Yellowknife teacher recognized with literacy award

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Dr. Suzanne Robinson was awarded the Ministerial Champion Literacy Award for her work bridging indigenous knowledge and traditions with current educational curriculum’s at Aurora College. Robinson says it  has been her goal over the past 20 years with the college working to make sure indigenous studies are recognized in today’s educational system.

“As an educator it has been the most precious and beautiful thing in my life, so I make it my goal and my mission that we make it the paradise that it should have been. That’s making sure that all knowledge systems, all perspectives are valued,” Robinson said last week at an awards luncheon.

Before working in Yellowknife, Robinson spent time in Inuvik developing family literacy programs and more recently she helped a high school student in the capital gain credits towards graduation through indigenous languages.

Robinson said that she hopes her work can be seen as an act of reconciliation with indigenous students after education had been used in negative ways throughout the history of her work.

“Education has a difficult and terrible history in the NWT because really residential schools weaponized education,” said Robinson. “Its a process because (indigenous knowledge) was so undervalued for so long that that would be my mission and continues to be my mission because that knowledge is so precious and so varied and deep and we need it going forward in our world. So it’s a natural progression, but it is an act of reconciliation.”

Dr. Suzanne Robinson, left, is joined by fellow award winners Christopher Aitken, Carly Sayers and Diane Brule at the annual adult learners' luncheon last week. Dylan Short/NNSL photo.
Dr. Suzanne Robinson, left, is joined by fellow award winners Christopher Aitken, Carly Sayers and Diane Brule at the annual adult learners’ luncheon last week. Dylan Short/NNSL photo.

The ceremony was a testament to the past two decades of Robinson’s work in the North. At the award ceremony close to two dozens of Robinson’s students gave her a standing ovation when her name was called. Robinson said that the acknowledgment she got from her students was more important to her than the recognition she got with the award.

“The fact so many of my students were here when I got the award because the award is what I do with them, so it’s our award, its not really my award, it’s all of ours,” said Robinson. “They made me blush. Our students at aurora college, our students in the NWT are the best so to be acknowledged by them, the awards are wonderful but for my students its particularly special.”

Robinson was joined by Carly Sayers from Aklavik and Christopher Aitken from Hay River who were awarded with the Ministerial Literacy Award (youth learner) and the Ministerial  Literacy Award (Educator) respectively.
Diane Brule of Yellowknife was awarded with the Council of the Federation Literacy Award. That award is presented by the Council of the Federation in each of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories “to celebrate outstanding literacy achievements.”
The literacy award ceremony was part of NWT Literacy Week which took place Sept. 23 to 29.

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