Ailing Saanich girl receives honorary degree

University of Victoria’s Faculty of Education bestows teaching degree on 12-year-old coping with cancer

The University of Victoria bestows Saanich’s Emma Smith with an honorary teaching degree on Friday. The 12-year-old has been suffering from aggressive cancer in her brain since 2012 which moved to her spine in 2014.

At just 12 years old, Emma Smith will be considered young by her potential employers.

Her resume is somewhat limited to “a day’s experience teaching a Grade 1 and 2 class.” But it’s not how you get the degree that matters. Rather, it’s the fact that you have one.

And after four years of living with brain and spinal cancer, Smith was honoured with a teaching degree by the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Education.

On May 6, she crossed off a bucket list item as a “student-teacher” leading a class at Cloverdale Traditional school.

On Friday, UVic’s education dean Ralf St. Clair listed off the many responsibilities Smith showed during the ceremony.

“You showed the many qualities of a teacher, including taking attendance,” St. Clair said.

“It’s an honour to give this to you and it shows that UVic extends beyond Ring Road and into the community, and accepts people of all ages,” said UVic chancellor Shelagh Rogers.

Teaching is Smith’s career of choice, and the idea of an honorary degree was floated to UVic by Victoria’s Help Fill A Dream about two weeks ago. Last summer, the Help Fill a Dream organization sent Smith’s family to Waikiki, Hawaii, complete with a helicopter trip over the volcanoes.

Smith will now move forward with more items on her bucket list, following the recent news that her cancer has spread once again. She has not shown the necessary health signs for chemotherapy and radiation. On May 1 her parents Darrell and Diane posted on the Emma Grace Smith Facebook page that there is “no long-term future” for Emma. In the mean time the family is continuing to work through Smith’s bucket lists as doctors are unable to estimate how long Emma has left.

The May 29 event An Evening For Emma Grace at Oak Bay’s new Dave Dunnet Community Theatre will feature numerous dance performances and a well-stocked silent auction.

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