Courtney Blow wakes up in a quiet house with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
Her brother sleeps in another room. She hopes he never needs to discover the truth about where their mother is tonight—or where she assumes her to be.
She’s probably out at a gas station with a random guy, getting high and forgetting about them.
Or maybe she’s out in the street, begging for money.
It is at this point that Blow understands she is more a pawn to this woman than a child—than a daughter.
These years will stay with her for the rest of her life. This feeling of no control and abandonment will grow up with her.
It is a feeling she will always struggle to shake.
When Blow and I meet over the phone, it’s mid-December. We both have the pleasure of looking out over an icy ocean and snow-flecked pine trees. In our conversation, she touches on the value of writing her own story.
Everyone wishes they were in love with their career. After seven years of university, three practicums, and helping countless kids learn over the years, Blow knows exactly what she wants to do for the rest of her life.
At 25 years old, she will soon settle into her new Nanaimo home where she can pursue her dream—to be an elementary school teacher.
But it hasn’t come easy.
What inspires her to pursue teaching comes from a burden and a bitterness she still works to overcome. Blow has lived through a childhood she describes simply as “turbulent.”
It’s a childhood she doesn’t want for others.
She and her brother grew up in a split home. Their mother would often disappear at night, leaving the young children to fend for themselves. Blow found herself wandering the streets of the Nanaimo cul-de-sac they lived in, wondering where their mother went.
Over time, she and her brother developed a “trauma bond,” and no matter how often they fight now, she knows they will always have that connection.
This trauma rears its ugly head in many ways.
Especially in romantic relationships. Her fear of abandonment and insecurities causes her to hold onto some relationships when she should let go.
After all, if her own mother couldn’t love her, how could someone else?
How could a stranger?
“I struggle with understanding whether or not people like me,” she says. “There’s always that little voice in the back of my head that goes, ‘yeah, but what if?’”
Blow finds herself having a sort of “protective social anxiety.” New things and people are hard to handle when she doesn’t know what to expect.
“Anxiety manifests itself in very different ways depending on the person, and for [me] it was a quiet suffering,” she says.
This also includes building walls when someone tries to connect.
“Due to my past experiences, I’m very protective of myself around people … maybe even abrasive to some. It’s only because I’m trying to figure out the situation and if I’m safe,” she explains.
“I need a little sign that says, ‘I’m friendly!’”
Blow first finished university with a double minor in English and Indigenous Studies, and went on to complete a Bachelor of Education with a teachable in psychology. She also has an Early Childhood Education (ECE) certificate.
She is proud to walk across every stage—to prove that she was a person and not a pawn.
Still, Blow tends to internalize the stress put on her.
“Maybe it stems from being hit as a little kid. If I didn’t succeed, I was punished. So, I think I gained my self-worth from being able to accomplish things,” Blow says.
This perception of where self-worth comes from negatively affects Blow in her everyday life. If she still has items left on her to-do list at the end of the day, she sees failure. “I do get pretty upset with myself,” she says.
But she’s working on it. Sometimes she is able to tell herself, “Yes, some of these tasks can go into the next day. I don’t have to finish everything in one day.”
Blow worked full-time while living alone, often with four or five courses a semester. It is not something she recommends, but it is something she is proud of.
“I definitely bite off more than I can chew.”
In the beginning, though, she started university through the Dual Credit program at VIU in grade 11.
Dual Credit classes are paid for by the school you attend and used to be a much more serious exchange.
Blow applied to six first-year courses within the Dual Credit system. Every course required her to write an essay on why she wanted to take them, and she had to have outstanding marks in her high school courses to be accepted.
Nowadays, high school students can apply with high grades and they will be accepted as long as there are enough seats available. This also applies to trade programs.
One of the biggest struggles of Blow’s early education was the financials. She shared her stepmother, Aimee’s, loans for her first year on campus while Aimee was also going to school for her own teaching degree.
By the end of first year, Blow knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Her practicum started with the Quadra Children’s Centre.
“Working at Quadra was sort of like a switch flipped in me. I started taking care of myself better and I felt more passion,” she says.
During one of Blow’s practicums at Quadra, she met a young boy in her class with some behavioural hurdles. Seeing the disruption and disarray the boy caused in the classroom, she took it upon herself to teach him tools to help him cooperate with his classmates better.
She came up with the phrase, “When we hit, we sit,” and it caught on in the classroom.
“I just kind of ended up taking the reins… The boy had an issue with hitting, so I would say ‘When we hit, we sit,’ and I would pick him up and take him away from the situation. We would sit together until he was ready to talk about it and we’d have a little bit of a heart-to-heart and he’d continue on with his day. And he would apologize on his own accord.”
After Blow completed her practicum, she received a video message from the little boy asking her to come back.
So, the following summer, she returned to Quadra to co-create a learning program for the centre and they were reunited.
Blow wants to teach love and diversity to children who may have grown up the same way she did. Sometimes, she feels the traditional education system lags behind in this.
“There’s still a lot of closed-mindedness,” Blow says. She thinks the education system doesn’t consider individual life experiences and behind-the-scenes issues of students. Though uncontrollable, she says, “it still can have a huge effect on your performance.”
One of her main goals as a teacher is to be as inclusive and cooperative as possible with her students.
Blow is always looking for new ways to teach, like incorporating sensory bins—containers filled with sand, beads, or other materials—or nature walks.
It’s this inclusivity and adaptability that is valued by students, especially by younger generations.
“My degree started with spite and turned into a strength,” she says.
She used this as a driving force throughout her university career—not only to prove her mother wrong, but to prove to herself that she deserved it.