A Different Learning Style

Kristin Hegland-McKay (BA/BEd '00) remembers the moment she decided to become a teacher.

Alumna, Kristin Hegland-McKay (BA/BEd '00)
Kristin Hegland-McKay credits her success to a teacher who understood the importance of differentiated learning. Photo by Rob Olson

"I failed an art course in elementary school," says the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute instructor.

Perhaps the challenges she had already overcome were what fueled her dream to become an art teacher.

In her early years, Kristin Hegland-McKay wore a brace requiring her to lie only on her back or stomach. While other children were learning to crawl and walk, her gross motor skills were delayed, but her fine motor skills were becoming advanced.

“I spent my days inventing little games and creating designs for amusement.”

As she became older she was afflicted with illness which led to learning disabilities.

“I struggled through school. I had a lot of language difficulties, but I was fine in math and social, and I excelled in art.”

Upon entering junior high school she and her parents met with a dedicated team of educators who laid out her options, one of which was placement in a remedial English class to help with reading, comprehension, and spelling.

“My parents did a great thing,” recalls Hegland-McKay. “They turned to me and asked what I wanted to do.”

“It was empowering to have the opportunity to take some ownership over how I was allowed to learn.”

“I want to go into regular English,” she responded, “because I want to be an art teacher.”

Hegland-McKay worked hard. In 2000 she convocated from the University of Lethbridge with a BA in Art (Honours), BEd (Honours with Distinction), and a minor in Social Studies.

She credits her success to a teacher who understood the importance of differentiated learning well before it became avant garde. Children can learn if allowed to do it their own way, insists Hegland-McKay.

“I’m lucky to work in a system where such a philosophy is valued. It’s an exciting time to be in education.”