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Through SUNTEP, I finished the Journey my Mother Started

Jul 19, 2017

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By Lorna Regan

I am an educator, mother, friend and relative from Green Lake, Saskatchewan. My mother was Métis and my father was from Flying Dust First Nation. On the advice of my father, I took up a teaching position in Pinehouse Lake. I’ve also had the opportunity to teach in Sandy Bay, Duck Lake, One Arrow Reserve, Muskeg Lake Reserve, and Prince Albert.

On a very cold January day about 12 years ago, I moved to Prince Albert to get ready for the start of my Bachelor of Education Degree at The Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP). Today, I work as a substitute teacher with the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division in the Prince Albert area. I am also working part-time, evenings and weekends at Sylvan Learning, while at the same time trying to improve on my Cree language.

Prior to moving to Prince Albert, I worked at St. Pascal School as a High Cost Tutor for five years and was employed with Northern Lights School Division (NLSD). I’ve also done volunteer work and coordinated a community and school literacy program as I was asked by the retiring librarian to take over her duties for which I was happy to do for a few years.

I also sat on an Aboriginal Head Start board at the Mocikitaw Preschool in Green Lake. I was also a Role Model for the Prince Albert Métis Fall Festival and was also a mentor for the Big Brothers and Sisters program in Prince Albert. I had teachers and students tell me to go to university to become a certified teacher.

You get to meet a lot of people within the community school environment, for example, Joe Naytowhow came to have a round dance with the kids in the library and told them stories.

While I was at St. Pascal School, the superintendent approached me and said that NLSD had this program where they could send me to get my teacher education degree, pay for my books and tuition as well as my tutor wages. But there was a catch. Upon earning my education degree and teacher certification, NLSD could send me to any school where they needed a teacher for up to eight years. Of course, I was younger, afraid of the unknown and had a family. I took this into great consideration, but I declined the offer. So, I moved to Prince Albert as I had heard of the SUNTEP program through GDI, which I completed in December 2010 with a distinction.

I was the first in my family to earn a university degree. In my immediate family, there is only one other person who holds a degree, my niece Meagan Larson (nee Hanson, originally from Buffalo Narrows) who graduated with a nursing degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 2007.

SUNTEP is a very family oriented program and lends a huge amount of support when needed. One meets many friends and people/connections along the path that it takes you on. At times there were classmates who wanted to abandon their studies for their own personal reasons or other, and they were given so much encouragement, helping hands, hugs, moral support, that there was no way they were going to let their studies down, nor their family and future students because SUNTEP is just like that.

SUNTEP is a very highly supportive program. Even the librarian and secretary will encourage you to do your best and to not give up. It is the most wonderful and enlightening place to attend university as it is very culturally enriching and one finds out so much about themselves and the past.

I had no idea that my late mother contributed to a thesis which one of my Native Studies professors wrote, of which I hold a copy dear to heart, about my home community’s past. The history of myself, my people, and my life path came to me while at SUNTEP and it opened my eyes to who I am and where my roots lie. I remember having so many epiphanies and déjà vus while at SUNTEP, I can’t even describe it, that in it itself is another story.

I’ve always had an interest in teaching since I was a child. Teaching is a call to duty and a noble profession. I became a teacher because I love kids. I feel this is my calling, and teaching is the best job in the world. The rewards are endless especially when you see children reach milestones or have those aha moments, or when they feel comfortable in confiding in you. As a teacher, you wear many hats: that of a teacher, mentor and role model, parent, social worker, nurse, and confidant.

Open your mind to learning and use a tunnel vision moto to help you stay focused to set you on your path to success-stay focused, be inspired and be present. People will doubt you and talk about you, but you must make that decision for yourself and take the plunge. I lacked confidence in myself when I was younger. But my late mother always said, “Don’t be shy, ask the stupidest questions, be persistent and be assertive.” I always lived by her words. She enrolled in the bachelor of education program at the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) in La Ronge many years ago, but withdrew as she said it was hard to be away from her family. SUNTEP gave me the opportunity to finish the journey that my mother started. I became the first in my family, among my siblings, to earn a university degree.

It is important to have Aboriginal teachers in our schools. One Aboriginal student in grade eight recently said to me while in class, “Can you say another sentence for me?” I said, “I came to your classroom today to teach.” He said, “Nice, thank you!” Meanwhile, I’m still confused, but he and another Aboriginal boy are looking at me as if wanting me to say more. So the friend said to me, “Do you know why he asked you that?” I said, “No, why?” And the boy asking me to say a sentence said, “Because I like the way Native ladies sound when they talk with their accent.” I said, “Oh, okay, well that’s very nice of you to say that. Thank you.” So I spent some time talking with these two boys who I found out were in foster care. They were asking me questions such as, where I was from, if I knew so and so, if I was Cree, and so forth. They were very attentive listeners, respectful and were asking for assistance. It was very cool. I know Aboriginal students like to see Aboriginal teachers in the schools. They have told me so, and said that I inspire them, and that they feel safe to tell me their personal stories. I have been told many times that I have great teacher-student attunement.

An effective teacher provides students with a positive, respectful, and safe learning environment. The teacher will strive for a classroom sanctuary which creates a sense of belonging inclusive of all students’ needs; be an active participant in children’s lives through the applications of learning, in and out of the classroom, through extra-curricular activities and community events. I believe that every child is gifted by the Creator and can learn to their fullest potential no matter what obstacles they may face.

A good teacher is motivated and innovative, and will keep up with the required demands of today’s ever changing society and technological advances. If a student has an interest in a specific topic, activity or lesson, they are more likely to want to learn more about it and become more actively engaged. I encourage my students to ask questions, participate in discussions and group activities, so that they are not only learning from me, but from others as well as themselves. I believe that all students have the willingness and capacity to learn, no matter what their skills or abilities may be. It is my job to find the proper level of instruction that can give them the greatest opportunity for success

Lorna Regan

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