Here on Tale of Two Teachers we are starting a new “Guest Post” series featuring individuals who have experienced an alternative approach to education throughout their lives.  We both teach in public schools and we both attended public schools growing up, but because we are curious about all things education, we decided it might be interesting to interview people whose experiences were different from our own.  We hope you enjoy this new series!

First up is an interview from Vancouver based artist, Elyse Dodge, who experienced schooling and education in multiple ways, shapes and forms.elyse3

Elyse, can you please describe your elementary school experience:

I had a unique relationship with education compared to most kids. I went to private school in Kindergarten, grade 4, grade 6 and grade 9 through 12, but in between those years I was homeschooled. My mom taught my two brothers along with myself for the majority of our formal education.

How did homeschooling benefit your childhood?

I was exposed to a lot of the curriculum my two older brothers (4 years and 6 years older than me) were learning because my mom would teach us all at the same time. I think the benefit was learning time management from a young age, having spare time to follow my own curiosities and; therefore, not understanding the concept of slacking off. There was no comparison [between kids], we just had to do our best all the time. We would mark our own work so if we got the answers wrong on exams we would have to research the answers until we understood them and then correct them.

Does your homeschooling experience impact your life to this day?

The environment of growing up being homeschooled does impact my life to this day. My unique education gave me the freedom to chose how I spent my time which allowed me to follow my imagination and compete internationally in Rhythmic Gymnastics. I learned from a young age that the only thing that would hold me back was myself. Those high expectations and out of the box thinking lead me down the creative path I am on now.

Describe your high school experience:

Gymnastics days. I (Karley) was one of the friends Elyse stayed with and went to school with during the week while we were training.

When I was homeschooling and debating going back to private school for high school I chose to do Grade 7 and 8 in the same year and jump a grade so I could be with my older friends. I wasn’t going to be accepted into Grade 9 at a private school unless I could pass all the public exams for that year so I studied twice as hard and pulled it off. I attended Kelowna Christian School while continuing to train 30+ hours a week as a Rhythmic Gymnast in Vernon, BC. A few days a week I would wake up at 4 AM, drive to Vernon and train 6 AM – 10 AM, do my own home work at friends’ schools in Vernon and then train again in the evening from 4 PM to 8 PM. From grade 5 – grade 10 I would stay with a few of my gymnastics friends’ families two nights a week so I could continue on with this demanding training schedule away from home.  My mom made all of this possible for me by going above and beyond her role as a mother in every way. From driving me to practice in Vernon, to paying my way through an expensive sport, to teaching my brothers and me, to being a role model of creativity and support.

Elyse, can you please briefly describe your career:

I currently work as a Brand Experience Designer for a large scale event production company called BRANDLIVE. My responsibility is to conceptualize visual themes for our many events and then create event brands, signage, environmental graphics, immersive activations and decor to thread those themes together.  In my free time I am an artist who dabbles in different mediums, but primarily creates acrylic landscapes in both geometric and abstract ways.

What kind of post-secondary education do you have?

When I moved to Vancouver at age 18 I enrolled in the Design Formation two year Career Diploma at Langara College. The Diploma was the perfect hybrid of graphic design and environmental design that I was looking for. I was never clear on the specific career I wanted to get into, but I was always curious about graphic design, architecture and event design so this met all my needs. The program offered courses like illustration, exhibit design, marketing, communications, interior design, and 3D installation design so the projects and challenges were wide

A recent commissioned painting for Six Hundred Four, an artist-designed premium sneaker brand from Vancouver.
A recent commissioned painting for Six Hundred Four, an artist-designed premium sneaker brand from Vancouver.

ranging. This two year intensive diploma had a practicum experience where students could select a company they wanted to work for. That practicum experience was my first introduction to the event design industry and once I had a taste for it I was hooked.

How did/does your post-secondary education impact your career?

The Design Formation program opened the door for me to the event industry. Through my practicum I found a career where my creativity could carry across different mediums and have no limitations. Although the courses in

that Diploma may have seemed wide ranging to most people, I use all of the skills I learned in my current career. I would highly recommend career focused shorter term Diplomas to any students that don’t have a clear career selected. Not everyone’s path is linear so learn follow your curiosities and you might just find that you can create your own job like me!

How do you continue to expand upon your education now that you’re a working professional in a very creative field?

If you aren’t learning something new in your job every day then you are doing something wrong. I say “Yes” to a lot of projects at work and rarely say, “I don’t know how to do that”… even if I don’t [actually know how to do something]. I am a firm believer that with enough determination and resourcefulness you can almost solve any problem. That attitude, along with a few free tutorials, has helped me add many new skills to my toolbox. My responsibilities range from conceptualizing event environments, to designing event brands, to creating signage, and building event websites, apps and digital content.

Do you ever feel that your schooling “killed” your creativity?

My schooling fueled my creativity. Canvas used to be the only medium I could express my  creativity through, but after my schooling I realized that the mediums were endless. I didn’t have to limit my curiosity to just graphic design or display design, I could do all of it.

Feel welcome to connect with Elyse through her website: or through social media.  You can find her page on Facebook or over at Instagram.

Elyse's work, "Black Tusk", has been turned into premium sneakers for Six Hundred Four, in Gastown, Vancouver, BC.
Elyse’s work, “Black Tusk”, has been turned into premium sneakers for Six Hundred Four, in Gastown, Vancouver, BC.