Dr. Erin Schyer
Executive Director, Elementary Literacy Inc.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I’m proud that through both Elementary Literacy Inc’s programming and my advocacy, New Brunswick is prioritizing and investing in children’s early reading needs with an aim to ensure more children succeed by the end of grade two – a critical point in literacy ability that sets children up to succeed later. There is still much to be done in this space, however, we need to empower families and communities as literacy teachers – they tremendously influence children and we need to harness it. We need all-hands-on-deck to ensure ALL children learn to read early and well.
What are the principles you live by?
Two key things that have shaped me are my education and my experiences. These are two things that I like to say, “no one can take from me.” I recognize the tectonic shift happening today in terms of how people are educated and what’s needed to be successful - it’s not necessarily a university diploma. As someone who has three diplomas and who really loved my university learning experience (10 years total), I’m a complete advocate for pursuing higher education and that piece of paper that no one can take from you. However, education is going to look different in years to come. When I think about what I want for my children, it’s lifelong learning and experiences – I want them to take the trip and go to the conferences. Education is critical to all of our lives and I believe that it should be intentional and based on best practices. There’s so much to learn out there, and I hope that each of us is able to shape our own journey. If done with a purposeful heart, I know my own kids as well as other, will be successful.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
I was lucky to participate in 2 rounds of 21inc programming – 21inc’s goal was to accelerate youth leadership throughout Atlantic Canada. At the last event in PEI, we learned a lot about purpose and were given the space to think about this for ourselves. I wrote a personal purpose statement. It wasn’t a statement about my work, or about something I envisioned for the future, but a purpose for the here and now - it is me and how I see my purpose in this life. I came up with: “to use evidence as an advocacy and design tool to help children and families thrive.” I round back to this purpose statement often - on the good days (check!), on the hard days (oh right, THIS is why I am doing this), and on the days when I need inspiration (what more can I do?). I am truly passionate about my purpose.
What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced?
I am steadfast in my priority of ensuring more NB children learn to read early and well. The research evidence is well established about what reading methods work best for individual children. We need to adopt those methods. The research is clear that quality early learning experiences matter. We need to increase quality in our daycares and get more children in those spaces. That’s coming.
I use evidence to back myself up. I have to know I am right, but once I do, I don’t back down. Finally, to reassure myself when others question my motives, I read my purpose statement again. Maybe next time, I’ll just send it along to the doubter in question :)
What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did or how will you apply it?
I had a baby boy in June - my second child. While I was pregnant and since having him, I’ve reflected a lot about my purpose. I’ve questioned whether I am achieving anything - whether I am making a difference, whether children out there are doing any better because of my work or actions. I’ve wondered whether I need a new approach, whether there are other ways to positively impact children. As always, I obsessed about how I could reach more children and families. These aren’t easy questions to think about but they are vital.
What I’ve landed on is the importance of parents. I’ve always thought of parents as children’s first and most influential teachers, and the research from various disciplines backs this up - but I’ve noticed since having children of my own, parents are given very little guidance or support in terms of what they should do with their children to support their learning and development. I find this staggering, really, and am now focused on thinking about how we can better support parents.
Importantly, I’ve shifted from “thinking” to “doing” with a facebook page (@drerinschryer) where I share information, tips and tricks with parents and caregivers of young children about how to boost children’s learning and development through everyday activities. I found launching this page a bit overwhelming, but really love maintaining it. I am reading the material all the time anyway, so love that I now have a place to share it with people who are eager to try things with their children.
Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
My mom inspires me. She inspires me to keep doing, to keep strategizing, to keep pitching ideas. She provides the best advice in advance of big presentations or meetings, and never forgets to ask how it went. She truly wants to see me succeed and never hesitates to help me in any way. About 5 years ago my mom said to me, “they can put me down, but I’ll always get up - you always get up” and I took it to heart. I will always get up and keep doing.
What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
My vision is of a prosperous, collaborative region where people come work, live and contribute.
Mother, Wife, Reader, Educator, Learner, Question-er, Pragmatist, Outdoor-lover, Curious, Creator, Advocate