By Therese Eley, Marketing Services
When you love what you’re doing, balancing a career, family and school is easy.
At least according to Kristin Wiens, who started her first class with Continuing Studies as a single mother of two pursuing a Diploma in Intercultural Education [now called Diploma in Intercultural Studies and Practice], while concurrently completing a degree in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics at UVic.
“Not to make it sound like it was easy all the time," she amends, as she reflects on the creative scheduling that was often involved.
“People ask me all the time, how I managed to do it all, but it just never felt that hard because I was following my joy. I loved being a mom. I loved going to school. Those things never felt like a burden at all, they felt like a privilege and a pleasure,” she says. “Because I was doing what I loved, I had the energy, the time and the passion to make it all work.”
“I always knew I wanted to work with children, to teach,” says Kristin, who now works as an Inclusion Coach and Special Ed Curriculum Coordinator for the Sooke School District, “but another thing I always really wanted to do was write a children’s book.”
So, shortly after completing her first degree and diploma program, she enrolled in an Arts class, entitled Writing for Children. That course, along with subsequent drawing and writing courses she took, inspired her to create a children’s picture book as the final project for her Masters degree in Special Education.
“I saw a need in the school system. I noticed that the stress on children, on parents, on teachers, seems to only be growing, so the need for strategies and approaches to reduce and deal with stress seems pretty important.”
“So for my final project, I created a picture book called ‘My Gratitude Jar,’ and it tied together my experience from all my courses because I did both the writing and the art for the book.” Kristen’s pride and passion for this project is inspiring.
“In the field of inclusion, or Special Ed, self-regulation is pivotal – if a child is not able to be self-regulated, they’re not calm, alert and available to learn. So we can teach all we want but that doesn’t mean there will be learning happening. So teaching children how to get to a place of mindfulness is kind of foundational for our teaching.”
Kristin is still combining the skills she’s learned though all of her studies, with her latest passion project. “Now my partner and I have a YouTube channel, called Long Story Shortz, and we create stop-motion animations to teach mindfulness and self-regulation skills to children and those have been really well-received. The skills I use in writing and drawing for that, I learned from Continuing Studies at UVic.”
When asked if she has any future plans for continuing her studies, she admitted she’s already enrolled for two watercolour courses, saying, “Lifelong learning means everything to me. It means living a full, joyful, rewarding life and always learning and stretching to see how full your potential really is. It’s both a challenge and a reward.”