Heather Clark

Alumni Feature

Educator | Wilson School of Design, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
MEd in Home Economics Education, 2020

Walking into the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), one is immediately struck by all the natural light in this very modern building – fitting for a campus housing a Fashion, Design and Technology program.

Heather Clark is an Instructor and Program Chair of the Fashion and Technology Program with the Wilson School of Design at KPU. She is also an Adjunct Professor at UBC with the Bachelor of Education program working with Home Economics teacher candidates. She is an alumna of the UBC Faculty of Education, having completed her Master of Education in Home Economics Education in 2020.

Her insight as an alumna of the UBC BEd and MEd programs, combined with her current role at KPU, uniquely position her for her Adjunct Professor responsibilities.

“It’s been a really nice full circle piece of combining both roles, looking at how [to] educate future educators who then could potentially be educating and teaching and working with applicants for the Fashion & Technology Program,” Heather reflects.

She thinks back fondly on the faculty members that shaped her learning during her MEd in Home Economics, including Dr. Kerry Renwick. “The right type of people can push you to do better, and do more and question different things and bring different perspectives, which is so amazing,” Heather notes. She adds that the passion of Home Economics educators is incredibly infectious.

“[The program] gave me pause to figure out what makes me really excited and passionate about what I’m doing, and how [I can] do more of that.”

The learning Heather gained from her MEd program has expanded the way she approaches her teaching, and has enabled her to apply an inquiry-focused lens in her lessons, and to pull from other educational approaches like transformative, hands-on, and experiential education. She embeds these philosophies in subtle yet impactful ways throughout her courses at KPU and also with her UBC teacher candidates. “It is so exciting to see the lightbulb go off when everything comes together,” Heather remarks.

Completing the MEd program has given Heather more confidence in her academic writing, so much so that she has now initiated a successful program review process at KPU. It also has given her the broad perspective needed to reflect on her career trajectory and the possibilities of how that will evolve in the future.

“It’s given me some thought on how I want my career to shift in the future. It gave me pause to figure out what makes me really excited and passionate about what I’m doing, and how [I can] do more of that.”

Heather leads us on a tour of the Wilson School of Design building which reveals large open classrooms and numerous displays of student work on hallway walls. One particular exhibit features a selection of silky gowns showcased in a large glass display that seem to belong on a runway or red carpet rather than a campus hallway, really speaking to the immense level of talent these students possess.

We arrive at the Sewing Lab where she teaches – a well-lit room made up of tall tables and chairs on one side, and about two dozen sewing stations on the other. A back wall of floor-to-ceiling windows is lined with industrial ironing boards and steam irons hooked up to gravity feed bottles that look eerily like IV drips, reflecting the volume of ironing regularly taking place in the class. A wall near the front of the class houses colourful spools of thread organized in a perfect rainbow gradient, with a huge range of hues and shades to choose from. The adjacent wall boasts mannequin heads and torsos arranged side-by-side like a limbless conga line, awaiting their next fitting.

Heather’s excitement while giving a tour of her classroom is palpable – she takes great pleasure in showing us the various parts of the room, and the different equipment, materials and tools her students use on a daily basis. As she unravels colourful fabrics of different materials and consistency, she lets out a yelp of appreciation over a shimmery blue piece that catches her eye. She shows us a huge pair of fabric scissors and a curved machete-like ruler, displaying the tools of her craft like a proud market hawker showing off her wares.

“It all comes back to a similar foundation, and for me it’s that love of teaching and sharing skills and knowledge.”

Heather has spearheaded an initiative to create an open access platform for sewing students at all levels. Along with another colleague – Catherine Hay in the Delta School District – Heather received an Open Education Resource Grant through KPU and was able to launch her online resource, Stitched. She specifically wanted this resource to provide on-demand learning, and to not just be another digital textbook. The site is still a work-in-progress, with Heather and Catherine contributing to the content as often as they can, and they are hopeful that this will be a valuable sewing, textiles and fashion teaching resource for secondary and post-secondary learners. With the funding from this UBC alumni campaign, Heather was able to purchase some video recording supplies in order to continue producing video content tutorials for the Stitched website.

Heather informs us that the KPU sewing courses are becoming quite sought after, with long waitlists a regular occurrence each semester. I’m convinced that her impact as an educator is at least partially responsible for the popularity of the sewing program, and it’s also what keeps her motivated. “It all comes back to a similar foundation, and for me it’s that love of teaching and sharing skills and knowledge,” Heather confides.

In her own teaching, Heather greatly values experiential education, and encourages her teacher candidates to take their future students out on many field trips. Heather has taken her own students on field trips to places like Herschel and Lululemon, and wants them to visualize possible future careers and to understand that there are so many different pathways for them to go on including working as concept designers, project managers, product developers, technical designers, colourists – everything from ideation to creation for retail.

As we end our tour of the school, Heather informs me that her next meeting is with some international vloggers, and it becomes clear that there is a lot more to her days than simply teaching sewing classes. We see the vloggers enter on our way out, and Heather has already switched gears and is ready to go, introducing herself in a confident and cheerful voice, and leading them away into her sewing wonderland, looking every bit in her element.

Article written by Milena Constanda | September 2022
Photos by Milena Constanda & Bryan Lee
Learn more about Heather’s program, the MEd in Home Economics Education.
Back to Alumni Feature page.

Heather’s Photos

View Heather’s full album on Flickr