Thompson Rivers University

Award-winning instructor learns from those around her

April 8, 2024

Saskia Stinson makes a difference in others’ lives, every day. Whether it’s teaching and supporting students in the Education and Skill Training Program (ESTR), co-founding and managing ESTR’s Market, or advocating for disability and inclusion, she humbly makes change happen.

“I’ve never seen myself as an educational leader,” says Stinson, a faculty member in the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Faculty of Education and Social Work. “I’m just someone who’s very passionate about my work.”

Her passion is being noticed. Stinson was recently recognized with the 2024 West Coast Teaching Excellence Award. She is also a recipient of the 2023 Disability Resource Network Award and TRU’s 2023 Faculty Excellence Award.

Saskia Stinson, Faculty of Education and Social Work

“So many people who work in my field are exceptional at what they do, because of the population that they work with,” she says. “They’ve been flexible in their programming; they really focus on establishing rapport and relationships with their students and they’re all about working with community.

“As an inclusive educator, I want to be someone who represents the people who do this work and also the students who really excel with this kind of pedagogy, who really make us shine. We’re the boots on the ground people, we’re the frontline and we apply all of this beautiful theory. And it works.”

Showcasing students’ skills

Founded in 2014 by Stinson and Co-operative Education Co-ordinator Leanne Mihalicz, ESTR’s Market is BC’s first post-secondary on-campus social enterprise, with many other campuses following their lead.

The market, which first began as a kiosk in 2014 before moving to its permanent location on the Kamloops campus in 2017, marks its 10-year anniversary this year. Led by students in the ESTR program, it keeps growing and thriving.

“It’s a sustainable project,” says Stinson. “And the students changed the culture. They have really showcased what they are able to do. This initiative has been very humbling.”

Stinson smiles as she remembers the growth of the market over the years.

“It just got bigger and bigger,” she says. “More and more people got to know who we were, and more and more people were coming in. And they were just falling in love with our students. Lots of times, they would just come in for our students. It was wonderful.”

Stinson insists that the market is affordable for all. “We wanted to make sure the food was made from scratch, but anyone could afford it.”

Moving attitudes forward

Looking back, Stinson sees the progress that has been made for persons with disabilities and the role TRU has played.

“Years ago, people with disabilities were still seen as objects of charity,” she says. “And in 2010, Canada adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Policy changed and the right to education, employment, housing and voting all came to the forefront.

“And at TRU, we began to realize that retail and kitchen programs were needed. The policy was there, the support was there, and we needed to move it forward. And we did.”

Stinson says she couldn’t have ever been considered for her recent award and recognition without her students.

“This award honours the youth that I work with,” she says. “The students are very proud of the work they do, and they should be.”

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