My first literacy teacher was my mother
Trish Weatherall is Decoda’s communications specialist. One of Trish’s jobs is to write impact stories on how literacy transforms lives.
“I love writing stories about people,” says Trish. “Everyone has a story and something others can learn from.”
One of Trish’s favourite stories is about a mother who came to Canada from Sudan and participated in IPALS (Immigrant Parents as Literacy Supporters). By attending this family literacy program, the mother learned that the best way to teach her children was through play.
“It was a heartwarming story to write, and I wanted to convey how much the program helped her family adjust to a new life in Canada and the joy she felt sending her children to a new school, happy and excited,” Trish said.
In writing impact stories, Trish says she strives to form an emotional connection between the reader and the subject. “My goal is always to inform the reader, but also make them feel something. And it’s important to me to make the interview subject feel proud of themselves and their work.”
Her first literacy teacher
“My mom practiced family literacy before she knew it was a thing.”
As a child, Trish loved to learn and to read. She was inspired by her young, working single mom “who always had a book in her hand,” said Trish. “Her answer to boredom, was ‘read a book’ (and sometimes, ‘clean your room’).”
Trish’s mother dreamed of owning a bookstore where people could sit and read and drink coffee. “This was before Chapters and Starbucks!” Trish said.
Trish credits her mother with being her first literacy teacher in the early 1970s. “My mom practiced family literacy before she knew it was a thing,” Trish said.
Trish remembers the ways her mother supported her literacy development:
- She would spell everything. It’s time for B-E-D; go outside and P-L-A-Y; put on your S-H-O-E-S.
- On Toronto buses and subways, she got me to read out the words on the ads.
- We played ‘hangman’ as soon as I could write letters. As I got older, Scrabble was the main family game.
Her mother’s influence put Trish on a career path to fulfill her two passions: writing and literacy work.
“My mom passed in 2013, before I started working in literacy,” said Trish. “I know she would be really proud that my work supports something that is so important to people’s lives.”
Trish trained to be a journalist and was the editor of her college newspaper. “I realized that I wasn’t happy writing hard news, tragic stories or anything political. My interest was writing in happy stories, ones that promote something positive.”
Trish worked for 14 years in the marketing department of an automation company that made electrical components for heavy industries, including mining, pulp & paper, oil. She wrote case studies, product launch material and edited all external materials and newsletter for sales.
But she felt a void working in the corporate world.
“I wanted to do the same type of communications work but apply my skills to support a nonprofit. Something more people focused. I wanted to feel good about the work I do and know it was having a positive impact.”
Working in literacy
Trish’s experience as an adult literacy tutor in Ontario led her to land a job in the field. In 2016, she was hired as a Literacy Outreach Coordinator for Mount Waddington Family Literacy Society, serving 12 North Vancouver Island communities. She worked with Decoda on new initiatives and started Fostering Literacy programs in Port Hardy and Port McNeill. Last year, she started United Way School’s Out after-school programs in five communities.
In 2017, Trish moved to Denman Island, which was a five-hour commute to work. She resigned as the LOC but stayed on as support and communications. As the project lead for the Displaced Workers project, she helped develop CONNECT4WORK. The program introduced computers to job seekers. Trish’s in-depth case study led to her being recommended for a contract work to edit Decoda’s new website.
Her skills soon became invaluable to Decoda, and she was offered a permanent part-time job in 2021. In her role, Trish writes impact stories and press releases and does general editing. She also manages all of Decoda’s social media platforms, sharing literacy news and resources on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
“I didn’t have much social media experience, but it’s really about communicating – you can learn the technology,” said Trish. “I get excited when a post has reached a lot of people or received a lot of likes and shares. People seem to really like the personal touch in posts about our employees.”
Working for Decoda
Trish likes the variety her job offers. “It’s a nice combination of writing and graphics,” said Trish. “And I love that I am constantly learning. I get to read everything – from Decoda’s twice-weekly blog posts to everything I see out in the field – from tiny one-person literacy organizations creating StoryWalks™ to national organizations that provide resources and training.”
Trish works closely with all members of the team to promote Decoda’s work.
“The collaboration that happens at Decoda is amazing. There is a lot of sharing, asking for input, and respecting each other’s knowledge and expertise,” said Trish. “Even though I work remotely, I really feel part of the team. There is a lot of energy, support and positive feedback.”
Sandra Lee, Decoda’s executive director, echoes this sentiment. “Trish is such a pleasure to work with. Her enthusiasm and expertise are greatly valued. Although Trish is separated from us by distance and we only get to see her on camera, her warmth and humour shine through every time we meet.”
When Trish is not at work, she enjoys hiking trails with her dog Jett, kayaking and reading, of course!
Decoda Literacy Solutions is BC’s provincial literacy organization. We support community-based literacy programs and initiatives in over 400 communities across BC by providing resources, training and funds.
Our work supports children and families, youth, adults, Indigenous and immigrant communities to help build strong individuals, strong families and strong communities.
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