May 13, 2020

​Sun West teacher among best in Canada

A big congratulations goes out to Natasha Cochran (pictured above), the Principal of Cherry Grove Colony School near Loreburn. She recently received her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of Saskatchewan and was selected to receive the prestigious Dissertation Award, for her thesis: Tracing our Evolution: The STF Code of Ethics 1935-Present.

Despite the significance of these accomplishments, Natasha remained humble and had no intention of sharing this news but her Superintendent Shari Martin had other ideas. Shari explained: “I know that Natasha is really modest and wouldn't have sent this in on her own, but this truly is an accomplishment that not many achieve.” So with Shari’s encouragement, Natasha provided some information about her outstanding academic career. “Shari also said that it is important to celebrate hard work and recognize excellence,” stated Natasha, “I suppose that in a time when so much about the world seems negative, acknowledging the positive is a good neutralizer.”

Natasha started her Ph.D. shortly after she completed her Masters of Education degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 2017. She selected the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Code of Ethics as the topic of her thesis because of her strong personal interest and convictions about professional ethics. “I whole-heartedly believe,” Natasha explained, “that a professional’s comprehensive understanding of their ethical code is both practical and necessary in an age of increasing teacher regulation, transparent discipline processes and public accountability.”

While working on her Ph.D., Natasha continued working full-time and received excellent marks earning her the Lownsbrough Memorial Scholarship, the History of Education Research Award and the Graduate Thesis Award.

Each Ph.D. student is guided by an Advisory Committee of five professors. When complete, the student must defend their dissertation before the Advisory Committee, which includes one member who comes from a different academic unit than the student. After successfully defending her dissertation before the Advisory Committee, they unanimously voted to nominate Natasha for the Dissertation Award. The Award Committee considers the dissertation of each nominated student as well as their coursework, publications, awards and their grade point average. Only one award is made in the five disciplines of: Humanities/Fine Arts, Social Sciences, Life Sciences, and Physical and Engineering Sciences. The Department Head and at least one member of the nominated student’s examination committee must write a letter of support and the student must submit an abstract of their research explaining its significance.

The letter in support of her nomination from Dianne Miller, the Graduate Chair of the College of Education, and David Burgess, the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies captures the strength of Natasha’s work. They wrote in part:

Dr Cochran has excelled in all of her coursework with a GPA of 90%, situating her in the top echelon of PhD students.Her capacity to synthesize materials, develop frameworks for critical analysis, and write cogently and clearly for professional and lay audiences is first rate. This dissertation demonstrates strong potential for knowledge mobilization in Education and other professions.Her topic is timely and expertly researched. In addition to publications flowing from this research, there will be ample opportunities to share her findings in professional development workshops and learning communities.What makes the dissertation exceptional is that, while it attends to the local, its theoretical and methodological grounding is novel, and it opens new lines of inquiry into pressing professional and ethical issues in today’s rapidly changing world.It brings to light the importance of historical analysis in understanding how the past shapes the present and provides tools to envision the future.

After learning she had received the Dissertation Award, Natasha wrote: “I feel very honoured and humbled to have been chosen for the Dissertation Award. It means that my professors believed in not only the quality of my work, but the importance of it to the field of education and professions beyond that of teachers … to say I was shocked when I heard that my research had won this distinction, would be an understatement. I had hoped of course, but I just never thought it would actually come to pass.”

With her typical humility, Natasha recognized everyone who helped her on her way. She wrote: “I would like to acknowledge the tireless support of my entire dissertation committee. It would not have been possible to persevere in the marathon-like journey that is writing a dissertation without a team of people to support and help make the work the best it can be. My family and close friends need to be acknowledged as well. Their unfailing support, listening ears and consistent encouragement helped me to persevere through rigorous study while working full time and be successful at both. Also, my acknowledgments would not be complete without mentioning my superintendent and director. Shari and Guy have been hugely supportive of my learning journey and continue to be engaged in helping me reach and exceed my professional goals.”

It is not quite over for Natasha just yet. Her dissertation, along with those of the other five students who received a Dissertation Award from the University of Saskatchewan, is being forwarded to the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies. There it will be considered along with dissertations from other Canadian universities to receive one of the two Governor General’s Awards that recognize the best dissertations in Canada.

Good luck Natasha and congratulations on your remarkable achievements!