Oct 31, 2017
Posted in: SUNTEP
By James Oloo
Kristine Dreaver-Charles took time to share with us her experience at the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP), and the program’s impact on her career. Kristine is a member of the Mistawasis First Nation and was born and raised in Prince Albert. Her mom is Métis, with historic connections to Red River. Kristine’s parents have Cree and Scottish ancestry.
Kristine described her connection to SUNTEP stating, “SUNTEP was the first university program any of my family attended. My aunt and cousin were early graduates of SUNTEP Prince Albert. I attended SUNTEP Saskatoon, graduating in 1996, and my nephew, Tanner Pedersen, is a first year student in SUNTEP Regina. So three generations of my family will have had the opportunity to benefit from SUNTEP.”
SUNTEP was the only post-secondary education program Kristine applied to as she was completing high school. “I believe it really helped me knowing that my aunt and cousin had successfully completed their bachelor of education degrees through the SUNTEP program.”
Kristine further reminisced, “Starting university takes a lot of courage for students. It’s an unfamiliar and very big place that has its own way of doing things.” SUNTEP Saskatoon is housed in the University of Saskatchewan, a campus with over 20,000 registered students. She noted, however, that “small class sizes at SUNTEP were great. It was helpful that in our early years, we took our classes with the same small group of students.”
Kristine’s decision to become a teacher was mainly influenced by her own teachers. “I had some really great high school teachers who inspired me and as I watched them teach I thought maybe I could do what they did.” Further, Kristine noticed the lack of Indigenous teachers in her classrooms. “Throughout my schooling, from kindergarten to Grade 12, I had just two Indigenous teachers. One was a SUNTEP intern in elementary school and one was my Cree language teacher in high school.” Kristine reminded us how significant it was that Saskatchewan’s teacher education programs such as SUNTEP are changing that narrative for learners today by graduating relatively more Indigenous teachers.
After completing her studies at SUNTEP, Kristine worked as a high school teacher for 18 years. As she recalls, “I found my first teaching position in Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan. It was also the first time I lived on a First Nation and it was the first time I lived in the North.” Kristine noted that, “It was a tough first year in an unfamiliar fly-in community, but I met some great people and learned a lot.”
After that first year in Wollaston Lake, Kristine accepted a teaching position in Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan. “The high number of Indigenous teachers and staff in the Stanley Mission schools who were from the community was beneficial for students. It was also beneficial for teachers like me who were new to the area. Having colleagues from within the community helped me be a better teacher and community member. This very much speaks to the importance of the NORTEP program and why its loss will negatively impact the North.” She continued, “I met my late husband there and I am very fortunate to have family in Stanley Mission.”
Kristine then moved back home to Prince Albert and spent the next nine years teaching online high school classes to students across Saskatchewan. She completed a Master of Science in Education degree online with a major in Instructional Media in 2009 through Wilkes University.
A little more than two decades after graduating from SUNTEP, Kristine considers herself “fortunate to have worked in the education field ever since. SUNTEP helped me develop a foundation in education that I have kept building on throughout my career. When I graduated from SUNTEP I never realized all of the great opportunities I would have because I became a teacher. My education has taken me in so many good directions.”
She noted that “I’m very proud of the many Indigenous students that I’ve taught that have become teachers themselves. I also feel that Indigenous teachers and non-Indigenous teachers need to support each other and work together in ways that benefit not only themselves but their students, schools and communities.” Kristine points out that “It’s a learning opportunity for everyone involved. It’s a good opportunity to build positive relations with teachers, students, parents and that’s of benefit to everyone.”
Reflecting on her experience, Kristine said, “Being a teacher is hard work and full of challenges but it’s also very rewarding. Nothing is better than that moment when you get to see your students have pride in their own accomplishments.”
Kristine credits SUNTEP for knowledge, skills, and experience that prepared her for careers both inside and outside the classroom. For the past three years, she has been working as an instructional designer at the University of Saskatchewan Distance Education Unit. Kristine works with professors and instructors from colleges across campus to design online classes. “I’ve helped design courses in astronomy, biomedical science, English, geography, Indigenous studies and education administration. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with very intelligent educators who are invested in their academic fields and committed to their students. It’s also been really nice to be back on the University of Saskatchewan campus,” she said.
This fall, Kristine started working on a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in education at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research interests include Indigenization and learning design in post-secondary education.