from social impositions and violence.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

The beginning of my story at UBC goes back to the year 2011 when I met Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl in Madrid. Through her, I learned that UBC is one of the few universities that offers a graduate degree in early childhood education. Dr. Kimberly also put me in contact with the late Dr. Clyde Hertzman -- founder of UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership -- whom I had the opportunity to meet the following year. Encouraged by him, and excited about the possibility of working together, I applied to UBC without hesitation. As I got to know other UBC faculty members, I found ongoing confirmation that the excellence of this university lies in the minds and human qualities of its professors and scholars. In addition to that, UBC occupies Unceded, Traditional, and Ancestral xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Territory; a land that Elder Larry Grant explains has been a place of physical and emotional learning for millennia. I treasure the opportunity of being a guest on this territory, and I am deeply grateful to its Indigenous owners for their generosity and hospitality. It is a privilege to relate the experiences I had in Mexico with what I am learning in this beautiful land, with and from its Indigenous people. Tlazocamati.

 

As a Public Scholar, I am invested in building and strengthening relationships of responsibility, respect, and reciprocity with community partners.