Bushell was born in Hamilton, the daughter of Carson and Audrey Bushell. She moved at a young age to Norwich, near Woodstock, when her father took over running the family business, the Pitcher Bros. general store. She attended the University of Western at the age of 16 and began teaching Grade 13 math at the age of 20 in Hamilton.

She was briefly married and then went to work in Peel, teaching at such schools as Applewood Heights Secondary School and Clarkson Secondary School. She became an ESL teacher in 1992 and retired in 2007.