Books, Educator Book Reviews, Professional Development

Educator Review: Gifted to Learn

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Gifted to Learn
Written by Gloria Mehlmann
Published by University of Alberta Press
Category: Professional Development Resource/General Interest

Reviewed by Sheila Ryan,
St. Jean Brebeuf School, Calgary

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Author and educator Gloria Mehlmann engages her readers by journeying with them through three separate but interconnected narratives in her memoir Gifted to Learn. She recalls with clarity the stories of individual students and paints colorful anecdotes of their individual struggles and gifts. Intertwined with these tales is Melmann’s own journey: the ongoing quest of an educator to meet the needs of each student, balancing the demands of content and curriculum with humanity and compassion. Mehlmann explores as well the implications of Canadian government policy on First Nations people living on and off reserves, particularly during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Educators, whether in their early years or seasoned veterns, will relate to Mehlmann’s ongoing challenges: to build on the talents and interests of each child and to motivate students to embrace a life of self-discovery. Mehlmann provides numerous reflections of student challenges, delving into topics such as the impact of stress in the home on student learning, the struggles faced by some new immigrant families, and the individual learning differences that students bring to the classroom. Throughout her memoir, Mehlmann grows firm in her conviction that to truly educate, we must forever be students, learning in both formal and in formal ways. Teachers are reminded through this book of the importance of continuing their own education, whether it be through professional development related to pedagogy or content areas or informal exploration that may ultimately benefit the students they teach.

Mehlmann’s own continuing education and personal reflection reveals the atrocities of residential schooling and the impact of government policy on First Nations peoples. Her insights demonstrate personal frustrations with an educational system that favors men and the cultural majority in the 1960’s and 1970’s, often leaving women and First Nations people forgotten or marginalized. Mehlmann expresses with conviction her views on systemic oppression. The audience will relate to her sentiment of uncertainty about the future as society and our education systems face rapid changes.

Mehlmann’s growth as an educator, and ultimately a student affirms her conviction that learning is a reciprocal experience, shared by the teacher and pupil. She reflects, “Children…helped me to see that being a teacher means being a helpmate. It means that, in the end, the teacher and his or her pupils are each others teachers.” Educators at all stages of their career will draw meaning by relating Mehlmann’s work to their own professional journey.

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