“Education is about building relationships, inspiring students to be risk takers, and reinforcing the importance of lifelong learning.”

You could say Courtney Williams is something of an expert when it comes to studying at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU). She has so far earned a Bachelor of Arts (2014), Bachelor of Education (2016), and a Master of Education with a focus in Supporting Learners with Diverse Needs & Exceptionalities (SLDNE) (2020), and she is set to soon complete a second Master of Education, this time with a focus in technology. We recently spoke with her about how her studies have helped to shape her life and career.

How has your MSVU education and experience influenced your life? And what are you doing now?

I grew up five minutes from MSVU. I always knew I was going to be a teacher and we would drive by MSVU almost every day in my childhood. I always knew I was going to go there one day, that MSVU was my next step, and that I was working towards that.

I like to look at my first degree as one that helped me to become a critical thinker. The professors encouraged us to read between the lines of the text and create meaningful connections to the real world.

Of course, my Bachelor of Education degree taught me the foundations of becoming a teacher. But, more importantly, what it really did was change my perspective on what education is and should look like. It showed me that education goes beyond teaching math to students in a classroom. It is about building relationships, inspiring students to be risk takers, and reinforcing the importance lifelong learning.

Both of my master’s programs have helped to shape my own personal educational pedagogy, and my classroom environment. They have pushed me out of my comfort zone, encouraging me to try new teaching methods and educational technologies. They have given me the skills to help carry me through the rest of my educational career, as adapting to changes in the field of education is key as a teacher.

Aside from education, my overall experience at MSVU has significantly shaped who I am as a person. I was privileged to work on campus at the fitness centre and day camps, led by the most incredible team of women. June Lumsden, Tara Nickerson, Joanne Burns-Theriault, Susan Burrell and Pat MacDonald helped me to grow as a leader. They empowered me as a woman to follow my intuition and approach every situation with confidence and compassion.

Currently I am teaching at a local elementary school.

Do you have a story you can share that speaks to your time at MSVU?

As I mentioned, I worked at the fitness centre throughout my first two degrees at MSVU. During the very first week of my first year, I was working at the gym’s front desk. June was helping to show me a few aspects of the job when a man walked by. She stopped him and quickly introduced us. I was essentially taking over his former job at the fitness centre, as he had started working in the recruitment department at MSVU. Eleven years later, that man is now my husband! This moment always sticks out to me the most as it shaped my entire future. Had I not gone to MSVU, chances are we never would have met. So, we always say that MSVU and the women in the Athletics Department were our matchmakers!

Several images of Courtney Williams - at professional events, at graduation, and with her dog

What differentiates MSVU from other post-secondary institutions you are familiar with?

MSVU has a small, community feeling. Every professor actually knew me by name, and I was able to create genuine relationships with them through each of my degrees.

As a teacher myself, I know the power of teacher-student relationships. A teacher who is present for a student and shows interest in their lives helps to create an environment where the student actually wants to learn. They feel more comfortable taking risks in their learning and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones.

I also remember President Ramona Lumpkin sitting with me in the Rosaria-McCain link while I was studying, just to chat. She asked me what I was studying for that day, and about my experiences at MSVU. She asked if there was anything I wished would change. She was genuinely interested to see what students were doing, how they felt about MSVU, and if we had suggestions for improvements. This truly captures what being a student at MSVU is really about. We are a family that is looking to support each other.

What advice do you have for current or future MSVU students?

You should keep yourself open to all opportunities that might arise. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, whether it is academically or socially, and continue to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Get involved however you can, as you never know who you will meet along the way. Meeting my husband at MSVU is proof of this!

What’s next for you?

My short-term plans are to continue teaching in the classroom. However, I know that I thrive on challenges, and will look toward ways that I can help shape education on a system-wide level. Who knows – perhaps one day I will be back at MSVU teaching the educators of tomorrow!