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Degrees of Success 2020 — a report on education in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The term “capacity building” has often been repeated over the years, but the Nunavut Department of Education has proof that it’s actually happening.

Inuit superintendents are now overseeing Nunavut’s school operations in all three regions. Education Minister David Joanasie was pleased to tell his colleagues of this achievement in the legislative assembly during the fall 2019 sitting.

“This has been made possible through my department’s efforts to make sure that more Inuit are in senior management positions,” Joanasie said. “These three superintendents have also been taking advantage of the training and mentorship programs offered by the Department of Human Resources.”

Degrees of Success asked each of the superintendents to share their backgrounds and thoughts on education. Here are their responses in their own words:

“The education initiative that delights me is the Literacy Framework for students as it does improve the level of literacy in the school,” says Eva Qirniq-Noah, Kivalliq superintendent of school operations.
photo courtesy of Eva Qirniq-Noah

Eva Qirniq-Noah, Kivalliq superintendent

Who or what steered you toward a career in education?

Not understanding the language of instruction, which was 100 per cent English, steered me towards an educational career. I wanted students to understand what is expected of them. We had classroom assistants who would interpret for us students in kindergarten and Grade One.

What were the greatest challenges you overcame to rise to the position you hold now?

The greatest challenges that I had to overcome and still hurdle around is everyone speaking for me – or I have to translate/interpret for many, many levels of education. This also helped me as I know the details of where and how to go about answering questions that require research in my position as superintendent of schools in Kivalliq.

Please tell us about an education initiative in your region that delights you.

The education initiative that delights me is the Literacy Framework for students as it does improve the level of literacy in the school, and the Professional Development Framework, which helps educators look within themselves to reflect on their practices as educators. Educators are with our Nunavut children for nine months out of 12.

How are you working to improve learning within your region?

I was one of the guest speakers for Orange Shirt Day. The students, who had a time limit, asked for me to speak to them again during their school hours. I was positive about the residential school, that our parents had a say whether to send us out or not. We were at the tail end of residential schools. We attended a territorial high school, which was not involved with any religion. We were told that if we go to church there are these churches in Yellowknife.

To stay positive as a role model is what I am working towards.

 

“The people at my school supported me as a principal and celebrated with me when I was promoted to superintendent,” says Tiffany Kelly, Kitikmeot superintendent of school operations.
photo courtesy of Tiffany Kelly

Tiffany Kelly, Kitikmeot superintendent

Who or what steered you toward a career in education?

I was raised with a large family. We grew up taking care of one another. I helped to take care of my little brothers and cousins and worked with children throughout school. In college I completed a diploma in administrative technology, then went into a business management program. At that time, I had a roommate that was in the elementary education program and after learning more about education, I switched over and completed my bachelor of education degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, along with a grad diploma in language and literacy. Since then I have gained experience as a teacher-on-call (substitute teacher), classroom teacher, principal, and now superintendent.

What were the greatest challenges you overcame to rise to the position you hold now?

Perception, expectation, and being a working mom. I look young for my age and people often underestimate my experience, knowledge and training. My husband and my family have supported my career every step of the way, but it is hard to be away from my family when I am on duty travel. The people at my school supported me as a principal and celebrated with me when I was promoted to superintendent. Having a supervisor that recognizes and values you – along with my family and friends that understand and support my life journey – has made this next step in my life more enjoyable.

Please tell us about an education initiative in your region that delights you.

We live in close-knit communities and our schools all understand the importance of being there for our students. Our students come first and our principals act as literacy and educational leaders within their schools. Our principals and schools are working hard every day to inform parents of their students’ progress, delivering curriculum with the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit perspective, and being a safe and caring school. I love to see students happy to be at school, showing progress with their learning, and having our culture and language as an integral body of their educational journey.

How are you working to improve learning within your region?

With communication. We have an open dialogue with our schools, our educational partners and the Department of Education. We keep a close connection with our principals and try to support them with their school goals to help our students understand how to be the best version of themselves. I have my own experience and knowledge that I share with my principals, and they have their own background that they use to lead their schools. We share resources and we communicate with one another on a daily basis. We are stronger when we work together and I think that is our strength as a region.

“My passion for Inuktut has kept me going as well as kept me in the same department, which is good for consistency,” says Elijah Tigullaraq, Qikiqtani superintendent of school operations.
photo courtesy of Elijah Tigullaraq

Elijah Tigullaraq, Qikiqtani superintendent

Who or what steered you toward a career in education?

Dave Wilman encouraged and inspired me to become a qualified teacher. I found out later that I had a strong interest in Inuktut, culture and language. My passion for Inuktut has kept me going as well as kept me in the same department, which is good for consistency.

What were the greatest challenges you overcame to rise to the position you hold now?

English language, lack of confidence in myself – trained in English and having to teach in Inuktut. The main language of the government has been English when the people we service are mostly Inuit. Personal issues also was a challenge as the government culture/language is different than mine. I’ve had no choice but to speak/work in English in the workplace as the people I work/worked with only speak/spoke English. Working in a second language is not easy. Plus, when you’re a leader, you make decisions based on your experience, skills and knowledge. As an Inuk, I have to live with my decisions for the rest of my life as I will remain in the North, compared to people from the south who will leave after few years and may never return to the North. As an Inuk leader and someone who remains in the North even after retirement, people will always approach me about certain matters related to decisions I’ve made. As a leader born and raised in the North, speaking the local language, there is definitely more pressure from the public. Due to my culture, I do not say things that I can’t do. Inuit have been brought up to be modest and not exaggerate our skills. Many Inuit will not oversell themselves to get a higher-paying job. I’ve had to overcome low self-confidence to become a leader, which is not easy within my culture.

Please tell us about an education initiative in your region that delights you.

Balanced literacy that includes Inuktitut. Also excellent material made in the North for people in the North by Northerners that goes with literacy. Very relevant.

How are you working to improve leaning within your region?

By being a role model – be proactive in Inuktitut, advocate for Inuit. I will continue to communicate in Inuktitut. Inuit need to hear, see and speak Inuktitut to become efficient. Another way to improve Inuktitut is for non-Inuktitut speakers to learn Inuktitut and have Inuktitut as a working language.

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Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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