Name: Cassandra Scheffman
Home: Portland, Oregon
Graduated from IHE: M.Ed. candidate 2013
Current Job/Position/Role: classroom outreach presenter for environmental education organization
What led you to the path of humane education?
In past academic and professional pursuits I have felt the need to choose between the two areas in which I was most passionate: animal welfare and environmental protection. I found myself searching for a way to nurture and expand my potential to contribute in both areas, and along the way I discovered a third area that seemed like the missing link – people! Social justice issues are deeply entwined in animal and environmental issues, and in fact the three are critically interconnected. As this larger view took shape, I came across the humane education paradigm and was introduced to the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). Complemented by my love for working in educational settings with children, I knew humane education was the perfect path for me.
How has your humane education experience with IHE affected/influenced you?
My experience with IHE has opened my mind in incredible ways. I am surrounded by inspiring, brilliant, and compassionate people with a wealth of ideas, experiences, and wisdom to share. I am constantly challenged to think outside the box, summon my creativity, think critically, open my conscience, and let go of judgments. I am growing intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. This is an empowering journey.
Describe your current humane education work.
As a volunteer, I work with several local cat and dog rescue/adoption organizations and help reach out to the public about spay/neuter, responsible pet care, and community (feral) cats. Regarding these and other humane education topics, I find that everyday conversations can open doors when we meet them with open hearts and minds and without judgments and criticisms.
As part of my environmental education work, I present energy conservation programs for middle school students. A culminating component to this program is inviting students with their families to sign a written pledge that they will make an effort to conserve energy at home. In exchange, they receive a kit full of devices for their homes that will help them accomplish this goal such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, a low-flow showerhead and faucet aerator, and other items. After learning about energy use, renewable and non-renewable resources, and related environmental impacts, this program ultimately helps students feel empowered and excited about how they can make a difference in a very tangible way.
Share a success story or two.
To me, each “ah ha!” moment in the classroom, every drawing and thank you note, and even a hug represent a success story. My job is to reach every student, and I try to involve each individual as much as possible. The message I drive home is that each of us can make a difference; together we can make a BIG difference.
What are your thoughts about the power of humane education to positively transform the world?
As humane educators I believe we must try to build our own lives around the values and positive transformations we wish to foster around us. I believe strongly that through positive energy more positive energy flows. (The same is true for negativity.) If we seek more compassion and empathy in the world, then we must relate to everyone compassionately and with empathy. Drawing on the words of Gandhi, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. This doesn’t mean being a “perfect” role model, but rather recognizing ourselves as fellow human beings on a journey, members of a community who support, give to, and learn from one another. Through this sense of unity we may become empowered, realize positive change, open doors to new perspectives, and even witness shifts in consciousness.
What do you think of IHE’s graduate program?
The graduate program is as much a personal journey of discovery and growth as it is an academic pursuit. This program is highly meaningful, rich, and full of opportunity. The program design, faculty, and peers gracefully and effectively overcome any tendencies of an online program to be dull, simplified, or lacking in community and support. In addition, this unique opportunity to work with others from around the globe adds even more depth and perspective within the experience. IHE’s graduate program is a gem to be discovered!
What else would you like to share?
IHE is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in implementing humane education into professional or volunteer work, seeking information about humane education related issues, or looking to connect with a supportive community. I have found that humane education can be as formal or informal as a situation dictates. It has become a cornerstone of my life, personally and professionally, and I feel tremendous gratitude.