Mar 13, 2017
Posted in: SUNTEP
By James Oloo
“Be Bold! Move Forward…” is the title of a 2012 Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) publication. In the research report, the words, written in bold, “Aboriginal voices are needed at every level,” take a deeper meaning when you consider experiences of Devyn Sachkowski. Devyn graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree from SUNTEP Prince Albert in 2016.
Devyn Sachkowski moved to England, the United Kingdom last year. Donna Biggins, SUNTEP Prince Albert Administrative Coordinator, said she would contact Devyn’s mother, Michele Sachkowski, and her friend and fellow SUNTEP graduate Chelsea Gunville to see how Devyn was doing and if she’d be interested in sharing her story. She did!
Devyn works as a teacher in London, England where she has had the opportunity to teach students from nursery to year 13.
Devyn describes herself as a proud Métis and traces her Métis heritage from her mother’s side of the family. She first heard about the SUNTEP program through a friend when she was finishing high school.
Asked if SUNTEP met her expectations, Devyn says she was very happy with her SUNTEP experience. Specifically, “I really liked the sense of community and belonging that SUNTEP provided. The faculty was great, and the emphasis on Métis culture and history was an important aspect of not just my growth as a professional but also in my personal identity as Métis.”
So, why did she choose a teacher education degree? Devyn reflected on her time as a high school student, a time when many young people consider the path ahead of them, whether it be post-secondary education, labour market, or something else. She says, “I didn’t know what to do at the beginning of my grade 12 year and knew I enjoyed helping people out with work during school. Education degree, therefore, felt like a natural progression and it was a career I always returned to when exploring my options.”
Devyn also discussed her teaching philosophy. She pointed out that “Children are naturally curious and inquisitive, so the teaching-learning process should foster a sense of curiosity and inquiry in each student; and guide the student to take control of their learning. Such an approach is empowering and enables the students to have ownership over their learning, and will likely make them search out any information they seek in future.”
Asked why she decided to pursue career opportunities in England, Devyn answered that she has always enjoyed the idea of travelling and possibly living in a different country. She admitted however that as a young girl growing up in the small Saskatchewan community of Meath Park, the thought of living in a different country often felt like an unrealistic and unreachable goal. “There are not a lot of people who choose to leave Saskatchewan for a different country and decide to live there. But, I took the steps towards the unreachable goal of coming to London. So far, it has been wonderful. I have been to many different schools and have gone in classes that will either plan every second of the day or have no plans at all.”
Devyn discussed some of the similarities and differences between schools in Saskatchewan and England. “There is definitely more professional trust in the Saskatchewan education system as everything students work on is commented on and marked.” She observed that “UK schools do a wonderful job in accommodating and celebrating cultural differences, which I found Saskatchewan to also be improving on.”
Devyn stated that unlike Saskatchewan, “England doesn’t have a hidden curriculum, but everything in the curriculum must be taught; and is often scheduled on week to week basis with not much time to revisit or review difficult topics.”
Despite the differences in the education systems in England and Saskatchewan, Devyn emphasized that “SUNTEP provided me with a great teaching experience that I have taken everywhere. SUNTEP prepared me for lesson planning to a range of learning styles and pedagogy, cultural diversity, and teaching in mixed-ability classrooms.”
While stating that “It has been an amazing opportunity to teach abroad,” Devyn had a suggestion for SUNTEP students and graduates who are considering similar opportunities. “Do plenty of research on any country you plan to go to. Not just education differences, but also average monthly living costs, culture and language (slang), and research the area you’re planning to teach in.”
2016 was a remarkable year in Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) history. The four-year Bachelor of Education program is offered by Gabriel Dumont Institute in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, and Regina in partnership with the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan. A total of 1,206 teachers have graduated from SUNTEP since 1984.