Brock University taught Rebecca Dylanger how to walk a mile in her students’ shoes.
The 50-year-old Adult Education graduate, who recently crossed the stage at Brock’s Spring Convocation ceremonies, now looks at her pupils differently when she enters the classroom in the small Northwest Territories community where she works.
Dylanger has lived in the tiny hamlet of Ulukhaktok for the past 12 years, where she teaches Inuit adults basic education, including math, English, science, social studies and computers.
Until her recent experience at Brock, however, she had never experienced school as a mature student.
It was a Brock alumna working with Dylanger at Aurora College who recommended she look into the University’s Adult Education program, which offers a flexible approach to post-secondary education that allows students to work around their day jobs while improving their teaching skills.
Intrigued by the online course offerings, Dylanger began studying with Brock in 2010, first striving to achieve her Adult Education teaching certificate and then deciding to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
“I thought, ‘If I’m going to jump in, it might as well be with both feet,’” she said.
In fall of 2013, Dylanger opted to travel to St. Catharines to spend a year studying on Brock’s campus.
“I had never been to Ontario before. Everything was a new experience,” said the Nova Scotia native who had only ever called small communities home.
“My skills when I was hired with the college were all in computers. Coming here really boosted my confidence,” she said of her time at Brock.
After spending some time on campus, Dylanger returned home to complete her degree online.
She took a number of Aboriginal, Canadian and Women’s and Gender studies courses that she feels provided valuable history and insight into the culture she is immersed in at home.
“I also got to know how the students were feeling. I hadn’t been in school for a long time, so here I was learning how they felt before tests, what types of pressure they were facing while balancing a home and school life,” she said. “Becoming an adult student was quite an experience.
“Now I can sit back and say to my students, ‘it doesn’t matter how old you are, you’re never too old to go back to school, you’re never too old to go to university, to do anything,’” she said. “That’s a big deal when you teach adults.”
Adult learners, those in Canada’s northern communities in particular, face a unique set of challenges while pursuing education.
“It’s a different way of life,” Dylanger said. Being able to provide details of online course opportunities available to adult learners, even those in remote communities, is a big asset, she added.
When the time came for Convocation, Dylanger knew she could not pass up the opportunity to celebrate her accomplishment and to again visit the campus she has become so fond of. She travelled back to St. Catharines to walk the stage with her fellow Faculty of Education graduates.
“The quest for knowledge is amazing, it’s created a monster inside of me,” she said with a laugh. Dylanger is now looking at pursuing a master’s in education.