Life-Work Narrative: The Life and Work of Sue McKay
The following is a paper I wrote during my Masters degree at Acadia University, 2010.
Introduction and General Information This paper will describe the life-work of Susan (Sue) McKay. It is not intended to embrace or represent the entirety of her life-work, but rather to provide an outline of her family and educational background, significant people and events, and paid work experience to date. Sue is currently a part-time student at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia where she is completing her third Masters level degree. Sue is an educator both in and out of the classroom. She continues to work part-time as a literacy coach and hopes to attain a guidance counsellor position in the future. She lives with her long-time life partner and their two children. A few of Sue’s strengths include being resourceful, bold, brave, courageous, daring, challenging, resilient, confident, outspoken, determined, focused, strong-willed, in addition to being a role-model and mentor. Family Background Sue was born and raised by both of her “hippyish” parents. She describes herself as fortunate to have been raised in a family environment where social justice and equity issues were openly discussed. Sue’s mother worked full-time as a nurse in a neo-natal unit at a local hospital. When Sue was an adolescent, she gained a little sister after her mother adopted an extremely sick infant that had been abandoned by her birthparents at the hospital where she worked. Sue’s father worked as a teacher; however, he was a school principal during most of her life. Sue remembers her father bringing troubled or at-risk students to their home as a safe place and she was delighted when she had an “older sister” for two years. Education BackgroundAfter graduating from high school, Sue was unsure of whether to pursue a degree in journalism or education. Sue had been strongly influenced by an English teacher who served as a powerful role model and inspired her to also become an English teacher. She enrolled in the one-year foundational program at Kings Tec, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She ultimately decided to pursue a career in education and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in English Literature at Dalhousie University. She later went on to complete a Bachelor of Education at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although being discouraged to do so because of lack of relevant work experience, Sue began working part-time on a Masters of Education Degree in Curriculum Studies immediately after completion of her Bachelor of Education. After completing this Masters degree and working for a few years Sue completed a second Masters degree in Administration – Educational Leadership in Social Justice at Mount Saint Vincent University in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Sue is currently working on her third Masters degree in Counselling at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Significant People Aside from the significance and influence of her family and her life-long partner of twenty-five years, Sue has had many influential and significant people in her life, especially strong positive women who served as fundamental role models and mentors. One of her most significant role models and mentors would be a female high-school English teacher. Sue admired this teacher’s teaching style and demeanor and describes her as a strong powerful woman into social justice and fairness issues. It was this teacher who inspired Sue to pursue a career in teaching English. In an amazing series of events, Sue would be reunited with this influential teacher many years later during a pre-arranged practicum placement while working on her Bachelor of Education degree. Similar in character and being like-minded this would be the start of a working relationship that would span many years and institutions. It was here that Sue felt supported in “pushing the envelope” and bringing diversity, social equity and justice issues into the classroom. Another important, influential and supportive person in Sue’s life was a “mother figure” who took her in to live with her while she was a student at Dalhousie University. Significant Life Events Sue has had many life events that have been significant in positive and negative ways. One of the most significant and devastating life events for Sue as being rejected by her parents when she “came out” at age fifteen and disclosed that she was a lesbian. Sue did not receive the reaction, support or validation she was hoping for or needing from her parents that day so she packed her belongings and moved out. She had little contact with her parents during the next year, however over the years the relationship has been reestablished and continues to grow. Another negative experience for Sue was not being called back to the summer camp the year after everyone learned she was gay. After working as a camp counsellor for five consecutive summers, Sue recalls not being called back as very devastating for her. In 1993 Sue began going through the process of trying to get pregnant at a fertility clinic. This was a difficult time for Sue and her partner since the fertility clinic was funded by the Salvation Army, who will only provide support to heterosexual, not homosexual, couples wanting to have children. After struggling through hoops at the fertility clinic, in 1994 Sue gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. “Baby girl” was born premature and spent most of her first year of life in the hospital. As a result Sue could not work at a full-time job and spent most of an entire year at the hospital by her baby’s side. In 1999 Sue gave birth to her second child, a baby boy. During this time Sue and her partner petitioned the court for same-sex couples to be able to adopt the children. After being denied permission to legally adopt the children on the grounds that a child cannot have two mothers at the same time, Sue and her partner hired a lawyer. With the help and support of family, friends and volunteers enough funds were raised to cover their legal expenses (approximately $10 000). In May 2000 the judge ruled in their favor and the adoption legislation changed in Nova Scotia to allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt. A significant and rewarding experience for Sue was during her second Masters degree where she wrote a thesis in the form of a full-length fictional novel. She interviewed lesbian principles and educators about their experiences and complied the data into an innovative novel that won the Governor General Metal from Mount Saint Vincent University (2004), as well as awards from the Canadian Association of Teacher Educators and the Canadian Association for the Study of Women in Education. In 2004 Sue received funding to go to the Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference where she presented her novel thesis. Paid Work Experience Sue’s first paid work was when she was fifteen years old as a camp counsellor at a summer camp. She remained a Camp Counsellor until the age of eighteen when she was designated camp director. While attending Dalhousie University Sue worked as a bus-person and dishwasher to support herself. Living expenses were relatively low since she was living with a supportive “mother figure” that she had met at a woman’s group at Dalhousie University. It was also during this time that Sue started to do casual work at a local group home where she was eventually hired on full-time and remained there for about a year. Sue began her teaching career as a substitute English teacher at Bedford Junior High for grades eight and nine. Within a couple of years, she was offered a full-time teaching position for grade six at Hillside Park Elementary in Sackville, Nova Scotia. She describes this as the “best job ever and the best place to work”. She remained there for six or so years until her position was considered “redundant”. Sue’s next teaching position was at Sackville Heights Junior High School and then at Lockview High School. Sue’s next position would take a slightly different direction and move from solely educating adolescents to educating both teachers and students as a literacy coach. She has been in this position full-time for over five years. Conclusion The life-work narrative of Sue McKay sincerely tells an extraordinary story of resilience, determination, courage and accomplishment in the face of adversity and obstacles. While it would be impossible, not to mention insulting, for me to truly capture and represent the entirety and breadth of Sue’s life-work experiences in this paper, I have proposed a brief outline and description of her family and education background, significant people and life events, and past work experience.