Wall of Honouree Patti Rowley (BSPE'83, BEd'84)

Patti Rowley was recognized by the College of Education for her service to the community and her lifetime achievements in education

The College of Education is pleased to recognize Patti Rowley (BSPE'83, BEd'84) as a 2023 Wall of Honour Alumni Award recipient. Patti was recognized at the Pinning Ceremony and Wall of Honour Celebration on April 3, 2023. 

Patti Rowley is an award-winning educator whose contributions and advocacy have left a lasting legacy in Saskatchewan schools, making them safer and more inclusive for gender-diverse students. As an educator for thirty-three years, she has taught over 6,600 students with humour and compassion. Her focus has been as an ally and advocate for gender and sexually diverse students.

Patti was born and raised in Saskatoon, attending St. Edward’s elementary school and then E.D. Feehan high school. Bragging that she was a “west-side Catholic Girl” would give her huge cred with her future students.

Patti competed in gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, softball, and football at highly competitive level, with three of the sports at national levels. Harmony Centre, her softball team, was inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame.

“My parents, Bunee and Ken, worked incredibly hard to provide these opportunities for me. I also had amazing coaches/mentors who believed in and encouraged me.”

Patti attended the University of Saskatchewan and completed her education with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education (BSPE’83) and a BEd (’84). 

“A couple of memories at university resonate with me. I remember taking a swimming activity class, and in order to pass, you had to swim a certain number of lengths in a certain period of time. Well, while every child was taking swimming lessons, I was in the gym training in gymnastics. If not for the yelling and cheering of my classmates, I would not have passed that swimming class,” shared Rowley.

“Another memory was when I tried out for the Huskiette basketball team (that’s what it was called back then). I was cut because I was too short. I know, shocking! That’s the first time I’ve ever been cut from a team and it was humbling, but I think I became a better, more understanding teacher and coach,” she said.

Patti began her teaching career at the Comprehensive High School in Swift Current, covering a maternity leave. She went on to teach in the Saskatoon Public School Division (SPSD) at Bedford Road Collegiate, initially as an intern and then spent eight years there teaching Physical Education and coaching basketball, volleyball, and track and field.

Mount Royal Collegiate was her next stop. There she taught Life Transitions, Ethical Living, and Physical Education. In 2001, she started Saskatchewan’s first GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance, now Gender and Sexuality Alliance to be more inclusive). At first it was met with resistance, but Patti’s constant pressure and determination made it a reality.

“I attended a breakout session at our division’s institute and convention on homophobia. I thought, ‘I can do this, start a GSA.’ I guess I was kind of a bulldog, relentless, but this was uncharted territory and students needed it. After the initial hesitation, administrators and staff were so supportive. At the open house in February, we had a booth set up, and every teacher was wearing a rainbow ribbon.”

For two decades Patti provided a voice to the voiceless, marginalized queer youth. She has given 2SLGBTQ+ students a place to feel safe and the confidence to advocate for themselves.

At Walter Murray, she continued to host student-run weekly GSA meetings with some special events. One was Winter’s A Drag bake sale where GSA members dressed up in drag and sold baked goods. Another was the Coming Out closet where Captain Queer was displayed in the main hallway highlighting queer students and staff. Walter Murray was the first to have gender-neutral washrooms.

Patti included queer education in her Life Transitions, Psychology and Sex Education curricula and had community members from OUTSaskatoon as guest presenters.

“I am so grateful to OUTSaskatoon for their expertise. I had them on speed dial and learned so much from them. But it was the students, who I was fortunate to work with, that taught me so much through their courage and fortitude.”

For her work with queer youth, Patti was awarded the Peter Corren Award in 2013 at the Breaking the Silence Conference at the University of Saskatchewan. This award is given to a person, persons, or organization whose efforts have had a long-term impact on social justice for sexual minorities. She was nominated for the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in education in 2017, and also received the OUTSaskatoon OUTShine KNOCKOUT award. In 2019, she was recognized by Member of Parliament Sherri Benson for her community service in Saskatoon West. Patti has also done presentations at staff openings, Breaking the Silence conference, and was the Keynote Speaker at the Prairie Pride Conference for students with Prairie Spirit School Division (PSSD).

Patti’s family have been a tremendous support, and she thanks her partner Bill, son Morgan, daughter Quinn, siblings Mari-Lou, Rick (Bonnie), and Bill (Nigel).

Patti retired in 2018, but after COVID she decided to substitute teach in Prairie Spirit School Division, where she resides in Martensville.

“I’ve had such a blast subbing. Students are so much fun!  It’s been amazing to see GSAs up and running in the schools I’ve been at, and now they’re in many more schools. Things have improved since 2001, and although there’s still work to do, I know our youth are in good hands!”

At the Student Pinning and Wall of Honour Ceremony held on April 3, Patti had the following words for the 250 students receiving their Education Pins that evening: 

"So what has changed since 1984, my first year teaching? A lot. But the one thing that has remained constant in a child's life is their teacher. So whether you give them a hug, or a high five, or a fist bump, you'll always be there for them. Advocating for them, and yes, quite often protecting them. So how does one do that for three decades? Laugh every day. Laugh at yourself, laugh with your colleagues, laugh with your students. But laugh every day. I want to wish every one of you a happy, healthy, successful career in teaching."