Billy’s Story: Transformative Learning and ”How I Came To Basic Education”

HI and welcome to the first in a new series of blog instalments. The theme for this year is Transformative Learning and its implications for literacy and adult basic education.

Check out our October instalment by Dr. Patricia Cranton to read more about this important new area of research and how we are inviting practitioners and learners to share their stories. As Patricia explains, a transformational experience may occur as a result of a single event (a ”disorienting dilemma”) or as a result of a series of events. Either way, a person will typically “see the world in a different way, or perhaps [will] see himself or herself in a different way.” As Patricia notes–and as most practitioners know–this life-changing phenomenon happens often in literacy and basic education,  not only with learners but with practitioners as well.

Andrea Jonasson, an instructor at the Prince Albert Polytech campus, worked with Billy Castel for the story that follows. Thank you Andrea!

Billy shares how and why he came to basic education, and how a single person made a transformative difference to his life. As he says: ” It takes only one person to change who you are.”

Thanks for sharing this, Billy. Every success in your program.

What is your story? For details and a story template to help write your story, please contact Allan at or Jacqueline at


Billy’s Story: Transformative Learning and ”How I Came To Basic Education” 

 By Billy Castel, Basic Education student, Saskatchewan Polytechnic Prince Albert Campus.

There have been many life changing events in my life, from conversations to events. When I was fifteen I lost two brothers and a cousin in a house fire. I’ve always been easily distracted, in school at home or outdoors with my friends.

After the fire, I started drinking and fighting a lot. I lived in Pukatawagan, Manitoba most of my life. In 2005 I moved to The Pas, Manitoba, for a year. This was the year my brother Troy was born. I moved back to Puk later on in the year. This kind of put me back a bit in school. Later on after the house fire I moved to Lynn Lake for about a year. This really slowed me down in school. I was actually out for a year. I attended the school there for a few months but didn’t get the credits.

I was angry and sad about the loss of my family members and I did have abandonment issues. I grew up with my grandparents. My dad was a gangster, and my mother was too young to take care of me.  My grandparents took me in since birth. I am very grateful for that. Who knows? If I had gone with my dad I’d probably be dead.

I ended up going to jail the year I turned 18. In there I learned quite a bit about stuff on the other side of the law. I got out on bail twice. When I messed up the third time, I ended up getting bail again. When I got bail, I attended a treatment center in Nelson House, Manitoba. In there I learned a lot about myself with the problems I had in my head. It was there that I realized that I had abandonment issues. The counselor there helped me a lot. I strongly believe if I did not attend that treatment center I’d still be sitting in jail.

Before I went to jail I got an inbox on Facebook from a girl I met early on in the year before I got charged for fighting. She inboxed me, telling me that I was going to have a child. She wanted me to sign some papers when the time was right. I did sign the papers, not really knowing what I was doing. I was young and didn’t know much about things. I wasn’t sure about signing the papers, because I wasn’t sure if it was my kid.

Before that I was really unstable, I almost shot myself the weekend my son was conceived. After my son was born, I did kind of slow down on acting out on the world. I still drank, I still fought, and I was still feeling lost in the world not knowing what to do with my life.

In 2013 I moved to Steinbach, Man, for about a year. Later on in the year I moved to Winnipeg, Man. There I was really doing bad, hanging out with the wrong crowd. It was actually the same crowd my dad hung with. I was sitting around with gangsters and users, selling drugs and watching people use hard drugs. I’ve watched people smoke meth and crack, and I was snorting pills and coke. It wasn’t untill I got asked if I wanted to patch into a gang, that I realized that this wasn’t the life I wanted. I thought about my son, and how my dad’s choices affected me.

I went back to Puk after that. I was still drinking when I got there, and messing around with different women. It wasn’t till New Year day when I settled down, but I was still drinking a bit. I got into a relationship with this girl who change my whole thoughts on life.

I didn’t believe in love. I saw my grandparents, and thought that love belonged to the generations before mine. We were only messing around for the first few months. I was always out doing nothing, until I started spending time with her more often. We kept telling each other that we were only cuddling, so I just kept on fooling around with other women. I ended up messing with one of my exes and she found out. This was the first time I actually felt the pain of heartbreak, I felt more lost than when I was sitting with the people who were doing meth. I was a boy before I met this girl. She changed me so much. If I hadn’t of spent the time I’ve spent with her, I believe I’d be in a cell or a box.

She noticed something I didn’t notice in myself. Look at me now in school, working on success. If I didn’t spend the time I did with her my life would be cold and grey. I’d be looking to get high or laid, getting paid for sitting on my ass, waiting for a welfare check every month.

It takes only one person to change who you are, or to at least notice that there is more to life. Usually it should be you.

The time I spent with this girl was mostly at night, spending all hours of it just talking watching movies, and laughing. The stuff we talked about was what we thought we wanted to do in life. I don’t think I ever answered that question, because I didn’t know the answer. I’m pretty sure I was always the one asking the questions, because I was just interested in her, and everything she did. She wasn’t like the other women I spoke to, or spent time with.

If I was given a second chance to change the time I spent with her, I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

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