Faculty of Education

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Dana Knarr: Born to Teach or Born a Teacher?

by Anam Fatima

Dana Knarr with her parents and supervisor Liying Cheng.

Coming from a family of educators, Dana Knarr (M.Ed. ’12) had always been interested in becoming a teacher. Watching her father, uncle, and cousins engage in a career they found simultaneously rewarding and challenging inspired her to pursue her career in education.

Dana’s first full-time teaching opportunity came at an Ontario curriculum school located in China. It was a big step—she had never been outside of North America before. Moving to China while starting her first full-time teaching role seemed a little daunting, but it ended up being the most formative experience of her life.

As much as she learned during that first year teaching, she also had many questions that she wanted answered. It was through her time teaching in China that she realized she was interested in pursuing the study of education at the Master’s level.

Dana’s experience at the Faculty was challenging, inspiring, and enjoyable. On a research level, she was able to focus on an area she felt passionate about. Returning to China to complete her research was incredibly fulfilling, and the successful completion of her thesis signalled that she had acquired the knowledge and skills required to answer — at least partially — some of the questions her first year of teaching had provoked.

“Throughout the process of completing my degree, the advice and support from my supervisor, Dr. Liying Cheng, was instrumental throughout the journey. I was lucky to find a supervisor who was always available to discuss questions, but also trusted me and my gut feelings regarding my research.”

Out of her many accomplishments, Dana was also a finalist at the Queen’s 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition last year.

“The biggest hurdle I faced with the 3MT competition was finding the confidence to sign-up to compete. It was an intimidating decision to make because it meant sharing my research with people outside of the Faculty of Education. After spending close to two years with the idea for my thesis, it was somewhat nerve-wracking to think of standing up in front of a room full of strangers and asking them to understand my thesis... all in three minutes!”

Dana gave credit to the quality of research demanded by the Faculty of Education for her being a finalist in the 3MT competition. Her thesis centred on topics (Cultural Literacy, Assessment and Evaluation) that academics and non-academics alike could relate to. Additionally, as anyone who knows her well can attest, Dana appreciated any opportunity to discuss and share her research. In many ways, the 3MT challenge mirrors what educators are asked to do in classrooms everyday — simplify complex concepts while maintaining an audience’s interest.

Currently, Dana teaches at Columbia International College (CIC) in Hamilton, Ontario. She described CIC as being a great fit for her as it allows her to teach international students from all over the world while remaining in Canada. Because it is an international school, she is able to use the knowledge gained from her thesis in her classroom on a daily basis. For Dana, the most important aspect of this school is the high calibre of people it attracts — the motivated and knowledgeable students and staff.

“I truly enjoy every hour I spend at the school. Within a very short time, I get to witness students make incredible progress in acquiring both linguistic and academic knowledge. I likely learn more from my students than they learn from me!”

We’re quite sure Dana’s students learn as much or more from her as she does from them: as our Faculty song goes, “teach to learn, learn to teach”…