VIU Cowichan Celebrates its First Class of Bachelor of Education Graduates

VIU Cowichan’s first Bachelor of Education students to start and finish their degrees at the campus are a close-knit bunch after spending the last few years together.

May 30, 2017 - 10:30am

The first to start and finish their degrees at the Campus since the program was brought there in 2014, many have already found work

The future is bright for the first group of Bachelor of Education students to start and finish their degrees at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Cowichan Campus – a class that has enhanced the culture of the campus and added to its vibrancy.

The 16 students will cross the stage at VIU’s June 6 morning Convocation ceremony at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, and student Haley Panek says half of the class already has work lined up, with more about to start their job search now that their final practicums are finished.

A special celebration event was held at the Cowichan campus on Wednesday, May 17 to acknowledge the first cohort to go through the program since it was brought to the campus in September 2014. What makes it even more special is that it is the first degree program offered at the campus, and has been partly responsible for the remarkable growth the campus has experienced over the past five years. Panek, named class valedictorian for the event, was looking forward to starting work as a teacher on call for School District 79.

Panek had many unforgettable experiences while going through the Bachelor of Education program, including a team-building exercise on Thetis Island and practicum placements in three very different classrooms, but the biggest highlight for her was the relationships she built with faculty and her peers.

“The people I’ve gone through the program with will be lifelong friends,” she says. “The intimate class sizes were a highlight for the connections we built with each other and faculty were very supportive and responsive to feedback. There is a chance some of us wouldn’t have been able to attend if the program wasn’t available here. Plus, you make a stronger community connection when you are going to school where you are also hoping to work.”

For MaryDawn MacWatt, who is of Inuit and Scottish descent, a highlight of the program is having her journey come full circle near the end. Her final practicum supervisor, Sandi Purdell-Lewis, a teacher at Chemainus Elementary Community School, told her a story about teaching in the Arctic many years ago and meeting a woman who took her across the MacKenzie Delta in a boat. That woman turned out to be MacWatt’s mother.

“My mother guided her along the MacKenzie Delta then she guided me in my educational journey,” she says. “My mom passed away 14 years ago, so it was like she was here.”

MacWatt, who is now on the teacher on call list for School District 79, thinks the welcoming environment at VIU Cowichan has been key to her success. She had such a positive experience, many of her family members have since enrolled in various programs at the institution, including two of her children, her sister – who is about to enter the Bachelor of Education program – two of her nephews and her father.

“The faculty and staff here truly care about you and are so welcoming,” she says.

Key for Warren Weir, Cowichan Campus Academic Administrator, is not only creating a welcoming atmosphere, but also ensuring students can access relevant and meaningful programs there.

“Four years ago, we heard loudly and clearly that we needed to support a Bachelor of Education program here,” he says. “Since then, it has enhanced the culture of our campus in many positive ways. Partly because of this program, our enrolment has increased steadily in recent years. We can now plan for more degree programs designed with community demand in mind.”

To learn more, visit VIU Cowichan Education.



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Student Success