Thunder Bay·Audio

Teach for Canada recruits 31 teachers for 7 northern Ontario First Nations

Teach for Canada, a non-profit organization, is preparing dozens of teachers for life and work in northern Ontario First Nations this fall.

Intensive month-long teacher training camp wraps up in Thunder Bay this week

Roxanne Martin takes part in a sharing circle at the Teach for Canada summer enrichment program for teachers in Thunder Bay. Martin was hired by Lac Seul First Nation. (Kevin Chung/Teach for Canada)
Getting teachers ready to teach in remote First Nations We'll hear about month-long summer enrichment program Teach for Canada is holding in Thunder Bay for it's teachers. 8:08
Teach for Canada, a non-profit organization, is preparing dozens of teachers for life and work in northern Ontario First Nations this fall.

The organization partnered with seven First Nations to recruit teachers for their elementary schools. More than 300 applied and through a series of interviews, 31 were hired, said Teach for Canada executive director Kyle Hill.

Kyle Hill, the executive director of Teach for Canada, speaks at the first ever summer enrichment program, preparing teachers for life and work in remote First Nations.
First Nations education directors and experienced northern teachers say teachers need more preparation before heading into isolated communities, he said.

"For teachers teaching in First Nations communities, it's so important to know the history and to know a bit about the culture and to know what to expect, so that they can adapt," Hill said.

A four-week Teach for Canada  "summer enrichment program" wraps up on Friday. The training included sessions on the role of culture in education, indigenous perspectives, community engagement as well as mental well-being and self-care in isolated communities.

A five-day trip to Lac Seul First Nation introduced teachers to life on an isolated reserve.

'I don't think we could find it anywhere else'

It's where Roxanne Martin will begin teaching in September. She said the training and the bonding with fellow teachers makes her feel confident about the work ahead.

"Knowing that we have such a great support system, where together we're able to talk about ways to improve our teaching, but also using the cultural aspect and incorporating First Nations culture into our teaching is great," she said. "I don't think we could find it anywhere else." 

Martin, who is Anishinaabe, grew up in Toronto, not knowing much about her cultural identity. She said she welcomes the opportunity to bring her son to Lac Seul where he'll attend the same school where she'll be teaching.

"It's nice knowing that he's going to be surrounded by the culture and the language and he can grow up knowing that that's who he is," she said. "That's something I never had. I'm trying to create a legacy for him."

Erika Edmiston says she was thrilled with the chance to meet some of her students and see the classroom where she'll be teaching in Lac Seul First Nation this fall. (Kevin Chung/Teach for Canada)
Erika Edmiston is also heading to Lac Seul and said the visit to the community was really helpful.

"We got to see our classrooms, our schools, our houses and I even got to meet some of my students so that was really exciting," she said. "We got to meet different community members and start forming relationships, so it was really incredible."

Teacher couples in demand

Edmiston said she feels fortunate that her partner also got a job in Lac Seul, so he'll be around to help with any loneliness that might set in so far from home.

Recruiting couples was a key part of satisfying the unique needs of First Nations, Hill said.

"Some communities said we only want couples in our community because we have a housing shortage, and a couple only takes one bedroom in a teacherage," Hill said. "Another community said, 'we need male teachers, we don't have enough male role models, especially in the younger grades."

Brenton Inglis says he's looking forward to playing and coaching hockey, as well as teaching in Deer Lake First Nation this fall. (Kevin Chung/Teach for Canada)
One of those male teachers is Brenton Inglis, who got a job in Deer Lake First Nation. He said he's looking forward to becoming a part of the community, beyond the school.

"Maybe I end up playing hockey on a Tuesday night with parents and one might come up to me and say 'hey Johnny's really enjoying your classes, why don't you come over and watch the Leaf game tonight," he said.

Inglis, who taught overseas, said he wanted to put his skills to use at home in Canada "to do something that was purposeful and fulfilling," he said.

Teach for Canada fits that desire through its mission "to create an equal playing ground for students all over Canada," he said.

The organization is already gearing up for its next round of recruiting. Hill says several more First Nations are asking to partner with Teach for Canada to hire teachers for next fall.