Gail Barlow – Bachelor of Education degree (FNTEP)

Gail shares her story leading up to her graduation… her story below.

My name is Gail Barlow. I am 54 years of age and I just received news that I had met all the requirements for graduation for my Bachelor of Education degree (FNTEP). I will receive my degree at the Spring Convocation at the University of New Brunswick in May 2011. I was very happy and relieved that I had finally accomplished this important milestone in my life. Happy because I had completed something that it seems I had started years ago and what I considered ‘unfinished business’. Therefore, it became crucial that I complete this degree. I also felt relieved that I no longer had to write essays, do assignments with deadlines, and study for exams.

It had always been a goal of mine to be a teacher and I initially started my degree when I was out of high school in 1974. At the time, I had completed two years towards my education degree and did not continue with the degree because life took me in another direction. I was not completely committed to finishing my degree at that time and found it more meaningful to get married and raise a family. My life would prove to be very difficult as the years passed with the grevious loss of several of our children.

We lost our first child in the first year of marriage through miscarriage. We lost our oldest son, Wilder in 1997 in a tragic accident. This was a difficult loss for a number of years and a cause for reflection on how tenuous and fragile life is and how important it is to have something to focus on and accomplish.

My dream of being a teacher would once again surface. In the summer of 2006, I answered a call to enter the First Nations Teachers Education Program offered through the Micmac Maliseet Institute at the University of New Brunswick. I started this program one week after the death of my son, Michael. It was probably one of the most difficult things that I had to do in my life: start school after such a long absence from formal education, get into a highly rigorous and condensed three-week summer school session, leave my family at this time, and somehow grieve the death of my child. It turned out that I was never so focused on anything in my life and sort of came to believe that it was a form of ‘salvation’ for me.

I came away from the course with fairly decent marks and continued to work on the degree one or two courses at a time while still remaining employed. Again, fate was not quite through with me! In January of 2008, my husband, our two daughters and I were fired from our jobs in the community. We were not given any reason for being dismissed. Again I found myself in the position of dealing with a serious loss and continuing to ‘put one foot in front of the other’. Not to be deterred, I continued to work on my degree and achieved Dean’s List standing with my marks. Continuing and ultimately completing my education and obtaining my degree would provide me with the means to make a living.

I believe that anyone can rise above the trials and tribulations that life hands out. I am most proud of my daughter, Robyn who is also involved in this degree program and has chosen to follow my path in becoming a teacher. Your accomplishments pave the way for greater self-esteem and the rewards are most worthwhile. Education is one of the greatest means to achieving these ends. For all those considering higher education or who are currently enrolledin post-secondary education, I am going to end with a quote from Ann Landers that describes my situation and hopefully will provide a challenge to you. “There are really only three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who say, ‘What happened?’