Alex Canary

LC helped me develop my core philosophy about what education is and to envision what it could be. Even more so, it gave me the tools to explore and communicate these ideas.

Alex Canary BA '18



Degree and Class Year

BA ’18

Current City

Urbana, Illinois




French Studies


Dance, Intramural Soccer

Overseas study


Job Title, Organization

5th Grade French Dual-Language Teacher, Urbana School District 116

Continuing Studies

Master of Arts in Teaching from Northeastern Illinois University

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Transformative, Critical, Creative.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

I knew I wanted a small liberal arts experience, so the question was where that experience was going to take place. During my campus tour, the physical space made a very strong impression on me. I loved how the manicured beauty of the gardens flowed into the more wild natural beauty of the ravine and surrounding forest. Academically, I wanted a place where I was going to be pushed to take on purposeful, critical tasks in collaboration, not competition, with my peers. Finally, L&C’s location in Portland and the PNW held great promise for lots of adventure and fun.

What have you been doing since graduation?

Following graduation, I went abroad to France to work as an english teaching assistant through Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) and worked in several primary schools in Bourges, France. Upon return to the States, I began working on getting my master’s in teaching with the goal of being a social studies teacher. I’ve pivoted a bit and now teach 5th grade French dual-language, working primarily with the francophone population from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your job?

LC helped me develop my core philosophy about what education is and to envision what it could be. Even more so, it gave me the tools to explore and communicate these ideas. In my current position, I’ve been working hard to promote high-quality, engaging social studies education at the elementary level. Social studies is generally not a priority at this level and elementary teachers often lack the training to create learning experiences that actually develop historical thinking skills. I have the exciting and important task of developing a curriculum that will be used by all 5th grade teachers in the district next year. I’m hoping that my work will help change attitudes about social studies, students and teachers alike.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

The most important thing I learned was to see everything through a critical lens, to seek to understand how power and hierarchies are reflected in the structures and systems that we navigate on a daily basis. Only then can the real work begin.

Why did you minor in French studies?

I came to LC with a strong love of French and desire to be able to connect with the Francophone world in a direct way. Isabelle DeMarte is an amazing professor of French who manages to turn the study of grammar into something beautiful and almost existential. My study abroad experience in Sénégal was a transformative experience in terms of my language development and my way of seeing the world.

How do you stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alum?

I’m still very much connected to my web of close friends that I made at LC. I keep up to date with announcements and events on campus and love seeing the innovation and success of fellow Pios.

What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?

First semester freshman year, I took Reiko Hillyer’s 20th century U.S. history class and it changed everything for me. I entered college with a passion for history but a narrow view about what it exactly entailed. I quickly realized that history was not a stable artifact simply to be discovered as I had previously thought, but an ever-evolving, highly-contested site shaped by the tensions of today. Reiko did a beautiful job organizing the course and facilitating a learning experience that was collaborative and interactive. Looking back with the insight of a teacher, I am so impressed by the professors in the History Department. One of the great things about Lewis & Clark is that professors are not only experts in their fields, they are also highly skilled educators who know how to design classes that are student-centered.