Book launch

Celebrating the publication of my first book!

Mfg Mennos

The book launch will take place at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson on Saturday, 27 April 2013 at 2 pm.

The book is a history of 3 workplaces – Friesens, Palliser, and Loewen – and discusses the transformation of Mennonite identity in the second half of the 20th century.

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Why I don’t give exams

I taught high school students for a decade and a half before my current university career. I obtained my education degree in the early 1990s, at the height of the interest in “alternative assessment.” The phrase “alternative assessment” was replaced eventually by “authentic assessment” and finally the term became simply “assessment.” The change in terminology reflected a change in understanding: alternatives to traditional paper-and-pencil testing should not be considered “alternatives” but as central methods of assessing students. Those methods should be “authentic” in that they reflect actual real-world (meaning, outside of school) tasks, and should require demonstration or performance of student skills. As these ideas became the norm among secondary school teachers, the adjectives “alternative” and “authentic” fell away.

From University of Tasmania, “Authentic Assessment,”

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Old Dutch “Kids’ Bids”: searching for past contestants

UPDATE: This research is now completed. Thanks to all for sharing your stories! My book, Snacks: A Canadian Food History, will be available from University of Manitoba Press in August-September 2017.

I’m searching for past contestants of the “Kids’ Bids” TV shows that were sponsored by Old Dutch Foods, to interview for my snack foods history research project.

Old Dutch delivery truck in Minneapolis. © Janis Thiessen, University of Winnipeg,
Old Dutch delivery truck in Minneapolis. © Janis Thiessen, University of Winnipeg,

The show was developed by Robert Watson of Watson Advertising in the 1960s.

Nancy-Ellen McLennan, Linda Koesveld, Susanne, and Danny Hooper were participants. In blogs, facebook posts, and a newspaper article, they describe the show as an auction for prizes, where bids were made by children using empty Old Dutch packaging as “Old Dutch points” instead of money.

While a photo collection has been archived, there are no archived interviews of these children’s experiences.

If you (or anyone you know) were a contestant on “Kids’ Bids” and are willing to be interviewed, please email me:

Class discussions

Earlier this year, I led a workshop for the University of Winnipeg History Department on leading class discussions. Below is a summary of that workshop.


In my first scheduled class with undergraduates, I take some time to explain how to read journal articles in preparation for class discussions. (See the suggestions provided in Patrick Rael, Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students (Bowdoin College, 2004)). I like to centre the first discussion around a non-threatening text – usually a poem, such as Tom Wayman’s “Paper, Scissors, Stone” or Bertolt Brecht’s “A Worker Reads History.”

rock paper scissors. © Janis Thiessen, University of Winnipeg,
rock paper scissors. © Janis Thiessen, University of Winnipeg,

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