David Suzuki Fellowship: 2020 Winner
Wilfrid Laurier University
Jessie Cowperthwaite is a passionate environmental educator, nature lover, and mother of three. She brings a unique set of experiences to teaching. For ten years she stayed at home with her three young children, which taught her patience, resilience, organization, and inner strength. Recently, she worked as an Outdoor Education Instructor for the TDSB and as a nature connection mentor with the Guelph Outdoor School.
The seeds of Jessie’s passion for environmental education were sown in Victoria, BC, where she completed her BSc in Environmental Studies and Chemistry. In her late twenties, Jessie ventured to Timmins, Ontario, where she worked for Katimavik as the leader of a youth experiential service-learning program and connected with the Timmins Cree community. In Timmins, Jessie met her partner who is Swampy Cree, from James Bay. She got to know his parents, who are Residential School Survivors. Over the years, Jessie has listened to her in-law’s painful stories of trauma and loss. She cradles these stories close to her heart and feels an overwhelming sense of responsibility to place Indigenous voices at the centre of all her teaching.
Throughout her teaching placements, Jessie built learning programs on a foundation of nature connection and Indigenous perspectives. She connected with local elders and took her classes into local natural spaces. She started a weekly nature connection program and worked hard to provide her students with opportunities to slow down, to listen, to connect, and to explore.
Currently, Jessie is working with the Upper Grand District School Board to design a program that presents nature connection as an integrated accommodation to enhance learning. She is interested in a transformative approach that moves nature-based learning away from the periphery of educational discourse, and places it as a central foundation of all teaching and learning.