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Achieving a passion for learning

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A person should never stop learning and growing as an individual, no matter what their age is or what
stage of their life they are in. Former Valley resident, Theresa Papp, has embraced this concept and while she was living in the area, she embarked on a new journey that has led her to a higher sense of learning.
“My education has been an ongoing journey over the past two decades which I started while living in Swan River,” said Papp. “I earned my undergraduate degree through distance education from the University of Waterloo and graduated with a General Social Development Degree.” Most people assume to
get a formal education, you would have to leave the Valley and attend a campus in the city, but Papp proved that theory wrong. She stumbled on the opportunity to further her learning through a local volunteering initiative, with a project she had no prior experience with before.
“My involvement with the Swan River Rotary Club and the Rotary District 5550 offered me the opportunity
to run the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) camp for District 5550 for close to 10 years,” explained Papp. “District 5550 covers all of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the western region of Ontario. Students were coordinated to come to the Swan River Valley, Duck Mountain Provincial Park, Wellman Lake, for a week to learn leadership skills through fun, games, and experiential learning. The camp originally was for
grade 11 and 12 students; however, with one-year experience running a camp, a second camp was introduced for the 12 to 14-year old students. This was the first ever age group RYLA camp to be offered in North America.
“Many Rotarians and other wonderful Valley people made this camp happen and added to the students’ experiences that were exceptional and life altering. It was my involvement in RYLA that I recognized my passion for helping students achieve.” 
Although Papp was already an accomplished photographer, she felt she had to embrace the experience 
from the RYLA camp and do more in the way of helping students with their learning goals. “My passion for photography was replaced with education and I earned my master’s degree in education through Athabasca University in 2005, just prior to moving to Saskatoon,” noted Papp. “The fields of education that were of particular interest to me, were varied based on my life experiences. 
Having operated a storefront photography studio, I had an interest in entrepreneurship and this led to research in this area. I was further intrigued by the nature of the gamer, largely due in part of both my
sons, Kyle and Sterling, were and still are gamers. “Gamers are a different breed. In school, when the
going might get tough or a student does not grasp a concept, the student may give up and accept defeat.
Gamers on the other hand, will get angry, may walk away for a while, but they are determined to  complete the level and do what is called, level up. Gamers will persist despite temporary defeat. This led me to ask myself, what did video games offer that education does not? Hence, the other area of interest to conduct research was gamification and how introducing game concepts into the classroom affected learning. “I conducted research on entrepreneurship with Drs. Kayseas, and Moroz, from First Nations University and the University of Regina, and Dr. Dennis Foley from the University of Canberra, in Australia, specifically on the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program (AYEP), which was a high school
program sponsored in Saskatchewan,” said Papp. “I also conducted research on gamification and the intrinsic and extrinsic effects on post-secondary students and Indigenous students.
These research projects were stepping stones that ultimately led to my Doctor of Philosophy in  educational Administration and the manuscript dissertation entitled Teacher practices and professional
development that promote improved educational outcomes for Indigenous students in Saskatchewan and
New Zealand. A manuscript dissertation is a less traditional format that is a collection of papers that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The dissertation is comprised of three published manuscripts and to date I have had 10 papers published and two are under review.” Papp’s research studies led to some very interesting revelations regarding some of the strategies used to help Indigenous students
overcome barriers to learning. “The foundation of the research that I conducted and published is based on
the statistics that Indigenous peoples of countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia, and New
Zealand share the experiences of marginalization and European colonization,” explained Papp. “In both Canada and New Zealand Indigenous peoples consistently demonstrate lower education attainment levels compared to the non-Indigenous population according to country’s statistics and this has persisted. In the
schools that I had conducted research in New Zealand and Canada, they both made dramatic  improvements within four years to the educational attainment levels for their Indigenous students.
Underlying question was, what were these schools and their teachers doing that other schools were not
doing to create such a change and improvement? “In the first research paper entitled, Teacher strategies to improve education outcomes for Indigenous students, I had been reading research findings about great strides being made in New Zealand through the Te Kotahitanga project in improving Indigenous student learning attainment levels. The iconic lead researcher of this project, Dr. Mere Berryman from New
Zealand, was to be presenting to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, school boards, and other
interested researchers in Saskatoon. I was able to gain access to the meeting and numerous meetings
that followed. Attending the meetings that followed allowed me to meet the principal of a New Zealand
school that had gained international recognition for improving Māori students’ educational levels within
four years to closely match the non- Māori student population. Dr. Berryman approved my request to go
to the school in Napier, New Zealand to conduct research. “What followed was the Canadian school that was located in Saskatoon that had statistically quantified improved outcomes within a similar time frame,”
noted Papp. “This research manuscript was entitled, A Canadian study coming full circle to traditional Indigenous pedagogy: A pedagogy for the 21st century. The need to address teaching strategies and curriculum approaches was the focus and the scope of this research. To put the improvements into perspective, the students were mainly Indigenous and described as non-traditional learners. Within the four year period the credit completion rate improved from 31 to 81 percent, attendance improved from 52 to 77 percent, and graduation rates increased from three students to 55 students.
“The hoped for outcomes was to discover the how-to strategies to advance working knowledge of teacher practices that would lead to improved educational experiences and achievement levels for Indigenous 
students. According to some of the teachers interviewed, they believed their approaches should be applied to all classrooms for all students. The findings were very simple; care for your students as if they were your own children. The teachers built real relationships and took the time to talk with students
creating a caring community. Teachers earned trust and respect from the students, not the other way
around. They created opportunities for students to work collectively and implemented experiential
learning opportunities. 
The teaching style of transmission learning with the teacher at the front of the classroom as the sage on
the stage was not seen in either school. “Indigenous scholars would describe the teaching approach as traditional Indigenous learning. The schools demonstrated student-centered and student driven active learning within groups and teachers would focus on the wholeness of the student, from intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Particularly in Saskatoon, there were robust academic and non-academic supports available to the students such as daily smudge, drumming, Elders were on hand to direct the learning to be authentic and they were there for the emotional support that the students may need.” 
For many, this alone would be a huge accomplishment, but Papp persisted on, to broad her horizons and learning experience about other aspects to student’s learning capabilities. “The driving force to earn my Doctor of Philosophy in education was learning about the National Crime from a course I took called Native Studies 370 at the University of Waterloo in 2004,” continued Papp. “I remember reading excerpts from the Report of the Royal Commission for Aboriginal Peoples conducted in 1996.
I was horrified and I cried many, many times. To learn about the atrocities that happened at the  residential schools that were typically run by various religious groups was heartbreaking. 
As a mother, you cannot imagine having your children taken from you. Residential schools are only one instance; however, there were many more unjust treatments to learn about our Canadian history. Education was a tool used to oppress Indigenous peoples and for many years the education curriculum
was a means to miseducate people on the matter.
“Long before reconciliation became a common term following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 
(TRC), I am dedicated to do my part to make a difference. I invite people to hear the stories of residential school survivors, learn more about this topic and read more articles and publications from Senator Murray Sinclair, the chair of the TRC. Education is the key to reconciliation and education is not only for the young but for everyone to be lifelong learners.”
Papp’s empathy for the way Indigenous people were treated, also stemmed from some of her personal 
experiences growing up. “I am very grateful for my parents, Stan and Nellie Badowski,” noted Papp. 
“They regularly had Indigenous men come to help on the farm at seeding and especially harvest time. As
a young girl, I witnessed them extend hospitality and respect as they would any neighbour, friend or
family. We shared the dinner table with the men, who returned year after year. At that time, I was never fully aware of the harsh and unfair reality that was experienced by Indigenous peoples in the 1960s and for the many years that followed.”
In 2005, Papp made the decision to leave the Valley, when her eldest son graduated from the Swan Valley
Regional Secondary School and was accepted to the University of Saskatchewan. For her it felt like the best time to make the transition, move to the city and continue on with her education. It wasn’t always an easy task to balance everything she had going on while furthering her studies. At the time, and still to this date, Papp was working as an instructor and course developer at Saskatchewan Polytechnic along with being a student. “The biggest challenge was to juggle a full-time teaching role while being a full-time student,” explained Papp. “At the time I began the Ph.D., I was, and still am, a post-secondary instructor at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. 
That meant preparing my instructional material for each class every day. I also had to complete my readings and prepare for each of my upcoming graduate classes. I also had to mark my students’ assignments in a timely manner and prepare my own assignments for my professors.
At the time I was responsible for around 120 students. “I recall driving to the University of Saskatchewan in the morning, three to four times a week for classes. Then getting in my car when my classes were over, eating lunch while driving to Saskatchewan Polytechnic and going straight to the classroom and preparing for my class. After instructing my students was over, I would then drive home to prep for the next day’s classes that I would instruct and then prepare for my classes at the university.
Somewhere in there, I would have to complete the typical household tasks as well.” Despite the  challenges, the highlights and overall reward of Papp’s education proved to be more than worth it.
“There were many highlights along the way,” noted Papp. “Since I was not in any hurry to get a set of 
new letters behind my name or a different title, I totally enjoyed the journey. Some doctoral students
will complete their requirements within a year or two. I maybe was the exception as I reveled in the process of conducting research, evaluating the data, and writing manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals.
“Many of the other highlights included being the recipient of recognitions, awards, and scholarships from the University of Saskatchewan and both the provincial and the federal government. Particularly, a national doctoral scholarship, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), was awarded for three years that I received. In 2016, another memorable highlight was being awarded the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Presidential Innovation Award for implementing gamification principles into my classes. It has been a highlight to present at a variety of educational conferences nationally and
internationally. The biggest highlight was to be invited as the keynote speaker at the Canadian  International Conference on Education at the University of Toronto. “Most recently, in September 2020, I was awarded a SSHRC two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue my research,” said Papp. “This research project is entitled Post-secondary students’ perceptions of what they need from their instructors
to succeed while learning remotely during a COVID-19 pandemic in Canada: Exploring the best practices
of instructing and the impact on academic achievement. 
The significance of the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship is that very few are awarded, and my application
ranked in eighth spot, with only 18 post doctoral fellows awarded across Canada. I would be remiss to not mention the successful defense of my dissertation on August 7, 2020 was also a highlight.” 
Papp will be continuing on with her work and has some more projects for the future, which she will  continue focusing on education of students and learning styles. “The next project to be taken up will be Post-secondary students’ perceptions of what they need from their instructors to succeed while learning remotely during a COVID-19 pandemic in Canada: Exploring the best practices of instructing and the impact on academic achievement,” said Papp. “Given the circumstances in Saskatchewan and provincial
post-secondary schools teaching in a variety of distance methods, this research is timely and necessary, especially since March 2020, most classes were ceased on campus and instruction was conducted remotely to complete the academic year.
The entire 2020-2021 academic year for post-secondary students in Saskatchewan is being taught remotely. For Saskatchewan Polytechnic this means that for every class that was to be taught in a classroom pre-COVID times, my students and I would hold a live ZOOM class that would last anywhere 
from one to two hours.
In some cases, I would be ZOOMing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Contrary to other institutions, this is a mandatory approach to teaching at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and the findings could appeal to a new
education option for students. Some students prefer the in-class experience, while other students identify
the benefits of not having to move to the city, saving money on rent, parking, and saving money on food at the cafeteria. 
“Another topic on the horizon for research is entitled Resolving the effects of inter-generational poverty
and inequitable learning outcomes for Indigenous students in Canada and Australia: Exploring remedial
practice and teaching practices to improve educational outcomes. The importance of this research and others that I have conducted is in the spirit of reconciliation. I had started research prior to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls to Action; however, continuing on that path is my quest to make a difference. 
In many cases, the findings can be applied to all students.” 
For Papp, furthering her education has brought much fulfillment to both her career and personal
life. “I have found my passionin both education and research,” concluded Papp.
“As the saying goes ‘if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life’, and I can honestly say that this statement wholeheartedly applies to everything I have done so far and continue to do.”