Isabelle Baril

Alumni Spotlight

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Isabelle Baril was born in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. Her family moved to Sudbury when she was 4 years old. Isabelle completed her high school studies in French, and chose to study at Laurentian University to further her studies in the French language. In university, Isabelle completed her BA in Géographie with a minor in French. She credits her love for travelling and social studies for inspiring her to pursue her studies in Géographie.

While a student, Isabelle worked for an on-campus travel agency named Travel Cuts, which helped organize trips for different student groups. During her time at Laurentian, Isabelle had a few professors who made her classes memorable. One of her instructors, Dr. Jorge Virchez, brought his class to La Casa Mexicana in the heart of downtown Sudbury for their lectures. Another faculty member, Anne Watelet, specialized in Biogeography and was a great supervisor and mentor to Isabelle while completing her thesis. 

Isabelle finished her thesis, handed it in, and left for Vancouver, BC with her boyfriend (now husband, Devin Dukeshire, Electrical Engineering Technology graduate of Cambrian College, now Regional Manager Line Operations, BC Hydro) the following day. She was 22 at the time.

After university, Isabelle began working with Air Transat. Having a French background in British Columbia meant Isabelle was often assigned with teaching flight attendants the language in order to communicate with French passengers. She oversaw over 250 flight attendants on a daily basis in her role. 

Isabelle knew she didn’t want to stay with Air Transat forever, and after about one year, she decided to enroll at the University of British Columbia (UBC) to complete her B.Ed. Isabelle comes from a family of teachers, and she knew that teaching was something she wanted to do. After graduating, Isabelle found a number of teaching positions with different schools in the province, having always been able to find work near her husband’s work due to her French language. Isabelle taught for 10 years after graduating from her B.Ed.

While teaching, Isabelle was introduced to a reading log program, Read Across Canada, which was designed to get students reading on a daily basis both at home and at school. She had seen a few on-paper versions of the reading log program, and decided to modify her own version of the reading log program to fit her particular classroom needs. As Isabelle moved from school to school, teachers and parents continually asked for her paper-based reading log program; therefore, she decided to put her program online, which she named Mind Growth Education. Isabelle hired a software developing company to provide greater access to her program in 2018, and with support and encouragement from her family and friends, Isabelle left her teaching position to focus on Mind Growth Education full-time.

Mind Growth Education’s first reading program, Read Across Canada, was launched on July 1st, 2019. Read Across the World, the second Mind Growth Education program, is set to be launched in June 2020. These programs inspire students to read by converting minutes of reading to kilometres travelled. As students read minutes, they gain kilometres to travel farther and learn more about the world. Down the road, Isabelle wishes to explore more themes including the solar system, Indigenous cultures and tribes in Canada, the United States, Australia, and more. Isabelle’s family members (and especially her father and mother) love to travel, and they happily help Isabelle with designing routes, translating documents, and promoting the program.

Isabelle is involved with a number of initiatives in her community. Mind Growth Education has a Read-a-Thon fundraising program where sponsors donate $1 to have a child read for one minute. Several schools have picked up this fundraising challenge, and the program has been very profitable for schools so far. Funds raised go towards purchasing art supplies, musical instruments, and other classroom items, because students deserve the highest quality education they can get. Isabelle is also collaborating with Elaine Tan Comeau, creator of Easy Daysies (as seen on Dragons’ Den) to implement a speaker series named Celebrating Teachers for teachers, parents, and educators who experience teaching burnout. 

As schools began to shut down across Canada due to COVID-19, Isabelle donated 300 free subscriptions for Mind Growth Education reading programs to families and students continuing their studies from home. “It’s a time to make sure students have proper learning tools to further their education,” says Isabelle.

Isabelle travels to Sudbury every two years or so to visit her parents and sister who live there. Isabelle’s sister Caroline, also a Laurentian University alumna, completed her BA in Geography and French, and went on to receive her B.Ed. She is now a grade 7-8 teacher at École Félix-Ricard in Sudbury.

Isabelle spends her days looking after her two kids. Her family is a big hockey family, and both her and her husband coach and manage their children’s hockey teams. They enjoy spending time hiking, biking, and taking advantage of the beautiful outdoors that British Columbia has to offer them.