Eight teachers welcomed into the NWT Education Hall of Fame

The educators – hailing from Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Hay River – were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the territory's young minds

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Sheila Kindred, left, Michelle Brown, Steve Nicoll, Eileen Erasmus, Claudia Parker, Sheila Cook, Brenda Johnson, Gayle Strikes With A Gun and Education Minister Caroline Cochrane.
photo courtesy of Pam Coulter

On June 5, Education Minister Caroline Cochrane welcomed eight individuals into the NWT Education Hall of Fame.

The educators – hailing from Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Hay River – were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the territory’s young minds during a ceremony at the NWT Legislative Assembly.

The GNWT has provided information on each of this year’s inductees:

Eileen Erasmus: Erasmus has taught at Ndilo’s K’alemi Dene School for almost 20 years. She played an important role in facilitating the transition from an appointed Ndilo education committee to an elected district authority, giving residents a choice in their children’s education.

Kristen Sangris, a former student, said Erasmus has been a lifelong mentor to her.

“I am who I am because of Eileen and I couldn’t ask for better inspiration in my life,” she said.

Claudia Parker: Parker began her career at Yellowknife’s St. Patrick Elementary School in 1980. She worked in Yellowknife for 14 years before moving to Fort Smith to be the principal of Paul W. Kaeser High School. In 1999 she moved back to Yellowknife and became assistant superintendent of learning before becoming superintendent of Yellowknife Catholic Schools. She was named NWT’s superintendent of the year in 2013. In this role, she strongly advocated for French immersion programming in Catholic schools and helped create the Do Edaezhe Student Leadership Initiative for Indigenous students.

Brenda Johnson: Johnson began her teaching career in Ontario. She came to Yellowknife in 1988 and has held a number of positions for the YK1 school board. In her decades of teaching, she has touched the lives of thousands of Yellowknife students and their families.

Michelle Brown: Brown began her teaching career in Manitoba before moving to Fort Smith to teach at Joseph Burr Tyrrell Elementary School. Her leadership and skill as an educator earned her the NWT Ministerial Excellence in Teaching Award in 1999 and the territorial teachers association’s Cliff King Award in 2005. She also laid the groundwork for the Leadership for Literacy program which has won several territorial and national awards.

Gayle Strikes With A Gun: Strikes With A Gun is an Indigenous leader who came up to Norman Wells to work with youth in 2002. She acted as a mentor in the school and youth centre for several years before returning to the Piikani Nation in Southern Alberta where she served as chief. In 2015 she returned to the North to be the Indigenous language and culture co-ordinator for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Shelia Cook: Cook was born in the K’atl’odeeche First Nation outside Hay River. She first wanted to become a teacher while working as an educational assistant. She earned a bachelor of education in Saskatoon and enjoyed a decades-long teaching career at Princess Alexandra and Harry Camsell schools in Hay River.

Steve Nicoll: Nicoll began teaching at Líídlįį Kúę Regional High School in Fort Simpson in 2002. His hands-on learning approach helped him connect with students who did not excel in the classroom. Over the years he has worked closely with the student body on many student-led initiatives, including the high school’s gay-straight alliance.

Sheila Kindred: Kindred began her career in education as an assistant and interpreter for the deaf in various schools throughout the NWT before becoming a program support teacher at Joseph Burr Tyrrell Elementary School in Fort Smith. She then moved to the position of inclusive school co-ordinator for the South Slave Divisional Education Council. Her extensive experience working with special needs children has left a lasting mark on the communities she has served.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment launched the NWT Education Hall of Fame in 2010 to honour individuals who have helped the territory’s young people.

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