UNB Research

UNB master’s student one of 2023’s top research storytellers in national competition

Author: UNB Research

Posted on May 11, 2023

Category: Accolades , Research

Zyrene Estallo, a master’s student in education at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), is one of this year’s 25 finalists in the annual Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers Challenge competition. The Storytellers Challenge “asks postsecondary students to show Canadians, in up to three minutes or 300 words, how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better,” and helps increase and highlight the impact of research on our societies and communities.

Estallo’s video explores her supervisor, Dr. David Wagner’s research on how the personal narratives of Indigenous and immigrant youth can help create better learning opportunities. Recently, Estallo sat down to share more about her story, research and accomplishments.

What brought you to UNB?

I was a teacher and school administrator in Asia for almost seven years before coming to UNB. My experiences in culturally diverse environments led me to seek to better understand how curriculum, pedagogy and policies are developed here. I thought UNB’s flexible and holistic master’s program could support my academic aspirations and I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. David Wagner, who is now my supervisor.

Demographics around the world are changing, and I found this to be an interesting phenomenon that can challenge schools. This is what prompted me to take on research in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion in schools.

What are you researching?

My research focuses on newcomer families and students and aims to identify aspects of their cultural experiences and knowledge that are valuable in their schooling. Understanding these aspects can help inform the development of curricula and school policies that better support students, particularly those from racially-minoritized groups or immigrant or refugee families.

By examining their worldviews, narratives and cultures, we can understand how these factors affect their engagement with school and their sense of belonging as they integrate into Canadian communities.

So, why is understanding and improving this engagement important?

The experience of migrating and of being marginalized can be destabilizing for many children, especially when they are met with unfamiliar teaching methods in school. I strongly believe that these students are not the problem that needs fixing; rather, their existing knowledge can be used to enrich learning.

With the growing diversity in schools across Canada (and around the world) and increasing moves to decolonize education, it is now even more important to incorporate the perspectives of migrant and Indigenous students in the classroom. How these children experience school will have a significant impact on their future success.

What prompted you to take part in the Storytellers competition.

When the contest opened, Dr. Wagner encouraged me to enter. He thought that going through the process could help me conceptualize my research in new ways.

Did that happen?

Absolutely! The contest involves two elements: first, presenting the research in three minutes and second, helping people understand the positive impact of the research on the community.

Keeping these goals in mind helped me focus on the end result. Academic writing can often be full of complex explanations and technical terms that make it difficult for the non-academic public to understand. This contest was a great reminder that our research can have a positive impact on the community, and it's important to inform them about it and help them understand it.

Your video highlights Dr. Wagner’s research, correct?

Yes. I’m still early in the process of gathering my data and currently setting up interviews and focus group discussions with children, teachers and their parents.

However, my research aligns with Dr. Wagner’s SSHRC-funded research that I present in the SSHRC Storyteller’s Challenge. His research explores the narratives and storylines of students from Indigenous and immigrant backgrounds, as well as the experiences of school staff and leadership, to develop better ways for students to learn mathematics.

Through our research, my supervisor and I both aim to develop teaching practices that can better support the success of these students and that make our school curriculum more culturally responsive and inclusive.

What comes next for you in the Storytellers competition?

We’ll have one more rehearsal day – this one in person – on May 28. Then, our final presentations will take place on May 29 at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at York University in Toronto, where they’ll also announce the winners.

Apart from the contest, we’ll also be able to attend Congress 2023. The conference will bring together scholars, graduate students and practitioners in the humanities and social sciences to share their research, and I think this will be an excellent opportunity to learn from others and to expand my professional network.

More information

Zyrene Estallo's video entry | SSHRC Storytellers finalists (2023)

Research at UNB | Graduate Studies at UNB | Postdoctoral fellowships