Who is responsible for our children?

Who is responsible for our children?

Whatever happened to just the three “R”s – reading, writing, and arithmetic? Besides teaching, educators are increasingly asked to address issues such as special needs, student health and challenging family situations. Add the role of fundraisers for basics such as food, school supplies and playground equipment and you have a career that extends far beyond the reach of the afternoon bell. The overwhelming responsibilities of teachers have led many to go public with their pleas for help. Why is this happening and what can be done? Teachers care about the needs of their students, but how far past teaching should their job go? What is the role of the modern teacher?

On September 18, 2012, we examined the question: Who is responsible for our children? to a packed house at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre.




Kathryn Gretsinger, MJ’06 – CBC Radio; Adjunct Professor, UBC School of Journalism


Barbara Fitzgerald, MD’85 – Clinical Associate Professor, UBC Faculty of Medicine; Developmental Pediatrician, Sunny Hill Health Centre; President, Mom to Mom Child Poverty Initiative Society

Blye Frank, Dean of the UBC Faculty of Education

Gwen Giesbrecht, Past Chairperson, Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC)

Janey Lee, BA’94, BEd’95, DEdu’00 – Kindergarten Teacher, Thunderbird Elementary, Vancouver SD #39

Mike McKay, BA’76 – Superintendent and CEO of Surrey Schools

This event is presented in partnership with the UBC Faculty of Education.



Kathryn Gretsinger

GretsingerKathryn Gretsginer completed her Masters Degree in Journalism at UBC. She is an Adjunct Professor at the UBC School of Journalism. She brings her vast radio experience to the iJournalism course. Kathryn works with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio service. Her career began in 1988 working as a researcher at CBC Radio in Vancouver. From there, she moved to Edmonton to begin a stint as an Associate Producer. Kathryn then returned to BC to begin a run as the morning reporter for Vancouver’s highly rated morning show The Early Edition.

Kathryn covered a wide range of stories from treaty negotiations to women giving birth. From the mysteries of Vancouver’s underground tunnels to the exploding drug scene on the city’s downtown eastside.  Her concern about people with mental illnesses living on the streets led to a number of series.  This work was recognized by the Jack Webster Foundation and the Radio and Television News Director’s Association.

Her love of radio documentary took hold during days prowling Vancouver’s streets for stories.  Her documentary A Level Playing Field examined the life of Chinese students in early 1900s Vancouver.  The piece illustrated the great strides Chinese Canadians have made both in the sporting world and beyond.  The documentary won a series of awards.

In 1996, Kathryn took on a full time role as a radio host. She was the voice of the CBC’s Afternoon Show until 2004.

She continues her various roles with the public broadcaster. Kathryn frequently guest hosts national and regional programs. She trains reporters and producers on radio skills and documentary production at CBC Radio. And, when time permits, she records and produces audio documentaries for the network.

Barbara Fitzgerald

FitzgeraldDr. Barbara Fitzgerald is a Developmental Pediatrician and the former Assistant Dean of Student Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine.  She received her medical degree at UBC and did her residency at B.C. Children’s Hospital.  She did a fellowship in education and worked in the area of Child Protection and Emergency pediatrics for several years before doing a second fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics with a focus on vulnerable populations and resiliency.

Dr. Fitzgerald currently works at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children where she runs the infant clinic for children with prenatal substance exposure and coordinates an outreach program to inner city schools for children with learning and behaviour problems.  She has worked extensively with marginalized families and children to try to bring a biopsychosocial approach to developmental assessment that will provide long-lasting benefits to families.  This is based on a model of relationship-centered care that has evolved from an approach to pediatric care called Social Pediatrics.  She is part of the RICHER Initiative providing medical care to families in the inner city.  She is the co-founder and President of the Mom to Mom Child Poverty Initiative Society.  This charity works to change the lives of children by mentoring parents, connecting them to the community and to their child’s school and by providing relief from the stress of poverty.

Dr. Fitzgerald started the award-winning UBC Wellness Initiative in the Faculty of Medicine in 2008 which is an innovative student run program promoting medical student wellness. She also started the Global Health Initiative Medical Student Inner City project that gives medical students the opportunity to work with inner city school children.

Blye Frank

FrankDr. Blye Frank was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Education at The University of British Columbia for a five-year term, effective April 1, 2011. A scholar and advocate for social justice and equity with over four decades working in education, Dr. Frank is an experienced educator and administrator who brings a strong commitment to excellence in research, teaching and academic leadership.

Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Frank was Professor and Head of the Division of Medical Education in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Dr. Frank has an active research career and is a recognized expert in the field of gender studies with academic interests that include masculinity and the sociology of boys’ and men’s health.

A Canadian citizen, Dr. Frank earned his PhD from Dalhousie University (1990), and his MEd (1981), BEd (1976) and BA (1975) from Acadia University.

Gwen Giesbrecht

GiesbrechtGwen Giesbrecht, is a long time resident of Grandview-Woodland, the single parent of a teenage son, and is an active advocate for public education, students, and families. Gwen has worked with the other stakeholders in the Vancouver School District for the past six years, in her volunteer capacity as member and past chairperson of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council ( DPAC ) executive.

This year Gwen will be focusing her energy on her volunteer roles as co-chair of the Britannia Secondary Parent Advisory Council, and president of the Britannia Community Services Centre Society Board of Directors.

Through her experiences as an East Vancouver resident & small business owner, as a parent, and with her community involvement, Gwen is very aware of the challenges faced by low-income , or marginalized, students & families.

Janey Lee

LeeJaney Lee was born and raised in East Vancouver. She went to A.R. Lord Elementary, Templeton High School, and UBC. During her first year of university, Janey served as a Page for the Senate in Ottawa. She grew up in a working poor family of seven children and knows first-hand what it is like living in poverty. She has been a teacher for over 16 years – the last 13 of which she has been teaching full-day Kindergarten at Thunderbird Elementary, an inner-city eastside school in Vancouver. Thunderbird Elementary is also one of the neediest schools in Vancouver as it is across the street from the largest social housing project in BC. The school population is very diverse and this past school year Janey had 11 different languages in her kindergarten class.

Janey is on the Anti-Poverty Committee with VESTA (Vancouver Elementary School Teacher’s Association) and is also on the Board with CLICK (Contributing to Lives of Inner City Kids) which is a volunteer based, non-profit charitable organization that helps to raise money for programs for Inner City kids and youth. She has been on the panel of several anti-poverty forums including the one at the Vancouver Public Library, Langara College as well at both the Vancouver and Surrey Teacher’s Association’s Anti-Poverty Conference. Janey has also presented many teacher workshops for school districts across the province and recently helped to raise money for a playground at her school by holding summer workshops for teachers the past two years.

Mike McKay


With over 30 years’ experience in education, Mike McKay currently heads Surrey School District, a diverse and dynamic school system in one of Canada’s fastest growing cities.  As Superintendent and CEO of Surrey Schools, he is responsible for a student and staff population of almost 80,000.  In addition to having taught at both elementary and secondary levels, beginning in the Interior and moving to other districts in B.C., Mike served as a school and district administrator from 1986.  He also worked with the Ministry of Education as Director of Educational Innovation responsible for provincial intermediate and graduation programs.  His experiences as a member of the Provincial Working Group on Accountability Agreements and District Reviews led him to encourage schools to engage in value-added improvement processes, through which school communities commit to capacity building in a positive, appreciative enquiry environment.

Mike’s leadership and vision on giving “every child, every chance, every day,” has helped a dedicated and highly committed team of professionals in Surrey to produce increased student success rates at all levels.  Passionate about the difference that can be made through quality public education, Mike is currently involved with Dr. Stuart Shanker of York University in the establishment of a national/provincial early learning project related to self-regulation.  Mike serves on the Boards of several organizations committed to championing Canada’s public education system and promoting B.C. internationally.  He is also active as a resource person on system improvement focusing on innovative leadership, accountability, ethics and professional learning communities.

On July 1, 2012, Mike McKay was appointed by the Minister of Education as Official Trustee in Cowichan Valley School District, a community where he had been a secondary school principal in the early 1990’s.  The appointment is in addition to his position as Superintendent/CEO in Surrey.


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