You know you’ve found Tanya Boteju’s classroom when you spot the timeline of feminism on the walls and the big box of rainbow tutus, leg warmers, and wigs under her desk. Boteju, a high school English teacher for 17 years, is known equally for her colourful commitment to feminism and pride, and her signature loud cackle – the sort of gleeful, head‑thrown‑back laugh that puts people at ease and cuts through teenage moroseness like a splash of water in the face.
But Boteju (BA’00, BEd’01) hasn’t always been the sort of woman with a confident laugh and a rainbow tutu at the ready. As a queer teenager in the early 90s, she says she was “a hot mess.” While she cultivated the persona of an outgoing and model student, she felt like an oddball outsider. “I was really insecure, really out of touch with myself, really hard on myself underneath the shiny layer,” she says. At the time, Boteju didn’t know anyone who was out. Her teachers never mentioned that LGBTQ+ people existed. She didn’t encounter queer characters in books or on TV, nor any characters who even looked like her. She kept who she was a secret for a long time, even from herself.
Now, Boteju gives her students what she wishes she’d had in high school. When she takes classes on field trips to see slam poetry, or when she attends school plays, her wife often accompanies her. “I make it a point to be really out and open for students, so they can see there are people in the school who are queer.” Boteju started and sponsors the school’s Gay‑Straight Alliance and runs workshops on “intentional acknowledgement” of race, gender, and sexuality. Unwilling to assign her students only books by “old, white, dead men,” she makes a concerted effort to “bring in as much diversity as possible to the texts we use.”
And she has published a young‑adult novel of her own, Kings, Queens, and In‑Betweens, enticingly described as “Judy Blume meets Ru Paul’s Drag Race” (Simon & Schuster 2019). For Boteju, the book is “a love letter” to the drag community she discovered as a UBC student in her twenties, and a story intended for queer kids of colour who need to see themselves represented in literature. She wrote the book to give today’s teens what she once craved – a story that “tells you that you are okay, that there are other people like you – an acknowledgement that people live those lives.”
Jennica Harper, MFA’00
Jennica Harper recently published Bounce House (Anvil Press), her fourth book of poetry. Her poetry has won Silver at the National Magazine Awards, and her 2013 collection Wood (Anvil Press) was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. Bounce House is a “playful and poignant” exploration of “the cyclical nature of grief” and the blurring together of past and present. Harper lives in Vancouver and has also found success writing for television.
Shelley M. Wood, MJ’00
After reading the spring issue of Trek, Shelley Wood says she decided to take Kim Cattrall’s advice to be less modest and Trek’s advice not to be shy! Wood was part of the UBC Graduate School of Journalism’s first graduating class in 2000. All these years later, she has written her first novel, The Quintland Sisters (HarperCollins). Wood was “gobsmacked” that the book debuted as a Globe and Mail and Toronto Star number-one bestseller in Canada. The novel has stayed on the bestseller list for over three months and is for sale internationally.
Kristen V. Yarker-Edgar, MSc’03
Dietitian Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD, has published her first cookbook: The Easy Sugar Detox Cookbook: 125 Recipes for a Sugar-Free Lifestyle. It is available on Amazon or on order through your local bookstore.
Kate Darling, BA’03
Kate Darling has been named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2019. She has dedicated her career to the Arctic and its peoples. In Nunavut, she worked to protect and revitalize Inuktut through international advocacy and the development of novel laws and policies. With Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, she supported initiatives to improve economic development opportunities in the four Inuit regions. In Inuvik with the Inuvialuit Corporate Group, Darling worked to improve energy security, the management of offshore resources, housing conditions, and the lives of Inuvialuit children in care. She has a BA in International Relations from UBC, an LLB from Dalhousie University, and an LLM from the University of Melbourne. Darling is a member of many Canadian law societies, and she is a mom, wife, skier, surfer and avid coffee drinker.
Tik Maynard, BA’05
Tik Maynard’s book, In the Middle Are the Horsemen (Trafalgar Square Books), is approaching its first anniversary. The book has been re-printed three times and has sold more than 6,500 copies. The book has received positive reviews in The Vancouver Sun, The Province, and other publications; people such as prize-winning novelist Kathy Page and New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe have also recommended the book. Maynard is excited to announce that Kosmos Verlag will be translating and publishing In the Middle Are the Horsemen in Germany in the spring of 2021. Maynard would like to extend a huge thank you to all the teachers he had at UBC.
Sandra Nomoto, BA’05
In 2018, after closing Conscious Public Relations Inc. (an award-winning impact public relations agency she founded in 2008), Sandra Nomoto published her first book, The Only Public Relations Guide You’ll Ever Need. The book is a self-guided workbook on how to incorporate good public relations into a business, no matter its size. Currently, Nomoto is an executive assistant at Grow Tech Labs and provides organizational and communications support to Nestworks Workplace Society and United Girls of the World Society, the producer of G Day.
Graham T. Day, BCom’06
Graham T. Day has worked with social entrepreneurs in Latin America for the last nine years. He is currently the CFO and co-owner of Sistema.bio, a social enterprise that uses innovative biogas technology, training, and financing to address poverty, food security, and climate change. Their biodigester turns manure into clean, affordable, sustainable energy. Day says in the span of only three years, the company has grown, through trial and tribulation, from a tiny start-up in Mexico to a global enterprise. Sistema.bio recently won a prestigious Ashden Award, which recognizes sustainable energy enterprises from around the world. Day accepted the award from the Ashden Awards founder Alexander Eaton on July 4. Day and his team have recently led a fundraiser of $12 million in order to expand their work, with a goal of changing 200,000 farmers’ lives over the next three years.
Ryan Koopmans, BA’09
Ryan Koopmans, a Dutch-Canadian photographer based in Stockholm, has recently published the photography book Vantage (Black Dog Press). Vantage showcases the past 10 years of Koopmans’ work photographing the built environment and architecture from around the world. It includes an introduction from New York City curator and author Marvin Heiferman, as well as contributing statements from people in 10 different fields (architecture, environmentalism, journalism, etc.).