Associate Professor;
Editor, Historical Studies in Education/Revue d’histoire de l’éducation

Research Supervision Interests

Main area of supervision: History of education

(Click the tab above right marked “Additional” for information about graduate studies in history of education with me at UBC.)

I also supervise students interested in the politics of education.

I am currently accepting students at the M.Ed., M.A., Ed.D., and Ph.D. levels.


As a historian appointed in a faculty of education, I research and teach about the historical origins of schooling and education. My first book, the award-winning A Class by Themselves: The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond (University of Toronto Press, 2019), brings special education’s curious past to bear on its constantly contested present. It shows how today’s debates in the field are the product of unresolved disputes that date back to special education’s origins at the turn of the twentieth century.

My current major research project, which was supported by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, is a historical study of schooling in Canadian suburbs. A study of Etobicoke in metropolitan Toronto, the project examines the relationship schooling bears to social opportunity and income inequality in the suburbs today.

This theme—how the educational past shapes the educational present—runs through my research, as it does my teaching and graduate supervision. It has shaped my publishing record, which includes articles in journals, such as Teachers College Record, that speak to education audiences, and in more strictly historian-oriented journals, such as the Canadian Historical Review. The theme is also present in the regular commentary on British Columbia K–12 education that I have given in print, radio, and television media over the past several years. In that commentary I have used the province’s educational past to explain, from an often-unique perspective, the critical challenges that British Columbia education encounters in the present.

Prior to joining the Department of Educational Studies at UBC, I taught educational studies, child and youth studies, history of education, and Canadian history at Western University, Brock University, Wilfrid Laurier University (Brantford), OISE-University of Toronto, and Trent University (Oshawa).

See the digital repository that I am building to house policy documents and other primary and secondary source material related to post-war suburbs and Canadian schools.

I am the editor of the journal Historical Studies in Education/Revue d’histoire de l’education



York University, 2011, PhD, History
York University, 2005, MA, History
OISE-University of Toronto, 2012, BEd, Intermediate/Senior
Queen’s University, 2004, BAH, History and French Studies


British Columbia Professional Certificate of Qualification (British Columbia teaching certificate). British Columbia Ministry of Education.

Ontario Certified Teacher. Ontario College of Teachers.


2012. Cathy James Memorial Dissertation Prize. Canadian History of Education Association.
2019. The Canadian Association of Foundations of Education (CAFE) Publication Award for single or dual-authored Book (for A Class By Themselves)
2020. Honourable mention, Disability History Association Outstanding Book Award (for A Class By Themselves)

Research Projects

A Special Vocation: Teachers of Early Special Education Classes in Two Canadian City School Systems, 1910 to 1945 Completed
MetroPolicy Virtual Research Infrastructure development Current
From Opportunity to Inequality: A History of Inner-Suburban Schools in Canada, 1945-present
April, 2020March, 2023

SSHRC Insight Grant ($104,963)

Selected Publications


Jason Ellis. A Class by Themselves: The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019. 364 pp.

Peer reviewed articles and essays:

Jason Ellis. “A Short History of K-12 Public Education Spending in British Columbia, 1970-2020.” Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy 196 (2021): 102-23.

Jason Ellis. “Public School Taxes and the Remaking of Suburban Space and History: Etobicoke, 1945-54.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 30, no. 2 (2019): 1-36.

Jason Ellis and Ee-Seul Yoon. “From Alternative Schools to School Choice in the Vancouver School District, 1960s to the Neoliberal Present. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy 188 (2019): 86-103

Jason Ellis. “Exceptional Educators: Canada’s First Special Education Teachers, 1910-45,” Historical Studies in Education/Revue d’histoire de l’éducation 30, no. 2 (Fall 2018): 47-77

Jason Ellis. “Early Educational Exclusion: ‘Idiotic’ and ‘Imbecilic’ Children, Their Families, and the Toronto Public School System, 1914-1950,” Canadian Historical Review 98, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 483-504. DOI: 10.3138/chr.4142

Jason Ellis. “Brains Unlimited: Giftedness and Gifted Education in Canada before Sputnik (1957),” Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l’éducation 40, no. 2 (2017): 1-26.

Jason Ellis and Paul Axelrod. “Continuity and Change in Special Education Policy Development in Toronto Public Schools, 1945 to the present,” Teachers College Record 118, no. 2 (February 2016): 42 pp. DOI: n/a .

Jason Ellis. “’All Methods–and wedded to none: The deaf education methods debate and progressive educational reform in Toronto, Canada, 1922-1945,” Paedagogica Historica 50, no. 3 (2014): 371-389. DOI: 10.1080/00309230.2013.833273

Karen Yoshida, Fady Shanouda, and Jason Ellis. “An Education and Negotiation of Differences: The ‘Schooling’ Experiences of English-speaking Canadian Children Growing Up with Polio during the 1940s and 1950s.” Disability & Society, 29, no. 3 (March 2014): 345-358. DOI: 10.1080/09687599.2013.823080

Jason Ellis. “‘Inequalities of children in original endowment’: How Intelligence Testing Transformed Early Special Education in a North American City School System.” History of Education Quarterly 53, no. 4 (November 2013): 401-429. DOI: 10.1111/hoeq.12035

Jason Ellis. “The History of Education As ‘Active History’: A Cautionary Tale?” (24 September 2012).

Other publications:

Jason Ellis. “Reducing Class Sizes During COVID-19 Easier Said than Done.” Vancouver Sun, 13 August 2020.

Jason Ellis, Lindsay Gibson, and Mallory Davies. “Learning from ‘Cecil Rhodes School’ and Vancouver’s Imperfect Past.” Vancouver Sun, 2 January, 2020.

Jason Ellis. “A long history of bargaining class size and composition.” Kelowna Daily Courier, 10 September, 2019.

Jason Ellis and Catherine Carstairs. “Education key to getting more kids vaccinated.” Vancouver Sun, 18 March, 2019.

Jason Ellis. “Back to school for Fleming, NDP.” Victoria Times-Colonist, 26 August, 2018.

Jason Ellis. ““The Theory of Special Education and the Necessity of Historicizing: A Multilogue Response to Benjamin Kelsey Kearl and Donald Warren” Education’s Histories (blog), January 31, 2017.

Jason Ellis. “Special Education,” Living Eugenics Archives of Western Canada website. (24 October 2014).


Students Supervised

Ph.D. in Educational Studies

  • (in progress.) Supervisor. M. Bakare.
  • (in progress.) Committee member. U. McFadyen.
  • (in progress.) Committee member. Y. Ronen.
  • (in progress.) Supervisor. J. Anderson. “Higher Education ‘beyond Hope’: A Political History of Institution-Building in British Columbia’s Hinterland.” (UBC Entrance scholarship recipient.)
  • (2020.) Co-supervisor (w/ Dr. A. Metcalfe). D. McCartney. “From ‘friendly relations’ to Differential Fees: A History of International Student Policy in Canada Since World War II.” (SSHRC doctoral award recipient, 12 month award; Canadian Foundations of Education (CAFE) E. Lisa Panayotidis Dissertation Award in the Foundations of Education, 2021.)
  • (2017.) Committee member. B. Cowin. “Public Policy and the Structural Development of Post-secondary Education in British Columbia, Canada, 1960 – 2015.” (SSHRC doctoral award recipient, 24 month award.)

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy

  • (in progress.) Supervisor. M. LeBlanc. “?New Syntax. Digital Technology and the Changing Culture of Education, 1980 to 2020.”
  • (2019.) Supervisor. R. Sikkes. “Holding On While Letting Go: Education, Politics, and Yukon Public Schools, 1960-2003.”

M.A. in Educational Studies (Concentration in Society, Culture, and Politics in Education (SCPE).)

  • (2020.) M. Davies. “‘We Educate Wayward Girls Here’: Educational Policy Regarding Teen Mothers in Vancouver, 1950-2019.”

M.Ed. in Society, Culture, and Politics in Education (SCPE)

  • (in progress). Y. Feng.
  • (in progress). S. Pattar.
  • (in progress.) T. Babatunde.
  • (in progress.) C. Chevreau.
  • (in progress.) M. Jakac-Sinclair.
  • (in progress.) S. Broderick-Hale.
  • (2022.) S. Wu.
  • (2021.) E. Olson.
  • (2021.) H. Komlodi.
  • (2020.) T. Jacod.
  • (2020.) L. Zhang.
  • (2018.) J. Trapier.
  • (2018.) Y. Keles.
  • (2018.) C. Keirn.
  • (2017.) O. Ramprashad.
  • (2017.) T. Feitosa de Britto.
  • (2015.) E. Collins.
  • (2015.) S. Wilkinson.

Ph.D. in another department

  • (2021.) Committee member. K. Gemmell. “‘No longer missionary’: The Sisters of Saint Ann and Vancouver’s Catholic Public Schools in the Long 1960s(EDCP.) (SSHRC doctoral award recipient, 48-month award.)

M.A. in another department

  • (2014.) Committee member. K. Gemmell. (EDCP.) “The Impact of Progressive Education on Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, 1924-1960.” (SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS, MA award recipient; winner of Canadian Association of Foundations of Education (CAFE) outstanding MA thesis award.)

Community Work

Invited in-service/presentations with K–12 education organizations

30 January 2020. Presenter. “How the Educational Past Shapes the Educational Present.” British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association 26th Annual General Meeting.

December 2019 – January 2020. Presenter and discussion leader. The Future of Public Education: A Focussed Discussion. Five discussion sessions. Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association (of the British Columbia Teachers Federation).

Media interviews (selected)

10 September 2020. In-studio guest with BC Today call-in program, CBC radio, on British Columbia back-to-school during Covid-19.

31 August 2020. Interview with Alex McKeen, Toronto Star, on reaction to Covid-19 back-to-school public service advertisements on British Columbia television.

31 August 2020. Interview with Kelvin Gawley, News 1130 (website), on British Columbia back-to-school during Covid-19.

21 August 2020. Interview with Ian Austen, New York Times, on Canadian provincial Covid-19 back-to-school policies.

17 August 2020. (Five) radio interviews on CBC Vancouver, The Island, Kamloops, BC North, BC South (“shareable”) on back-to-school in the 1937 polio epidemic.

4 October 2019. Interview with Greg Mercer, Globe and Mail, on New Brunswick educational reforms.

1 September 2019. Radio interview with Duncan McCue, Cross Country Checkup. CBC Radio (nationwide), on the history of teacher-parent relations.

23 August 2019. Interview with Ni Yizhen, Sing Tao (Vancouver), on British Columbia public school teacher contract negotiations.

21 August 2019. Interview with Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun, on BC public school teacher contract negotiations.

21 August 2019. In-studio guest with BC Today call-in program, CBC radio, on BC public school teacher contract negotiations.

Graduate supervision in History of education at UBC

I am available to supervise graduate studies in history of education, in particular (but not limited to): history of urban and suburban education; history of school reform; history of special education; history and education policy; history of progressive education; history of educational administration and leadership; history of education in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada, and the United States.

History of education is one of the most established areas of study in the UBC Faculty of Education, with a reputation for scholarly excellence stretching back over decades. The UBC Faculty of Education is home to Canada’s history of education scholarly journal, Historical Studies in Education/Revue d’histoire de l’éducation.

Today the history of education is part of the Department of Educational Studies’ (EDST) offerings. Prospective students wishing to study history of education at the master’s level may apply to the M.A. degree in Educational Studies, concentration in Society, Culture, Politics and Education (SCPE), or to the M.Ed. degree in SCPE. For doctoral level study, apply to the Ph.D. degree in Educational Studies. Applicants interested in historical studies may request to work with me. I am currently accepting students at the M.Ed., M.A., Ed.D., and Ph.D. levels.

Course offerings in the history of education, within the Department of Educational Studies and the SCPE degree and concentration, are listed in the UBC calendar. A few of my sample syllabi may be viewed under the EDST activity tab of my profile page.

Please also visit UBC EDST historian of education Dr. Mona Gleason’s page.