“It is so gratifying to hear from past students that they reflect on their learning when they are driving down a road, paddling down a river, or hiking up a mountain. They send me pictures, bring me rocks, and tell me stories from around the world as they make new geographic discoveries, which is such a thrill for me.”
Passionate about the outdoors since her early years growing up in the Okanagan, Katie Burles has clearly passed on her enthusiasm to her students.
“The Rocky Mountain Trench is my outdoor classroom,” she said. “It provides lots of opportunities to engage students in experiential learning. We’re able to get outside and into our communities to learn about the topics covered in my courses.”
Katie teaches Geography, the subject of both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as Geology and Environmental Science courses at the College. An enthusiastic promoter of science education, she played an integral part in enhancing the Associate of Science: Environmental Sciences degree offerings at the College and helped spearhead a multi-institution open education textbook for first-year post-secondary physical geography classes.
“I have become a passionate author and creator of open educational resources,” she said. “They aim to increase student learning by providing relevant materials adapted specifically for my classes while removing accessibility and affordability barriers that may exist with traditional textbooks.”
Now in her fifth year teaching at the College, Katie loves creating a learning community where students feel as though they are part of a cohesive group and that making mistakes is a valuable part of learning.
“I see myself as a facilitator of learning,” she said. “I add value to my teaching by encouraging problem solving and reflection rather than simply telling, explaining, or demonstrating. In turn, my students have taught me that they need a champion, someone who can provide positive encouragement as they fully realize their own talents and potential. I aim to be that for them.”
Still an outdoor enthusiast, Katie and her family spend a lot of their leisure time fishing, skiing, hiking and biking. Having developed a love of open freshwater swimming in the Shuswap Lakes as a child, she hopes to challenge herself by swimming across a few new East Kootenay lakes this summer.
With a keen interest in local and regional food production, Katie is also an avid gardener and cook. Most summers you can find her canning and preserving the bounty of the season, a skill and passion passed down to her from her mother.
No matter their interests or educational focus, Katie encourages students to be willing to take chances.
“Embrace opportunities and spontaneity, and be willing to take risks,” she said. “Improvise, adapt, and constantly reflect and seek feedback on your learning.”