Globetrotting teacher has worked with 100 nationalities

Sarnia native Sheri Henderson is part of a team developing a school curriculum around the indigenous Blackfoot language. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

After teaching people all around the world Sarnia educator Sheri Henderson is being honoured in Canada.

The former Northern Collegiate English teacher was recently named one of Queen’s University’s 50 most influential education faculty alumni, an honour earned for teaching 30 years locally and abroad.

“I’ve hit 100 nationalities of people that I’ve taught or worked with, and that’s just from memory,” said Henderson, 54. “I’ve formed these connections with students on four continents.”

A third-generation teacher, Henderson grew up in Sarnia, went to Northern, graduated from Queen’s, and began teaching at her old high school in 1989.

She was one of the first English teachers to incorporate computers into the curriculum, and she helped found the anti-racism Multicultural Awareness Committee, or MAC, a cultural initiative still going strong at Northern more than 20 years later.

After heading up the English department at East Lambton Secondary, Henderson decided to try her hand at teaching abroad.

She worked in Switzerland and Germany and landed in the Middle East, where she taught English communication to various communities, including indigenous Bedouin tribes and soldiers in the Emerati military.

“I went abroad to teach for a year and it turned into 17 years,” she said with a laugh.

Contrary to stereotypes of Middle Eastern cultures, Henderson said she was welcomed in by the families of those she taught, from school children to adults.

“The soldiers were the turning point for me, because they wanted me to meet their mothers, their wives, and their children. As a result, I was able to enter the communities,” she said.

“It’s a magical place if you’re not just there to earn money. If you show an interest — in anybody from anywhere —(you can) form these bonds and connections.”

This summer she finished developing a school curriculum based on the Blackfoot language for the Kainai-Blood Tribe, who live in southern Alberta.

Today, Henderson teaches writing at King’s University College at Western University in London. She also does occasional teaching with the Lambton-Kent and Thames Valley school boards.

Henderson’s is a diverse portfolio, and she credits much of her beliefs and teaching practices the innovative teachers she had while a student in the 1970s and ‘80s.

“What I had in Lambton County schools really was far more advanced,” she said. “We collaborated before that was a fancy term.”