Meet the Profs: Leesa


I first knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was still in elementary school, teaching others how to do math (which is ironic because now I teach in the arts). Iloved everything about the process: devising creative instructions, writing down notes for people, watching the fog lift. I also often bartered snacks for tutoring. I have continued to teach in various capacities over the past twenty-five years, ranging from basic survival skills and meteorology as an air cadet to ESL when I lived in Montreal and now creative writing. 

The best part about my job is helping students realize their stories are important and people are listening. They are beginning to understand the transformative power of language. My second year students run a literary magazine, and watching them take ownership of all aspects from promotion to selection to editing makes me so proud. The classroom is the best place on earth. 

During my first two years of teaching in Toronto, I was contract faculty. I faced many challenges during that period, the greatest being poverty. Fresh out of grad school, I was given three courses per semester at a wage that was about 30% less than the wage of permanent faculty. We sat on the same committees and planned our courses together. yet I could barely pay my rent. Sometimes, during the first week of school, courses would be taken away from me and given to those with tenure. Once, I was promised four courses and ended up with one. At that point, I realized I needed to get a part time job to support my "teaching habit." The only job I could find that was flexible enough for my erratic schedule was temp work, answering phones at a medical clinic. The way people treated me at the clinic was so incredibly different than how I was valued as a teacher. It was a humbling experience.

Eventually, I moved across the country, chasing the promise of full-time work, and I was able to secure a permanent position at Selkirk College. I joined the fight for fairness because I will never forget when I received my first T4 as a teacher and realized I'd only made $22,000 in a year, teaching three courses per semester. Contract faculty works too hard for that kind of salary.