It was 3 o'clock in the morning. 36 bleary-eyed students from Lamont slowly filed into the hotel lobby, ready to board their tour bus. “APRIL FOOLS!” Kristian Basaraba and his fellow teachers couldn’t hold back their laughter as they watched their students slowly realize that they had just been pranked, not to mention robbed of seven hours of precious sleep. Kristian was one of the appointed chaperones for his school’s Spring Break trip to Italy. The tour director and teachers had conspired and successfully convinced the students that they needed to be ready for a 3am departure when in reality their tour bus didn’t leave till 10am. And thus started a week-long prank war that still makes Kristian laugh today.
No two days are the same when you’re a teacher. It’s this variety combined with the opportunity to make “the world a better and more positive place” that drive Kristian to keep teaching. He also loves the fact that teaching gives him an arena to combine his love of science with his love of skateboards. As creator and teacher of Sk8trepreneur, he's “really passionate about introducing [his] students to the many creative forces and people in this city that run businesses and make change through art while inspiring others.”
SKATEBOARDS AND AN IMPRESSIVE AWARD
Sk8trepreneur is why Kristian was recently awarded the prestigious Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching in recognition of his creative and transformative work. Sk8trepreneur, or the 'skateboard class' as Kristian likes to call it, challenged high school students to explore Indigenous issues related to colonialism, creativity and reconciliation using skateboards. Students had to create a brand, brand name, logo and brand purpose. Then, using the blank deck of a skateboard as a canvas, they had to produce art that shared a message. During the term, students were introduced to Edmonton-based Cree artist Jonathon (JCat) Cardinal and Cree professional skateboarder, Joe Buffalo from Maskwacis, who spoke to them about their personal experiences and the power of using art as a medium for change. Joe attended residential schools as a child and when he shared about his experiences you could hear a pin drop in Kristian's classroom.
"I want to inspire my students to have a voice and to feel empowered to make change at the community level, however that may look.”
NOT JUST SKATEBOARDS
Kristian has always combined creativity with an entrepreneurial approach to teaching. Prior to Sk8trepreneur, Kristian taught a class in which students had to create and market their own fashion line with the intent of raising awareness about poverty. He also championed a project called “Scream for Change” where students were taught about protest songs and their role in helping to drive change. Here students were challenged to write their own protest song and perform it for 250 elementary students as part of a live tour through multiple schools.
NO SUCH THING AS DOWNTIME
And when he’s not teaching? Kristian is the founder of a local not-for-profit called Rad Dads and hosts an affiliated podcast, The Rad Dad's Show, that's about parenting with a punk rock edge. On top of that, he’s also the lead singer of a local punk cover band. And, yes, he does that whole put-your-leg-up-on-the-front-speaker classic rock move.
THE REALITY OF A PANDEMIC
Teaching during this pandemic has “been a bit (maybe that’s an understatement) of a struggle for everyone. Especially our students at [Next Step]." But through it all, Kristian wants his students to know that he is still there for them. And that he’s willing to help them get through this. And that it will be ok in the end. If he could say one thing to his fellow teachers right now, it would be this: “I know that many times it may not feel like it, but know that you make a great impact on the lives of the students you teach and that you make a difference...even if it’s just for one student.”
We’re super proud to have Kristian as one of our Backbeat dads and to have the opportunity to partner with the amazing work that he does through Rad Dads. Kristian, thank you for all that you do and the approach you take to teaching and changing the lives around you. You inspire us all to keep creating and keep working together for change. Let's do this.