One of Canada’s most highly regarded teacher education programs owes its success to the dedication of talented teachers like Professor Emeritus Art Loewen
While his career spans decades and is punctuated with awards and recognitions, Professor Emeritus Art Loewen began his career in the trenches, working as a teacher in a one-room school in Duchess, Alta., in 1948.
In the early years, success was a steady upward climb. He rose to positions of increasing authority in rural communities in southern Alberta. But in 1967, he received a phone call from a former colleague, Dr. Russell Leskiw, then acting president of a new university in Lethbridge, with a request that would change Loewen’s life.
“Russ asked me if I’d like to come to Lethbridge and teach math education,” says Art. He initially turned down the offer – several times, in fact – before finally acquiescing.
Art knows he made the right choice, but at the time, creating an education faculty at the U of L was a rather contentious project. Many opposed its formation and it took an appeal to the minister of education to get the Faculty off the ground.
Skepticism continued even after the minister’s approval, and the Faculty was under enormous pressure to prove itself within its first two years. Fortunately, the Faculty rose to the challenge.
“I was with the Faculty for 20 years, and during that time, we experimented,” says Art. A great deal changed during that time. Two-year teaching certificates became five-year degrees. This led to the creation of master’s degree programs.
It didn’t take long for the Faculty to become one of the strongest teacher education programs in Canada. Today, the Faculty maintains a strong connection with Alberta’s teaching community and offers many unique programs to meet the needs of students.
A new master’s program, the First Nations, Métis, Inuit (FNMI) Master of Education Curriculum Leadership program blends teacher education with Blackfoot language and culture, as well as leadership training. Another program, the Master of Education (Educational Leadership), prepares teachers to take up positions of leadership in their teaching communities. Many graduates have gone on to become principals of schools or hold high-ranking administrative roles.
Art’s own contribution to teaching goes beyond his years as a math teacher in southern Alberta and his involvement in the formation of the Faculty.
He and his wife, Rena, a teacher he met in Vauxhall, Alta., raised four children – all of whom followed him into the field of education in some manner. Their daughters Brenda Firth and Teresa Loewen are teachers in southern Alberta schools, and their daughter Dr. Pamela Loewen teaches in the Faculty of Management at the University of Lethbridge.
Their son, Dr. Craig Loewen (BEd ’84), is now the Faculty’s dean, after holding a number of administrative positions within the Faculty. Craig joined the Faculty in 1987 as a professor of mathematics education – the year his father retired.
After enjoying a successful teaching career himself and earning the U of L’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, Craig maintains that teaching is the most important calling.
“You’re looking after the path, building for the future, caring about the kids of today. I find it really hard to see anything much more important than that,” he says. “The person who you are can, at some point, be traced back to a teacher or mentor.”
There is a striking similarity in career paths between Art and Craig Loewen. Both started as classroom teachers, both began with the Faculty of Education as math educators, both served in student services within the Faculty, both have served as the associate dean of the Faculty and both have been with the Faculty for 20 years.
They argue that the similarities are coincidental rather than intentional, but the similarities are nonetheless startling. Together they have served the Faculty of Education for the entirety of its 40-year history – a true legacy of teaching and learning.