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When 17 year old Shawnee Paul received the news that she was awarded the esteemed Lieutenant Governor’s Respectful Citizenship Award, she was surprised and a little humbled.

The Lieutenant Governor's Respectful Citizenship Award recognizes students in grades Primary to 12, those who attend private schools, or those that are home schooled and registered with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, who are making a positive difference in their schools, their communities, and their province.      

Shawnee would probably be the last person to think that she's deserving of this award, but in the eyes of those in her community, she's an upstanding role model. Chief Leroy Denny of Eskasoni sent a nomination letter on behalf of Shawnee, and in his letter he referred to Shawnee as a champion. 

“I have known Shawnee since she was a little girl,” said Chief Denny. “I have seen her mature into a great person who exemplified what it truly is to be a leader and role model for our Mi’kmaq youth of Eskasoni.”

Dawna Prosper implements the NADACA youth program in Eskasoni and was asked by Shawnee if she could write a reference letter on her behalf for the award. Dawna was more than delighted.

In her letter she said, “Shawnee is a highly trained and certified swim instructor and plays an integral part in the delivery of the NADACA Learn to Swim Program. She has gained the admiration of many and works extremely hard at accomplishing her goals. Over the years Shawnee has learned to incorporate healing through laughter when helping others, and empowering youth by teaching them new skills.”

Dawna went on to say, “Shawnee carries great pride in being Mi'kmaq and is always eager to share her culture and language with others. She is a great community leader and role model for our youth.”      

High school visual arts teacher Ron Martin was also happy to write a reference letter on Shawnee’s behalf.

"Right from the beginning I could detect something special about her," said Martin. "Her warm personality and friendly smile greeted you every morning when she entered the school. It wasn't long after that I discovered that there was much more to this young lady than meets the eye. She is intelligent, outgoing, talented, funny and a good friend to many.”   

Now in her final year at Chief Allison Bernard Memorial High School, Shawnee had maintained honors with distinction throughout her high school experience, and in her spare time she tutors math, teaches swimming at the YMCA, and is also a musician. Her best instrument is the fiddle, but she dabbles with the guitar, piano, flute, and harmonica, and has been known to sing on occasion. Her love for music can be seen at high school and community functions.      

Shawnee and her parents, George and Mary, were not able to attend the Lieutenant Governor’s Respectful Citizenship Award Ceremonies on February 25, 2015, at Nova Scotia Province House in Halifax due to inclement weather; however, they hope another date will be scheduled for her to receive the medal. 

Congratulations, Shawnee!

Upper Elementary Literacy teachers from Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw community schools gathered in Membertou on February 4, 2015 for the first meeting of their Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Although there have been other PLNs in the past, this was the first meeting for this group of teachers. The purpose of the PLN is to create a learning space for teachers to share best practices and network with other teachers at their grade level.

“Having the opportunity to talk with other grade 6 teachers just doesn’t happen in my school since we only have one grade 6 class, ” said Tim Jesty, Grade 6 teacher at Maupeltuewey Kina'matno'kuom. “ Being here and talking with other grade 6 teachers introduces me to different strategies and ideas that have actually worked for other grade 6 teachers.”

Teachers who choose to take part are given a common article on a teaching practice to read before the meeting. They come together and discuss the article in small and large groups, which often focuses on how they can or have put this idea into practice in their classrooms. This is followed up by extended reading, along with further discussion on the teaching method and their ideas on how to put it into practice.

Each member of the group chooses something they learned or heard during the day and tries something new in their classroom. During the next meeting, teachers share their experiences of the new technique in their classrooms. They are given feedback from their colleagues as they discuss their challenges and successes.

Jillean from Eskasoni is a new teacher and really appreciates the opportunity to learn from these networking sessions.

“I benefit so much from listening to how other teachers do things. I really think that I would have been lost without it.” The same group of teachers will meet several more times, focusing on a different teaching method each session.

Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey will publish a book of writing and art work of students in Grades 7-12. 

Submissions of writing and art work, particularly art work which accompanies or prompts a piece of writing, are requested. 

Multiple genres and writing formats will be included in the publication. Some example include narrative or persuasive text, biographical or autobiographical pieces, letters, journal entries, poetry, comic strips, cartoons, essays, among others. You are only limited by your imagination.

Submission process:

  • Teachers are invited to choose two pieces of student writing from each of the classes they teach. 
  • Selections should be students’ best original work. 
  • Pieces (and questions) should be edited and sent digitally to brenda@kinu.ca.
  • Deadline for submissions is Thursday, April 30, 2015.

Work submitted will be published in a book/anthology of student writing. The title and cover page of the book will be decided via a contest. Details to follow. An event will be held in June to honour our student authors and present them with their published work. Students whose work is published, as well as their teachers, schools, and school boards, will receive a copy of the book.

Leanne Hinton, Professor emerita at the University of California at Berkeley, presented to Educators and Elders at a Mi’kmaw Workshop on the Master-Apprentice Language Learning Program in Membertou on February 25th and 26th, 2015.

Master-Apprentice is a one on one approach geared toward motivated learners. The goal of the approach is to help facilitate the development of fluent Mi’kmaw speakers by partnering committed learners and fluent speakers in an immersion environment.

“Apprentices have a very active role in the process and must learn to ask questions,” Hinton told the group. “They are language hunters and will guide their own learning of the language.”

The challenge with this technique is that it does not create an abundant number of speakers and it is not intended for a classroom teaching technique. The strength of this technique is that it creates a fluent speaker with an ancestral language from an Elder/Mentor. The role of the participants in this training is to be trained by Hinton herself and to act as trainers at their communities request.

Take the Challenge!

D2D – It’s the Nova Scotia challenge that dares your school to dance. Show us your hip hop, step dance, conga lines or just boogie on down.

You could win a free dance workshop for your school. All you need to do is dance for 20 minutes some time during National Dance Week -- April 22-29. And by dance, we mean the whole school!

It’s easy! Here’s how:

  • Register your school by emailing Dance Nova Scotia at programs@dancens.ca.
  • Tell us how many people (students and staff) are at your school. 
  • Tell us what you plan to do to get the whole school dancing.  
  • Contact DANS by May 3 to tell us how many students, teachers and staff participated.  

So get your school dancing! Think sock hops, traditional, square dancing, flash mobs, folk dancing….Your options are endless. Want to bounce ideas around? Dance Nova Scotia can help.

All participating D2D schools will be entered in a draw for nine hours of professional dance instruction for FREE!

For more information or to register, contact Dance Nova Scotia at: programs@dancens.ca or 902.422.1749

Tradition meets modern day living in the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw education authority’s newest initiative to promote and retain the First Nation language.

Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey and Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk, in partnership with a Mi’kmaw language advisory committee, have created twelve applications to make learning the Mi’kmaw language easier and more accessible for both fluent and non-speakers alike. 

Available on both Android and Apple devices, the apps were developed in-house by Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey and Atlantic Canada's First Nation Help Desk staff, with direction given by a language advisory committee in choosing appropriate content and ensuring accuracy in the translations.

Blaire Gould, Mi’kmaw Language Coordinator at Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, believes bridging the gap between the traditions of the past and technological advancements of today will start to break down walls prohibiting the growth of the language, particularly among youth. 

She says that while students are taught and encouraged to speak the language at school, they often stop speaking it after school hours, and one reason for that is limited access. 

“We need to cultivate a culture of learning the language and it starts with making it easy to see and hear,” said Gould. “And, what’s more accessible to our youth right now than technology?”

Gould adds that the apps are not only designed for youth, but can be used by anyone of any age to improve or retain their language skills.

Kevin Burton, Director of Atlantic Canada First Nation Help Desk, says having language apps readily available also helps promote the language in a supportive and non-threatening manner. 

“I’ve heard of fluent speakers being quizzed by their children,” shares Burton. “Sometimes the youth are even finding blind spots in their parents’ speech - to their great entertainment!” 

He says it will be valuable in remote communities with limited access to tangible resources, and in communities with few to no fluent speakers who can pass on the language.  

Currently, six apps are available in the Apple iTunes Store with six more in review. Eight apps are available in the Google Play Store with three more to be added. 

Gould says they’ll continue to update the apps with new content and welcome suggestions from the public. 

“Teachers have given us several suggestions for new apps and we’re already working on those.”

Anyone wishing to submit content can contact blaire@kinu.ca or faye@firstnationhelp.com, or reach out via Facebook (Atlantic Canada First Nation Help Desk) or Twitter (@firstnationhelp). 

In January 2015, Potlotek First Nation launched a new program for community members who are interested in resume building, interview preparation, and career planning. The Pre-Employment program is open to all community members, regardless of their prior educational experience. 

The program will run for 22 weeks and involves courses such as WHMIS and various workshops geared toward student interest. Program participants will learn how to identify their transferrable skills and build a resume that demonstrates their capabilities. 

At the end of the program, participants will have the opportunity to do some job shadowing in their desired field. There are also plans for a career fair to take place in May. 

“ I love this program so far, ” said Amanda Marshall, program participant. “Even though it just started, it already helps me see how I am going to get further than I’ve been trying to get for the past few years.”

Noelle Doucette, Education Director, explained that funding for the program was requested in the summer and the approval was received in November. In previous years, a program focusing on Literacy was offered to community members, but she says this program will incorporate more essential skills to prepare participants to enter the workforce. 

“I felt it was important to offer a program to our community that provides students with skills to help them get into the workforce, along with some basic safety programs,” explained Doucette. 

Although it is still in the early stages, students are very excited about the program and the opportunities it has to offer.

“I enjoy it because it helps me get focused. I am learning where my strengths and weaknesses are and what I have to work on,” said Marshall. 

“I already have my grade 12 and I know what I want to do. This is going to help me build my resume.”

 

The program is limited to 10 students and is currently filled to capacity. Due to interest in the program, funding has been requested for next year.

A new swimming program for students with special needs is creating confidence and fun in Eskasoni. Since starting last September, the class of six students in Learning Centre 2, their educational assistants, and their teacher travel to the Kiwanis Pool in Sydney once a month for a morning of swimming fun. 

Student Services Consultant, Janean Marshall, said the benefits of the swimming program to the students’ individual learning goals are plentiful. 

“Each student has their own aide so they’re able to learn at their own pace and in their own way,” said Marshall. 

She said an overarching goal for the program was to teach the students basic swimming and water survival skills because open or unsupervised water poses a greater danger and challenge to many individuals with sensory and mobility issues. A certified swim instructor at the Kiwanis Pool volunteers their time to instruct the class.

Marshall says in addition to the acquired skills, students are engaging in a unique and soothing form of therapy because water provides a weightless environment.

“Before this program, one teen participant had never been swimming because she is in a wheelchair,” said Marshall. “As the students spend more time in the water, they are becoming more comfortable with the feeling of it, getting stronger, and are having fun.” 

“It’s wonderful to see the students improve month after month, and the pride and joy in their faces when they do.”

 

A New Year always brings opportunities for a fresh start, and this new year began with a new Mi’kmaw language teacher for Wagmatcookewey School. 

Louise Pierro, a teacher with the school for over 20 years, excitedly accepted the position. 

“There was not enough being done for our language,” Pierro explained.  “I could see it being lost in our community and I really wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could do in the school.”

Over the past few months, community elders have been working in collaboration with the school to develop a plan for the Mi’kmaw Curriculum. 

The plan involves having a “Cultural Day” every Friday, which will include different activities each week. Community members will put on workshops in drumming, story telling, ice fishing and other culturally based activities. Mi’kmaq will be spoken during these activities so that students get to hear words and phrases that go along with the activity.

“I am really excited about it,” said Pierro.  “It’s a great way to get the community involved with the school and to have fun while learning the language.”

Wagmatcook Learning Center first opened its doors in August of 2014 and students have experienced a very successful first term at the new center. For several years, the NSCC Strait Area Campus offered training to people in the community on a small scale. This year, the new Wagmatcook Learning Centre is offering plumbing, Mi’kmaw health and wellness, and electrical and industrial construction. All programs are open to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal students. 

Nestled in the foothills of the Cape Breton Highlands and located an hour away from the nearest city centers, Wagmatcook First Nation provides a unique opportunity for rural students who wish to continue their education close to home.

“It was a dream that the students had,” explained Chief Norman Bernard. “They went to school in our community from Kindergarten through to grade 12 and they really wanted to be able to get their Trades training here as well.” 

Tom Gunn, NSCC principal, describes the advantage of offering NSCC programs in Wagmatcook. “This is a huge geographic area. We have students here from Margaree and Cheticamp who have families living in the area. Having programming here allows those students to attend training without having to make the long trip into Sydney or Port Hawkesbury. This is especially important during the winter months.”

The center will be run as a rotational Trades center, offering different courses on an as needed basis. The courses offered right now are in high demand and will change as demand changes. Classes run from Monday to Thursday and so far, the feedback has been very positive. Students have just completed their first term at the learning center and are very impressed with the environment on campus. 

“I love it here!” said one student about her experience so far. “It’s perfect for me to be able to come into school and get my work done without any distractions.”

When asked what they thought of the programming being offered in Wagmatcook, students had nothing but positive things to say. 

“Having NSCC in my community helps me get to school,” said one student. “I went to school in Sydney for a few years and I felt like I didn’t get anywhere. Now I feel like I’m getting somewhere!”

For more information about NSCC or to apply to one of their programs please visit www.nscc.ca

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