Community, People

Holiday greetings from Acting Dean

November 26, 2020

2020 has challenged us in ways that none of us could have imagined. We have witnessed a pandemic indiscriminately spread across boundaries and borders while disproportionally harming the most vulnerable in our society.  

Education is one of the areas that has laid bare the inequities and challenges to learning. As noted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), when our schools shut down, many of our vulnerable learners were shut out.

More than ever before, educators, like all ‘frontline’ responders have been called upon to step up to meet these challenges quickly and nimbly.  

Western’s Faculty of Education has sought to respond to these complex challenges in multiple ways that have shone a light on who we are, and what we do best. I could not be more grateful for the way that we have come together to meet the significant needs in our community.

Our teacher candidates have worked tirelessly in the spring to provide individual tutoring to over 400 families. In the summer, we partnered with local community organizations to pilot a summer practicum, providing lessons to students in one of our most vulnerable communities. Our alumni have been by our side; with some stepping out of retirement to provide supervision as Associate Teachers, and others stepping up as mentors to our teacher candidates.

Thanks, in large part to your gifts, we have been able to continue to support children and families in need through the Mary J Wright Research and Education Centre and the Child and Youth Development Clinic. Your financial support has been critical in allowing us to get much needed supports in place, and that need has grown substantially in the past eight months.

Our researchers are also adapting their work to address the new and pressing realities of the pandemic and its anticipated consequences. Dr. Prachi Srivastava has created a COVID school dashboard to help understand the human dimension of the virus, and visually see the consequences in a dynamic way. As the federal government has declared investments in a National Early Child Care System, Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Dr. Rachel Heydon have been collaborating on efforts to develop meaningful experiences for young children.

Responses to these challenges will endure long past the current crisis. The need for us to play a role in supporting families, and gaps in learning, is expected to be significant. In the COVID recovery phase, the role Western’s Faculty of Education will need to play to continue to build resilient communities, students and teachers will be great.

One of our greatest gifts is our relationship with our alumni. More than anyone else, you understand the unique role educators can play in this recovery. Many of you have reached out to us and shared your thoughts about your time at Western, and your reflections about the intensified demands on teachers in this challenging context. If you are in a position to provide a financial gift to the Faculty to enable us to best support the growing needs of families, children and youth in our community at this time, please reach out to Rosie Triebner, Director of Community Engagement & Development, at

Finally, I would like to introduce you to our incoming Dean, Dr. Donna Kotsopoulos. In addition to her work at other universities, Donna has a long history of community engagement with Western and London, and I know she is eager to lead our shared efforts beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the opportunity to work with you as Acting Dean for the past year and a half. The resilience of our students, staff and faculty has been heartwarming and impressive. The support we have received from our alumni has strengthened our resolve to get through this together, and emerge with new lessons learned, and a resolve to continue doing what is best for children, youth and families.

Thank you sincerely for your continued support, and may you and your families enjoy a safe, albeit quiet holiday season.


Kathy Hibbert, PhD
Professor and Acting Dean