Shirley Giroux, Sacred Heart Catholic School principal is in Winnipeg this week presenting her PhD research at the 31st Annual Canadian Student Health Research Forum. Photo submitted

VIDEO: Williams Lake principal sharing PhD research at Winnipeg conference

Sacred Heart Catholic School principal Shirley Giroux has been researching resiliency among women who are both teachers and parents

Sacred Heart Catholic School’s principal is in Winnipeg this week presenting her PhD research on teaching mothers and resiliency at the 31st Annual Canadian Student Health Research Forum (CSHRF).

Shirley Giroux said she was nominated by the University of Northern B.C. to attend the conference, which is being held at the University of Manitoba’s Brodie Centre.

“Universities nominate the students from the top five per cent in their health related programs,” she told the Tribune last week before she left. “I was nominated to attend last year, but was unable to go because I had a new job, so this year they nominated me again.”

While at the conference she will share a health research poster she’s created and give a 20-minute presentation.

Giroux began her studies on the PhD in 2014. Since then she has asked friends who were teachers in different school districts around B.C. to ask colleagues if they would like to participate in a survey.

“I wanted to compare and see if there were differences in work-life balance, stress, family and resiliency for women who are teaching and raising children and those who are teaching and don’t have kids.”

In total she received 193 completed surveys from teachers that shared their experiences.

She also led some focus groups in March with women who are teacher-moms in Williams Lake and in New Westminster.

“It’s mixed methods — quantitative and qualitative research,” she explained. “My whole reason for undertaking this in the first place was after talking to other people who were teaching and parenting and hearing the same kinds of things coming up again and again.”

Normally researchers are happy with a 30-per cent response rate to surveys, so she was very happy to achieve an 82 per cent response rate, she said.

“People were keen to talk about their experiences and shared stories with me on the surveys. I have a pretty nice data set and it’s something I want to take further. The process I used, especially the focus group part of it, could be tweaked to make a good model for supporting teachers and other professionals.”

Through the process, she felt the teachers surveyed were happy to see their experiences normalized, she added.

“Sometimes you feel isolated and you are sucking at everything all of the time — work and home — and you feel alone and don’t really want to talk about it because it can feel embarrassing.”

Giroux has two children, and when she began her PhD program she was working for School District 27 as a teacher at Nenqayni Wellness Centre. Two years in she was hired as the principal at Sacred Heart.

Each year the CSHRF offers a one-week program aimed to network, showcase and recognize health research trainees through an adjudicated presentation on their research.

Giroux has titled her poster “Like being pecked to death by a chicken” Resilience in teacher/mothers: parsing the intersections of family, work and wellness.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Giroux and her family moved to Williams Lake in 2002 for her husband, Don’s work with Acklands-Grainger.

She worked for SD 27 from 2004 to 2016.

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