Heather Kertyzia

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What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

As the students I work with come from all over the world, with different political, cultural and religious perspectives, we experience a lot of ideological conflict on campus. I find that working through these different perspectives in the classroom while practicing empathy and active listening allow students to gain important skills in conflict transformation and nonviolent communication. When students are able to connect with each other on a human level, they are often able to transform their relationships from ones based on ideological judgement to one based on mutual respect built on their shared humanity. At the end of the year when I see those that originally disliked each other taking photos together and hugging, it makes all the difficult conversations worth it.

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

Every time I teach a class, there's at least one student who is resistant to the kind of transformative change we are looking for. When that student finally looks at me, which may be on day one, or day ten of a course, and nods with a face of understanding, that's the moment that makes the work worthwhile.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

In my youth I experienced several forms of violence, and I was lucky enough that at university I was able to work with our Sexual Harassment/ Anti-Discrimination Office. I worked for and with amazing people, who showed me how we could use education to transform society. They changed my life.