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Women of Estevan: Agnes Garrioch opening up the world of tech for all

This year's theme of the IWD is DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality. The Mercury spoke to two inspiring local women who dedicate their talents, skills, time and energy to open up the borders of the world of computer science, technology and innovations to everyone, building a better Estevan. Today we are sharing the story of Agnes Garrioch.  

Building a gender-equal present together one step at a time


March 8 is International Women's Day, and for the third year, Estevan Mercury along with the community celebrates local women, their achievements and their strengths by featuring their stories, doing our part in embracing equity.

This year's theme of the IWD is DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality. The Mercury spoke to two inspiring local women who dedicate their talents, skills, time and energy to open up the borders of the world of computer science, technology and innovations to everyone, building a better Estevan.

Today we are sharing the story of Agnes Garrioch.  

Agnes Garrioch 

Agnes Garrioch is a Grade 8 teacher and technology integration coach at St. Mary's School, which involves leading professional development for teachers and leading students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and lessons.

Garrioch came to Estevan in 2012 from Ontario. She grew up with three sisters, who all chose to proceed with various carers in the education field.

She said she knew what she wanted to be since her early years.

"When we were younger, we all played school. And I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, I've been impacted by such amazing teachers. And I knew that one day, I wanted to be someone that, just like I had when I was a child, is such a good mentor who helps develop leadership qualities in students. That's why I've chosen to teach in Grade 8," Garrioch shared.

She added the age choice wasn't random either, as "Grade 8 is such a year of growth for students;" they are "so open to their futures and so passionate about their schooling;" and she is grateful she gets "to help mentor and teach this age group each year."

Her original plan was to come to Estevan for a year to gain teaching experience and then move on, but life chose a different path.

"In Ontario, it's quite hard to get permanent teaching positions, so I moved out here for a year. And then I ended up meeting my now husband within that year and I've stayed ever since. That was back in 2012, so I've been at St. Mary's School and in Estevan ever since," Garrioch recalled.

Now, over 10 years later, almost every local kid with an interest in technology knows Mrs. Garrioch. She said as much as she's always wanted to be a teacher, she also always was passionate about innovations and tech.

"I've always been interested in computers since I was a young person. And my mom was always tech-savvy," Garrioch said. "I do wish I had opportunities to learn how to code as a child, and that's why I love providing that experience to my own students, and because it's fun."

For a long time now, Garrioch has been opening up the world of science and innovations to her female and male students alike by all means available. Last year, they hosted an Innovation Fair, where students used design thinking to create prototypes involving technology that responded to a community, local or global issue. Her students came up with a train tracker app prototype, which, if developed, would warn Estevan residents when a train will be coming through. They also created an idea of a robotic drone for pizza delivery.

The year prior, students were virtual pals with Creighton Lodge residents. They had weekly chats via FaceTime, through which students learned about residents' activity limitations, and then developed and 3-D printed devices, such as mask holders or shopping bag holders for a walker, which would help solve existing limitations.

The school hosted a STEM festival last year and 10 days of tech this year. Garrioch also started and has been running a coding club at St. Mary's since 2014.

Also, last year she led a group of female students who participated in the Hackergal Hackathon, which is a competition for girls where they complete a digital project using Lynx coding.

"We spoke live at the event too, representing Saskatchewan, and we spoke about our group and the community of Estevan. That was really fun and really inspirational ... I know the girls were so creative in their digital project, and we all had a really great time working on that together," Garrioch shared.

She added it's really important to her to push for girls to develop and be equal in the world of innovations and technology.

"I feel that women belong in these spaces that are focused on innovation or technology. And I think it's incredibly important for young girls to see women in roles in science, tech, engineering and math fields, as this is historically a place that is less populated by females. And if young girls see women in these roles, they can in turn see themselves in these roles," Garrioch said.

Just a few weeks ago, the Garrioch family welcomed their second daughter and third child. Little Ivy joined her sister Violet and brother Dawson, and Garrioch said that being a mother of two girls, she wants to help create a world where they can be whomever they want.

"I have two daughters of my own, and I want them and other girls to feel like there are no limitations on what they can be interested in or accomplish," Garrioch said.

While on maternity leave, Garrioch is also currently working on completing her master of educational technology (MET) from the University of British Columbia. She is to be finished in mid-April, and she shared her inspiring experience of being a new mother while also working and getting a degree in technology.

"When I shared that I would be giving birth mid-way through my final MET course, I was worried that my professor may suggest it would be too difficult with a newborn, due to the demanding workload of a master's program. Even though I knew that I have the perseverance and ambition to be successful, and full confidence in my ability to be an amazing mother to all three of my children and continue with my 90 per cent-plus average in my master's program. However, she responded with outstanding support and shared with me that she too, had a five-week-old when she defended her master’s thesis a while ago. She offered her congratulations, extended the offer to let her know if she could support me in any way, and cheered me on by saying 'You got this'.

"This is what I have witnessed in the education technology sector. I have witnessed women supporting women, and women mentoring others. I am hopeful for a continued future filled with women feeling supported, in the technology sector," Garrioch shared.

She also feels that the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division is very supportive of the development of innovations and the creation of equal access and opportunities. She sees a lot of talent in local students and encourages them to explore the world of computer science as that's where the present and the future belong.

"Challenge yourself to extend your experience ... You don't necessarily know what you are interested in unless you try, and the more things that you try, you may be surprised yourself of what you're interested in," Garrioch said.

Not only has Garrioch brought her passion for technology and innovation to Estevan, but she also extended her love for sports over to the community, which she made her home. She played sports all the way through her life, and now she coaches youth Special Olympics, as well as basketball and volleyball at St. Mary's and soccer in the community.

"I just love giving back to the community because I've had so many great role models and mentors throughout my life. And I think it's important," Garrioch shared.

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