Yorkville University alumnus Monica Hansford recently added ‘published author’ to the long list of titles she’s earned over a career marked by successful sojourns into the roles of journalist, athlete, business developer, consultant, and early childhood educator and entrepreneur.
The 56-year-old Edmonton native recently published Teaching Scaffolding to Early Childhood Educators – a 62-page, self-published “reworking” of the capstone research she completed during her studies at Yorkville.
Published on Oct. 3 through Tellwell Talent, the book’s dual aim is to take its reader through the “processes and critical principles necessary for both the educator and student to effectively grow in the transfer and pursuit of knowledge,” while also giving educators “insight into providing students the confidence necessary in achieving the often-daunting task of learning.”
“What I really want this book to leave people with is the message that learning is an empowering thing – it’s hard, but you can do it,” said Hansford, who graduated from Yorkville’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership program with a specialization in Leadership in Learning in 2018.
“You won’t recognize yourself when you’re done, but you’ll like yourself a whole lot more.”
In fact, it was that promise of self-empowering fulfillment that Hansford said played a key motivating factor in her own decision to return to school to earn her second Master’s degree at Yorkville.
Already the successful owner of three private early learning facilities for kids under 12 in Edmonton – including West End and Highlands Montessori schools – a Master’s degree in Education wasn’t something she necessarily needed to advance her already successful career.
“I didn’t do it for the reason a lot of other people do it or because I had to. I did it because I wanted to further myself,” she said.
“It wasn’t the schooling I needed, it was that I wanted to look at my field in a new way….I’m an abstract thinker and I always approach problems from unique and individual angles, and that was what I wanted from it – I wanted to look at my world through a new lens.”
Characterizing her time at Yorkville as “the most incredible journey,” Hansford said her educational experience through the university’s online program was one that helped her achieve just that goal.
“I just loved it. I couldn’t say better things about all of it – right from my admissions advisor, who was just a peanut, to the online piece of it and my colleagues, the excellent instructors, the subject, and, of course, the research,” Hansford said.
“I had never written any kind of expansive text past 10 pages or researched before, so…it was a gift to learn how to formally research and be approved by an ethics committee of juried peers.”
As Yorkville’s Research Supervisor, Randee Lipson Lawrence commended Hansford for being among the mere 10 per cent of students who opt to undertake such action research as part of their capstone.
To do so, she explained, students must not only have a keen sense of clarity going into the process, but must also be ready to jump into that work early in the semester in order to obtain the necessary Research Ethics Board clearances to proceed
“Monica clearly exhibited all of these attributes,” she said, while also lauding Hansford for her strong organizational and motivational skills.
“As a leader of an early childhood education centre, Monica chose to conduct action research as an opportunity to work with her employees in developing creative teaching strategies and scaffolding skills. In doing so, she exemplified the capstone process at its best.”
For Hansford, the task of translating the final result of all that research – a Master’s level academic paper – into something more palatable to a wider audience for publication, was a process that took three full rewrites to accomplish.
“An academic research paper is barely readable – it’s supposed to be like that, it’s graduate work. But I wanted it to be readable,” she said.
“So, once the research was done, I gave whole chunks of it to my subjects… to read, but it was way too fancy pants and they couldn’t understand it, so I had to rewrite it.”
The end result is something that has drawn rave reviews from many in the Faculty of Education at Yorkville – including its Dean, Ellyn Lyle, who lauded Hansford as passionate, articulate, and a “strong champion of learning as liberating praxis,” and Associate Dean Sepideh Mahani, who commended her for all the “hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm” that made her book possible.
“This publication is a testament to the quality of capstone projects from Yorkville’s Master of Education students – projects that are rooted in praxis and serve to inform educators’ and other professionals’ work,” added Wendy Kraglund-Gauthier, the Capstone Coordinator for Yorkville’s Faculty of Education.
“It also reflects Monica’s dedication to supporting early childhood educators as they enact their professional development within their own learning spaces.”
So committed is she to educators, in fact, that Hansford dedicated what she hopes will mark her first of many books to come to “all teachers of children under the age of 12.”
“They’re heroes and they don’t have a voice, because they don’t have time to have a voice. This book is their journey – it’s very emotional for me because we are often minimized, often considered the ghetto of our field – and this book is what we have to go through,” she said.
“It’s about how we have to move through our own fears and inadequacies of our language, our intellect and some very grey, complicated areas in order to teach others the things that have been really hard for us to learn ourselves.”
Since its publication less than a month ago, Hansford said Teaching Scaffolding to Early Childhood Educators has already been shared with 2,000+ early learning educators and license holders in Alberta.
And Hansford is hoping to expand that already-impressive reach in the coming weeks, as she travels internationally – including a meeting with 20 private school principals and teachers in France at the end of the month.
For more information about Hansford’s book, Teaching Scaffolding to Early Childhood Educators, or to order a Kindle or paper edition, go to bit.ly/teachingscaffolding