“I never felt like I belonged until I came to this institution. At Yorkville, I felt like I was home.”
Before enrolling in Yorkville University’s Master of Education in Adult Education program, Chantelle Caissie spent nearly a decade feeling “disconnected” – from herself, from others, and from her career as a social worker.
At the time, the Ajax native thought she could bridge that gap by throwing herself further into her work and decided to apply to study toward her master’s degree in social work in order to advance her career.
“Then I had a really rude awakening: I ended up being turned down by the school I applied to. I wasn’t accepted and I remember feeling really overwhelmed and confused,” she explained.
“It really compromised a lot of my own identity and what I thought I was meant to do.”
It was then, through an “odd twist of fate”, that Caissie stumbled upon the Yorkville University website and discovered the Master of Education in Adult Education program.
Having a decade of informal teaching experience designing and facilitating psycho-educational with adult learners, Caissie’s interest was immediately piqued. On a whim, she got on the phone with an admissions advisor, and shortly thereafter her life was forever changed with her acceptance into Yorkville.
While Caissie’s road started off bumpy – she spent the first four months convinced she wasn’t good enough to be in the program alongside her ‘more experienced’ classmates – she was encouraged by her supportive fiancé to hold on for just a few more weeks.
“I didn’t think that was going to change anything, but I said ‘Okay.’ And I did. And then I ended up meeting this incredible educator who completely transformed my life,” she said, referring to Dr. Ellyn Lyle, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Yorkville.
“I remember my partner came up to me six months later and said, ‘You still wanna drop-out?’ And I was, like, ‘No way! What are you talking about? This is my destiny!”
What happened in between, Caissie explained, was that Lyle helped her come to the realization that some of the most rewarding things you can discover about yourself fall into place when you are falling apart.
And that, she added, was a lesson that came to her at just the right time – in the midst of her studies, she not only lost her contract job as a one-on-one health and wellness coach due to the pandemic, she also lost her apartment shortly thereafter.
“I was just getting hit and hit and hit with all these things – I didn’t have a steady source of income and I didn’t have a place to live anymore. It just felt like such a nightmare. I think the only thing that got me through was school, because it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of identity,” she said.
“Ellyn introduced me to a lot of different scholars who really advocate for and champion the beauty and grace that exists in falling apart and breaking open. The universe has a very funny way of putting us back into spaces with the right people at the right time.
“Thinking back on it, this program has completely transformed my life – both personally and professionally.”– Chantelle Caissie, Master of Education in Adult Education valedictorian
In fact, on a personal front, Caissie was not only just selected to serve as the valedictorian of her graduating class, she also recently got engaged to her fiancé and purchased her first home.
On the professional side of things, meanwhile, she just landed a job at Yorkville as an admissions advisor this past April and has also co-written an article with her mentor, Lyle, entitled ‘Rehumanizing Education: Teaching and Learning as Co-Constructed Reflexive Praxis,’ which was recently published later this month by LEARNing Landscapes.
“I’m also currently working on publishing a chapter in a book, and I’m hopefully going to be lead author of another paper that I’m writing this summer,” Caissie enthused.
“So, there’s a lot happening in a short period of time, but it’s all just incredibly overwhelming and exciting and humbling how things kind of transpire from chaos.”
Now that she’s successfully earned her Master’s degree, Caissie now has her sights set on applying for doctoral studies – something she would have never envisioned for herself before Yorkville.
Her ultimate goal, she said, is to teach at the university level – preferably at her alma mater.
“I would love to be able to teach at Yorkville,” she said.
“My heart really is within reflexive inquiry and encouraging people to become critical thinkers and to learn to teach from their heart instead of their heads.”