Remembering Dr. Ann Sherman’s Legacy in the StFX Faculty of Education

This article, written by Joanne Tompkins, Faculty of Education, appears in the Summer 2018 edition of The Beacon.

Photo of Dr. Ann Sherman; photographer unknown

Dr. Ann Sherman joined the Faculty of Education in 1997, having spent almost 20 years in teaching and leadership roles in public education. Ann’s early teaching experiences were in a small First Nations community in Northern Alberta and this experience greatly influenced her sense of social justice in education. When Ann joined the Faculty of Education, StFX had just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mi’kmaw Chiefs of Nova Scotia in which the University committed itself to prepare teachers to teach in band operated and provincial schools in the province. Ann was an ardent supporter of many initiatives supporting Mi’kmaw education during this period. She played a lead role in the development of L’nui’sulti’nej -a biannual conference that brought together people working on Mi’kmaw language revitalization from around Atlantic Canada and this conference has subsequently played a major role in mobilizing support for Mi’kmaw language in schools and communities. Ann also helped facilitate the creation of the Mi’kmaw Language Foundation document to frame Mi’kmaw language curriculum in the province. Ann helped in the creation of two important committees on campus to support African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities, both underrepresented and underserved in public education. These two committees were visionary and well ahead of their time. They helped to provide direction to the work the wider university needed to do to redress historical injustices.

On a day-to-day level Ann enjoyed working directly with Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian students to support their learning and to ensure they had the supports they needed to succeed in a welcoming environment. She made sure that students felt a sense of belonging and she worked to create visible recognition of Mi’kmaw culture in Xavier Hall. Ann never missed an opportunity to travel to these communities as a Faculty Member at StFX.

Ann had a love of travel and adventure and, later in her career, she boasted of having visited over 50 countries. Her interest in travel and educational partnerships led her in the early 2000’s to engage in an important multi-year CIDA funded project toward capacity building at the Royal University of Bhutan to develop and deliver a comprehensive educational leadership program. Bhutanese headmasters came to StFX to spend short term study leaves. Many completed their M.Ed. through StFX and StFX Faculty later travelled to Bhutan to help build the capacity of the Bhutanese Faculty Members there to lead such a program in Bhutan. This program continues to this day and is but one example of the way that Ann worked to make supports available so that educators could have access to higher education. She continued this work on international projects throughout her career with a delightful combination of creativity and energy and a deep interest in the individuals with whom she was working. At the heart of the projects that Ann was involved with was a desire to see education be a force of change in the world. Ann left StFX to take up a leadership role in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary and later moved on to become Dean of Education at the University of New Brunswick, the University where she had begun her graduate studies. While at UNB, Ann turned her attention to one of her first loves which was early childhood education. She had a keen interest in how young children engage in learning and her doctoral studies involved interviews with pre-school children. While at UNB, Ann was instrumental in obtaining funding that led to the creation of the UNB Early Childhood Centre which advocated and provided professional education to prepare teachers to provide quality education for society’s youngest learners.

Ann also kept her interest in Aboriginal education throughout her career and she was instrumental in bringing the Aboriginal Teacher Educators conference to UNB in 2014. She was an active partner in creating partnerships between the Faculty of Education and neighbouring Mi’kmaw and Maliseet communities. Her efforts did not go unnoticed and she received funding from the Paul Martin Foundation to advance Aboriginal education. She continued to partner with Universities (StFX among them) to create research programs on Indigenous pathways to employment.

Ann left a big footprint on StFX and deeply affected the work of our Faculty Members during her years in the Faculty. In her academic career she created a regional, provincial, and national profile about teacher education and served a 2-year term on the Association of Deans of Education at the national level. In spite of being diagnosed with melanoma in the spring of 2017, Ann kept working on projects that were dear to her. In late May 2017, just two months before her untimely death, Ann volunteered to be an external examiner to support an African Nova Scotian doctoral student.

In recognition of Ann’s long-standing work supporting education among underrepresented groups, Ann’s family (John and Judy Bragg) have contributed to a scholarship at StFX that will support African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw students pursuing education at the Bachelor, Masters, and Doctoral Levels. These funds will be matched by the Jeannine Deveau Fund and will serve to greatly increase the educational capacity in both these communities. The Dr. Ann Sherman Scholarship will help us continue the important work of building community capacity that Ann began over 20 years ago at StFX.