Plan devised to recruit Indigenous teachers


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Indigenous leaders in Winnipeg have a pitch to recruit more First Nations, Métis and Inuit people to become teachers so all students can see themselves represented at the front of their classrooms.

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This article was published 15/03/2022 (262 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Indigenous leaders in Winnipeg have a pitch to recruit more First Nations, Métis and Inuit people to become teachers so all students can see themselves represented at the front of their classrooms.

The Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle will release a report today that outlines a severe under-representation of Indigenous educators in the city, the limited school division and university demographic data available, and a list of calls to action to address both.

“The current system isn’t working,” said Heather McCormick, chairwoman of the group’s education committee, who co-authored the latest State of Equity in Education Report.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Heather McCormick, chair of the education committee of the Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle.

“On average, the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba combined graduate 35 Indigenous students per year. Based on that, it would take 20 years to develop enough (classroom representation).”

The 32-page report is the second of its kind. The group released the inaugural review — which is not unlike an education equity report card for K-12 and post-secondary learning institutions — in October 2020.

Drawing on 2013-14 provincial survey data, WIEC estimated in its 2020 report that in order for there to be an equitable and proportionate number of Indigenous teachers for the number of Indigenous students in Winnipeg, an additional 570 educators must be hired in public schools in city limits.

Those nearly decade-old figures indicate just under 17 per cent of the student population self-identified as Indigenous at the time.

McCormick, who is Métis, indicated the number of Indigenous students in Winnipeg is on the rise, a reality that adds to the urgency of addressing the issue of limited representation.

Sheniel Nasekapow, 18, described feeling “isolated” and “unwanted” when she was the only Indigenous student in her early high school career at John Taylor Collegiate.

Nasekapow recalled several uncomfortable situations when classroom discussions about residential schools and Indigenous culture led to her being put on the spot.

The high schooler said there was a shift when she transferred to Children of the Earth High School, which is where she met her first Indigenous teacher — an experience that made her want to become an educator.

“I want to teach younger students… It would mean a lot to me if they saw an Indigenous teacher in the classroom, a young role model to them,” added Nasekapow, who is enrolled in Build From Within, a teacher development program run by the Winnipeg School Division, University of Winnipeg, and Indspire Canada.

Members of WIEC acknowledge there are many initiatives that aim to graduate more Indigenous teachers, but the collective has a concrete proposal to scale up graduation numbers with a three-part plan.

The so-called Indigenous Teacher Education Strategy would first involve the creation of a one-year job training program with work placement experience and mentorship opportunities for 100 participants every year for five years to become “community teacher service workers.”

The Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development would oversee this program and target Indigenous parents and adult learning centre participants interested in a career in education.

Community teacher service worker graduates would then be laddered into a new bachelor of education in Indigenous knowledges program operated by the Neeginan College of Applied Technology.

WIEC’s pitch is to secure federal funding for living allowances and tuition so participants can study full-time in the hopes the community college can graduate as many as 125 teachers over nine years.

As part of the strategy, Neeginan would launch a similarly-sized educational assistant laddering program to the new bachelor degree so there is a pathway for Indigenous school support staff to become teachers.

The U of M, in addition to school divisions — including Louis Riel, River East Transcona and St. James-Assiniboia — have all indicated they plan to participate in a working group focused on increasing the number of Indigenous teachers, according to WIEC.

WIEC co-chairman Kendall Joiner said he is optimistic about the current momentum when it comes to the general population of Canada listening to Indigenous people and paying attention to issues that affect them, such as representation.

“There’s probably never been more of a time in history where we’ve had these windows in so many issues to produce Indigenous-held data, provide recommendations and get representation at the decision-making table, which hasn’t been a thing for hundreds of years,” said Joiner, a member of the Cheyenne Nation.

The collective is officially launching its new education equity report today.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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