Jun 14, 2017
By Sheila Pocha
The Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) held its graduation ceremony on May 6, 2017. The SUNTEP Saskatoon Class of 2017 graduates included Jordan Adilman, Shannon Aubichon, Ali Baker, Karlee Climenhaga, Raelyn Fee, Shania Hounsell, Makenna Johnston, Rylee MacKenzie, Brit Meyers, Kyla Morin, Jessie Pilon, Zondra (Zoey) Roy, and Rachel Simes.
The graduation ceremony, held at TCU Place in Saskatoon, was a heartwarming event filled with excitement, stories, and humility. Our grads held their heads high with great respect upon receiving their well-earned Bachelor of Education degrees. The graduates also received gifts including Métis sashes from SUNTEP Faculty Bruce Sinclair and Sheila Pocha.
The ceremony was memorable for many reasons. The graduates were treated to a surprised performance by Lii Pchii Daanseur Di La Prayrii (Michif language for Little Prairie Dancers/ Steppers) from Westmount Community School. The Steppers performed some traditional Métis jigging with father-son duo Phil and Dallas Boyer. As well, fiddle music piped our graduates into the hall as they were individually called in to join their family at their designated tables.
The graduating class and their families, SUNTEP Faculty and Alumni, as well as special guests from the Greater Saskatoon School Division, Saskatoon Public School Division, Gabriel Dumont Institute and the College of Education University of Saskatchewan were all present to listen to Dr. Maria Campbell as she said Grace to the assembly in a very reflective and eloquent way. Our graduates chose Maria Campbell to say grace as they know of her many accomplishments as a writer, thinker and speaker; they were very pleased to have her among us all.
We were delighted to watch a performance by SUNTEP Saskatoon first year student Tawnie Kotyk. Tawnie received a standing ovation and prolonged applause for her rendition of a song by Lady Antebellum. Rachel Simes of the graduating class was given the opportunity to give a toast to the whole assembly with regards to the graduates, teachers, families, and guests. It was heartfelt and reflective of the years they all spent on campus.
Later, in the evening, the grads received words from their keynote speaker, Murray Hamilton and he spread joy/humor among the crowd relating stories of the students during their years at SUNTEP. The graduates also received words from their two class valedictorians; Rylee MacKenzie and Zoey Roy. Rylee’s speech was well presented and made good sense as he thanked the program and the teaching academy on campus for helping him and his colleagues earn their degrees. Zoey’s speech was presented in spoken word form to which she penned, titled, ‘Voyageurs’. This poem was well presented and spoke of our Métis people, the Voyageur, past and present.
We, at SUNTEP enjoy working with our students. Seeing them in action in the schools and on campus gives us a great sense of joy. The annual graduation exercises culminate the times our students grow from student teachers to teachers in a very good way. We celebrate with them and encourage them to enjoy their teaching careers and come back to Graduate Studies in their futures.
Five of the thirteen graduates have teaching contracts and the other eight are already substitute teaching in Saskatoon school divisions and in northern/southern communities; we are very proud of this years’ group!
SUNTEP graduates are renowned as teachers and role models. Their training combines a sound academic education with extensive classroom experience, and a thorough knowledge of issues facing students in our society. Our students are enriched with a great emphasis on Métis culture, history and language. We are very proud of all our graduates and congratulate this years’ group on their achievement and accomplishments during their time on the university campus and our program!