Feb 27, 2023
Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher
Education Program (SUNTEP) strives to be a space where everyone feels welcome by encouraging self-expression and identity. A second year SUNTEP student passionately expressed, “I identify as Queer, and as a SUNTEP student, I believe it is important to have my peers understand me as a Queer person and not just as a label.” Many students highlight how they grow culturally, and gain a stronger identity throughout their four years in the program. To encourage growth, SUNTEP continues to evolve, reflecting the needs of the community, schools, and student body it serves.
With that, SUNTEP Prince Albert students participated in a two-part workshop about diversity and inclusion, specifically addressing safe spaces and 2SLBGTQ+ challenges in education. Fourteen students from the SUNTEP Culture Committee, along with SUNTEP faculty, gathered with SUNTEP Saskatoon, Indian Teacher Education Program, University of Saskatchewan, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers from across Saskatchewan to learn how to make education more inclusive. Presentations took place at the SUNTEP center in Prince Albert. Two 2Spirit Elders, Marie (Jojo) Sutherland and Majorie Beaucage, shared stories and teachings. Elder Liz Settee provided a smudge and prayer and reminded us all that each individual will have gifts within. From Out Saskatoon, Dakota Adams-Beavereye (SUNTEP graduate) presented to students on 2Spirit history and education. Elizabeth Hutton Kristiansen, from the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, discussed policy, responsibilities, and rights. Jennifer Ferguson and Adie Schenk, a teacher and Principal from the Public School Division in Prince Albert, presented twice on creating safe places and ally ship in the school classroom. Students and staff engaged, had great conversations, and asked meaningful questions.
One valuable takeaway was the importance of recognizing privilege, bias, and status quo as first steps to creating a safe space. It can catalyze both personal and institutional growth and acceptance. In addition, SUNTEP student representatives took the lead, deciding they want to prioritize 2SLGBTQ+ education and Elder connections this year. Inclusivity and diversity education will help student teachers feel confident to create inclusive classrooms in the future. It also helps to create an inclusive and respectful environment in our SUNTEP community today.
Prince Albert SUNTEP students and staff are committed to make an inclusive space and program that recognizes and celebrates diversity. While we cannot guarantee that any space will be one hundred percent safe, we can work together, educate ourselves, become allies, and continue to maintain a space where everyone is accepted and welcome.
“I really appreciated the authenticity of the presenters. They all connected their presentations to their real life experiences. They weren’t just sharing information with us they were sharing parts of their lives” SUNTEP Student.