Web of support fosters new leadership in inclusive education


- Julie Rémy

Rochefort. Photo: Mike Morash

For Dominique Rochefort, a citizen of the Métis Nation, the journey to become an empowered teacher was mined with self-doubts and life challenges.

As a single Indigenous woman and mother of two young children facing an unstable future, Rochefort didn’t believe she could realize her dream to become a teacher. She was a survivor raising her children in a life of poverty, yet she was determined to show them that there was something better.

Four years later, a lot has changed.

Rochefort graduates with a UVic BEd in elementary teacher education—and will receive a Maxwell Cameron award from the BC Teachers’ Federation for the outstanding quality of her practice teaching, her top GPA and engagement in social justice. 

Rochefort is already working as a teacher-on-call in the Saanich and Victoria school districts and is completing a diploma in personalized learning. 

She reflects that she’s gained so much confidence and control over her life since she opened her acceptance letter from UVic four years ago. “I was sitting at Gyro Beach and I started to sob. I knew that this was my chance to change my life.”

Her first year at UVic felt terrifying. Imposter syndrome kept creeping in and she felt less deserving than others. When handing her first completed exam to her professor, she commented about how she thought she did poorly. 

“I didn’t believe that I was qualified, that I was smart enough, that I was capable enough.” 

Her professor shook her head—making a small step to help her realize how smart she was.

Another step came when a donor, who quickly became a mentor and a friend, understood the challenges being a single mother attending university could bring. Generations ago, the donor had also struggled as a single mother trying to complete her teacher education. 

Rochefort came to feel she was not alone. Every time she started to doubt, solutions came to her and a solid network started forming around her.

“I started to realize that if the university and the donors believed in me enough to make a significant contribution to my education, then I should really start believing in myself.”

Rochefort shares openly with her students that she was diagnosed with mild developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Unlike some of her students, it was caught later in life and slid under the radar.

“My personal experience, navigating the world with an atypical brain, gives me tools for connecting to students who have unique learning needs. Differentiation for student abilities is not easy, and it takes knowing your students and their strengths—it takes time. I was lucky, my mom worked as an education specialist and was able to create ways for me to feel successful most of the time. I believe that every child deserves someone in their court who believes that they are capable of success even if that success looks different than for someone else.”

“When inclusive education is done properly you have the chance to change a child’s life. I have been so lucky to work with incredible education assistants (EA), and other education specialists, who make this possible. As a teacher, having an EA to support students is vital.  The teamwork between the EA and teacher allow for the needs of an individual student to be more readily met. It is important that the teachers create opportunities for all students to be successful.”

Beyond her interest in helping children with special needs, Dominique discovered a passion for STEM while working with Science Venture, especially with Indigenous youth.

“I never imagined that I would be teaching STEM. I was incredibly fortunate to work with Indigenous youth, a segment of the population who are less likely to go into STEM fields and post-secondary. I found this work so meaningful as I had never seen a role model who was from my culture when I was a child.”

The experience and connections she made at UVic during her teacher program changed not only her life, but the life of her children. “They know that they can do anything if they work hard, because they have seen me do it.”

At the end of her undergraduate journey, instead of doubt she carries goals. Rochefort plans to become more fluent in Michif (her Metis language) and pursue education in language revitalization as well as a masters in special education.


In this story

Keywords: convocation, education, philanthropy, accessibility, teaching

People: Dominique Rochefort

Publication: The Ring

Related stories