Episode #91: Guiding Global Citizens, Becoming Tomorrow’s Leaders with Patricia Gartland
Patricia Gartland has been Superintendent of Schools for School District No. 43 (Coquitlam) since 2015, British Columbia’s third-largest school district with over 32,000 students and 4,000 employees in over 70 schools and facilities. Patricia instituted what has become one of the most successful revenue-generating International Education Programs in B.C.
When I was young, I was very interested in other cultures and languages. I studied French in grade 5 and every language that they offered in high school: French, Spanish, and German. When I went to the Univerity of British Columbia, I studied German, Italian, and French Language and Literature. I also traveled for four months every summer to Europe to develop my skills in the languages. I really think that studying abroad is a key experience for all students to have to really appreciate the variety and the beauty of the world so they can learn about opportunities that there can be in life. Traveling for me really changed my life and shaped who I became.
I always was thinking I wanted to be an educator, but also be an entrepreneur. International education was the opportunity to bring those two together.
Languages and math can be a mental block for many who think they cannot learn math or a different language. But when you open your mind to it and let it in at any age, you can be very successful.
Journey as an educator
In Canada, the other official language is French. I became a French Immersion Teacher and that gave me an opportunity to speak French all day while living in Coquitlam. I never had to worry about getting a job because there was such a demand for French Immersion teachers and there still is today. I was very interested in multiculturalism and cultural initiatives. I founded the multicultural committee and wrote my master’s thesis on multiculturalism and racism policies.
I was also interested in technology and was at the district level as a Program Coordinator for Technology Implementation. I taught students and teachers how to use computers and another language, Turtle logo. Today, we see how important coding is for everyone to work in this technological world. I was Coordinator for Languages and Teacher Librarian at different times. Then I went into administration and became a vice-principal and then principal. I spent half my career at the elementary level and the other half at the high school level.
When I came to the board office, I really came for the reorganization of our district. We went from elementary (K-6), junior high (7-9) and senior (10-12) highs to the elementary (K-5), middle (6-8), and high (9-12) schools. That was a fantastic process for the development stages to meet the needs of those middle year students more effectively through the middle school model.
Coquitlam School District
Now that the world has become so globalized, language skills are really appreciated. People are realizing how important it is to know other languages and have global competencies to be successful. Global competencies, recognized by the OECD, are key to the future and include intercultural understanding, understanding the different perspectives and world views, understanding the beauty and diversity of different cultures, and being successful working with people around the world in different contexts and roles. There are studies about learning another language that develops the agility of your brain and helps you formulate your thoughts in different ways. When you can interact with people from around the world knowing different languages, you will have far more opportunities in your life.
International Education Programs in B.C.
I started the International Education Program on May 9, 1999, and am still actively involved in the program. We not only invite students to our schools and graduate, but we also have delegations from overseas on a regular bas…