Submitted by Selkirk College
Accessible and responsive post-secondary education are key features in Selkirk College’s freshly released education plan.
The Together for Success: Education Plan 2023-2027 is the result of months of diligent and consultative work aimed at providing the foundation for action on ultimate outcomes that contribute to individual student success and overall community vibrancy.
“The priories are fundamental,” says Taya Whitehead, the college’s vice president of education and students. “They might shift and evolve over the next four years, but they are certainly not something that is going to fade away. Through this document, we have set targets that are measurable and actionable. This is not a plan that collects dust on the side of someone’s desk, it’s a plan that is meant to be alive on a daily basis.”
The five key priorities set out in the plan include: student access, learning and success; teaching and learning excellence; program and course curriculum excellence; responsive and relational Indigenous learning and teaching; and engagement collaboration and contributing to a better future. The plan aims to acknowledge both the importance of staff, facilities and technologies that contribute to exceptional learning and to recognize the communities and organizations that are vital to programming excellence.
In preparing the plan, the Education Plan Committee held facilitated sessions that gathered thoughts from instructors and support staff. Emerging themes were incorporated and directions were aligned with the college’s other plans. The new plan also integrates many of the themes put forward in the Stronger BC: Future Ready Action Plan that was released in early-May by the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education & Future Skills that puts focus on getting British Columbians the skills they need to succeed in a changing economy.
“This is a grassroots Selkirk College plan, it’s a built from the bottom-up,” says Whitehead, who was named vice president in November 2022 and credits predecessor Rhys Andrews with leading much of the work. “We consider the greater community in everything we do and that is reflected in the plan’s targets. We are situated in this place and this place is what makes Selkirk College special. The programming that we offer is meant to support the communities that surround us in terms of employers, industry and society.”
Roots that help inform approach
Whitehead’s ascension to senior leadership and high regard at the provincial post-secondary level, is itself a shining example of the passion that the community college experience sparks in learners. Arriving to the West Kootenay from the Lower Mainland straight out of high school, Whitehead chose Selkirk College’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Program because she wanted to begin an educational journey focused on teaching.
From the moment she was welcomed by now-retired ECCE Program instructors Judy Pollard and Toni Hoyland, Whitehead was surrounded by support, encouragement and opportunity. As an 18-year-old far from home, she thrust her energy into learning and getting involved.
“For me it was the instructors in the program and the community around the program,” Whitehead says about her early post-secondary days. “Getting out into practicums and continuing to learn from other educators in the region really helped nurture my experience. This type of community building guides a student all the way through and that aspect of our education continues to this day.”
An alumna of both Selkirk College’s ECCE Program and the Human Services Diploma Program, Whitehead spent ten years with Kootenay Family Place in Castlegar where she found additional passion supporting families who have kids with special needs. Attaining a master’s degree in Adult Education & Community Studies from Athabasca University while continuing to work, Whitehead was drawn to teaching adults in Kootenay Family Place’s Supportive Child Development Program.
In 2008, Hoyland retired from Selkirk College and Whitehead replaced her mentor as an instructor in the ECCE Program. She combined her fondness for classroom teaching with program development and by 2013 her pathway to the vice president’s office began when she took on the role of ECCE Program coordinator. Also involved on the provincial level with Early Childhood Educators of BC and the national level with the Canadian Child Care Federation, Whitehead became the chair of the School of Health & Human Services in 2018 and then a year later one of the college’s three Deans.
“For me it has always been about the fantastic mentorship that I received at the college from the first day,” Whitehead says of her career in post-secondary. “My supervisors and leaders have always encouraged me step out of my comfort zone and pursue opportunities when they are available.”
Adding further depth to her position, all three of Whitehead’s children have attended Selkirk College with her youngest still a student.
“They have provided me with important insight and I continue learn from my children every day about the education we deliver at Selkirk College,” she says. “It has been really special to see them engaged in this community. The education here has set all three up incredibly well for success in what they are doing now and how they are pursuing their next steps.”
Read the entire Together for Success: Education Plan 2023-2027 visit: selkirk.ca.