When Catherine Dinim started with SelfDesign as a learning consultant, she was a young teacher who had been working in the public school system for a few years. In the approximately two decades since starting to support her first SelfDesign learner, she helped spearhead our unique Learning Experiences Library, became our Education Program team lead, and then joined the Principal Team as a vice principal.
She is now the principal of SelfDesign Learning Community, working with two vice principals to oversee the direction and administration of the kindergarten to grade 12 online learning school and its associated offerings.
“I think learning consultants are the most important role in our organization,” she says. Indeed, she continues to work as a learning consultant. Continuing to directly support a few learners and their families in that role keeps her grounded in the reasons why SelfDesign exists and in the philosophy at its core.
“SelfDesign provides an option for kids and families in B.C. to have relationship-based learning in their homes and communities that meets them where they are. It is really important to me, in terms of my own personal philosophy,” she says. “That direct connection to families – I see the difference we’re making in people’s lives.”
That is one reason Catherine the educator and school administrator chooses to continue her work with SelfDesign every year. On a more personal level, she says that having colleagues who feel similarly makes a world of difference.
“I have chosen to work in a school that has a philosophy that is aligned with my own personal philosophy,” she says. “Working for an organization that has clear values and that has an historical philosophy and a philosophy enacted visibly and at every level every single day feeds me on a deeper level.”
Our educators and other contractors come to SelfDesign for various reasons. Usually, they hear of our unique approach to learning from a friend, family member or even an acquaintance and decide to check us out.
Once here, they tend to stay for many years. At the end of each of the last two learning years, we’ve surveyed our educators about what keeps them wanting to stay with SelfDesign.
Here’s what some of them told us.
A supportive, accepting work environment and a sense of community
“We have kind educators. We have kind administrators and support staff. We have kind parents and kind learners,” says Michael, a learning consultant for learners grade 10 to 12. “I think we foster that. We’ve created a culture at SelfDesign where kindness is the norm.”
Support and relationship are cornerstones of SelfDesign’s philosophy and of its approach to learning. We build layers of support around our learners to help them achieve their best throughout their years with us, and we put in place similar layers of support for our educators.
We provide meaningful orientation at the start of every learning year and throughout the year. We offer mentoring, go-to sources for information, suggestions and advice, and opportunities for collegial connection, conversation and collaboration.
“SelfDesign is the most supportive place to work as an educator!” one of our learning consultants shared. “I love that the focus is on collaboration and putting our collective skills and talents together rather than competition. It makes all the difference and is the reason why I’m still here after 10 years….”
“I feel fully supported both as an educator and an individual,” another educator shared. “This difference is evident in every correspondence I’ve had with Self Design educators and administrators.”
At an even more fundamental level, our values and beliefs emphasize acceptance, respect, collaboration and support, regardless of ability, learning style, culture, race, personal or spiritual beliefs, gender identity and expression.
“There is a lot of compassion for everyone – staff and learners and parents,” one educator says. “Everyone is treated with respect and there is an emphasis on support and being an individual within that supportive community.”
Another educator says, “Generally, educators at SelfDesign demonstrate more respect for diversity, for their learners and for their colleagues,” another one says.
“I never thought such a great feeling of community could be created in an online environment before working for SelfDesign,” says another.
Inspiring work with inspiring young people
“For me, being a learning consultant is about celebrating the individual successes of each learner and providing support in challenging times,” says Evelyne, a learning consultant who supports SelfDesign learners who have been diagnosed with learning challenges. “An important aspect of the relationship is the sense of teamwork and trust that develops.”
Indeed, working and supporting young people as they grow and explore their passions is another reason our learning consultants continue working with us. Many of our learning consultants work with the same learners over many years, following the children from the first days of kindergarten until commencement at the end of grade 12. Sometimes, our learning consultants support more than one learner in a family. With this, our learning consultants are able to build trust and supportive, authentic relationships with the learners and parents, caregivers and guardians, and even at times becoming almost a member of the child’s extended family.
In one case, as a result of such a longstanding relationship of mutual regard and respect, one former SelfDesign learner invited her learning consultant to celebrate her wedding with her as a friend.
“It is such a privilege to work one on one with creative, thoughtful, unique and inspiring young people every day,” one learning consultant tells us. “It’s such a gift to develop relationships and be part of their community of support. I love witnessing and being part of their self-discovery, growth and fulfilment of their dreams… likely beyond their graduating years!”
“My favourite thing about working with SelfDesign is working with so many motivated and creative learners,” says another. “So many learners show up in their challenges and to real-time meetings ready to share their art and passion projects with myself and others. It is so inspiring.”
Good fit and flexibility
Because SelfDesign is an online school and one of our core beliefs is that learning happens all the time and everywhere, our approach allows for considerable flexibility for our learners, our families and our learning consultants.
Some members of our community travel during the year. A parent or guardian may have to travel for work, the family may want to explore different cultures, or a learner may be undertaking an internship or training program in a different region to further their skill and experience in an area of passion.
At SelfDesign, learners and families can work those experiences into their daily and weekly learning, and our learning consultants can meet their learners and families online for their weekly Observing for Learning no matter where each of them happens to be that week.
In our surveys, one educator told us they enjoy that “flexibility of being able to work whenever and wherever I want as long as there is Internet service.”
Indeed, one educator has described how she used to spend part of each year in Europe and once invited a travelling learner and family to her home in northwestern France. Together, they shopped for food at the local market and spent the evening cooking a lovely meal and enjoying it and each other’s company and conversation.
For other educators, being able to engage with their learners and families from a work environment that supports them best is a big part of their own SelfDesign experience as educators.
“I knew when I heard about Self Design that it was the perfect fit for me: I could work from home in a quiet environment, while still pursuing my passion for learning and education,” one educator tells us. “I am so grateful to have found a teaching environment that complements my strengths…. Joining the Self Design team was one of the happiest days of my life!”
SelfDesign is looking to hire B.C. certified educators for the 2022/23 learning year. If you think you are a good fit, or if you know of a B.C. certified educator who might be a good fit, please check the Opportunities page on our website.
Learn more about what learning consultants do at SelfDesign
Learn more about SelfDesign Learning Community
Read more about our core beliefs
Read about our commitment to diversity and inclusion