Forty-three principals, assistant-principals and teachers sacrificed a portion of their summer to build on their leadership qualities.
The educators gathered in Iqaluit for two weeks in July for the Certificate in Educational Leadership in Nunavut (CELN) program. They were immersed in various courses aimed at improving communication and relationships, language and literacy, collaborating with the community and more.
Newcomers to Nunavut learned about traditional Inuit leadership, culture and the territory’s educational history, said Darlene Nuqingaq, a retired teacher and principal. She was co-instructor for two of the courses, one on transformational leadership and another on engaging Nunavut elders and community. In addition to hearing from experienced Nunavut teachers like Elisapee Karetak and Leeveena Nuyalia, the educators spent an afternoon at the Elders Qammaq, listening to elders’ stories and gaining perspective on Nunavut’s history.
“One woman said in the spring, around March – it was still cold, still dark – you would have to travel by dog team to wherever your spring/summer camp was going to be and you’re about to give birth to a baby. You just have to stop on the trail and build an iglu quickly and give birth to that little baby and then the next day you’re on the trail again,” said Nuqingaq. “An older woman said she can remember times when the rocks and the land became her friends because it was just her and her husband and her children. They didn’t see other people regularly… I think it gives (young educators) insight.”
One of the guest speakers during the courses – Olivia Chislett – urged educators to look beyond the behaviours of children because even a well-behaved child might be disguising inner pain, said Nuqingaq, who’s been instructing leadership courses for close to two decades.
Catherine Eleheetook, a teacher in Gjoa Haven, said she found Chislett’s presentation to be very powerful. Chislett recounted how she overcame her academic struggles and organized youth gatherings to empower them and to teach them throatsinging.
Eleheetook, who has taught for four years, said she would like to incorporate more cultural activities, literacy programs in her school and make greater use of the Inuit language.
Teacher Bridgette Aulatjut of Arviat, who’s entering her third year in the profession, said she’s striving to encourage others to cooperate to accomplish more.
“One of my goals is to focus on working with others to learn and gain more knowledge from each other and how to teach better,” Aulatjut said. “We’re leaders even outside the school. We have to be role models to the community, too.”
Eleheetook and Aulatjut both had reservations about leaving their families behind to travel to Iqaluit, but they quickly came to appreciate the opportunity they were given.
“Before I came here I regretted coming here because my family were going out on the land. That’s an every year thing for our family,” said Eleheetook. “After taking these courses, I have no more regrets.”
Nuqingaq praised the teachers for voluntarily giving up part of their summer to strengthen their knowledge base.
“We had really rich, deep conversations, and transformation, I could see it in their journals,” she said. “They want to be the best possible teacher they can be for their students.”