This Canadian Teacher Is Bringing Students to the Arctic for School

Shannon Mullen is a Canadian high school teacher and writer living in Toronto. Her new novel, See What Flowers, above love and mental illness will be released on Amazon on May 20. For her PhD thesis, Mullen is creating a project which involved bringing “southern” Canadian students to the Arctic as an initiative to bridge the education gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians within the Truth & Reconciliation framework.

Her writing has been featured in the Globe & Mail, Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and Rebelle Society.


Do you know where you got your drive from?
My drive comes from a deep passion for learning. I’m very curious and love traveling, reading, exploring, and trying new things. I try to push myself out of my comfort zone as much as I can so that I can continue to grow and challenge myself.

How do you stay self-motivated?
I stay self-motivated by devoting my energy to things that I’m passionate about. When I’m excited by an idea, a project, a creative endeavour, a relationship, I put my whole self into it. Engaging in activities that I’m passionate gives me energy and inspires me to persist even when things get difficult.

What would you say is your preferred way to network?
My preferred way to network is to invest in my passions. When I’m excited & motivated about the work that I’m doing, I’m energized in a way that attracts other positive, passionate, like-minded people. It’s like doing things that I’m passionate about brings out the best version of myself, and this attracts the kind of people who make me even better.

How would you describe your process for deepening relationships?
I think that the best way to deepen relationships is through vulnerability. I find that when I allow myself to be vulnerable: when I share my struggles, fears, insecurities, put the real ‘me’ on the table, it provides an opportunity for real connection and allows others to do the same.

What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
I operate in complete organized chaos. I find making notes and using the calendar on my phone really helpful. When I teach I try to do as much digitally as I can. It’s much easier for me to organize folders on my laptop than binders filled with paper.

What is your favourite way to market your product or services?
My preferred way of marketing is doing good work. I would rather reach a smaller audience by being consistent and authentic, than do work that is less authentic but sells better. I believe that outstanding work sells itself.

Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?
My mentor has definitely been my Dad. He was actually the principal of my high school, which was difficult at times, but we have a great relationship and have even cycled together in Europe and South America! He is a driven, caring, passionate person and inspiring leader. He has a very disciplined fitness regime, which makes him fitter than most men my age. I think what I’ve learned most about him in recent years is to always stay true myself, and not care what other people think of me. What’s important is what I think of me.

What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?
Having worked as a teacher in Canada’s north, I was exposed to the education gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. I hope that my PhD research can work as one small step for creating positive change to address this issue.

How and where do you continue to learn?
There have been two ways that I’ve consistently learned the most. One is through commitment. When I’m able to commit to something or someone and really invest time and energy into understanding that thing or person better, I’m always able to understand myself better. The other way has been through travel. Not only has travel opened my eyes to the beauty of the world, it’s also taught me that there are many different ways to live, and that there are many different ways that someone can define success and happiness. Travel is an opportunity to reinvent myself because it allows me to shed layers of the person I used to be and become someone stronger.

Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
I’m a fitness instructor at Goodlife Fitness, so I lead a very active lifestyle, but the fitness ritual I’ve been focusing on lately is balance. I try to do a variety of activities I enjoy and prioritize rest days to allow my body to heal. (I used to be terrible about taking time off but I’m getting better).

How do you feed your soul?
I fuel my soul by allowing space for creativity, through writing or photography, and also through connections with nature. I love getting outside, even if it is something as simple as a walk or bike ride, and find it always helps me feel more centered.

How would you describe the eating ritual that makes you feel most powerful?
I love going to farmers markets on Saturday morning. I find that people seem really happy at markets and this gives me positive energy. I like meeting the farmers who produce my food. Especially when I’m traveling, I like exploring the local markets as it gives me a real taste of the local people and culture.

What type of content do you find most compelling on Instagram?
Travel pics. When I see incredible images of places I haven’t visited, it makes me want to plan my next adventure.

What lifestyle brand would you say shares your values most?
I really like the National Geographic Travel brand. I am inspired by the stories told by incredible photos. This makes me want to travel more.

Who is your favourite artist?
Honestly, I love Beyoncé. She’s an incredibly talented artist and role model. Her album, Lemonade, was released when I had to take some time off work when I was living in Colombia due to a medical emergency. I must have listened to it hundreds of times during those two weeks. It helped me get through a scary, lonely time in my life.

What is your favourite meal?
My grandma’s lasagna. My grandma isn’t alive anymore but my mom continues to make her recipe for special occasions. It reminds me of being with my family. These moments of family connection have become even more important to me after living abroad for so long.

What is your favourite sport to watch?
As I former rugby player, it’s definitely rugby. And the Canada’s Women’s Rugby team is incredible.

Where is your favourite place to unwind?

On my bike. For me, cycling is the best way to clear my head and find my balance. I always come out of a bike ride feeling more relaxed.