In keeping with our 'education' theme for the Fall issue, writer Laura Gosset interiewed three Okanagan Women whose lives were changed through education.
It all started with eight shaggy-haired yaks loaded with overstuffed boxes of books
In 1998, John Wood - an overworked, burned-out Microsoft executive - escaped to Nepal for a much needed backpacking getaway. While hiking the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, he toured a typical Nepalese school. Wood was appalled, not just by the dilapidated schoolhouse, but the library for the school's 450-plus children - an uninviting, empty room with no chairs, no shelves and, most shockingly, no books.
The books were so precious they were kept under lock and key to protect them from damage by the children. It was a ratty collection of about twenty backpackers’ discards, including a steamy Danielle Steel romance and Lonely Planet Guide to Mongolia.
World change starts with educated children
When the Headmaster saw Wood's reaction to the library, he uttered a line that would change John's life: "Perhaps, Sir, you will someday come back with books."
A few months later, Wood did indeed return with 3,000 books on rented yaks...and the seeds of an idea were born!
In 1999, Wood quit his lucrative career at Microsoft to found a charity that would be called Room to Read. To date, this non-profit organization has created a network of 17,534 libraries and 1,930 schools, distributed 15,641,734 books, published 1,158 local language books and funded more than 31,636 girls’ scholarships throughout Asia and Africa.
Room to Read focuses on developing literacy skills and the habit of reading among boys and girls in primary school. The charity also recognizes the many unique barriers to education facing girls in the developing world and supports them to complete secondary school with the skills they’ll need to succeed in school and life.
Thanks to education, 10 Million children have benefitted
This year Room to Read is reaching a major milestone. By the end of 2015 - thanks to education, 10 Million children in the developing world will be the first in their families to finish school. To celebrate this kind of impact, Room to Read has developed an initiative called: "Thanks to Education", which encourages all of us to share our gratitude for the role education has played in shaping our lives. Okanagan Woman joins this celebration by talking to three local women who wish to share how their own education has impacted their lives.
TERRY BEAUDRY, B.Ed, M.Ed
Assistant Superintendent of the Central Okanagan School District
“Thanks to education...I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference to children (including my own), by influencing them to aspire to higher learning.”
Growing up, Terry Beaudry was surrounded by inspirational women touting the importance of education. She describes her mother as “the most resilient person I know.” From humble Aboriginal roots, her mom spent years in a residential school in Saskatchewan and spoke only French when they moved to Kelowna. Terry’s two grandmothers were also instrumental in her upbringing and neither had English as their first language.
”They worked hard all their lives and learned English with the support of friends and through reading comics and Eaton’s catalogues.” Terry smiles at the memory. “One of my grandmothers had a saying that education was something no one could take away from you!”
These three women, who did not finish school themselves, played crucial roles in motivating Terry to pursue education and her dream of becoming a teacher, then a Vice-Principal, Principal, Director of Instruction (K-12) and finally the Assistant Superintendent - her current position with the Central Okanagan School District.
Another powerful female force in Terry’s life was a teacher - Mrs. Della McClaren, who taught Grades four/five at Raymer Elementary. She remembers her as “an amazing teacher who pushed the envelope... and inspired my lifelong love of reading.”
Flash forward to Terry opening Anne McClymont Elementary School in her capacity as Principal! She was entrusted to hire a teacher/librarian and, by sheer serendipity, Mrs. McClaren applied for (and was awarded) the position. “It was full circle...I am incredibly grateful to her for being a life mentor and I remain in awe of her gifts as a teacher.”
On being a teacher herself, Terry says, “Each and every day, you have the opportunity to change a life.”
STACY TOBER, AME
Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
“Thanks to education...I have a well paying, gratifying trade that traditionally has been male oriented.”
While Stacy was completing her Associate Arts Degree, she worked on the assembly line at the Western Star Truck plant. It was there she discovered she had acumen for all things mechanical.
“I looked into different mechanical trades and found I was probably not big enough for Heavy Duty work,” recalls this petite, 5’3” brunette. ”I also heard it was difficult as a female to get an apprenticeship in car mechanic shops.”
So, when she learned of the opportunities in the aircraft maintenance trade from co-workers at Western Star, she thought it was the perfect fit. She enrolled in the first class of the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Course offered at Okanagan College and became the first female graduate of that program.
Hired by Kelowna Flightcraft (now KF Aerospace) in 2005, she spends most of her working day in “Heavy” aircraft maintenance. She explains: “When a plane is due for a ‘tune-up’... we tear the aircraft apart and fix anything we find in our inspections. Then we put it back together again and send it on its way.”
Stacy is thankful for her education and Canadian good fortune. “Many countries would not allow a woman to do this job. I was sent for a month to Panama to do work on an aircraft and I was asked over and over by the men we were working with why I was not married with children.” Now married to hubby, Jon, she says children will be in their future “sometime” and she hopes to be a role model, passing her passion for education to future generations.
LIZ SAGE, BPHE,CEP, MACP
Exercise Physiologist, Entrepreneur, Counsellor
“Thanks to education...anything is possible.”
At the tender age of three, Liz Sage immigrated to Canada from Scotland. But shortly after arriving, her mom and dad separated. By default, her father and older brother loosely assumed the duties of her parenting.
“School saved my life,” the fifty-five year old recalls. “Literally.” When her father physically assaulted her, forcing her to leave home before completing high school, it was a teacher/coach who encouraged her to finish her education, pursue her dreams and even helped her secure funding to attend university.
“Teachers and coaches became my family. I went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology.” Liz explains. “Having my degree gave me confidence to find my place in the world and I was eager to share my new found knowledge with everybody.”
And share she did! As a single mom of two young boys, she launched TEAM Fitness Inc., the first personal training business in the Okanagan – now twenty years young! This energetic dynamo lives her own philosophy: “It is never too late to aspire to personal growth.” At fifty, she returned to school to obtain her Masters in Counselling Psychology through distance learning – while at the same time continuing to run her business and train clients. "I often found many clients’ physical success was hindered by their emotional wellness...I needed more knowledge to help them overcome emotional barriers that prevented them from being at their physical best.”
Liz Sage considers herself an “Agent of Change” – physically, emotionally and mentally. And with two different, but symbiotic skill sets, she can now offer her clients a completely unique approach to life coaching – all thanks to education!
For more information about Room to Read (including volunteer opportunities), email the local Chapter at Rtr.firstname.lastname@example.orgLocal or go to www.roomtoread.org