Sask. teacher says province needs BIPOC teachers association to better support educators, students of colour

Helen Vangool says it’s become fairly common for teachers, parents and students to tell her about experiences of racism they’ve encountered in school — and it's concerning.

Helen Vangool says not enough anti-racism education in schools

Helen Vangool, an educator from Saskatoon, is seeing how much interest there is for a BIPOC teachers association in Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Helen Vangool)

Helen Vangool says it's become fairly common for teachers, parents and students to tell her about experiences of racism they've encountered in school — and it's concerning.

The teacher from Saskatoon says there is a lack of concrete action on anti-racism education and a lack of support for students and teachers who are BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, and people of colour — and she's grown frustrated.

"There isn't any support group out there for us, people that we can talk to about what's going on or anything like that," she said.

To help offer that support and lobby for efficient anti-racism education, Vangool said the province needs a BIPOC teachers association.

"One voice isn't going to be heard as much [unless] more of us were together advocating for this work and why it's important to be taught in schools," she said.

She said the group would be similar to the Black Teachers Association of Alberta (BTA), which had 50 members as of January.

BTA started with an Instagram account, sharing resources and answering questions from the public. 

"How do I talk to my little five-year-old son about race, and how do I speak to my high schooler who's about to graduate about what it's like to be in the real world as a Black woman?" are examples of questions, co-founder Sarah Adomako-Ansah told CBC News in January.

The association has already had inquiries from teachers in other provinces such as B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan about sharing resources and collaborating, Adomako-Ansah said.

However, Vangool said the association in Saskatchewan would expand to other people of colour due to a lack of Black teachers in the province.

"It makes more sense, in my mind, for us to be a collective group speaking about how we can support one another, how [school] divisions can work to support their teachers of colour and students of colour," she said.

"I think a lot of us are feeling more empowered now, like we have a voice. Now is the time to start talking because people are paying more attention right now."

Vangool said the association would also offer support to teacher assistants and families of students.

"It's really traumatic for us to see and hear about another person being killed or attacked just because of the colour of their skin and then to come to school the next day, or come to work the next day, and have no one address it and pretend like nothing happened," she said.

"[It's] kind of a dehumanizing and silencing thing to experience."

Vangool is currently in the process of seeing how much interest there is from other BIPOC teachers in the province to start an association.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from Adrienne Lamb, Rick Bremness