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May 13, 2013

Valedictorian Kim Sheppard a committed educator with a passion for making a difference

Kim SheppardOriginally from Woodville, Nova Scotia, Kim Sheppard appreciates the value of hands-on learning. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2006, Kim spent several years gaining work experience before returning home to Halifax and settling in at the Mount as a student in the Bachelor of Education program.

As a Mount student, Kim tailored her education to her personal and professional interests as an engaged member of both the university and broader Halifax community.  

Kim’s personal interest in locally produced food and sustainability led her to the role of community garden coordinator at the Mount, a role she proudly held for two years. She now has her sights on taking a combination of experience and education from the garden to the classroom, with a noted and welcomed degree of uncertainty.

“Every day you work with a class, you also learn from students. It’s important to understand that uncertainty is something to be celebrated,” explains Kim. “A curriculum identifies a certain place we need to reach, but how we get there is up to us – and the students. The art of teaching is figuring out the questions to ask students so they learn, rather than thinking what they need to be told.”

Kim strives to bring out the best in her students, and focuses on creating curricula that draws on experience to make the students’ learning process personal. Inspiring others is something that appears natural to Kim, as her warm personality makes evident a capacity for bringing about positive change through the sharing of ideas.

Kim has volunteered and worked with the Youth Project, a non-profit group dedicated to providing support and services to youth about sexual identity and expression. Kim was able to lend her training and background to create manuals that helped teachers gain the confidence to comfortably address topics like gender identity, sexuality, and the effects of homophobia that have been recently added to the provincial curriculum. 

“At the Mount, I was excited to examine feminist theory with professors who have lived and worked in those situations,” Kim notes. “I continue to draw inspiration from these professors, especially when working with LGBT youth. There’s something really amazing about working with the group. There’s an infectious energy when they gather together in spite of having been marginalized in many occasions. They’re exciting to be around, and experiencing this joy in teaching and learning has given me opportunities to make a difference.”

Making a difference is a reward in itself to Kim. Her time with the Pathways to Education Canada organization as a senior program facilitator in Spryfield enabled her to facilitate the operation of a large tutoring site that worked to support student success. She has also been a board member with the TransAction Society of Nova Scotia, and the Halifax-based O.V.O Housing Cooperative. 

Kim was recently awarded the Margie O’Brien Memorial Endowed Scholarship at the 2013 academic award ceremony for her extracurricular involvement and academic success. And Kim’s academic journey isn’t over just yet. 

While she remains eager to get into the classroom, Kim will cross the stage at convocation only to return to the classroom shortly after to write a thesis and complete her degree of Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English. 

Kim’s multidisciplinary background in the arts, English and Education, paired with her community engagement experience will surely open doors to new teaching opportunities outside of the traditional classroom. “When you decide to study education and to be a teacher, you’re making a commitment to continuously challenging yourself to learn new things,” laughs Kim. With her wealth of experience and positive outlook, Kim is certainly up for this challenge.