Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Where should I start? What do you want to know?

Well, let’s start with, What’s your sign?

I am a Virgo. I have always felt proud of that fact and I am not sure why. Key traits associated with Virgos are perfectionism (which I think is a good thing because I don’t ever give up until I get it right!), organized (pretty much everything in my home is colour coded in some way), dependable (I always get the job done because I am reliable), loyal (I have close friendships dating back to when I was three years old) and curious (I have a friend who calls me maco-a Carribean term for minding other people’s business). There are other traits as well but these ones stand out to me when I think about who I am!

What can you tell me about your family life? You seem to write about them a lot.

Well, growing up I was one of five children–the middle of course. I have an older brother and older sister and a younger brother and younger sister. They are all brilliant people and when we all get together, which is not often enough, it is always entertaining. We were raised by two amazing parents who taught us to value what is important in life, know history, work hard and laugh hard. I have the best childhood memories.

My own little family, a daughter, Rachel (17) and a son, Max (14), make me very happy. My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years and we are both very proud of our kids who are creative, funny, and kind young people. We always know when Rachel is awake when she starts singing. She is a dynamic young woman who is very silly. Max is the quieter of the two but to be honest, it would be a challenge to be louder! He loves sports, his friends, and anything he can watch that challenges his thinking and understanding.

What can you tell us about your career?

I was told my parents’ neighbour that when I was four years old and they moved in next door, I introduced myself like this, “Hi, my name is Debbie Donsky. When I grow up I want to be a teacher, get married and have babies.” That about sums it up. Since four years old, I have taught all over the Toronto area, have become an elementary school principal and now will be working as a Student Achievement Officer with the Ministry of Education where I will be supporting leader learning networks throughout the province.

My happy place is with children and yet, my career seems to have taken a turn that I work far more with adults than the little people. It is great learning and certainly challenging!

I see you have a Doctorate in Education…What did you study?

My Masters of Education was focused on equity and my thesis was creating programs to support English Language Learners at various stages of English language development by differentiating based on their social identities, histories and interests. My doctoral work was focused still on equity in education but moved into the realm of how online learning environments work to democratize classrooms. My doctoral thesis was entitled, CRITICAL PATHWAYS TOWARDS ANTIRACISM IN AN ELEMENTARY KNOWLEDGE BUILDING CLASSROOM, and asked the question, How does power play out in online and offline learning environments? This work has greatly influenced my understanding of how power affects learning spaces–whether for children or adults. I did this work on the cusp of the social media boom in 2006. It fascinates me to see how people create their online personas to suit a particular need. This website is one of the experiments!

What about all that art you have been doing? and the sketchnotes?

As a young girl, I always did art. I loved it. I would draw, sew, paint, sculpt–there wasn’t a medium I turned away from. As life got busier, I forgot about how much I loved it. In the last few years, I have started drawing again and making a few paintings as well. I would love to work with paint on a grander scale–one of my goals going forward.

The sketchnotes are something I have been doing for just over a year. A friend challenged me to try it and it has been amazing learning. I find they help me prepare for meetings, understanding content, and attending to the learning more. I have also received quite a bit of feedback from others who appreciate them telling me that they feel as though they were at the learning session and that makes me happy. There are so many incredible opportunities to learn as an educator but we can’t be at all of them so I am grateful that my sketchnotes make a difference for others. Very recently I was asked to do a full-scale graphic facilitation and since then I have been asked to do two more. It was quite anxiety provoking to do this in a short amount of time in front of many people but I did it! This is another skill I hope to refine going forward!