Indigenous leaders pushing to recruit Indigenous teachers in Winnipeg

By Maggie Macintosh

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

INDIGENOUS leaders in Winnipeg have a pitch to recruit more First Nations, Metis and Inuit people to become teachers.

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, of the group’s education committee, who co-authored the State of Equity in Education report.

“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 570 more educators must be hired in public schools in order for there to be an equitable and proportionate number of Indigenous teachers for the number of Indigenous students in Winnipeg

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

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 put her 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.

The 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.

In addition, Neeginan would launch an educational assistant laddering program to the new bachelor degree so there is a pathway for Indigenous school support staff to become teachers.

Maggie Macintosh is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of WINNIPEG FREE PRESS . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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