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Biography & Autobiography Educators

Gifted to Learn

by (author) Gloria Mehlmann

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2008
Educators, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2008
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    Publish Date
    Aug 2008
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In 1960s Regina, when racial discrimination often went unchallenged, and the education system needed visionary reform, Gloria Mehlmann struggled to embrace her Cree/Saulteaux identity and sustain her passion for learning and teaching. Critical but not cynical, Mehlmann's touching stories reveal the experiences and students that taught her to become one of Saskatchewan's guiding voices for education reform. While devotees of memoir will be transported by Mehlmann's humane storytelling, specialists in Indigenous Studies, Education, Women's Studies, and Autobiography are also invited to explore the clear, strong prose within Gifted to Learn.

About the author

Gloria Mehlmann grew up on the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, before striking out to become a public school teacher (1962-1983). Her various careers include serving as a public library trustee and as Director of Aboriginal Education. Mehlmann has been recognized repeatedly for her contributions to educational, aboriginal, and civic initiatives, culminating in the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal in 2005. Author of Gifted to Learn, a memoir, 2008. Recipient of an SLTA honorary Lifetime Membership 2004. She is now a full-time writer and lives in Nanoose Bay, BC.

Gloria Mehlmann's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Author Gloria Mehlmann weaves three separate stories together in her memoir: stories of students...; the result of the Canadian government's policy on Indians...; and a new teacher's fledgling journey into the role and responsibilities of the profession.... Experienced teachers can reflect on their own careers through Mehlmann's insights; new teachers can use her experiences and shared wisdom as a compass for their own careers.... Mehlmann says 'there was something about the profession of teaching that no only attracted wishful idealists but, also, strong-minded people with solid senses of personal value.' This book shows her as both--an innovative thinker looking to the future and an ideal of education and life in Canada, as well as a teacher using her strong intellect to open the minds of children throughout her career, challenging them to do better, learn more, and question always." Amanda Parker, Canadian Teacher Magazine, March/April 2011

"Artfully written, at the heart of the book is the story of an intellectual apprenticeship of a strong-willed woman. The memoir is comprised of first-person accounts of personal experiences, stories of specific children, and of letters to and from the author's friend Goldie.... Another important aspect of this memoir is her experience as a First Nations woman teaching in public school Regina in the 1960s. This is not a familiar story.... Sexism and racism permeate the narrative.... The intended audience of this memoir is broadly based.... Mehlmann's refined sensibility masks an appetite for subversive stories.... A major theme of the book is the social history of integration of Indian and Métis perspectives in curriculum and schools, a process that continues to this day.... In telling the painful stories of children, she is not seduced by sentimentality. Nor does Mehlmann revert to a conventional plot in retelling her life. Sometimes conflict is resolved, but often as not, she and the reader are wondering "what if?"... [Gloria Mehlmann] is more than able to fulfill her stated objectives. She possesses a prodigious memory, humility, a fine mind, an ear for language, and great strength of purpose. I appreciated the recursive nature of the writing that permitted the author to return to points, to particular stories, in order to reiterate ideas and to emphasize how knowledge, and particularly how wisdom is achieved over the course of a life." Valerie Mulholland, Policy and Practice in Education, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2009 [Full review at]

"While Gloria herself was lucky enough NOT to be sent to the notorious Indian Residential Schools, her older siblings were not so lucky. Gloria grew up hearing stories of the atrocious and violent acts committed in the schools. This was why the reserve demanded a school of its own. Gloria's formal education did not begin until the reserve finally got its own school. She was 10 years old when she started school. At age 14 Gloria's parents decided to send her away from the reserve to Regina, Saskatchewan, where she attended a local high school. Gloria later attended University in Regina as well as a Teachers Training College, and by the early 1960's she was a qualified teacher and began teaching. ... This book is not a chronological biography. Instead it consists of a series of stories about various students that Gloria was lucky enough to teach and how each of these students taught Gloria something about herself or about the world." BiblioHistoria, March 17, 2009

"Gloria Mehlmann's Gifted to Learn should be on the bookshelves of every university campus as part of the required readings for undergraduate education students and for teachers returning to complete their master's degrees. Mehlmann grew up on Cowessess First Nation Reserve in Saskatchewan and later became a public school teacher. Her experiences as a First Nations person and caring teacher provide insights into how historical injustices, identity struggles and cultures of poverty are part of every student and classroom, and the Canadian experience. Mehlmann understands personally and through the eyes of her students, how unchallenged aboriginal discrimination impacts lives. In this book she uniquely fuses her wisdom about native studies, curriculum and pedagogy to create a penetrating glimpse into education. This book is an absolute must for educators." Louise Gonsalvez, The Global Educator, Summer 2009

"In Gifted to Learn, Gloria Mehlmann, a Cree/Saulteaux woman, recounts her twenty-year public school teaching career in Saskatchewan during the 1960s and 1970s. Against the backdrop of racist and discriminatory social mores followed by social change, the book offers a heartfelt examination of the forces that impact the lives of children and teachers....Gifted to Learn's most compelling passages describe Mehlmann's struggle to develop her identity as a teacher....Mehlmann is an outstanding storyteller and was likely just as competent a teacher. Her commitment is illustrated not only through her agonizing over her calling, but also by the lengths to which she went to ensure authentic and engaging learning experiences for her students....those of us involved in the preparation of future teachers have much to gain from Mehlmann's illustration of how a novice teacher makes sense of pre-service learning and life in a classroom." Helen Raptis, University of Victoria, American Review of Canadian Studies

"Gloria Mehlmann's memoir Gifted to Learn colourfully recounts her 20-year career, which began in the 1960s, as a school teacher in Regina. With the world a much more complex place, homes not as stable as they used to be, children exposed to a wider range of activities, and technology with a high entertainment factor, Mehlmann believes it has become increasingly difficult for the role of a classroom teacher. 'I still believe that teaching a child to read and to love reading at an early age is key to their future,' said Mehlmann. 'A love of reading creates curiosity and a desire to learn throughout life.'" Gillian Slade, Medicine Hat News, November 3, 2008

Author Gloria Mehlmann grew up on an Indian reservation in Saskatchewan, Canada, and worked as a public school teacher between 1962 and 1983, a period when discrimination and other abuses against students and teachers often went unchallenged. Here she shares the experiences she had with the students who ultimately ended up teaching her. The book will be of interest to those in Native studies, education, and women's studies. The author has also served as a public library trustee and as Director of Aboriginal Education. (Annotation ©2009 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)

"Author and educator Gloria Mehlmann engages her readers by journeying with them through three separate but interconnected narratives in her memoir Gifted to Learn. She recalls with clarity the stories of individual students and paints colorful anecdotes of their individual struggles and gifts. Intertwined with these tales is Melmann's own journey: the ongoing quest of an educator to meet the needs of each student, balancing the demands of content and curriculum with humanity and compassion. Mehlmann explores as well the implications of Canadian government policy on First Nations people living on and off reserves, particularly during the 1960's and 1970's.... Educators at all stages of their career will draw meaning by relating Mehlmann's work to their own professional journey." Sheila Ryan, Teach Magazine, February 20, 2014 [Full article at]

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