Increasing Indigenous representation among teachers and prioritizing relationship building between school staff and students were highlighted as key steps to advancing reconciliation at a national education conference in Winnipeg .
Superintendents from across the country – who together represent more than one million K-12 students – capped off a two-day C21 Canada CEO Academy event with a panel discussion at the Museum Canadian for Human Rights Thursday.
About two dozen school board leaders listened to local educators and prominent Winnipeggers share their perspectives on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
“Teachers who take the time to get to know the person, to get to know the students, are the real ones who take steps towards reconciliation,” said panelist Jody Lynn Ross, a student from the Aboriginal Program at the Winnipeg School Division. teacher development program, Build From Within.
Ross was overcome with emotion as she described the effect attending Children of the Earth High School had on her identity. The 21-year-old from Lake St. Martin First Nation said she moved to various schools before attending the Grade 9-12 building which specializes in cultural programming. “It was the first school where I saw real Aboriginal representation. In this school, I was able to be who I am as an Anishinaabe woman,” she said, adding that her teachers raised her when her parents could not because she had left her community. to study.
Ross, the lone student speaker, was joined by panelists including Rob Riel, director of Indigenous education for WSD, high school principal Jill Mathez, Mayor Brian Bowman and Isha Khan, president of the museum.
Riel spoke about the importance of teachers knowing the personal stories of students and colleagues, as well as making systemic changes. WSD recently undertook a comprehensive review of its Indigenous education policy, a process that involved soliciting feedback from students, teachers, grandparents, community members and guardians, among others, it said. he declares.
“Was it easy? No. It took two and a half years to do it, but we had input from everyone and in building relationships you have to bring everyone to the table,” added Riel.
Drawing on his experience at Dakota Collegiate in the Louis Riel School Division, Mathez told the audience that it is up to school leaders to intentionally seize every opportunity to advance reconciliation.
It could look like honoring a student’s choice not to stand still during O Canada or introducing an Indigenous language program at the request of learners, she said, noting that 43 of her students are enrolled in Ojibwa class next year because Dakota responded to student interest.
LRSD and WSD have partnered to organize the education conference for members of a national professional network of school superintendents who are “committed to setting Canadian standards for 21st century learning.”
Winnipeg superintendents Christian Michalik and Pauline Clarke said the purpose of the event, the first of its kind since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, is to share ideas with each other and reflect on practices in the division.