Feb 13, 2018
By James Oloo
We recently caught up with one of our alumni to discuss how her time at Gabriel Dumont Institute has impacted her personal and professional landscapes. Deana Kempel (maiden name Deana Seida) trained as a teacher at the Gabriel Dumont Institute’s Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) and graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree in 2008. She is currently a teacher at the Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan.
Deana traces her Métis roots from her mother Norine Seida’s side of the family. “My mother’s family name is Chartrand. She has rich Métis roots that originated in the Red River. The Chartrand family migrated to Willow Bunch, which is where my grandfather John Chartrand the Third was born.”
Deana completed a Kinesiology degree at the University of Regina and was working as an Educational Assistant at a school whose principal happened to be a graduate of the Northern Teacher Education Program (an Indigenous teacher education program not affiliated with SUNTEP). The principal, who knew that Deana’s family was Métis, suggested she look into the SUNTEP program as a viable pathway to the teaching profession.
“I decided to go to a SUNTEP open house and I made my husband (boyfriend at the time) come with me. We were both blown away by how great the program seemed. I knew right then that SUNTEP was the right program for me and that would give me everything and more that I needed to become a teacher,” Deana said. She then applied and was accepted to the SUNTEP Regina program.
Deana noted that her impressions of SUNTEP proved to be true. “SUNTEP teaches you about who you are as a person, which is so important to know if you want to be the best educator you can be. SUNTEP has high expectations, because they want to place the best teachers into classrooms for all children, but especially Indigenous children.”
She continued, “SUNTEP fostered into me the importance of adding Indigenous content to all areas of the curriculum for all students. It is important that we keep our Indigenous culture alive and that all students learn the rich vibrant culture of our Indigenous peoples. Further, SUNTEP taught me the importance of community in the classroom, and the school. This is something that I always bring with me. My most vulnerable students, the ones who too often get left behind or pushed aside, are the ones that I work with the most to get to know their families. I try and make them and their families feel comfortable and welcome in the school. SUNTEP always did that for me and I am grateful for this teaching.”
Now in her tenth year of teaching, including her early career at the Regina Public Schools, Deana noted that “I have been lucky enough to work with students of different ages including those in grades four, five, and six. I have also worked as an Aboriginal Consultant, and Vice Principal. Currently, I am working as a Student Support Teacher with the middle years in the mornings and with students with behavioural needs in the afternoons.”
Deana gets inspiration from her own teachers and from her desire to see Indigenous youth succeed. “I had a lot of great teachers that have impacted my life. I got into teaching to make a difference and to give back what I received, and I see education as an important factor in helping our young people, especially Indigenous youth, to achieve their potential.”
She also discussed her teaching philosophy with us. “Relationships matter. As a teacher, I find it very important to develop and foster positive and respectful relationships with students. I pride myself on getting to know my students. The most important thing we can do with students is build trust. Fostering a relationship is the key to doing this. Everything else, including a sense of belonging, inclusion and active student participation, will fall into place if you take care of relationship first.”
Deana also talked about the importance of having Indigenous teachers in our schools. “Indigenous teachers are very important to have in the classroom as we can help Indigenous students to feel comfortable in a system that may not have always been good to their families in the past. As we move forward with Reconciliation, and as the proportion of school-aged Indigenous children increases at a faster rate than their non-Indigenous counterparts in Saskatchewan, I think it is important to have as many Indigenous educators working in the school systems as possible. These educators can be leaders in providing culturally relevant pedagogies to students and schools.”
Looking back to the day she attended the SUNTEP open house, Deana stated that “It is more important than ever that I was trained through SUNTEP. I am currently the only one from my clan that has been through SUNTEP. A number of my cousins are just now at the age where they are in high school and I am always boasting about the program to them. I know that SUNTEP is an important career pathway that my family and students should consider.”
Deana concluded that “We will be the teachers that help us to break through the seven generations of trauma caused by Residential Schools. It saddens me when I hear educators that still don’t understand the importance of teaching Indigenous content.” She noted that, “Sometimes I feel like a lone wolf fighting to push the importance of embedding Indigenous perspectives in the curriculum. My passion to help students and families affected by racism, Residential Schools and other forms of government assimilation, was really the focus that helped me recently complete my Master of Education degree from the University of Regina.”