PROFile: Jan Stewart

Dean of The Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health and professor in the Department of English

While Professor Jan Stewart is the dean of The Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health until the end of next June, she says she’s still working on her ongoing research projects.

“The one that’s finishing right now … is a national research program looking at best practices, or how do we build a welcoming community for newcomers and refugees,” Stewart says.

Throughout the research process, which started in 2005, the team did interviews and focus groups in Newfoundland, Alberta, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island to see what the best ways of supporting refugee children are.

“One of the main outcomes of my research is the need for teachers to have more background and more training in culturally responsive practices and in supporting children who have trauma and mental health issues,” she says.

Stewart and her co-author put together a book based on the research. The first part is theoretical and focuses on loss, trauma, dealing with family separation and other themes from the research.

The second has 30 lessons to train teachers, and the third has 11 competencies for suggested learning activities from K to 12 that are based out of a national framework.

Some of the activities are expressive art-based, like painting or drawing.

Stewart says she shares this research and the teaching techniques across North America and also overseas in Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Sudan.

“The teachers here are same as the teachers there. We have different content, of course, and different cultural backgrounds, but they want to learn. They’re keen on learning ways of meeting the needs of their students,” she says. “They struggle with the same issues.”

“It’s really interesting to see people now in different places where that might just be a misbehaving child or an angry child, and now they’re saying ‘well this child might be behaving because (they) may have lost both parents in a very horrific way,” Stewart says. “So now they change the way they teach, and I think in essence what’s the most rewarding, is to see how people actually change the way they go about teaching.”

Q&A

What was your worst grade in university? The worst grade was a C in my undergrad. My worst grade in grad was an A. I was really serious. I didn’t care in undergrad. We’re young, right? You just do that. But I was very serious, and I needed to get scholarship money, so I needed to get an A or A+.

What’s your favourite thing about yourself? If I fail I just go ‘ungh you didn’t do good enough, do it again, or suck it up. Everyone fails. Learn from it.’ I can look at that and my most miserable failures have always taught me something, so I’m okay with getting kicked down and picking up the pieces and going on.

What do you love to do in your spare time? I like to ski. I like to ski downhill, I like to cross country ski, I like to water ski. I love to wakeboard, and I love to snowboard, so I like to do anything where I have things strapped to my feet. And I just like to be active.

Published in Volume 72, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 9, 2017)

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