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Innovative program recruits future Indigenous teachers from high school classrooms

An issue echoed by teachers across the country is the need for more Indigenous teachers in classrooms. A new program launched by the Winnipeg School Division, Indspire and the University of Winnipeg is doing just that, and recruiting students while they’re still in high school.
Project Manager Shane Bostrom, student Ayla LaForte and teacher Stephanie Midford are all part of the Build from Within program at St. John's High School in Winnipeg. (CBC/Stephanie Cram)
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An issue echoed by teachers across the country is the need for more Indigenous teachers in classrooms. A new program launched by the Winnipeg School Division, Indspire and the University of Winnipeg is doing just that, and recruiting students while they're still in high school.

"The Build From Within program is a teacher development program that [Indigenous] students will embark in a six year journey to become educators," said Stephanie Midford, a teacher at St. John's High School in Winnipeg where the program launched.

"It's super awesome and very intense, but you know our students are given this opportunity and they're just going to succeed."

In its first year, the goal for the 30 students who were accepted, is to graduate with both their high school diploma, an an educational assistant diploma.

Once they graduate, they will go to the University of Winnipeg to complete their integrated Bachelor of Arts and Education.

Shane Bostrom, project manager of Build From Within, said the program is unique to the Winnipeg School Division, and was created with the help of local Indigenous elders. 

"In talking with elders [they said], we need to find from within our division future Indigenous teachers, instead of trying to find them from everywhere else to come in," he explained.

The program was created with the goal of getting more Indigenous teachers into classrooms, which Midford said has the potential to positively impact the education experiences of students.

"The biggest thing is to see that reflection [in teachers], seeing an Indigenous person in front [of the class] who is this role model, mentor, that students can relate to," said Midford.

"I think the biggest thing though is [Indigenous teachers] will help decolonize our classrooms … if we have more Indigenous teachers in those roles of leadership, our classrooms will be decolonized."

Ayla LaForte, a student from St. John's, joined the program and hopes to one day teach kindergarten.

"I personally didn't know how I was going to get into University, just because I didn't know what I wanted to be," said LaForte.

"This program [also allows me to] give back to my community, because it has given me so much."

"The teachers they want us to succeed, it's just important to me personally to give back and be that person for somebody else."