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Member Profile: Pat Wakefield

By September 10, 2013No Comments


Pat Wakefield was an English as a Second Language teacher, who served as the first president of the association of Teachers of English as an Additional Language (TEAL)’s first president in 1967. She became a member of UWCV in 1961 and was one of the members involved when the club purchased Hycroft. She worked both at VCC King Edward Campus and at the Vancouver School Board, where she was their first ESL consultant starting in 1975. When she retired in 1985 at the age of 69, a TEAL scholarship was created in her name to enable a TEAL member to travel to a Commonwealth country. The party to celebrate the occasion was held at Hycroft with bagpipes and the same bagpiper played Happy Birthday at Pat’s 90th birthday party.

Some UWCV members sat down recently with Pat to ask her to tell us a bit about herself and then to answer a few questions. She has great memories of her early days in the UWCV, particularly of Evelyn Lett, who she says was an older member who made her feel very welcome. She says a highlight of her life is her family; she has three sons and one daughter, as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Pat attended university in Manitoba, where she met her husband on a blind date. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1939 and then earned a teaching diploma the following year. Her father was a school principal and Pat says she always wanted to be a teacher. She did not work when her children were young, but returned to work as they got older. She started her ESL career in the late 1950s or early 1960s, when there was no formal training for teaching English as an additional language. Eventually, a teacher from England instructed a group of teachers how to teach ESL during two consecutive summers and subsequently UBC added the course to their teacher education curriculum. Pat later earned a masters degree in education and eventually taught the ESL teacher education course.

We asked Pat what one word she would use to describe herself and why, but she had difficulty answering this question, possibly because it would be difficult to narrow a description of herself to one word. Three were suggested to her based on the details she had given us of her life – courage, vision and compassion. Courage was suggested because she pushed for the necessary changes in teaching ESL – better education for the instructors, better programs for the students, better testing procedures. Her vision was apparent because she was able to see that there was a desperate need to teach immigrants who were anxious to learn and become better integrated into society. At the same time, she had the compassion to understand that these people were very courageous and needed help to become established in B.C.

When asked the one value that she places above all others, she said early childhood education and the equal opportunity for education worldwide.

Her favourite book growing up was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, but most recently she has been reading a compilation of essays written by recent graduates of the College of the Atlantic, where her grandson graduated this spring. Pat attended the ceremony and met many of his classmates, who wrote the essays within the collection. In the essays they have expressed their understanding of what human ecology is and based on what she has read, Pat says she feels very positive about the ability of this generation to create a world in which humans are more responsive to the impact their actions have on our world.